As soon as Murray found her
within his arms, he clasped her insensible form to his breast, and
carrying her up the steps, drew the bolt of the door. It opened to his
pressure, and discovered a large monastic cell, into which the daylight
shone through one long narrow window. A straw pallet, an altar, and a
marble basin, were the furniture.
The cell was solitary, the
owner being then at mass in the chapel of the monastery. Murray !aid down
his death-like burden on the monk’s bed. He then ventured (believing, as
it was to restore, so pure a being to life, it could not be sacrilege) to
throw some of the holy water upon his cousin’s face; and by means of a
little chalice, which stood upon the altar, he poured some into her mouth.
At last opening her eyes, she recognised the figure of her young kinsman
leaning over her. The almost paralysed Halbert stood at her feet.
"Blessed Virgin! am I yet safe, and with my dear Andrew ! Oh! I
feared you were slain !" cried she, bursting into tears.
"Thank God, we are
both safe:" answered he: "comfort yourself, my beloved cousin!
you are now on holy ground; this is the cell of the prior of St. Fillan.
None, but the hand of an infidel, dare wrest you from this
"But my father, and
Lady Mar?" And again her tears flowed.
"The Countess, my
gracious lady:" answered Halbert, "since you could not be found
in the castle, is allowed to accompany your father to Dumbarton castle,
there to be treated with every respect, until De Valence receives further
orders from King Edward."
"But for Wallace !" cried
she, "ah, where are now the succours that were to be sent to him !
And without succours, how can he, or you, dearest Andrew, rescue my father
from this tyranny !"
"Do not despair,"
replied Murray; "look but at the banner you held fast, even while
insensible; your own hands have engraven my answer—God armeth the
patriot! Convinced of that, can you still fear for your father? I will
join Wallace to-morrrow. Your own fifty warriors await me at the bottom of
Cartlane craigs; and if any treachery should be meditated against my
uncle, that moment we will make the towers of Dumbarton shake to their
Helen’s reply was a deep
sigh: she thought it might be Heaven’s will that her father, like the
good Lord Douglas, should fall a victim to royal revenge; and so sad were
her forebodings, that she hardly dared to hope what the sanguine
disposition of her cousin promised. Grimsby now came forward; and
unloosing an iron box from under his arm, put it into the hands of Lord
treasure," said he, "was committed to my care by the Earl your
uncle, to deliver to the prior of St. Fillan’s."
"What does it
contain?" demanded Murray: "I never saw it before."
know not its contents," returned the soldier; "it belongs to Sir
ejaculated Helen. "If it be treasure, why was it not rather sent to
him?" "But how, honest soldier," asked Murray, "did
you escape with it, and Halbert too? I am at a loss to conjecture, but by
miracle." He replied, that as soon as the English, and their Scottish
partisans under Lord Soulis, had surprised the castle, he saw that his
only chance of safety was to throw off the bonnet and plaid, and mix
amongst the numerous soldiers who had taken possession of the gates. His
armour, and his language, showed he was their countryman; and they easily
believed, that he had joined the plunderers as a volunteer from the army,
which at a greater distance beleagured the castle. The story of his
desertion from the Lanark garrison, had not yet reached those of Glasgow
and Dumbarton ; and one or two men, who had known him in former
expeditions readily reported that he had been drafted into the present
one. Their recognition warranted his truth; and he had no difficulty,
after the carnage in the state apartment, to make his way to the
bed-chamber where, Lord Aymer de Valence had ordered Lord Mar to be
carried. He found the Earl alone, and lost in grief. He knew not but that
his nephew, and even his daughter and wife, had fallen beneath the
impetuous swords of the enemy. Astonished at seeing the soldier walking at
large, he expressed his surprise with some suspicions. But Grimsby told
him the stratagem he had used, and assured him, Lord Andrew had not been
seen since the onset. This information inspired the Earl with a hope that
his nephew might have escaped: and when the soldier also said, that he had
seen the Countess led by Lord Soulis across the hall towards the Lady
Helen’s apartments, while he overheard him promising them every respect,
the Earl seemed comforted. "But how;" inquired he of Grimsby,
"has this hard fate befallen us? Have you learnt how De Valence knew
that I meant to take up arms for my country?"
When the soldier was
relating this part of the conference, Murray interrupted him with the same
"On that head I cannot
fully satisfy you," replied he; "I could only gather from the
soldiers, that a sealed packet had been delivered to Lord Aymer de Valence
late last night at Dumbarton castle. Soulis was then there; and he
immediately set off to Glasgow, for the followers he had left in that
town. Early this morning he joined De Valence and his legions, on Bothwell
Moor. The consequences there, you know. But they do not end at Bothwell.
The gallant Wallace—"
At that name, so mentioned,
the heart of Helen grew cold.
"What of him?"
