The prisoners who had been taken with Montgomery were lodged behind the town, and the wounded carried into the Abbey of Cambus–Kenneth; but when Edwin came to move that earl himself, he found him too faint with loss of blood to sit a horse to Snawdoun. He therefore ordered a litter; and so conveyed his brave prisoner to that palace of the kings of Scotland in Stirling.
The priests in Wallace’s army not only exercised the Levitical but the good Samaritan’s functions, and they soon obeyed the young knight’s summons to dress the wounds of Montgomery.
Messengers, meanwhile, arrived from Wallace, acquainting his chieftains in Stirling with the surrender of De Warenne’s army. Hence no surprise was created in the breast of the wounded earl when he saw his commander enter the palace as the prisoner of the illustrious Scot.
Montgomery held out his hand to the lord warden in silence, and with a flushed cheek.
“Blush not, my noble friend!” cried De Warenne; “these wounds speak more eloquently than a thousand tongues, the gallantry with which you maintained the sword that fate compelled you to surrender. But I, without a scratch, how can I meet the unconquered Edward? And yet it was not for myself I feared: my brave and confiding soldiers were in all my thoughts; for I saw it was not to meet an army I led them, but against a whirlwind, a storm of war, with which no strength that I commanded could contend.”
While the English generals thus conversed, Edwin’s impatient heart yearned to be again at the side of Wallace; and gladly resigning the charge of his noble prisoner to Sir Alexander Ramsay, as soon as he observed a cessation in the conversation of the two earls, he drew near Montgomery to take his leave.
“Farewell, till we meet again!” said the young earl, pressing his hand; “you have been a young brother rather than an enemy, to me.”
“Because,” returned Edwin, “I follow the example of my general, who would willingly be the friend of all mankind.”
Warenne looked at him with surprise: “And who are you, who, in that stripling form, utters gallant sentiments which might grace the maturest years?”
With a sweet dignity, Edwin replied, “I am Edwin Ruthven, the adopted brother of Sir William Wallace.”
“And the son of him,” asked De Warenne, “who, with Sir William Wallace, was the first to mount Dumbarton walls?”
At these words the cheeks of Edwin were suffused with a more animated bloom. At the moment when his courage was distinguished on the heights of Dumbarton, by the vowed friendship of Wallace, he had found himself beloved by the bravest and most amiable of beings; and in his light he felt both warmth and brightness; but this question of De Warenne, conveyed to him that he had found fame himself; that he was there publicly acknowledged to be an object not unworthy of being called the brother of Sir William Wallace!-and, casting down his eyes, beaming with exultation, from the fixed gaze of De Warenne, he answered, “I am that happy Ruthven, who had the honor to mount Dumbarton Rock by the side of my general; and from his hand there received the stroke of knighthood.”
De Warenne rose, much agitated: “If such be the boys of Scotland need we wonder, when the spirit of resistance is roused in the nation, that our strength should wither before its men?”
“At least,” said Montgomery, whose admiration of what passed seemed to reanimate his languid faculties, “it deprives defeat of its sting, when we are conscious we yielded to power that was irresistible. But, my lord,” added he, “if the courage of this youth amazes you, what will you say ought to be the fate of this country? what to be the crown of Sir William Wallace’s career, when you know the chain of brave hearts by which he is surrounded? Even tender woman loses the weakness of her sex when she belongs to him.” Earl de Warenne, surprised at the energy with which he spoke, looked at him with an expression that told him so. “Yes,” continued he, “I witnessed the heroism of Lady Wallace, when she defended the character of her husband in the midst of an armed host, and preserved the secret of his retreat inviolate. I saw that loveliest of women, whom the dastard Heselrigge slew.”
“Disgrace to knighthood!” cried Edwin, with indignant vehemence; “if you were a spectator of that bloody deed, retire from this house; go to Cambus–Kenneth — anywhere; but leave this city before the injured Wallace arrives; blast not his eyes with a second sight of one who could have beheld his wife murdered.”
Every eye was now fixed on the commanding figure of the young Edwin, who stood with the determination of being obeyed breathing in every look. De Warenne then at once saw the possibility of so gentle a creature being transformed into the soul of enterprise, into the fearless and effective soldier.
