The darkness was almost impenetrable. Musing on what had passed with Monteith, and on the likelihood of any hero appearing, who, by freeing his country, could ever claim the privilege of investigating the mystery which was now his care. Wallace rode on till, crossing the bridge of Lanark, he saw the rising moon silver the tops of the distant hills; and then his meditations embraced a gentler subject. This was the time he had promised Marion he should be returned, and he had yet five long miles to go, before he could reach the glen of Ellerslie; he thought of her being alone-of watching, with an anxious heart, the minutes of his delay. Scotland and its wrongs he now forgot, in the idea of her whose happiness was dearer to him than life. He could not achieve the deliverance of the one, but it was his bliss to preserve the peace of the other; and putting spurs to his horse, under the now bright beams of the moon he hastened through the town.
Abruptly turning an angle leading to the Mouse River, a cry of murder arrested his ear. He checked his horse and listened. The clashing of arms told him the sound had issued from an alley to the left. He alighted in an instant, and drawing his sword, threw away the scabbard (prophetic omen!), then, leaving his horse with one of his servants hastened, with the other three, to the spot whence the noise proceeded.
On arriving he discovered two men in tartans, with their backs to the opposite wall, furiously assaulted by a throng of Edward’s soldiers. At this sight, the Scots who accompanied Wallace were so enraged that, blowing their bugles to encourage the assailed, they joined hand to hand with their gallant leader, and attacking the banditti, each man cut his opponent to the ground.
Such unexpected assistance reanimated the drooping strength of one of the two, with whom the cry had issued. He sprung from the wall with the vigor of a tiger, but at the moment received a wound in his back, which would have thrown him at the feet of his enemies, had not Wallace caught him in his left arm, and with his right, cleared the way, while he cried to his men who were fighting near him-“To the Glen!” As he spoke, he threw the now insensible stranger into their arms. The other man, whose voice had first attracted Wallace, at the instant sunk, covered with blood, on the pavement.
Two of the servants, obeying their master, carried their senseless burden toward the horses; but the third, being hemmed in by the furious soldiers, could not move. Wallace made a passage to his rescue, and effected it; but one base wretch, while the now wounded Scot was retreating, made a stroke which would have severed his head from his body, had not the trusty claymore of Wallace struck down the pending weapon of the coward, and received his rushing body upon its point. He fell with bitter imprecations, calling aloud for vengeance.
A dreadful cry was now raised by the whole band of assassins: “Murder!-treason!-Arthur Heselrigge is slain!” The uproar became general. The windows of the adjoining houses were thrown open; people armed and unarmed issued from their doors and pressed forward to inquire the cause of the alarm. Wallace was nearly overpowered; a hundred swords flashed in the torchlight; but at the moment he expected they would be sheathed in his heart, the earth gave way under his feet, and he sunk into utter darkness.
He fell upon a quantity of gathered broom; and concluding that the weight of the thronging multitude had burst his way through the arch of a cellar, he sprung to his feet; and though he heard the curses of several wretches, who had fallen with him and fared worse, he made but one step to a half-opened door, pointed out to him by a gleam from an inner passage. The men uttered a shout as they saw him darken the light which glimmered through it; but they were incapable of pursuit; and Wallace, aware of his danger, darting across the adjoining apartment, burst open a window, and leaped out to the foot of the Lanark hills.
The oaths of the soldiers, enraged at his escape, echoed in his ears, till distance sunk them into hoarse murmurs. He pursued his way over the craigs; through the valley, and across the river, to the cliffs which embattle the garden of Ellerslie. Springing on the projecting point of the nearest, he leaped into a thicket of honeysuckles. This was the favorite bower of his Marion! The soft perfume, as it saluted his senses, seemed to breathe peace and safety; and as he emerged from its fragrant embrace, he walked with a calmer step toward the house. He approached a door which led into the garden. It was open. He beheld his beloved leaning over a couch, on which was laid the person he had rescued. Halbert was dressing his wounds.
Wallace paused for a moment, to contemplate his lovely wife in this more lovely act of charity. Her beautiful hands held a cup to the lips of the stranger; while her long hair, escaped from its band, fell in jetty ringlets, and mingled with his silver locks.
