DURING the repast, the Countess
often fixed her unrestrained gaze on the manly, yet youthful countenance
of the heroic Wallace. His plumed helmet was now laid aside; and the heavy
corselet unbuckled from his breast, disclosing the symmetry of his fine
form, left its graceful movements to be displayed with advantage by the
flexible folds of his simple
tartan vest. Was it the formidable Wallace she looked on ;—bathed in the
blood of Heselrigge, and breathing vengeance against the adherents of the
tyrant Edward ?—It was, then, the enemy of her kinsmen of the house of
Cummin! It was the man, for whom her husband had embraced so many dangers!
it was the man whom she had denounced to one of those kinsmen; and whom
she had betrayed to the hazard of an ignominious death! But where, now,
was the fierce rebel,—the ruiner of her peace,-—the outlaw whom she
had wished in his grave?
The last idea was
distraction. She could have fallen at his feet, and bathing them with her
tears, have implored his pity and forgiveness. Even as the wish sprung in
her mind, she asked herself—"Did he know all, could he pardon such
a weight of injuries?" She cast her eyes with a wild expression upon
his face. The mildness of heaven was there; and the peace too, she might
have thought, had not his eye carried a chastened sadness in its look,
which told that something dire and sorrowful was buried deep within. It
was a look that dissolved the soul which gazed on it. The Countess felt
her heart throb violently. At that moment Wallace addressed a few words to
her, but she knew not what they were; her soul was in tumults, and a mist
passed over her sight, which, for a moment, seemed to wrap all her senses
in a trance.
The unconscious object of
these emotions, bowed to her inarticulate reply; supposing that the
mingling voices of others, had made him hear hers indistinctly.
Lady Mar found her
situation so strange, and her agitation so inexplicable, that feeling it
impossible to remain longer without giving way to a burst of tears, she
rose from her seat, and forcing a smile with her curtesy to the company,
left the room.
On gaining the upper
apartment, she threw herself along the nearest couch, and striking her
breast, exclaimed, "What is this within me? How does my soul seem to
pour itself out to this man! Oh! how does it extend itself, as if it would
absorb his, even at my eyes! Only twelve hours - hardly twelve hours, have
I seen this William Wallace, and yet my very being is now lost in
While thus speaking, she
covered her face with her handkerchief, but no tears now started to be
wiped away. The fire in her veins dried their source, and with burning
blushes she rose from her seat. "Fatal, fatal hour! Why didst thou
come here, too infatuating Wallace, to rob me of my peace? O! why did I
ever look on that face ?—or rather, blessed saints!" cried she,
clasping her hands in wild passion, "why did I ever shackle this hand
?—why did I ever render such a sacrifice necessary! Wallace is now free;
had I been free ?—But wretch, wretch, wretch:—I could tear out this
betrayed heart !—I could trample on that of the infatuating husband,
that made me such a slave!" She gasped for breath, and again seating
herself, reclined her beating temples against the couch.
She was now silent; but
thoughts, not less intense, not less fraught with self-reproach and
anguish, occupied her mind. Should this god of her idolatry ever discover
that it was her information, which had sent Earl de Valence’s men to
surround him in the mountains; should he ever learn that at Bothwell, she
had betrayed the cause on which he had set his life; she felt that moment
would be her last. For now, to sate her eyes with gazing on him, to hear
the sound of his voice, to receive his smiles, seemed to her, a joy she
could only surrender with her existence. What then was the prospect of so
soon losing him, even to crown himself with honour, but to her a living
To defer his departure, was
all her study,—all her hope; and fearful that his restless valour might
urge him to accompany Murray in his intended convoy of Helen to the
Tweed, she determined to persuade her nephew to set off without the
knowledge of his general. She did not allow that it was the youthful
beauty, and more lovely mind of her daughter-in-law, which she feared;
even to herself she cloaked her alarm, under the plausible excuse of care
for the chieftain’s safety. Composed by this mental arrangement, her
disturbed features became smooth; and with even a sedate air, she received
her lord, and his brave friends, when they soon after entered the chamber.
But the object of her
wishes did not appear. Wallace had taken Lord Lennox to view the
dispositions of the fortress. Ill satisfied as she was with his prolonged
absence, she did not fail to turn it to advantage; and while her lord and
his friends were examining a draft of Scotland (which Wallace had sketched
after she left the banqueting-room), she took Lord Andrew aside, to
converse with him on the subject, now nearest to her heart.