Lord Montgomery held out his hand to Edwin. “By this right arm, I swear, noble youth, that had I been on the spot when Heselrigge, lifted his sword against the breast of Lady Wallace, I would have sheathed my sword in his. It was before then that I saw that matchless woman; and offended with my want of severity in the scrutiny I had made at Ellerslie for its chief. Heselrigge sent me back to Ayr. Arnuf quarreled with me there, on the same subject; and I immediately retired in disgust to England.”
“Then how? you ought to be Sir Gilbert Hambledon?” replied Edwin; “but whoever you are, as you were kind to the Lady Marion, I cannot but regret my late hasty charge; and for which I beseech your pardon.”
Montgomery took his hand, and pressed it. “Generous Ruthven, your warmth is too honorable to need forgiveness. I am that Sir Gilbert Hambledon; and had I remained so, I should not now be in Scotland. But in my first interview with the Prince of Wales, after my accession to the Earldom of Montgomery, his highness told me, it had been rumored from Scotland that I was disloyal in my heart to my king. ‘And to prove the falsehood of such calumniators,’ continued the prince, ‘I appoint you second in command there to the Earl de Warenne.’ To have refused to fight against Sir William Wallace, would have been to have accused myself of treason. And while I respected the husband of the murdered Lady Marion, I yet condemned him as an insurgent; and with the same spirit you follow him in the field, I obeyed the commands of my sovereign.”
“Lord Montgomery,” returned Edwin, “I am rejoiced to see one who proves to me what my general, wronged as he has been, yet always inculcates-that all the Southrons are not base and cruel! When he knows who is indeed his prisoner, what recollections will it awaken! But till you and he again meet, I shall not intimate to him the melancholy satisfaction he is to enjoy, for, with the remembrances it will arouse, your presence must bring the antidote.”
The brave youth then telling Ramsay in what parts of the palace the rest of the lords were to be lodged, with recovered composure descended to the courtyard, to take horse for Tor Wood. He was galloping along, under the bright light of the moon, when he heard a squadron on full speed approaching, and presently Murray appeared at its head. “Hurrah, Edwin!” cried he; “well met! We are come to demand the instant surrender of the citadel. Hilton’s division has surrendered!”
The two barons had indeed come up about half an hour after Earl de Warenne’s division was discomfited. Sir William Wallace had sent forward to the advancing enemy two heralds, bearing the colors De Valence and Montgomery, with the captive banner of De Warenne, and requiring the present division to lay down its army also. The sight of these standards was sufficient to assure Hilton there was no deceit in the embassy. The nature of his position precluded retreat; and not seeing any reason for ten thousand men disputing the day with a power to whom fifty thousand had just surrendered, he and his compeer, with the reluctance of veterans, embraced the terms of surrender.
The instant Hilton put his argent banner33 into the victor’s hand, Wallace knew that the castle must now be his; he had discomfited all who could have maintained it against him. Impatient to apprise Lord Mar and his family of their safety, he dispatched Murray with a considerable escort to demand its surrender.
33 The arms of Hilton are, argent, two bars azure. The charge on those of Blenkinsopp are three wheat-sheaves; crest, a lion rampant, grasping a rose. The ruins of the patrimonial castles of these two ancient barons are still to be seen in the north of England. The author’s revered mother was a descendant from the latter venerable name, united with that of the brave and erudite race of Adamson, of further north.
Murray gladly obeyed, and now, accompanied by Edwin, with the standards of Cressingham and De Warenne trailing in the dust, he arrived before the castle, and summoned the lieutenant to the walls. But that officer, well aware of what was going to happen, feared to appear. From the battlements of the keep he had seen the dreadful conflict on the banks of the Forth-he had seen the thousands of De Warenne pass before the conqueror. To punish his treachery, in not only having suffered Cressingham to steal out under the armistice, but upholding also the breaking of his word to surrender at sunset, the terrified officer believed that Wallace was now come to put the whole garrison to the sword.