“Marion!” exclaimed the overflowing soul of her husband. She looked up at the well-known sound, and with a cry of joy, rushing forward, threw herself into his arms; her tears flowed, she sobbed-she clung to his breast. It was the first time Wallace had been from her; she had feared it would have been the last. The hour-the conflict-the bleeding stranger! But now he was returned-he was safe!
“Art thou indeed here!” exclaimed she. Blood fell from his forehead upon her face and bosom: “O, my Wallace!” cried she, in agony.
“Fear not, my love! all is well, since our wounded countryman is safe.”
“But you, bleed!” returned she. No tears now impeded her voice. Terror had checked their joyful currents; and she felt as if she expected his life-blood to issue from the wound on which she gazed.
“I hope my preserver is not hurt?” inquired the stranger.
“Oh, no!” replied Wallace, putting back the hair from his forehead; “a mere trifle!” That the action had discovered the gash to be wider than he thought, he saw in the countenance of his wife! She turned deadly pale. “Marion,” said he, “to convince you how causeless your fears are, you shall cure me yourself; and with no other surgery than your girdle!”
When Lady Wallace heard his gay tone, and saw the unforced smiles on his lips, she took courage; and, remembering the deep wounds on the stranger, whom she had just assisted to dress, without any alarm for his life, she began to hope that she need not now fear for the object dearest to her in existence. Rising from her husband’s arms, with a languid smile she unbound the linen fillet from her waist; and Halbert having poured some balsam into the wound, she prepared to apply the bandage; but when she lifted her husband’s hair from his temple-that hair which had so often been the object of her admiration, as it hung in shining masses over his arching brows!-when the clotted blood met her fingers, a mist seemed to pass over her sight; she paused for a moment; but rallying her strength, as the cheerful sound of his voice conversing with his guest assured her fear was needless, she tied the fillet; and, stealing a soft kiss on his cheek when she had finished, she seated herself, yet trembling, by his side.
“Gallant Wallace!” continued the stranger-agitation had prevented her hearing what had preceded this-“it is Donald Earl of Mar, who owes his life to you.”
“Then blessed be my arm,” exclaimed Wallace, “that has preserved a life so precious to my country!”
“May it indeed be blessed!” cried Lord Mar; “for this night it has made the Southrons feel there is yet one man in Scotland who does not fear to resist oppression, and to punish treachery.”
“What treachery?” inquired Lady Wallace, her alarmed spirit still hovering about her soul’s far dearer part; “is any meant to my husband?”
“None to Sir William Wallace, more than to any other brave Scot,” replied the earl: “but we all see the oppression of our country; we all know the treachery by which it was subjugated; and this night, in my own person, I have felt the effects of both. The English at Lanark dispatched a body of men to Bothwell Castle (where my family now are), on a plea, that as its lord is yet absent, they presume he is adverse to Edward, and therefore they must search his dwelling for documents to settle the point. Considering myself the representative of my brother-in-law, Lord Bothwell, and suspecting that this might be only a private marauding party, I refused to admit the soldiers; and saw them depart, swearing to return next day with a stronger force, and storm the castle. To be ascertained of their commission, and to appeal against such unprovoked tyranny, should it be true, I followed the detachment to Lanark.
“I saw Heselrigge the governor. He avowed the transaction; but awed by the power which he thinks I possess in the country, he consented to spare Bothwell while I and my family remain in it. It being nearly dark, I took my leave, and was proceeding toward my servants in the courtyard when a young man accosted me. I recognized him to be the officer who had commanded the party I had driven from the castle. Heselrigge having told me that he was his nephew, I made no hesitation to go back with him, when he informed me that his uncle had forgotten something of importance, and begged me to return. I followed his steps; but instead of conducting me to the room in which I had conversed with Heselrigge, he led me along a dark passage into a small apartment, where telling me his uncle would attend me, he suddenly retreated out of the door, and before I could recollect myself I heard him bolt it after him.