"No personal harm has
yet happened to Sir William Wallace," replied Grimsby; "but at
the same moment in which De Valence gave orders for his troops to march to
Bothwell, he sent others to intercept that persecuted knight’s escape
from the Cartlane craigs."
"That accursed sealed
packet," cried Murray, "has been the traitor! Some villain in
Bothwell castle must have written it. Whence else could have come the
double information? And if so," added he, with tremendous emphasis,
"may the blast of slavery ever pursue him and his posterity!"
Helen shuddered, as the
amen to this frightful malediction was echoed by the voices of Halbert and
the soldier. The latter continued:
"When I informed Lord
Mar of these measures against Wallace, he expressed a hope that your first
detachment to his assistance, might, with yourself perhaps at its head,
elude their vigilance, and join his friend. This disceurse reminded him of
the iron box. ‘It is in that closet,’ said his lordship, pointing to
an opposite door; ‘you will find it beneath the little altar; before
which I pay my daily duties to the Allwise Dispenser of the fates of men;
else where would be my confidence now! take it thence, and buckle it to
"I obeyed; and he then
proceeded : —‘ There are two passages in this house, which lead to
sanctuary. The one nearest to us, is the safest for you. A staircase from
the closet you have just left, will lead you directly into the chapel.
When there, hasten to the image of the Virgin, and slip aside the marble
tablet on the back of the pedestal: it will admit you to a flight of
steps; descend them, and at the bottom you will find a door, that will
convey you into a range of cellars. Lift up the largest flag-stone in the
second, and you will be conducted through a dark vault, to an iron door;
draw the bolt, and remain in the cell it will open to you, till the owner
enters. He is the prior of St. Fillan’s, and a Murray. Give him this
golden cross, which he well knows, as a mark you come from me; and say it
is my request, that he assist you to gain the seashore. As for the iron
box, tell him to preserve it as he would his life: and never to give it
up, but to myself, my children, or to Sir William Wallace, its rightful
Halbert, "that he had never been its owner! that he had never brought
it to Ellerslie, to draw down misery on his head! Ill-omened trust!
whatever it contains, its presence carries blood and sorrow in its train.
Wherever it has been deposited, war and murder have followed: I trust my
dear master will never see it more."
"He may indeed never
see it more!" murmured Helen, in a low voice: "Where are now my
proud anticipations of freedom to Scotland? Alas, Andrew," said she,
taking his hand, and weeping over it; "I have been too presumptuous ;—my
father is a prisoner, and Sir William Wallace is lost!"
"Cease, my dear
Helen," cried he; "cease to distress yourself! These are merely
the vicissitudes of the great contention we are engaged in. We must expect
occasional disappointments, or look for miracles every day. Such disasters
are sent as lessons, to teach us precaution, promptitude, and patience—these
are the soldier’s graces, my sweet cousin, and depend on it, I will pay
them due obedience."
"But why;" asked
Helen, taking comfort from the un-subdued sprits of her cousin, "why,
my good soldier, did not my dear father take advantage of this sanctuary
"I urged the Earl to
accompany me;" returned Grimsby; "but he said, such a proceeding
would leave his wife and babes in unprotected captivity. ‘No; added he;
‘I will await my fate; for the God of those who trust in him, knows that
I do not fear!’
"Having received such
peremptory orders from the Earl, I took my leave; and entering the chapel
by the way he directed, was agreeably surprised to find the worthy Halbert;
whom, never having seen since the funeral obsequies, I supposed had fallen
during the carnage in the state-chamber. He was still kneeling by the tomb
of his buried mistress. I did not take long to warn him of his danger, and
desired him to follow me. We descended together beneath the holy statue;
and were just emerging into the cellars, when you, sir, met us at the
"It was while we were
yet in the chapel, that I heard De Valence, and Soulis, at high words in
the court-yard. The former, in a loud voice, gave orders that as Lady
Helen Mar could nowhere be found, the Earl and Countess, with their two
infant children, should not be separated, but be conveyed as his prisoners
to Dumbarton castle."
"That is a comfort," cried
Helen; "my father will then be consoled by the presence of his wife."
"But very different
would have been the case, madam, had you appeared," rejoined the
soldier: "one of Lord de Valence’s men told me, that Lord Soulis
intended to have taken you, and the Countess, to Dunglass castle, near
Glasgow; while the sick Earl was to have been carried alone to Dumbarton,
and detained in solitary confinement. Lord Soulis was in so dreadful a
rage, when you could not be found, that he accused the English commander
of having leagued with Lady Mar to deceive him. In the midst of this
contention we descended into the vaults."
