While these transactions occupied the morning, Lady Helen (who the night before had been removed into the quiet cell appointed for her) slept long and sweetly. Her exhausted frame found renovation; and she awoke with a heavenly calm at her heart. A cheering vision had visited her sleeping thoughts; and a trance of happy feelings absorbed her senses, while her hardly disengaged spirit still hovered over its fading images.
She had seen in her dream a young knight enter her cell, bearing her father in his arms. He laid the earl down before her; but as she stooped to embrace him, the knight took her by the hand, leading her to the window of the apartment (which seemed extended to an immense size), he smiled, and said, “Look out and see how I have performed my vow!” She obeyed, and saw crowds of rejoicing people, who at sight of the young warrior raised such a shout, that Helen awoke. She started-she looked around-she was still in the narrow cell, and lone; but the rapture of beholding her father yet fluttered in her breast, and the touch of the warrior’s hand seemed still warm upon hers. “Angels of rest,” cried she, “I thank ye for this blessed vision!”
The prior of St. Fillan might have read his own just sentiment in the heart of Lady Helen. While the gentlest of human beings, she was an evidence that an ardent and pious mind contains the true principles of heroism. Hope, in such a mind, treads down impossibilities; and, regardless of impediments or dangers, rushes forward to seize the prize. In the midst of hosts, it feels a conqueror’s power; or, when its strength fails, sees, by the eye of faith, legions of angels watching to support the natural weakness. Lady Helen knew that the cause was just which had put the sword into the hand of Wallace; that it was virtue which had prompted her father to second him; and where justice is there are the wings of the Most High stretched out as a shield!
This dream seemed prophetic. “Yes,” cried she, “though thousands of Edward’s soldiers surrounded my father and his friend, I should not despair. Thy life, O noble Wallace, was not give to be extinguished in an hour! Thy morn has hardly risen, the perfect day must come that is to develop thy greatness-that is to prove thee (and oh! gracious God, grant my prayer!) the glory of Scotland!”
Owing to the fervor of her apostrophe, she did not observe the door of the cell open, till the prior stood before her. After expressing his pleasure at the renovation in her countenance, he informed her of the departure of the English soldier, and of the alarm which he and Murray had sustained for his safety, by the adventure which had thrown a stranger from the craigs into their protection. At the mention of that now momentous spot, she blushed; the golden-haired warrior of her dream seemed ready to rise before her; and with a beating heart she prepared to hear some true but miraculous account of her father’s rescue.
Unconscious of what was passing in her young and eager mind, the prior calmly proceeded to relate all that Ker had told of the dangerous extremity to which Wallace was reduced; and then closed his intelligence, by mentioning the attempt which meditated to save him. The heightened color gradually faded from the face of Helen, and low sighs were her only responses to the observations the good priest made on the difficulty of the enterprise. But when his pity for the brave man engaged in the cause, betrayed him into expressing his fears that the patriotic zeal of Wallace would only make him and them a sacrifice, Helen looked up; there was inspiration on her lips and in her eyes. “Father,” said she, “hast thou not taught me that God shieldeth the patriot as well as armeth him!”
“True!” returned he, with an answering smile; “steadily believe this, and where will be the sighs you have just been breathing!”
“Nature will shrink,” replied she; “but the Christian’s hope checks her ere she falls. Pardon me then, holy father, that I sometimes weep; but they are often tears of trust and consolation.”
“Daughter of heaven,” replied the good prior, “you might teach devotion to age, and cause youth to be enamored of the graces of religion! Be ever thus, and you may look with indifference on the wreck of worlds.”
Helen having meekly replied to this burst from the heart of the holy man, begged to see her cousin before he set off on his expedition. The prior withdrew, and within an hour after, Murray entered the apartment. Their conversation was long, and their parting full of an interest that dissolved them both into tears. “When I see you again, my brave cousin, tell me that my father is free, and his preserver safe. Your own life, dear Andrew,” added she, as he pressed his cheek to hers, “must always be precious to me.”
Murray hastily withdrew, and Helen was again alone.
The young chieftain and Ker covered their armor with shepherd’s plaids; and having received a thousand blessings from the prior and Halbert, proceeded under shelter of the night, through the obscurest paths of the wood which divided Bothwell from Drumshargard.
Sir John Murray was gone to rest when his nephew arrived, but Lord Andrew’s voice being well known by the porter, he was admitted into the house; and leaving his companion in the dining-hall, went to the apartment of his uncle. The old knight was soon aroused, and welcomed his nephew with open arms; for he had feared, from the accounts brought by the fugitive tenants of Bothwell, that he also had been carried away prisoner.
Murray now unfolded his errand-first to obtain a band of Sir John’s trustiest people to assist in rescuing the preserver of the earl’s life from immediate destruction; and secondly, if a commission for Lord Mar’s release did not arrive from King Edward, to aid him to free his uncle and the countess from Dumbarton Castle.
Sir John listened with growing anxiety to his nephew’s details. When he heard of Lady Helen’s continuing in the convent, he highly approved it. “That is well,” said he; “so bring her to any private protection would only spread calamity. She might be traced, and her protector put in danger; none but the church, with safety to itself, can grant asylum to the daughter of a state prisoner.”
“Then I doubly rejoice she is there,” replied Murray, “and there she will remain, till your generous assistance empowers me to rescue her father.”
“Lord Mar has been very rash, nephew,” returned Drumshargard. “What occasion was there for him to volunteer sending men to support Sir William Wallace? and how durst he bring ruin on Bothwell Castle, by collecting unauthorized by my brother, its vassals for so dangerous an experiment?”