“I now saw myself a prisoner; and alarmed at what might be intended to my defenseless family, I made every essay to force the door, but it was in vain. Driven to despair, I remained in a state of mind not to be described, when the bolt was withdrawn, and two men entered, with manacles in their hands. They attempted to seize me, telling me I was the prisoner of King Edward. I did not listen further, but wounding one with my dagger, felled the other to the ground; and darting past him, made my way through what passages I cannot tell, till I found myself in a street leading from behind the governor’s house. I ran against some one as I rushed from the portal; it was my servant Neil. I hastily told him to draw his sword and follow me. We then hurried forward; he telling me he had stepped out to observe the night, while the rest of my men were awaiting me in the house, wondering at my delay.
“Rejoiced at my escape, and fearing the worst of consequences from the treachery of Heselrigge, I was hastening onward, determined to pursue my way on foot to the protection of my family, when, at the turning of an angle which leads to the Bothwell road, we were suddenly surrounded by armed men. The moon shone full on their faces, and I discovered they were Southrons, and that young Heselrigge was at their head.
“He aimed a blow at my head with his battle-ax, and in a voice of triumph exclaimed to his soldiers, ‘The plunder of Bothwell, my lads! Down with its lord! All but the lady Helen shall be yours!”
“In a moment every sword was directed toward me. They wounded me in several places; but the thought of my daughter gave supernatural vigor to my arm, and I defended myself till the cries of my servant brought you, my brave deliverer, to my rescue. But, while I am safe, perhaps my treacherous pursuer has marched toward Bothwell, too sure to commit the horrid violence he meditates; there are none to guard my child but a few domestics, the unpracticed sword of my stripling nephew, and the feeble arms of my wife.”
“Be easy on that head,” interrupted Wallace: “I believe the infamous leader of the banditti fell by my hand, for the soldiers made an outcry that Arthur Heselrigge was killed; and then pressing on me to take revenge, their weight broke a passage into a vault, through which I escaped-”
“Save, save yourself, my master!” cried a man rushing in from the garden. “You are pursued-”
While he spoke he felt insensible at Wallace’s feet. It was Dugald-whom he had rescued from the blow of Heselrigge, and who, from the state of his wound had been thus long in reaching Ellerslie.
Wallace had hardly time to give him to the care of Halbert, when the voice of war assailed his ears. The tumult of men demanding admittance and the terrible sound of spears rattling against the shields of their owners, told the astonished group within that the house was beset by armed foes.
“Blood for blood!” cried a horrid voice, which penetrated the almost palsied senses of Lady Marion. “Vengence on Wallace, for the murder of Heselrigge!”
“Fly, fly!” cried she, looking wildly at her husband.
“Whither?” answered he, supporting her in his arms. “Would this be a moment to leave you, and our wounded guest? I must meet them.”
“Not now!” cried Lord Mar. “Hear you not how numerous they are? Mark that shout! they thirst for blood. If you have love, pity, for your wife, delay not a moment. Again-”
The uproar redoubled, and the room was instantly filled with shrieking women in their night-clothes, the attendants of Lady Wallace. She almost expiring, on her husband’s breast.
“O my lord!” cried the terrified creatures, wringing their hands, “what will become of us! The Southrons are at the gates, and we shall be lost forever!”
“Fear not,” replied Wallace; “retire to your chambers. I am the person they seek: none else will meet with injury.”
Appeased by this assurance, the women retreated to their apartments; and Wallace, turning to the earl, who continued to enforce the necessity of his flight, repeated, that he would not consent to leave his wife in such a tumult.
“Leave me,” cried she, in an inarticulate voice, “or see me die.”
As she spoke, there was a violent crash, and a tremendous burst of imprecations. Three of Wallace’s men ran panting into the room. Two of the assailants had climbed to the hall window; and had just been thrown back upon the cliffs, where one was killed. “Conceal yourself, said the Scots to Wallace; “for in a few minutes more your men will not be able to maintain the gates.”
“Yes, my dear lord,” cried Halbert, “there is a dry well at the end of the garden; at the bottom of that you will be safe.”
