When Baliol arrived within a few miles of Chateau Galliard, he pointed to a wooded part of the forest, and told the friends, that under its groves they had best shelter themselves till the sun set; soon after which he should expect them at the castle.
Long indeed seemed the interval. It usually happens that in contemplating a project, while the period of its execution appears distant, we think on it with composure; but when the time of action is near, when we only wait the approach of an auxiliary, or the lapse of an hour, every passing moment seems an age, and the impatient soul is ready to break every bound, to grasp the completion of its enterprise. So Wallace now felt — felt as he had never done before; for in all his warlike exploits each achievement had immediately followed the moment of resolve; but here he was delayed, to grow in ardor as he contemplated an essay in which every generous principle of man was summoned into action. He was going to rescue a helpless woman from the hands of a man of violence; she was also the daughter of his first ally in the great struggle for Scotland, and who had fallen in the cause. Glad was he then to see the sun sink behind the distant hills. At that moment he and his friend closed their visors, mounted their horses, and set off at full speed toward the chateau.
When they came in view of the antique towers of Galliard, they slackened their pace, and leisurely advanced to the gates. The bugle of Wallace demanded admittance; a courteous assent was brought by the warder; the gates unfolded, the friends entered; and in the next instant they were conducted into a room where Baliol sat. De Valence was walking to and fro in a great chafe; he started at sight of the princely armor of Wallace (for he, as Baliol had done, now conceived, from the lilied diadem, that the stranger must be of the royal house of France); and composing his turbulent spirit, he bowed respectfully to the supposed prince. Wallace returned the salutation, and Baliol rising, accosted him with a dignified welcome. He saw the mistake of De Valence, and perceived how greatly it might facilitate the execution of their project.
On his host’s return to the chateau, De Valence had received him with more than his former insolence, for the Governor of Rouen had sent him information of the despised monarch’s discontent; and when the despotic lord hear a bugle at the gate, and learned that it was answered by the admission of two traveling knights, he flew to Baliol in displeasure, commanding him to recall his granted leave. At the moment of his wrath, Wallace entered, and covered him with confusion. Struck at seeing a French prince in one of the persons he was going to treat with such indignity, he shrunk into himself, and bowed before him with all the cowering meanness of a base and haughty soul. Wallace, feeling his real pre-eminence, bent his head in acknowledgment, with a majesty which convinced the earl that he was not mistaken. Baliol welcomed his guest in a manner not to dispel the illusion.
“Happy am I,” cried he, “that the hospitality which John Baliol intended to show to a mere traveler, confers on him the distinction of serving one of a race whose favor confers protection, and its friendship honor.”
Wallace returned a gracious reply to this speech; and turning to Bruce, said:
“This knight is my friend; and though from peculiar circumstances neither of us chooses to disclose his name during our journey, yet, whatever they may be, I trust you will confide in the word of one whom you have honored by the address you have now made, and believe that his friend is not unworthy the hospitalities of him who was once King of Scots.”
De Valence now approached, and announcing who he was, assured the knights in the name of the King of England, whom he was going to represent in Guienne, of every respect from himself, assistance from his retinue, to bring them properly on their way.
“I return you the thanks due to your courtesy,” replied Wallace; “and shall certainly remain to-night a burden on King Baliol; but in the morning we must depart as we came, having a vow to perform, which excludes the service of attendants.”
A splendid supper was served, at the board of which De Valence sat, as well as Baliol. From the moment that the strangers entered, the English earl never withdrew; so cautious was he to prevent Baliol informing his illustrious guests of the captivity of Lady Helen Mar. Wallace ate nothing; he sat with his visor still closed, and almost in profound silence, never speaking but when spoken to, and then only answering in as few words as possible. De Valence supposed that this taciturnity was connected with his vow, and did not further remark it; but Bruce (who at Caen had furnished himself with a complete suit of black armor) appeared, though equally invisible under his visor, infinitely more accessible. The humbler fashion of his martial accouterment did not announce the prince; but his carriage was so noble, his conversation bespoke so accomplished a mind, and brave a spirit, that De Valence did not doubt that both men before him were of the royal family. He had never seen Charles de Valois; and believing that he now saw him in Wallace, he directed all that discourse to Bruce, which he meant should reach the ear of De Valois, and from him pass to that of the King of France. Bruce guessed what was passing in his mind; and, with as much amusement as design, led forward the earl’s mistake — but rather by allowing him to deceive himself, than by any actual means on his side to increase the deception. De Valence threw out hints respecting a frontier town in Guienne, which, he said, he thought his royal master could be persuaded to yield to the French monarch, as naturally belonging to Gascony. But then the affair must be properly represented, he added; and had he motive enough to investigate some parchments in his possession, he believed he could place the affair in a true light, and convince Edward of the superior claims of the French king. Then casting out hints of the claim he had, by right of his ancestors, to the seigniory of Valence in Dauphiny, he gave them to understand, that if Philip would invest him with the revenues of Valence on the Rhone, he would engage that the other town in question should be delivered to France.