At the first sight of Murray’s approaching squadron, the lieutenant hurried to Lord Mar, to offer him immediate liberty if he would go forth to Wallace and treat with him to spare the lives of the garrison. Closed up in a solitary dungeon, the earl knew naught of what was occurring without; and when the Southron entered, he expected it was to lead him again to the death which had been twice averted. But the pale and trembling lieutenant had no sooner spoken the first word than Mar discerned it was a suppliant, not an executioner, he saw before him, and he was even promising that clemency from Wallace, which he knew dwelt in his heart, when Murray’s trumpet sounded.
The lieutenant started, horror-struck. “It is now too late! We have not made the first overture, and there sounds the death-bell of this garrison! I saved your life, earl!” cried he, imploringly, to Lord Mar; “when the enraged Cressingham commanded me to pull the cord which would have launched you into eternity. I disobeyed him! For my sake, then, preserve this garrison, and accompany me to the ramparts.”
The chains were immediately knocked off the limbs of Lord Mar, and the lieutenant presenting him with a sword, they appeared together on the battlements. As the declining moon shone on their backs, Murray did not discern that it was his uncle who mounted the walls; but calling to him in a voice which declared there was no appeal, pointed to the humbled colors of Edward, and demanded the instant surrender of the citadel.
“Let it be, then with the pledge of Sir William Wallace’s mercy?” cried the venerable earl.
“With every pledge, Lord Mar,” returned Murray, now joyfully recognizing his uncle, “which you think safe to give.”
“Then the keys of the citadel are yours,” cried the lieutenant; “I only ask the lives of my garrison.”
This was granted, and immediately preparations were made for the admission of the Scots. As the enraptured Edwin heard the heavy chains of the portcullis drawn up, and the massy bolts of the huge doors grating in their guards, he thought of his mother’s liberty, of his father’s joy, in pressing her again in his arms; and hastening to the tower where Lord Ruthven held watch over the now sleeping De Valance, he told him all that had happened. “Go, my father,” added he; “enter with Murray, and be the first to open the prison doors of my mother.”
Lord Ruthven embraced his son. “My dear Edwin! this sacrifice to my feelings is worthy of you. But I have a duty to perform, superior even to the tenderest private ones. I am planted hereby my commander; and shall I quit my station, for any gratification, till he gives me leave? No, my son! Be you my representative to your mother; and while my example teaches you, above all earthly considerations, to obey your honor, those tender embraces will show her what I sacrifice to duty.”
Edwin no longer urged his father, and leaving his apartment, flew to the gate of the inner ballium. It was open; and Murray already stood on the platform before the keep, receiving the keys to the garrison.
“Blessed sight!” cried the earl, to his nephew. “When I put the banner of Mar into your unpracticed hand, little could I expect that, in the course of four months, I should see my brave Andrew receive the keys of proud Stirling from its commander!”
Murray smiled, while his plumed head bowed gratefully to his uncle, and turning to the lieutenant, “Now,” said he, “lead me to the Ladies Mar and Ruthven that I may assure them they are free.”
The gates of the keep were now unclosed, and the lieutenant conducted his victors along a gloomy passage, to a low door, studded with knobs of iron. As he drew the bolt, he whispered to Lord Mar, “These severities are the hard policy of Governor Cressingham.”
He pushed the door slowly open, and discovered a small, miserable cell-its walls, of rugged stone, having no other covering than the incrustations which time, and many a dripping winter, had strewn over their vaulted service. On the ground, on a pallet of straw, lay a female figure in a profound sleep. But the light which the lieutenant held, streaming full upon the uncurtained slumberer, she started, and, with a shriek of terror at the sight of so many armed men, discovered the pallid features of the Countess of Mar. With an anguish which hardly the freedom he was going to bestow could ameliorate, the earl rushed forward, and, throwing himself beside her, caught her in his arms.
“Are we, then, to die?” cried she, in a voice of horror. “Has Wallace abandoned us? Are we to perish? Heartless-heartless man!”