“By your love for me, Wallace-by all you owe to the tender affections of your grandfather, hearken to him!” cried Lady Marion, falling at his feet, and clasping his knees. “I kneel for my life in kneeling for yours! Pity the gray hairs of Sir Ronald, whom your untimely death would bring to the grave! Pity your unborn child! Fly, Wallace, fly if you would have me live!” She was pale and breathless.
“Angel of my life,” exclaimed Wallace, straining her to his heart, “I obey thee. But if the hand of one of the desperate robbers dares to touch thy hallowed person-”
“Think not so, my lord,” interrupted Halbert; “it is you they seek. Not finding you, they will be too eager in pursuit to molest your lady.”
“I shall be safe,” whispered Marion; “only fly-while you are here, their shouts kill me.”
“But thou shalt go with me,” returned he; “the well will contain us all. But first let our faithful Halbert and these honest fellows lower Lord Mar into the place of refuge. He being the cause of the affray, if discovered, would be immediately sacrificed.”
Lord Mar acquiesced; and while the contention was so loud without, as to threaten the tearing down of the walls, the earl was carried into the garden. He was followed by Sir William Wallace, to whose arm his wife yet fondly clung. At every cry of the enemy, at every shock they gave to his yet impregnable gates, she breathed the shorter, and was clasped by the lord of her heart still more closely to his bosom.
At the well-side they found the earl bound with rope that was to lower him to the bottom. By great care it was safely done; and the cord being brought up again, before it was tied round Wallace (for his agonized wife insisted he should descend next), he recollected that the iron box at his side might hurt the wounded nobleman by striking him in his descent; and, unbuckling it, he said it contained matters of great value, and ordered it to be lowered first.
Lord Mar, beneath, was releasing it from the rope, when a shout of triumph pierced their ears. A party of the English, having come round the heights, had leaped the wall of the garden, and were within a few yards of the well. For Wallace to descend now was impossible. “That tree!” whispered Marion, pointing to an oak-tree near which they stood. As she spoke, she slid from his arms, and along with the venerable Halbert, who had seized her hand, disappeared amid the adjoining thicket. The two servants fled also.
Wallace, finding himself alone, the next instant, like one of his native eagles, was looking down from the towering top of the wood upon his enemies. They passed beneath him, denouncing vengeance upon the assassin of Arthur Heselrigge! One, who by the brightness of his armor seemed to be their leader, stopped under the tree, and complained he had so sprained his ankle in leaping the wall, he must wait a few minutes to recover himself. Several soldiers drew toward him; but he ordered them to pursue their duty, search the house, and bring Wallace, dead or alive, before him.
They obeyed; but others, who had gained admittance to the tower through the now forced gates, soon ran to him with information that the murderer could nowhere be found.
“But here is a gay ladie,” cried one; “perhaps she can tell of his hiding-place.” And at moment Marion, with Halbert, appeared amongst a band of men. The lighted torches which the soldiers held, shone full on her face. Though pale as monumental marble, the exquisite beauty of her features, and the calm dignity which commanded from her eyes, awed the officer into respect and admiration.
“Soldiers, stand back!” cried he, advancing to Lady Wallace. “Fear not, madam.” As the words passed his lips, a flight of arrows flew into the bosom of the tree. A piercing shriek from Marion was her only answer. “Hah! my lady’s falcon!” cried Halbert alarmed, doubly, for the fate of his master. A sudden agitation of the branches having excited an indefinite suspicion in a body of archers who stood near, with one impulse they had discharged their arrows to the spot. Halbert’s ready excuse, both for the disturbance in the tree and his lady’s shriek, was prompted and warranted true by the appearance of a large bird, which the rushing of the arrows had frighted from her nest; she rose suddenly from amongst the branches, and soared away, far to the east, with loud screams.