"It certainly belongs
to me alone, her kinsman and friend, to protect Helen to the Tweed, if
there she must go:" returned Murray; "but, my good lady, I
cannot comprehend why I am to lead my fair cousin such a pilgrimage. She
is not afraid of heroes! you are safe in Dumbarton; and why not bring her
"Not for worlds!"
exclaimed the Countess, thrown off her guard. Murray looked at her with
surprise. It recalled her to self-possession, and she resumed. "So
lovely a creature, in this castle, would be a dangerous magnet. You must
have known, that it was the hope of obtaining her, which attracted the
Lord Soulis, and Earl de Valence to Bothwell. The whole castle rung with
the quarrel of these two lords, upon her account, when you so fortunately
effected her escape. Should it be known that she is here, the same fierce
desire of obtaining her, would give double excitement to De Valence to
recover the place; and the consequences, who can answer for?"
By this argument Murray was
persuaded to relinquish the idea of conveying Helen to Dumbarton but
remembering what Wallace had said respecting the safety of a religious
sanctuary, he advised that she should be left at St. Fillan’s till the
cause of Scotland might be more firmly established. "Send a messenger
to inform her of the rescue of Dumbarton, and of your and my uncle’s
health:" continued he; "and that will be sufficient to make her
That she was not to be
thrown in Wallace’s way, satisfied Lady Mar; and indifferent whether
Helen’s seclusion were under the Eildon tree, [The
Eildon tree is famous in tradition. It stood near Learmont tower on the
Leeder, the seat of Thomas the sage, or prophet of Ereildown. It was
reported that he here met a fairy who endowed him with many supernatural
gifts; and that from this spot he generally uttered his predictions. The
tree no longer exists, but the place where it stood is marked by a large
stone called the Eildon-tree stone.-(1809.)]
or the Holyrood, she approved Murray’s decision. Relieved from
apprehension, her face became again dressed in smiles; and, with a
bounding step, she rose to welcome the re-entrance of Wallace, with the
Earl of Lennox.
Absorbed in one thought, every charm
she possessed was directed to the same point. She played finely on the
lute, and sung with all the grace of her country. What gentle heart was
not to be affected by music? She determined it should be one of the spells
by which she meant to attract Wallace. She took up one of the lutes,
(which with other musical instruments, decorated the apartments of the
luxurious De Valence,) and touching it with exquisite delicacy, breathed
the most pathetic air her memory could dictate.
"If on the heath
she moved, her breast was whiter than the down of Cana;
If on the sea-beat shore, than the foam of the rolling ocean.
Her eyes were two stars of light. Her face was heaven’s bow in
Her dark hair flowed around it, like the streaming clouds.
Thou wert the dwelier of souls, white-handed Strinadona!"
Wallace rose from his chair, which
had been placed near her. She had designed that these tender words of the
bard of Morven, should suggest to her hearer the observation of her own
resembling beauties. But he saw in them, only the lovely dweller of his
own soul: and walking towards a window, stood there with his eyes
fixed on the descending sun. "So hath set all my joys. So is life to
me, a world without a sun,—cold, cold, and charmless !"
The Countess vainly believed that
some sensibility advantageous to her new passion, had caused the agitation
with which she saw him depart from her side; and, intoxicated with the
idea, she ran through many a melodious descant, till touching on the first
strains of Thusa ha measg na reultan mor, she saw Wallace start
from his contemplative position, and with a pale countenance leave the
room. There was something in this abruptness, which excited the alarm of
the Earl of Lennox, who had also been listening to the songs: he rose
instantly, and overtaking the chief at the threshold, inquired what was
the matter? "Nothing;" answered Wallace, forcing a smile, in
which the agony of his mind was too truly imprinted; "but music
displeases me." With this reply he disappeared. The excuse seemed
strange, but it was true; for her, whose notes were to him sweeter than
the thrush; whose angel strains, used to greet his morning and evening
hours, was silent in the grave! He should no more see her white hand upon
the lute; he should no more behold that bosom, brighter than foam upon
the wave, heave in tender transport at his applause! What then was
music to him? A soulless sound; or a direful knell, to recall the
remembrance of all he had lost.
Such were his thoughts, when the
words of Thusa ha measg rung from Lady Mar’s voice. Those were
the strains which Halbert used to breathe from his harp, to call his
Marion to her nightly slumbers:— those were the strains with which that
faithful servant had announced, that she slept to wake no more!
What wonder, then, that Wallace fled
from the apartment, and buried himself, and his aroused grief, amid the
distant solitudes of the beacon-hill!
While looking over the shoulder of
his uncle, on the station which Stirling held amid the Ochil hills, Edwin
had at intervals cast a sidelong glance upon the changing complexion of
his commander; and no sooner did he see him hurry from the room, than
fearful of some disaster having befallen the garrison, (which Wallace did
not choose immediately to mention), he also stole out of the apartment.