Overcome by his emotions, the earl could only strain her to his breast in speechless agitation. Edwin saw a picture of his mother’s sufferings, in the present distraction of the countess; and he felt his powers of utterance locked up; but Lord Andrew, whose ever-light heart was gay the moment he was no longer unhappy, jocosely answered, “My fair aunt, there are many hearts to die by your eyes before that day! and, meanwhile, I come from Sir William Wallace-to set you free!”
The name of Wallace, and the intimation that he had sent to set her free, drove every former thought of death and misery from her mind; again the ambrosial gales of love seemed to breathe around her-she saw not her prison walls; she felt herself again in his presence; and in a blissful trance, rather endured than participated in the warm congratulations of her husband on their mutual safety.
Edwin and Murray turned to follow the lieutenant, who, preceding them, stopped at the end of the gallery. “Here,” said he, “is Lady Ruthven’s habitation; and-alas! not better than the countess’.” While he spoke, he threw open the door, and discovered its sad inmate also asleep. But when the glad voice of her son pierced her ear-when his fond embraces clung to her bosom, her surprise and emotions were almost insupportable. Hardly crediting her senses, that he whom she had believed was safe in the cloisters of St. Colomba, could be within the dangerous walls of Stirling; that it was his mailed breast that pressed against her bosom; that it was his voice she heard exclaiming, “Mother, we come to give you freedom!” all appeared to her like a dream of madness.
She listened, she felt him, she found her cheek wet with his rapturous tears. “Am I in my right mind?” cried she, looking at him with a fearful, yet overjoyed countenance; “am I not mad? Oh! tell me,” cried she, turning to Murray, and the lieutenant, “is this my son that I see, or has terror turned my brain?”
“It is indeed your son, your Edwin, my very self,” returned he, alarmed at the expression of her voice and countenance. Murray gently advanced, and kneeling down by her, respectfully took her hand. “He speaks truth, my dear madam. It is your son Edwin. He left his convent, to be a volunteer with Sir William Wallace. He has covered himself with honor on the walls of Dumbarton; and here also a sharer in his leader’s victories, he is come to set you free.”
At this explanation, which, being given in the sober language of reason, Lady Ruthven believed, she gave way to the full happiness of her soul, and falling on the neck of her son, embraced him with a flood of tears: “And thy father, Edwin, where is he? Did not the noble Wallace rescue him from Ayr?”
“He did, and he is here.” Edwin then repeated to his mother the affectionate message of his father, and the particulars of his release. Perceiving how happily they were engaged, Murray, now with a flutter in his own bosom, rose from his knees, and requested the lieutenant to conduct him to Lady Helen Mar.
His guide led the way by a winding staircase into a stone gallery, where letting Lord Andrew into a spacious apartment, divided in the midst by a vast screen of carved cedar-wood, he pointed to a curtained entrance. “In that chamber,” said he, “lodges the Lady Helen.”
“Ah, my poor cousin,” exclaimed Murray; “though she seems not to have tasted the hardships of her parents, she has shared their misery, I do not doubt.” While he spoke, the lieutenant bowed in silence, and Murray entered alone. The chamber was magnificent, and illumined by a lamp which hung from the ceiling. He cautiously approached the bed, fearing too hastily to disturb her, and gently pulling aside the curtains, beheld vacancy. An exclamation of alarm had almost escaped him, when observing a half-open door at the other side of the apartment, he drew toward it, and there beheld his cousin, with her back to him, kneeling before a crucifix. She spoke not, but the fervor of her action manifested how earnestly she prayed. He moved behind her, but she heard him not; her whole soul was absorbed in the success of her petition; and at last raising her clasped hands in a paroxysm of emotion, she exclaimed,-“If that trumpet sounded the victory of the Scots, then, Power of Goodness! receive thy servant’s thanks. But if De Warenne have conquered, where De Valence has failed; if all whom I love be lost to me here, take me then to thyself, and let my freed spirit fly to their embraces in heaven!”
“Ay, and on earth too, thou blessed angel!” cried Murray, throwing himself toward her. She started from her knees, and with such a cry as the widow of Sarepta uttered when she embraced her son from the dead, Helen threw herself on the bosom of her cousin, and closed her eyes in a blissful swoon-for even while every outward sense seemed fled, the impression of joy played about her heart; and the animated throbbings of Murray’s breast, while he pressed her in his arms, at last aroused her to recollection. Her glistening and uplifted eyes told all the happiness, all the gratitude of her soul.