All being again still, Marion hoped that her husband had escaped any serious injury from the arrows; and turning with recovered composure to the officer, heard him, with a glow of comfort, reprimand his men for daring to draw their bows without his orders. Then addressing her, “I beg your pardon, madam,” said he, “both for the alarm these hot-headed men have occasioned you, and for the violence they have committed in forcing one of your sex and beauty before me. Had I expected to have found a lady here, I should have issued orders to have prevented this outrage; but I am sent hither in quest of Sir William Wallace, who, by a mortal attack made on the person of the Governor of Lanark’s nephew, has forfeited his life. The scabbard of his sword, found beside the murdered Heselrigge, is an undeniable proof of his guilt. Direct us to find him, and not only your release, but the favor of the English monarch will await your allegiance.”
“I am Sir William Wallace’s wife,” returned the gentle Marion, in a firm tone; “and by what authority you seek him thus, and presume to call him guilty, I cannot understand.”
“By the authority of the laws, madam, which he has violated.”
“What laws?” rejoined she; “Sir William Wallace acknowledges none but those of God and his country. Neither of these has he transgressed.”
The officer replied, “This night he assassinated Arthur Heselrigge in the streets of Lanark; and that condemns him, by the last declaration of King Edward: Whatever Scot maltreats any one of the English soldiers, or civil officers garrisoned in the towns of Scotland, shall thereby forfeit his life, as the penalty of his crime.”
“A tyrant’s law, sir, to which no freeborn Scot will submit! But even were it allowed by my countrymen, in this case it can have no hold on my husband. That he is a Scot, he glories: and not that he maltreated any Englishman in the streets of Lanark, do I glory; but because, when he saw two defenseless men borne down by a band of armed soldiers, he exposed his unshielded breast in their defense; one of the two died, covered with wounds. That the governor’s nephew also fell, was a just retribution for his heading so unequal a contest, and no crime in Sir William Wallace; for he slew him to preserve a feeble old man, who had a hundred English swords leveled at his life.”
The officer paused for a moment, and then, ordering his soldiers to fall further back, when they were at a sufficient distance, he offered to take Lady Wallace’s hand. She withstood his motion with a reserved air, and said, “Speak, sir, what you would say, or allow me to retire.”
“I mean not to offend you, noble lady,” continued he; “had I a wife lovely as yourself, and I in like circumstances, I hope in the like manner would defend my life and honor. I knew not the particulars of the affair in which Arthur Heselrigge fell, till I heard it from your lips. I can easily credit them, for I know his unmanly character. Wallace is a Scot, and acted in Scotland as Gilbert Hambledon would have done in England, were it possible for any vile foreigner to there put his foot upon the neck of a countryman of mine. Wherever you have concealed your husband, let it be a distant asylum. At present no tract within the jurisdiction of Lanark will be left unsearched by the governor’s indefatigable revenge.”
Lady Wallace, overcome with gratitude at this generous speech of the English officer, uttered some inarticulate words, expressive more in sound than clearness, of her grateful feelings. Hambledon continued, “I will use my influence with Heselrigge, to prevent the interior of your house from being disturbed again; but it being in the course of military operations, I cannot free you from the disagreeable ceremony of a guard being placed to-morrow morning round the domains. This I know will be done to intercept Sir William Wallace should he attempt to return.”
“Oh! That he were indeed far distant!” thought the anxious Marion.
The officer then added, “However, you shall be relieved of my detachment directly.” And as he spoke, he waved his sword to them who had seized the harper. They advanced, still holding their prisoner. He ordered them to commit the man to him, and to sound. The trumpeter obeyed; and in a few seconds the whole detachment were assembled before their commander.
“Soldiers!” cried he, “Sir William Wallace has escaped our hands. Mount your horses, that we may return to Lanark, and search the other side of the town. Lead forth, and I will follow.”
The troops obeyed, and falling back through the open gates, left Sir Gilbert Hambledon alone with Lady Wallace and the wondering Halbert. The brave young man took the now no longer withdrawn hand of the grateful Marion, who had stood trembling while so many of her husband’s mortal enemies were assembled under the place of his concealment.
“Noble Englishman,” said she, as the last body of soldiers passed from her sight, “I cannot enough thank you for this generous conduct; but should you or yours be ever in the like extremity with my beloved Wallace (and in these tyrannous times, what brave spirit can answer for its continued safety?) may the ear which has heard you this night, at that hour repay my gratitude!”