After seeking the object of his
anxiety for a long time without avail, he was returning on his steps, when
attracted by the splendour of the moon silvering the beacon-hill, he
ascended, to, once at least, tread that acclivity in light, which he had
so miraculously passed in darkness. Scarce a zephyr fanned the sleeping
air. He moved on with a flying step, till a deep sigh arrested him. He
stopped and listened: it was repeated again and again. He gently drew
nearer, and saw a human figure reclining on the ground. The head of the
apparent mourner was unbonneted, and the brightness of the moon shone on
his polished forehead. Edwin thought the sound of those sighs was the same
he had often heard from the breast of Wallace, and he no longer doubted
having found the object of his search. He walked forward. Again the figure
sighed; but with a depth so full of piercing woe, that Edwin
A cloud had passed over the
moon; but sailing off displayed to the anxious boy that he had indeed
drawn very near his friend. "Who goes there?" exclaimed Wallace,
starting on his feet.
returned the youth. "I feared something wrong had happened, when I
saw you look so sad, and leave the room abruptly."
Wallace pressed his hand in silence.
"Then some evil has befallen you ?" inquired Edwin, in an
agitated voice; "you do not speak !"
Wallace seated himself on a
stone, and leaned his head upon the hilt of his sword. "No new evil
has befallen me, Edwin :—but there is such a thing as remembrance, that
stabs deeper than the dagger’s point."
"What remembrance can
wound you, my general ! The Abbot of St Columba has often told me, that
memory is a balm to every ill, with the good: and have not you been good
to all ?—The benefactor, the preserver of thousands! Surely, if man can
be happy, it must be Sir William Wallace!"
"And so I am, my Edwin, when I
contemplate the end. But, in the interval, with all thy sweet philosophy,
is it not written here that man was made to mourn?" He put his hand
on his heart; and then, after a short pause, resumed :—" Doubly I
mourn, doubly am I bereaved; for, had it not been for an enemy; more fell
than he which beguiled Adam of Paradise, I might have been a father; I
might have lived to have gloried in a son like thee; I might have seen my
wedded angel, clasp such a blessing to her bosom; but now, both are cold
in clay! These are the recollections, which sometimes draw tears down thy
leader’s cheeks. And, do not believe, brother of my soul (said he,
pressing the now weeping Edwin to his breast,) that they disgrace his
manhood. The Son of God wept over the tomb of his friend; and shall I deny
a few tears, dropped in stealth, over the grave of my wife and child
Edwin sobbed aloud: "No son
could love you dearer than I do. Ah, let my duty, my affection, teach you
to forget you have lost a child. I will replace all to you, but your
Marion; and she, the pitying Son of Mary will restore to you in the
kingdom of heaven."
Wallace looked steadfastly
at the young preacher. "'Out of the mouths of babes, we shall hear
wisdom!’ Thine, dear Edwin, I will lay to heart. Thou shalt comfort me,
when my hermit-soul shuts out all the world besides."
"Then I am indeed your
brother!" cried the happy youth; "admit me but to your heart,
and no fraternal, no filial tie, shall be more strongly linked than
"What tender affections I can
spare from those resplendent regions;" answered Wallace, pointing to
the skies, "are thine. The fervours of my once ardent soul, are
Scotland’s, or I die. But thou art too young, my brother," added
he, interrupting himself, "to understand all the feelings, all the
seeming contradictions, of my contending heart."
"Not so" answered Edwin,
with a modest blush; "what was Lady Marion’s you now devote to
Scotland. The blaze of those affections which were hers, would consume
your being, did you not pour it forth on your country. Were you not a
patriot, grief would prey upon your life."
"You have read me, Edwin;"
replied Wallace; "and that you may never love to idolatry, learn this
also. Though Scotland lay in ruin, I was happy :— I felt no captivity,
while in Marion’s arms: even oppression was forgotten, when she made the
sufferer’s tears cease to flow. She absorbed my wishes, my thoughts, my
life !—and she was wrested from me, that I might feel myself a slave;
that the iron might enter into my soul, with which I was to pull down
tyranny, and free my country. Mark the sacrifice, young man," cried
Wallace, starting on his feet; "it even now smokes—and the flames
are here inextinguishable." He struck his hand upon his breast.
"Never love as I have loved; and you will be a patriot, without
needing to taste my bitter cup I"
Edwin trembled: his tears were checked.
"I can love no one better than I do you, my general! and is there any
crime in that?"