“My father? All are safe?” demanded she.
“All, my best beloved!” answered Murray, forgetting in his powerful emotions of his heart, that what he felt, and what he uttered, were beyond even a cousin’s limits: “My uncle, the countess, Lord and Lady Ruthven-all are safe.”
“And Sir William Wallace?” cried she; “you do not mention him. I hope no ill-”
“He is conqueror here!” interrupted Murray. “He has subdued every obstacle between Berwick and Stirling; and he has sent me hither to set you and the rest of the dear prisoners free.”
Helen’s heart throbbed with a new tumult as he spoke. She longed to ask whether the unknown knight from whom she had parted in the hermit’s cell, had ever joined Sir William Wallace. She yearned to know that he yet lived. At the thought of the probability of his having fallen in some of these desperate conflicts, her soul seemed to gasp for existence; and dropping her head on her cousin’s shoulder, “Tell me, Andrew,” said she, and there she paused, with an emotion for which she could not account to herself.
“Of what would my sweet cousin inquire?” asked Murray, partaking her agitation.
“Nothing particular,” said she, covered with blushes; “but did you fight alone in these battles? Did no other knight but Sir William Wallace?”
“Many, dearest Helen,” returned Murray, enraptured at a solicitude which he appropriated to himself. “Many knights joined our arms. All fought in a manner worthy of their leader, and thanks to Heaven, none have fallen.”
“Thanks, indeed,” cried Helen; and with a hope she dared hardly whisper to herself, of seeing the unknown knight in the gallant train of the conqueror, she falteringly said, “Now, Andrew, lead me to my father.”
Murray would perhaps have required a second bidding, had not Lord Mar, impatient to see his daughter, appeared with the countess at the door of the apartment. Hastening toward them, she fell on the bosom of her father; and while she bathed his face and hands with her glad tears, he, too, wept, and mingled blessings with his caresses. No coldness here met his paternal heart: no distracting confusions tore her from his arms; no averted looks, by turns, alarmed and chilled the bosom of tenderness. All was innocence and duty in Helen’s breast; and every ingenuous action showed its affection and its joy. The estranged heart of Lady Mar had closed against him; and though he suspected not its wanderings, he felt the unutterable difference between the warm transports of his daughter and the frigid gratulations forced from the lips of his wife.
Lady Mar gazed with a weird frown on the lovely form of Helen, as she wound her exquisitely turned arms round the earl in filial tenderness. Her bosom, heaving in the snowy whiteness of virgin purity; her face, radiant with the softest blooms of youth; all seemed to frame an object which malignant fiends had conjured up to blast her stepdame’s hope. “Wallace will behold these charms!” cried her distracted spirit to herself, “and then, where am I?”
While her thoughts thus followed each other, she unconsciously darted looks on Helen, which, if an evil eye had any bewitching power, would have withered all her beauties. At one of these portentous moments, the glad eyes of Helen met her glance. She started with horror. It made her remember how she had been betrayed, and all that she had suffered from Soulis. But she could not forget that she had also been rescued; and with that blessed recollection, the image of her preserver rose before her. At this gentle idea, her alarmed countenance took a softer expression; and, tenderly sighing, she turned to her father’s question of “How she came to be with Lady Ruthven, when he had been taught by Lord Andrew to believe her safe at St. Fillan’s?”
“Yes,” cried Murray, throwing herself on a seat beside her, “I found in your letter to Sir William Wallace, that you had been betrayed from your asylum by some traitor Scot; and but for the fullness of my joy at our present meeting, I should have inquired the name of the villian!”
Lady Mar felt a deadly sickness at her heart, on hearing that Sir William Wallace was already so far acquainted with her daughter as to have received a letter from her; and in amazed despair, she prepared to listen to what she expected would bring a death-stroke to her hopes. They had met-but how?-where? They wrote to each other. Then, far indeed had proceeded that communication of hearts, which was now the aim of her life-and she was undone! Helen glanced at the face of Lady mar, and observing its changes, regarded them as corroborations of her having been the betrayer. “If conscience disturbs you thus,” thought Helen, “let it rend your heart, and perhaps remorse may follow!”