“Sweet lady,” answered Hambledon, “I thank you for your prayer. God is indeed the benefactor of a true soldier; and though I serve my king, and obey my commanders, yet it is only to the Lord of battles that I look for a sure reward. And whether he pay me here with victories and honors, or take my soul through a rent in my breast, to receive my laurel in paradise, it is all one to Gilbert Hambledon. But the night is cold: I must see you safe within your own doors, and then, lady, farewell!”
Lady Wallace yielded to the impulse of his hand, and with redoubled haste, as she heard another rustling in the tree above her head. Hambledon did not notice it; but desiring Halbert to follow, in a few minutes disappeared with the agitated Marion into the house.
Wallace, whose spirit could ill brook the sight of his domains filled with hostile troops, and the wife of his bosom brought a prisoner before their commander, would instantly have braved all dangers, and have leaped down amongst them; but at the instant he placed his foot on a lower bough to make a spring, the courteous address of Hambledon to his wife had made him hesitate. He listened to the replies of his Marion with exultation; and when the Englishman ordered his men to withdraw, and delivered himself so generously respecting the safety of the man he came to seize, Wallace could hardly prevent a brave confidence in such virtue from compelling him to come from his concealment, and thank his noble enemy on the spot. But in consideration that such disclosure would put the military duty and the generous nature of the officer at variance, he desisted, with such an agitation of spirits that the boughs had again shaken under him, and reawakened the alarm of his trembling wife.
“Omnipotent virtue!” exclaimed Wallace to himself; “if it were possible that thy generous spirit could animate the breast of an invading conqueror, how soon would the vanquished cease to forget their former freedom, and learn to love their vassalage! This man’s nobleness, how soon has it quenched the flame of vengeance with which, when I ascended this tree, I prayed for the extirpation of every follower of Edward!”
“Sir William! my master!” cried a well-known voice, in a suppressed tone, as if still fearful of being overheard. It was Halbert’s. “Speak, my dear lord; are you safe?”
“In heart and body!” returned Wallace, sliding from the tree, and leaping on the ground. “One only of the arrows touched me; and that merely striking my bugle, fell back amongst the leaves. I must now hasten to the dearest, the noblest of women!”
Halbert begged him to stay till they should hear the retreat from the English trumpets. “Till their troops are out of sight,” added he, “I cannot believe you safe.”
“Hark!” cried Wallace, “the horses are now descending the craig. That must satisfy you, honest Halbert.” With these words he flew across the grass, and entering the house, met the returning Marion, who had just bade farewell to Hambledon. She rushed into his arms, and with the excess of a disturbed and uncertain joy, fainted on his neck. Her gentle spirit had been too powerfully excited by the preceding scenes. Unaccustomed to tumult of any king, and nursed in the bosom of fondness till now, no blast had blown on her tender form, no harshness had ever ruffled the blissful serenity of her mind. What then was the shock of this evening’s violence! Her husband pursued as a murderer; herself exposed to the midnight air, and dragged by the hands of merciless soldiers to betray the man she loved! All these scenes were new to her; and though a kind of preternatural strength had supported her over, when she fell once more into her husband’s extended arms, she seemed there to have found again her shelter, and the pillow whereon her harassed soul might repose.
“My life! My best treasure! Preserver of thy Wallace! Look on him!” exclaimed he; “bless him with a smile from those dear eyes.”
His voice, his caresses, soon restored her to sensibility and recollection. She wept on his breast, and with love’s own eloquence, thanked Heaven that he had escaped the search and the arrows of his enemies.
“But my dear lady,” interrupted Halbert, “remember my master must not stay here. You know the English commander said he must fly far away. Nay, spies may even now be lurking to betray him.”
“You are right,” cried she. “My Wallace, you must depart. Should the guard arrive soon, your flight may be prevented. You must go now-but, oh! whither?”