Helen shuddered at the
thought of how near she was to falling into the hands of so fierce a
spirit. In his character, he united every quality which could render power
formidable; combining prodigious bodily strength, with cruelty,
dissimulation, and treachery. He was feared by the common people as a
sorcerer; and avoided by the virtuous of his own rank, as an enemy to all
public law, and the violator of every private tie. Helen Mar had twice
refused his hand: first, during the contest for the kingdom, when his
pretended claim to the crown was disallowed. She was then a mere child,
hardly more than fourteen; but she rejected him with abhorrence. Though
stung to the quick, at being denied the objects, both of his love and his
ambition, at the same moment; he did not hesitate, at another period, to
renew his offers to her. At the fall of Dunbar, when he again founded his
uprise on the ruins of his country, as soon as he had repeated his oaths
of fidelity to Edward, he hastened to Thirlestane, to throw himself a
second time at the feet of Lady Helen. Her ripened judgment, confirmed her
youthful dislike of his ruffian qualities, and again he was rejected.
"By the powers of
hell:" exclaimed he, when the project of surprising Bothwell was
imparted to him, "if I once get that proud minion into my grasp, she
shall be mine as I will; and learn to beg for even a look from the man who
has humbled her!"
Helen knew not half the
afflictions with which his resentful heart had meditated to subdue and
torture her; and therefore, though she shrunk at the sound of a name so
generally infamous, yet, not aware of all the evils she had escaped, she
replied with langour, though with gratitude, to the almost rapturous
congratulations of her cousin on her timely flight.
At this period, the door of
the cell opened, and the prior entered from the cloisters—he started on
seeing his room filled with strangers. Murray took off his helmet, and
approached him. On recognising the son of his patron, the prior inquired
his commands; and expressed some surprise, that such a company, and above
all, a lady, could have passed the convent-gate without his previous
Murray pointed to the
recess behind the altar; and then explained to the good priest the
necessity which had compelled them to thus seek the protection of St.
Fillan. "Lady Helen;" continued he, "must share your care,
until Heaven empowers the Earl of Mar to reclaim his daughter, and
adequately reward this holy church."
The soldier then presented
the cross, with the iron box repeating the message that confided them also
to his keeping.
The prior listened to these
recitals with sorrowful attention. He had heard the noise of armed men
advancing to the castle; but knowing that the Earl was making warlike
preparations, he had no suspicion that these were other than the Bothwell
soldiers. He took the box, and laying it on the altar, pressed the cross
to his lips. "The Earl of Mar shall find that fidelity here, which
his faith in the church merits. That mysterious chest, to which you tell
me so terrible a denunciation is annexed, shall be preserved sacred as the
relics of Saint Fillan."
Halbert groaned heavily at
these words, but he did not speak. The father looked at him attentively,
and then proceeded :—"But for you, virtuous Southron, I will give
you a pilgrim’s habit. Travel in that privileged garb to Montrose; and
there a brother of the church, the prior of, Aberbrothick will, by a
letter from me, convey you in a vessel to Normandy: thence you may safely
find your way to Guienne."
The soldier bowed his head;
and the priest, turning to Lady Helen, told her, that a cell should be
appointed for her; and some pious woman brought from the adjoining hamlet,
to pay her due attendance.
"As for this venerable
man," continued he, "his silver hairs already proclaim him near
his heavenly country! He had best put on the cowl of the holy brotherhood;
and, in the arms of religion, repose securely, till he passes through the
sleep of death, to wake in everlasting life."
Tears started into the eyes
of Halbert. "I thank you, reverend father; I have indeed drawn near
the end of my pilgrimage—too old to serve my dear master in fields of
blood and hardship, I will at least devote my last hours, to uniting my
prayers with his, and all good souls, for the repose of his sainted lady—I
accept your invitation thankfully; and, considering it a call from Heaven
to give me rest, I welcome the day that marks the poor harper of Ellerslie,
with the sacred tonsure."
The sound of approaching
trumpets; and, soon after, the clattering of horses, and the clang of
armour, made an instantaneous silence in the cell. Helen looked fearfully
at her cousin, and grasped his hand; Murray clasped his sword with a
firmer hold. "I will protect you with my life." He spoke in a
low tone, but the soldier heard him: "There is no cause of
alarm," rejoined he; "Lord de Valence, is only marching by, on
his way to Dumbarton."
"Alas, my poor
father!" cried Helen, covering her face with her hands.
The venerable prior,
pitying her affliction, knelt down by her: "My daughter, be
comforted," said he, "they dare not commit any violence on the
Earl. King Edward too well understands his own interest, to allow even a
long imprisonment to so popular a nobleman." This assurance, assisted
by the consolations of a firm trust in God, at length raised her head with
a meek smile. He continued to speak of the impregnable hopes of the
Christian, who founds his confidence on Omnipotence; and while his words
spread a serenity through her soul, that seemed the ministration of a
descended saint, she closed her hands over her breast, and silently
invoked the protection of the Almighty Jehovah, for her suffering parent.
The prior, seeing her
composed, recommended leaving her to rest. And Helen, comforted by holy
meditations, allowing her cousin to depart, he led Murray and his
companions into the convent library.