Chapter 14 - The
listened with astonishment and grief, to this too probable story of her
stepmothers ill-judged tenderness, or cruel treachery; and remembering
the threats which had escaped that lady in their last conversation, she
saw no reason to doubt, what so clearly explained the before inexpliable
seizure of her father, the betraying of Wailace, and her own present
you think I dont say true, Lord Soulis himself will assure you of the
Alas, no !" returned Helen,
profoundly sighing, "I believe it too well. I see the depth of the
misery into which I am plunged. And yet," cried she, recollecting the
imposition the men had put upon her; "yet, I shall not be wholly so,
if my father lives, and was not in the extremity they told me of!"
"If that thought gives
you comfort, retain it;" returned the woman: "the whole story of
the Earls illness, was an invention, to bring you at so short notice
from the protection of the prior."
"I thank thee,
gracious Providence, for this comfort!" exclaimed Helen: "it
inspires me with redoubled trust in thee."
Margery shook her head.
"Ah, poor victim (thought she), how vain is thy devotion!" But
she had not time to say so, for her husband, and the deserter from
Cressingham, re-entered the cave. Helen, afraid that it was Soulis,
started up. The stranger proceeded to lift her in his arms: she struggled,
and in the violence of her action, struck his beaver: it opened, and
discovered a pale and stern countenance, with a large scar across his jaw;
this mark of contest, and the gloomy scowl of his eyes, made Helen rush
towards the woman for protection. The man hastily closed his helmet, and
speaking through the clasped steel, for the first time she heard his
voice, which sounded hollow and decisive: he bade her prepare to accompany
Lord Soulis in a journey to the south.
Helen looked at her
shackled arms, and despairing of effecting her escape by any effort of her
own, she thought that gaining time might be some advantage; and allowing
the man to take her hand, while Macgregor supported her on the other side,
they led her out of the cave. She observed the latter smile significantly
at his wife. "Oh !" cried she, "to what am I betrayed!
Unhand meleave me !" Almost fainting with dread, she leaned
against the arm of the stranger.
Thunder now pealed over her head, and
lightning shot across the mountains. She looked up: "Merciful heaven
!" cried she, in a voice of deep horror; "send down thy bolt on
me !" At that moment Soulis, mounted on his steed, approached and
ordered her to be put into the litter. Incapable of contending with the
numbers which surrounded her, she allowed them to execute their masters
commands. Macgregors wife was set on a pillion behind him; and Soulis
giving the word, they all marched on at a rapid pace. In a few hours,
having cleared the shady valleys of the Clyde, they entered the long and
barren tracts of the Leadhill moors.
A dismal hue overspread the country; the
thunder yet roared in distant peals, and the lightning came down in such
vast sheets, that the carriers were often obliged to set down their
burden, and cover their eyes to regain their sight. A. shrill wind pierced
the slight covering of the litter, and blowing it aside, discovered at
intervals the rough outlines of the distant hills visible through the
mist; or the gleaming of some wandering water, as it glided away over the
"All is desolation, like myself!"
thought Helen; but neither the cold wind, nor the rain, now drifting into
her vehicle, occasioned her any sensation. It is, only when the mind is at
ease, that the body is delicate: all within her was too expectant of
mental horrors, to notice the casual inconveniences of season or
The cavalcade with difficulty mounted the
steps of a mountainous hill, where the storm raged so turbulently, that
the men who carried the litter stopped, and told their lord, it would be
impossible to proceed in the approaching darkness; they conjured him to
look at the perpendicular rocks,
rendered indistinct by the gathering mist; to observe the overwhelming
gusts of the tempest; and then judge whether they dare venture with the
litter on so dangerous a pathway, made slippery by descending rain!
To halt in such a spot, seemed to Soulis as
unsafe as to proceed. "We shall not be better off," answered he,
"should we attempt to return: precipices lie on either side; and to
stand still would be equally perilous: the torrents from the heights
increase so rapidly, there is every chance of our being swept away, should
we remain exposed to their stream."
Helen looked at these sublime cascades with
a calm welcome, as they poured from the hills, and flung their spray upon
the roof of her vehicle. She hailed her release in the death they menaced;
and far from being intimidated at the prospect, cast a resigned, and even
wistful glance, into the swelling lake beneath, under whose waves she
expected soon to sleep.