As the tide of success seemed so full for the patriot Scots, Helen no longer feared that her cousin would rashly seek a precarious vengeance on the traitor Soulis, when he might probably soon have an opportunity of making it certain at the head of an army. She therefore commenced her narrative from the time of Murray’s leaving her at the priory, and continued it to the hour in which she had met her father, a prisoner in the streets of Stirling. As she proceeded, the indignation of the earl and of Murray against Soulis became vehement. The nephew was full of immediate personal revenge. But the father, with arguments similar to those which had suggested themselves to his daughter, calmed the lover’s rage, for Murray now felt that fire as well as a kinsman’s; and reseated himself with repressed, though burning resentment, to listen to the remainder of her relation.
The quaking conscience of Lady mar did indeed vary her cheeks with a thousand dyes, when, as Helen repeated part of her conversation with Macgregor’s wife, Murray abruptly said, “Surely that woman could name the traitor who betrayed us into the hands of our enemies! Did she not hint it?”
Helen cast down her eyes, that even a glance might not overwhelm with insupportable shame the already trembling countess. Lady Mar saw that she was acquainted with her guilt, and expecting no more mercy than she knew she would show to Helen in the like circumstances, she hastily rose from her chair, internally vowing vengeance against her triumphant daughter and hatred of all mankind. But Helen thought she might have so erred, from a wife’s alarm for the safety of the husband she professed to doat on; and this dutiful daughter determined never to accuse her.
While all the furies raged in the breast of the guilty woman, Helen simply answered, “Lord Soulis would be weak as he is vile, to trust a secret of that kind with a servant;” then hurried on to the relation of subsequent events. The countess breathed again; and almost deceiving herself with the idea that Helen was indeed ignorant of her treachery, listened with emotions of another kind, when she heard of the rescue of her daughter-in-law. She saw Wallace in that brave act! But as Helen, undesignedly to herself, passed over the parts in their conversation which had most interested her, and never named the graces of his person, Lady mar thought, that to have viewed Wallace with so little notice would have been impossible; and therefore was glad of such a double conviction, that he and her daughter had never met, which seemed verified when Helen said that the unknown chief had promised to join his arms with those of Wallace.
Murray had observed Helen while she spoke, with an impression at his heart that made it pause. Something in this interview had whispered to him what he had never dreamed before-that she was dearer to him than fifty thousand cousins. And while the blood flushed and retreated in the complexion of Helen, and her downcast eyes refused to show what was passing there, while she hastily ran over the circumstances of her acquaintance with the stranger knight, Murray’s own emotions declared the secret of hers; and with a lip as pale as her own, he said, “But where is this brave man? He cannot have yet joined us, for surely he would have told Wallace or myself that he came from you?”
“I warned him not to do so,” replied she, “for fear that your indignation against my enemies, my dear cousin, might have precipitated you into dangers to be incurred for our country only.”
“Then, if he had joined us,” replied Murray, rising from his seat, “you will probably soon known who he is. To-morrow morning Sir William Wallace will enter the citadel, attended by his principal knights; and in that gallant company you must doubtless discover the man who had laid such obligations on us all by your preservation.”
Murray’s feelings told him that glad should he be, if the utterance of that obligation would repay it!
Helen herself knew not how to account for the agitation which shook her whenever she adverted to her unknown preserver. At the time of the hermit’s friend (the good lay brother), having brought her to Alloa, when she explained to Lady Ruthven the cause of her strange arrival, she had then told her story with composure, till she mentioned her deliverer; but in that moment, for the first time she felt a confusion which disordered the animation with which she described his patriotism and his bravery. But it was natural, she thought, that gratitude for a recent benefit should make her heart beat high. It was something like the enthusiasm she had felt for Wallace on the rescue of her father, and she was satisfied. But a few days of quiet at Alloa had recovered her health from the shock it had received in the recent scenes, and she proposed to her aunt to send some trusty messenger to inform the imprisoned earl at Dumbarton of her happy refuge; and Lady Ruthven in return had urged the probability that the messenger would be intercepted, and so her asylum be discovered, saying, “Let it alone, till this knight of yours, by performing his word, calls you to declare his honorable deeds. Till then, Lord Mar, ignorant of your danger, needs no assurance of your safety.”