Murray started at these unexpected observations. He knew his uncle was timid, but he had never suspected him of meanness; however, in consideration of the respect he owed to him as his father’s brother, he smothered his disgust, and gave him a mild answer. But the old man could not approve of a nobleman of his rank running himself, his fortune, and his friends into peril, to pay any debt of gratitude; and, as to patriotic sentiments being a stimulus, he treated the idea with contempt. “Trust me, Andrew,” said he, “nobody profits by these notions but thieves and desperate fellows ready to become thieves!”
“I do not understand you, sir!”
“Not understand me?” replied the knight, rather impatiently. “Who suffers in these contests for liberty, as you choose to call them, but such men as Lord Mar and your father? Betrayed by artful declamation, they rush into conspiracies against the existing government, are detected, ruined, and perhaps finally lose their lives! Who gains by rebellion, but a few penniless wretches, that embrace these vaunted principles from the urgency of their necessities? They acquire plunder, under the mask of extraordinary disinterestedness; and hazarding nothing of themselves but their worthless lives, they would make tools of the first men in the realm; and throw the whole country into flames, that they may catch a few brands from the fire!”
Young Murray felt his anger rise with this speech. “You do not speak to my point, sir! I do not come here to dispute the general evil of revolt, but to ask your assistance to snatch two of the bravest men in Scotland from the fangs of the tyrant who has made you a slave!”
“Nephew!” cried the knight, starting from his couch; and darting a fierce look at him, “if any man but one of my own blood had uttered that word, this hour should have been his last.”
“Every man, sir,” continued Murray, “who acts upon your principles, must know himself to be a slave;-and to resent being called so, is to affront his conscience. A name is nothing, the fact ought to knock upon your heart, and there arouse the indignation of a Scot and a Murray. See you not the villages of your country burning around you? the castles of your chieftains razed to the ground? Did not the plains of Dunbar reek with the blood of your kinsmen; and even now, do you not see them led away in chains to the strongholds of the tyrant? Are not your stoutest vassals pressed from your service, and sent into foreign wars? And yet you exclaim, ‘I see no injury-I spurn at the name of slave!’”
Murray rose from his seat as he ended, and walking the room in agitation, did not perceive the confusion of his uncle, who, at once overcome with conviction and fear, again ventured to speak: “It is too sure you speak truth, Andrew; but what am I, or any other private individual, that we should make ourselves a forlorn hope for the whole nation? Will Baliol, who was the first to bow to the usurper, will he thank us for losing our heads in resentment of his indignity? Bruce himself, the rightful heir of the crown, leaves us to our fates, and has become a courtier in England! For whom, then, should I adventure my gray hairs, and the quiet of my home, to seek an uncertain liberty, and to meet an almost certain death?”
“For Scotland, uncle,” replied he; “just laws are her right. You are her son; and if you do not make one in the grand attempt to rescue her from the bloodhounds which tear her vitals, the guilt of parricide will be on your soul! Think not, sir, to preserve your home, or even your gray hairs, by hugging the chains by which you are bound. You are a Scot, and that is sufficient to arm the enemy against your property and life. Remember the fate of Lord Monteith! At the very time he was beset by the parasites of Edward, and persuaded by their flatteries to be altogether as an Englishman, in that very hour, when he had taken a niece of Cressingham’s to his arms, by her hands the vengeance of Edward reached him-he fell!”
Murray saw that his uncle was struck, and that he trembled.
“But I am too insignificant, Andrew!”
“You are the brother of Lord Bothwell!” answered Murray, with all the dignity of his father rising in his countenance. “His large possessions made him a traitor in the eyes of the tyrant’s representatives. Cressingham, as treasurer for the crew, has already sent his lieutenant to lord it in our paternal castle; and do not deceive yourself in believing that some one of his officers will not require the fertile fields of Drumshargard as a reward for his services! No!-cheat not yourself with the idea that the brother of Lord Bothwell will be too insignificant to share in the honor of bearing a part in the confiscations of his country! Trust me, my uncle, the forbearance of tyrants is not that of mercy, but of convenience. When they need your wealth, or your lands, your submission is forgotten, and a prison, or the ax, ready to give them quiet possession.”
Sir John Murray, though a timid and narrow-sighted man, now fully comprehended his nephew’s reasoning; and his fears taking a different turn, he hastily declared his determination to set off immediately for the Highlands. “In the morning, by daybreak,” said he, “I will commence my journey, and join my brother at Loch-awe; for I cannot believe myself safe a moment, while so near the garrisons of the enemy.”
Murray approved this plan; and after obtaining his hard-wrung leave to take thirty men from his vassals, he returned to Ker, to inform him of the success of his mission. It was not necessary, neither would it have been agreeable to his pride, to relate the arguments which had been required to obtain this small assistance; and in the course of an hour he brought together the appointed number of the bravest men on the estate. When equipped he led them into the hall, to receive the last command from their feudal lord.
On seeing them armed, with every man his drawn dirk in his hand, Sir John turned pale. Murray, with the unfolded banner of Mar in his grasp, and Ker by his side, stood at their head.
“Young men,” said the old knight, striving to speak in a firm tone, “in this expedition you are to consider yourselves the followers of my nephew; he is brave and honourable, therefore I commit you to his command. But as you go on his earnest petition, I am not answerable to any man for the enterprises to which he may lead you.”
“Be they all on my own head!” cried Murray, blushing at his uncle’s pusillanimity, and drawing out his sword with an impatience that made the old knight start. “We now have your permission to depart, sir?”
Sir John gave a ready assent; he was anxious to get so hotheaded a youth out of his house, and to collect his gold and servants, that he might commence his own flight by break of day.
It was still dark as midnight when Murray and his little company passed the heights above Drumshargard, and took their rapid though silent march toward the cliffs, which would conduct them to the more dangerous passes of the Cartlane Craigs.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59