Notwithstanding Baliol’s resolution to keep awake and assist his friends in their enterprise, he was so overcome by fatigue that he fell asleep soon after supper, and so gave De Valence full opportunity to unveil his widely-grasping mind to the Scottish chiefs. Wallace now saw that the execution of his project must depend wholly upon himself; and how to inform Helen that he was in the castle, and of his plan to get her out of it, hardly occupied him more than what to devise to detain De Valence in the banqueting-room, while he went forth to prosecute his design. As these thoughts absorbed him, by an unconscious movement he turned toward the English earl. De Valence paused, and looked at him, supposing he was going to speak; but finding him still silent, the earl addressed him, though with some hesitation, feeling an inexplicable awe of directly saying to him what he had so easily uttered to his more approachable companion.
“I seek not, illustrious stranger,” said he, “to inquire the name you have already intimated must be concealed; but I have sufficient faith in that brilliant circlet around your brows, to be convinced (as none other than the royal hand of Philip could bestow it) that it distinguishes a man of the first honor. You now know my sentiments, prince; and for the advantage of both kings, I confide them to your services.”
“Whether I am prince or vassal,” replied he, “my services shall ever be given in the cause of justice; and of that, Earl de Valence, you will be convinced when next you hear of me. My friend,” cried he, turning to Bruce, “you will remain with our host; I go to perform the vigils of my vow.”
Bruce understood him. It was not merely with their host he was to remain, but to detain De Valence, and, opening at once the versatile powers of his abundant mind, his vivacity charmed the earl, while the magnificence of his views in policy corroborated to De Valence the idea that he was conversing with one whose birth had placed him beyond even the temptations of those ambitions which were at that moment subjecting his auditor’s soul to every species of flattery, meanness, and, in fact, disloyalty. Bruce, in his turn, listened with much apparent interest to all De Valence’s dreams of aggrandizement, and recollecting his reputation for a love of wine, he replenished the earl’s goblet so often, that the fumes made him forget all reserve; and after pouring forth the whole history of his attachments to Helen, and his resolution to subdue her abhorrence by love and grandeur, he gradually lowered his key, and at last fell fast asleep.
Meanwhile Wallace wrapped himself in Baliol’s blue cloak, which lay in the anteroom, and enveloping even his helmet in the friendly mantle, he moved swiftly along the gallery toward the chamber of Helen. To be prepared for obstacles, he had obtained from Baliol a particular description of the situation of every apartment leading to it. It was now within an hour of midnight. He passed through several large vacant rooms, and at last arrived at the important door. It opened into a small chamber, in which two female attendants lay asleep. He gently raised the latch, and, with caution taking the lamp which burned on the table, glided softly through the curtains which filled the cedar arch that led into the apartment of Helen. He approached the bed, covering the light with his hand, while he observed her. She was in a profound sleep, but pale as the sheet which enveloped her — her countenance seemed troubled, her brows frequently knit themselves, and she started as she dreamed, as if in apprehension. Once he heard her lips faintly murmur, “Save me, my father! on you alone —” There she stopped. His heart bled at this appeal. “Thy father’s friend comes to save thee,” he would have cried, but he checked the exclamation — his hand dropped at the same instant from before the lamp, and the blaze striking full on her eyes, waked her. She looked up, and she believed her dream realized — De Valence leaning over the bed, and herself wholly in his power! A shriek of horror as bursting from her lips, when Wallace hastily raised his visor. At the moment when despair was in her orphan heart, and her whole soul turned with abhorrence from the supposed De Valence, she met the eyes of the dearest to her on earth — those of indeed her father’s friend! Stretching forth her arms, for an instant she seemed flying to the protection of him to whose honor she had been bequeathed; but falling back again on her bed, the glad surprise of seeing him, who in her estimation was her only earthly security now that her father was no more, shook her with such emotion, that Wallace feared to see her delicate frame sink into some deadly swoon.
Alarmed for her life, or the accomplishment of her deliverance, he threw himself on his knees beside her, and softly whispered, “Be composed, for the love of Heaven and your own safety. Be collected and firm, and you shall fly this place with me to-night.”
Hardly conscious of the action, Helen grasped the hand that held hers, and would have replied; but her voice failing, she fainted on his arm. Wallace now saw no alternative but to remove her hence, even in this insensible state; and, raising her gently in his arms, enveloped in the silk coverlet, with cautious steps he bore her through the curtained entrance, and passed the sleeping damsels into the anterooms. To meet any of De Valence’s men while in this situation would betray ll. To avoid this, he hastened through the illuminated passages, and turning into the apartment appointed for himself, laid the now reviving Helen upon a couch. “Water,” said she, “and I shall soon be myself again.”
He gave her some, and at the same time laying a page’s suit of clothes (which Baliol had provided) beside her, “Dress yourself in these, Lady Helen,” said he; “I shall withdraw meanwhile into the passage, but your safety depends on expedition.”