This casual reference to the knight had then made the tranquilized heart of Helen renew its throbbings, and turning from her aunt with an acquiescing reply, she retired to her own apartment to quell the unusual and painful blushes she felt burning on her cheeks. Why she should feel thus she could not account, “unless,” said she to herself, “I fear that my suspicion may be guessed at; and should my words or looks betray the royal Bruce to any harm, that moment of undesigned ingratitude would be the last of my life.”
This explanation seemed ample to herself. And henceforth avoiding all mention of her preserver in her conversations with Lady Ruthven, she had confined the subject to her own breast; and thinking that she thought of him more by her intention to speak of him less, she wondered not that whenever she was alone his image immediately rose in her mind, his voice seemed to sound in her ears, and even as the summer air wafted its soft fragrance over her cheek, she would turn as if she felt that breath which had so gently brushed her to repose. She would then start and sigh, and repeat his words to herself, but all was serene in her bosom. For it seemed as if the contemplation of so much loveliness of soul in so noble a form, soothed instead of agitated her heart. “What a king will he be?” thought she; “with what transport would the virtuous Wallace set the Scottish crown on so noble a brow.”
Such were her meditations and feelings, when she was brought a prisoner to Stirling. And when she heard of the victories of Wallace, she could not but think that the brave arm of her knight was there, and that he, with the renowned champion of Scotland, would fly, on the receipt of her letter, to Stirling, there to repeat the valiant deeds of Dumbarton. The first blast of the Scottish trumpet under the walls found her, as she had said, upon her knees, and kept her there, for hardly with any intermission, with fast and prayer did she kneel before the altar of Heaven-till the voice of Andrew Murray at midnight called her to freedom and to happiness.
Wallace, and perhaps her nameless hero with him, had again conquered! His idea dwelt in her heart and faltered on her tongue; and yet, in reciting the narrative of her late sufferings to her father, when she came to the mentioning of the stranger’s conduct to her-with an apprehensive embarrassment she felt her growing emotions as she drew near the subject; and, hurrying over the event, she could only excuse herself for such new perturbations by supposing that the former treason of Lady Mar now excited her alarm, with fear she should fix it on a new object. Turning cold at an idea so pregnant with horror, she hastily passed from the agitating theme to speak of De Valence and the respect with which he had treated her during her imprisonment. His courtesy had professed to deny nothing to her wishes except her personal liberty and any conference with her parents or aunt. Her father’s life, he declared it was altogether out of his power to grant. He might suspend the sentence, but he could not abrogate it.
“Yes,” cried the earl, “though false and inflexible, I must not accuse him of having been so barbarous in his tyranny as Cressingham. For it was not until De Valence was taken prisoner that Joanna and I were divided. Till then we were lodged in decent apartments, but on that event Cressingham tore us from each other, and threw us into different dungeons. My sister Janet I never saw since the hour we were separated in the street of Stirling until the awful moment in which we met on the roof of this castle-the moment when I expected to behold her and my wife die before my eyes!”
Helen now learned, for the first time, the base cruelties which had been exercised on her father and his family since the capture of De Valence. She had been exempted from sharing them by the fears of Cressingham, who, knowing that the English earl had particular views with regard to her, durst not risk offending him by outraging one whom he had declared himself determined to protect.
During part of this conversation, Murray withdrew to bring Lady Ruthven and her son to share the general joy of full domestic reunion. The happy Edwin and his mother having embraced these dear relatives with yet more tender affections yearning in their bosoms, accompanied Murray to the door of the barbican, which contained Lord Ruthven. They entered on the wings of conjugal and filial love; but the for once pensive Lord Andrew, with a slow and musing step, returned into the castle to see that all was safely disposed for the remainder of the night.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59