“Not far distant, my love. In going from thee, I leave behind all that makes my life precious to me; how then can I go far away? No! there are recesses among the Cartlane Craigs, I discovered while hunting, and which I believe have been visited by no mortal foot but my own. There I will be, my Marion, before sunrise; and before it sets, thither you must send Halbert, to tell me how you fare. Three notes from thine own sweet strains of Thusa ha measg na reultan mor,5 blown by his pipe, shall be a sign to me that he is there; and I will come forth to hear tidings of thee.”
5 Thusa ha measg na reultan mor, etc., are the beginning words of an old Gaelic ditty, the English of which runs thus: “Thou who art amid the stars, move to thy bed with music,” etc.-(1809.)
“Ah, my Wallace, let me go with thee!”
“What, dearest!” returned he, “to live amidst rocks and streams! to expose thy tender self, and thine unborn infant, to all the accidents of such a lodging!”
“But are not you going to so rough, so dangerous a lodging?” asked she. “O! would not rocks and streams be Heaven’s paradise to me, when blessed by the presence of my husband? Ah! let me go!”
“Impossible, my lady,” cried Halbert, afraid that the melting heart of his master would consent: you are here; and your flight would awaken suspicion in the English, that he had not gone far. Your ease and safety are dearer to him than his own life; and most likely by his care to preserve them, he would be traced, and so fall a ready sacrifice to the enemy.”
“It is true, my Marion; I could not preserve you in the places to which I go.”
“But the hardships you will endure!” cried she; “to sleep on the cold stones, with no covering but the sky, or the dripping vault of some dreary cave! I have not courage to abandon you alone to such cruel rigors.”
“Cease, my beloved!” interrupted he, “cease these groundless alarms. Neither rocks nor storms have any threats to me. It is only tender woman’s cares that make man’s body delicate. Before I was thine, my Marion, I have lain whole nights upon the mountain’s brow, counting the wintery stars, as I impatiently awaited the hunter’s horn that was to recall me to the chase in Glenfinlass. Alike to Wallace is the couch of down or the bed of heather; so, best-beloved of my heart, grieve not at hardships which were once my sport, and will now be my safety.”
“Then farewell! May good angels guard thee!” Her voice failed; she put his hand to her lips.
“Courage, my Marion,” said he; “remember that Wallace lives but in thee. Revive, be happy for my sake; and God, who putteth down the oppressor, will restore me to thine arms.” She spoke not, but rising from his breast, clasped her hands together, and looked up with an expression of fervent prayer; then smiling through a shower of tears, she waved her hand to him to depart, and instantly disappeared into her own chamber.
Wallace gazed at the closed door, with his soul in his eyes. To leave his Marion thus, to quit her who was the best part of his being, who seemed the very spring of the life now throbbing in his heart, was a contention with his fond, fond love, almost too powerful for his resolution. Here indeed his brave spirit gave way; and he would have followed her, and perhaps have determined to await his face at her side, had not Halbert, reading his mind in his countenance, taken him by the arm, and drawn him toward the portal.
Wallace soon recovered his better reason, and obeying the friendly impulse of his servant, accompanied him through the garden, to the quarter which pointed toward the heights that led to the remotest recesses of the Clyde. In their way they approached the well where Lord Mar lay. Finding that the earl had not been inquired for, Wallace deemed his stay to be without peril; and intending to inform him of the necessity which still impelled his own flight, he called to him, but no voice answered. He looked down, and seeing him extended on the bottom without motion, “I fear,” said he, “the earl is dead. As soon as I am gone, and you can collect the dispersed servants, send one into the well to bring him forth; and if he be indeed no more, deposit his body in my oratory, till you can receive his widow’s commands respecting his remains. The iron box now in the well is of inestimable value; take it to Lady Wallace and tell her she must guard it, as she has done my life; but not to look into it, at the peril of what is yet dearer to her-my honor.”
Halbert promised to adhere to his master’s orders; and Wallace, girding on his sword, and taking his hunting-spear (with which the care of his venerable domestic had provided him), he pressed the faithful hand that presented it, and again enjoining him to be watchful of the tranquillity of his lady, and to send him tidings of her in the evening, to the cave near the Corie Lynn, he climbed the wall, and was out of sight in an instant.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12