Before she could answer he had disappeared. Helen instantly threw herself on her knees to thank a higher power for this commencement of her deliverance, and to beseech His blessing on its consummation. She rose strengthened, and, obeying Wallace, the moment she was equipped, she laid her hand upon the latch, but the watchful ear of her friend heard her, and he immediately opened the door. The lamps of the gallery shone full upon the light grace of her figure, as shrinking with blushing modesty, and yet eager to be with her preserver, she stood hesitating before him. He threw his cloak over her, and putting her arm through his, in the unobscured blaze of his princely armor, he descended to the lower hall of the castle. One man only was there. Wallace ordered him to open the great door. “It is a fine night,” said he, “and I shall ride some miles before I sleep.” The man asked if he were to saddle the horses; he was answered in the affirmative, and the gate being immediately unbarred, Wallace led his precious charge into the freedom of the open air. As soon as she saw the outside of those towers, which she had entered as the worst of all prisoners, her heart so overflowed with gratitude to her deliverer, that sinking by his side upon her knees, she could only grasp his hand, and bathe it with the pure tears of rescued innocence. Her manner penetrated his soul, and he raised her in his arms; but she, dreading that she had perhaps done too much, convulsively articulated, “My father — his blessing —”
“Was a rich endowment, Lady Helen,” returned Wallace, “and you shall ever find me deserving of it.” Her head leaned on his breast. But how different was the lambent flame which seemed to emanate from either heart, as they now beat against each other, from the destructive fire which shot from the burning veins of Lady mar, when she would have polluted with her unchaste lips this shrine of a beloved wife, this bosom consecrated to her sacred image! Wallace had shrunk from her, as from the touch of some hideous contagion, but with Lady Helen it was soul meeting soul, it was innocence resting on the bosom of virtue. No thought that saints would not have approved was there, no emotion which angels might not have shared, glowed in their grateful bosoms — she, grateful to him; both grateful to God.
The man brought the horses from the stable. He knew that two strangers had arrived at the castle, and not noticing Helen’s stature, supposed they were both before him. He had been informed by the servants, that the taller of the two was the Count de Valois, and he now held the stirrup for him to mount; But Wallace placed Helen on Bruce’s horse, and then vaulting on his own, put a piece of gold into the attendant’s hand.
“You will return, noble prince?” inquired the man.
“Why should you doubt it?” answered Wallace.
“Because,” replied the servant, “I wish the brother of the King of France to know the foul deeds which are doing in his dominions.”
“By whom?” asked Wallace, surprised at this address.
“By the Earl de Valence, prince,” answered he; “he has now in this castle a beautiful lady, whom he brought from a foreign land, and treats in a manner unbecoming a knight or a man.”
“And what would you have me do?” said Wallace, willing to judge whether this applicant were honest in his appeal.
“Come in the power of your royal brother,” answered he, “and demand the Lady Helen Mar of Lord de Valence.”
Helen, who had listened with trepidation to this dialogue, drew nearer Wallace, and whispered in an agitated voice, “Ah! let us hasten away.”
The man was close enough to hear her.
“Hah!” cried he, in a burst of doubtful joy; “is it so? Is she here? say so, noble knight, and Joppa Grimsby will serve ye both forever!”
“Grimsby!” cried Helen, recollecting his voice the moment he had declared his name; “what! the honest English soldier? I and my preserver will indeed value so trusty a follower.”
The name of Grimsby was too familiar to the memory of Wallace, too closely associated with his most cherished meditations, for him not to recognize it with melancholy pleasure. He had never seen Grimsby, but he knew him well worthy of his confidence; and ordered him (if he really desired to follow Lady Helen) to bring two more horses from the stables. When they were brought, Wallace made the joyful signal concerted with Bruce and Baliol, to sound the Scottish pryse as soon as he and his fair charge were out of the castle.
The happy tidings met the ear of the prince while anxiously watching the sleeping of De Valence, for fear he should awake and, leaving the room, interrupt Wallace in his enterprise. What, then, was his transport when the first note of the horn burst upon the silence around him! He sprung on his feet. The impetuosity of the action roused Baliol, who had been lying all the while sound asleep in his chair. Bruce made a sign to him to be silent, and pressing his hand with energy, forgot the former Baliol in the present, and, for a moment bending his knee, kissed the hand he held; then, rising, disappeared in an instant.
He flew through the open gates. Wallace perceiving him, rode out from under the shadow of the trees. The bright light of the moon shone on his sparkling crest; that was sufficient for Bruce, and Wallace, falling back again into the shade, was joined the next moment by his friend. Who this friend was for whom her deliverer had told Helen he waited, she did not ask; for she dreaded, while so near danger, to breathe a word; but she guessed that it must either be Murray or Edwin. De Valence had barbarously told her that not only her father was no more, but that her uncles, the Lords Bothwell and Ruthven, had both been killed in the last battle. Hence, with a saddened joy, one of her two bereaved cousins she now prepared to see; and every filial recollection pressing on her heart her tears flowed silently and in abundance. As Bruce approached, his black mantle so wrapped him she could not distinguish his figure. Wallace stretched forth his hand to him in silence; he grasped it with the warm but mute congratulation of friendship, and throwing himself on his horse, triumphantly exclaimed, “Now for Paris!” Helen recognized none she knew in that voice; and drawing close to the white courser of Wallace, with something like disappointment mingling with her happier thoughts, she made her horse keep pace with the fleetness of her companions.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59