On the remonstrance of their master, the
men resumed their pace; and after hard contention with the storm, they
gained the summit of the west side of the mountain; and were descending
its eastern brow, when the shades of night closed in upon them. Looking
down into the black chaos, on the brink of which they must pass along,
they once more protested they could not advance a foot, until the dawn
should give them some security.
At this declaration, which Soulis saw could
not now be disputed, he ordered the troop to halt under the shelter of a
projecting rock. Its huge arch overhung the ledge that formed the road,
while the deep gulf at his feet, by the roaring of its waters, proclaimed
itself the receptacle of those cataracts, which rush tremendous from the
ever-streaming Pentland hills.
Soulis dismounted. The men set down the
litter, and removed to a distance as he approached. He opened one of the
curtains, and throwing himself beside the exhausted, but watchful Helen,
clasped his arms roughly about her, and exclaimed, "Sweet minion, I
must pillow on your bosom till the morn awakes!" His brutal lips were
again riveted to her cheek. Ten thousand strengths seemed then to heave
him from her heart; and struggling with a power that amazed even herself,
she threw him from her; and holding him off with her shackled arms, her
shrieks again pierced the heavens.
"Scream thy soul away, poor
fool !" exclaimed Soulls, seizing her fiercely in his arms; "for
thou art now so surely mine, that heaven itself cannot deprive me !"
At that moment her couch
was shaken by a sudden shock, and in the next she was covered with the
blood of Soulis. A stroke from an unseen arm had reached him, and starting
on his feet, a fearful battle of swords took place over the prostrate
One of the men, out of the
numbers who hastened to the assistance of their master, fell, dead on her
body; while the chief himself, sorely wounded, and breathing revenge and
blasphemy, was forced off by the survivors. "Where do you carry me,
villains?" cried he. "Separate me not from the vengeance I will
yet hurl on that demon who has robbed me of my victim, or ye shall die a
death more horrible than hell can inflict!" He raved; but more
unheeded than the tempest. Terrified that the spirits of darkness were
indeed their pursuers, in spite of his reiterated threats, the men carried
him to a distant hollow in the rock; and laid him down, now insensible
from loss of blood. One or two of the most desperate, returned to see what
was become of Lady Helen; well aware that if they could regain her, their
master would be satisfied: but, on the reverse, should she be lost, the
whole troop knew their fate would be some merciless punishment.
Macgregor, and the deserter
of Cressingham, were the first who reached the spot where the lady had
been left: with horror they found the litter,
but not herself. She was gone. But whether carried off by the mysterious
arm which had felled their lord, or she had thrown herself into the
foaming gulf beneath, they could not determine. They decided, however, the
latter should be their report to Soulis; knowing he would rather believe
the object of his passions had perished, than that she had escaped his
Almost stupified with consternation,
they returned to repeat this tale to their furious lord; who, on having
his wounds stanched, had recovered from his swoon. On hearing that the
beautiful creature, he had so lately believed his own beyond the power of
fate; that his property, as he called her, the devoted slave of his
will, the mistress of his destiny, was lost to him for ever! swallowed up
in the whelming wave! he became frantic. There was desperation in every
word. He raved; tore up the earth like a wild beast; and, foaming at the
mouth, dashed the wife of Macgregor from him, as she approached with a
fresh balsam for his wounds. "Off, scum of a damned sex!" cried
he: "Where is she whom I entrusted to thy care?"
answered the affrighted woman, "you know best. You terrified the poor
young creature. You forced yourself into a litter, and can you
"That I should force you to
perdition! execrable witch," cried he, "that knew no better how
to prepare a slave to receive her lord!" - As he spoke, he struck her
again; but it was with his gauntlet hand, and the eyes of the unfortunate
woman opened no more. The blow fell on her temple, and a motionless corpse
lay before him.
"My wife !" cried
the poor Macgregor, putting his trembling arms about her neck: "Oh,
my Lord, how have I deserved this? You have slain her !"
"Suppose I have
!" returned the chief with a cold scorn; "she was old and ugly;
and could you recover Helen, you should cull Hermitage, for a substitute
for this prating beldam."
Macgregor made no reply,
but feeling in his heart, that he "who sows the wind, must reap the
whirlwind;" that such were the rewards from villainy, to its vile
instruments; he could not but say to himself, "I have deserved it of
my God, but not of thee!" and sobbing over the remains of his equally
criminal wife, by the assistance of his comrades he removed her from the
now hated presence of his lord.
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