Wallace in a moment recovered from the transient
wildness which had possessed him: "None, my Edwin;" replied he;
"the affections are never criminal, but when by their excess, they
blind us to other duties. The offence of mine is judged, and I bow to the
penalty. When that is paid, then may my ashes sleep in rescued Scotland !.—
Then may the God of victory, and of mercy, grant that the seraph spirits
of my wife and infant, may meet my pardoned soul in paradise." Edwin
wept afresh. "Cease, dear boy!" said he; "these presages
are very comforting; they whisper, that the path of glory leads thy
brother to his home." As he spoke, he took the arm of the silent
Edwin (Whose sensibility locked up the powers of speech), and putting it
through his, they descended the hill together.
On the open ground before the great tower,
they were met by Murray. "I come to seek you," cried he:
"we have had woe on woe, in the citadel since you left it."
"Nothing very calamitous,"
returned Wallace, "if we may guess by the merry aspect of the
"Only a little whirlwind of my aunt’s; in
which we have had airs, and showers, enough to wet us through, and blow
us dry again."
The conduct of the lady had been even more
extravagant than her nephew chose to describe. After the knight’s
departure, when the chiefs entered into conversation respecting his future
plans, and Lennox mentioned, that when his men should arrive (for whom he
had that evening despatched Ker), it was Wallace’s intention to march
immediately for Stirling; whither it could hardly be doubted, Aymer de
Valence had fled. "I shall be left here;" continued the Earl,
"to assist you, Lord Mar, in the severer duties attendant on being
governor of this place."
No sooner did these words reach the ears of
the Countess, than, struck with despair, she hastened towards her husband,
and earnestly exclaimed—" You will not suffer this !"
"No;" returned the Earl,
mistaking her meaning; "not being able to perform the duties
attendant on the responsible station with which Wallace would honour me, I
shall relinquish it altogether to Lord Lennox; and be amply satisfied in
finding myself under his protection."
"Ah, where is protection, without Sir William
Wallace?" cried she. "If he go, our enemies will return. Who
then will repel them from these walls? Who will defend your wife, and only
son, from falling again into the hands of our doubly incensed foes ?"
Mar observed Lord Lennox colour, at this imputation
on his bravery; and shocked at the affront which his unreflecting wife
seemed to give so gallant a chief, he hastily replied, "Though this
wounded arm cannot boast, yet the Earl of Lennox is an able representative
of our commander.
"I will die, madam;" interrupted
Lennox, "before anything hostile approaches you or your
She attended slightly to this pledge; and
again addressed her lord, with fresh arguments for the detention of
Wallace. Sir Roger Kirkpatrick, impatient under all this foolery, as he
justly deemed it, abruptly said, "Be assured, fair lady, Israel’s
Samson was not brought into the world to keep guard over women! and I hope
our cbampion will know his duty better, than allow himself to be fled to
any nursery girdle in Christendom."
The brave old Earl was
offended with this roughness; but ere he could so express himself, its
object darted her own severe retort on Kirkpatrick; and then turning to
her husband, with an hysterical sob, exclaimed, "it is well seen what
will be my fate when Wallace is gone! Would he have stood by, and beheld
me thus insulted!"
Distressed with shame at
her conduct, and anxious to remove her fears, Lord Mar softly whispered
her, and threw his arm about her waist. She thrust him from her:-
"You care not what may become of me; and my heart disdains your
Lennox rose in silence, and
walked to the other end of the chamber. Sir Roger Kirkpatrick followed
him, muttering pretty audibly, his thanks to St. Andrew, that he had never
been yoked with a wife. Scrymigeour and Murray tried to allay the storm in
her bosom, by circunstantially detailing, how the fortress must be equally
safe under the care of Lennox, as of Wallace. But they discoursed in vain;
she was obstinate, and at last left the room in a passion of tears.
On the return of Wallace,
Lord Lennox advanced to meet him. "What shall we do ?" said he:
"Without you have the witchcraft of Hercules and can be in two places
at once, I fear we must either leave the rest of Scotland to fight for
itself, or never restore peace to this castle!"
Wallace smiled; but before
he could answer, Lady Mar, having heard his voice ascending the stairs,
suddenly entered the room. She held her infant in her arms. Her air was
composed, but her eyes yet shone in tears. At this sight, Lord Lennox,
sufficiently disgusted with the lady, taking Murray by the arm, withdrew
with him out of the apartment.
She approached Wallace:
"You are come, my deliverer, to speak comfort to the mother of this
poor babe. My cruel lord here, and the Earl of Lennox, say you mean to
abandon us in this castle?"
"It cannot be
abandoned," returned the chief, "while they are in it. But if so
warlike a scene alarms you, would not a religious sanctuary—"
"Not for worlds
!" cried she, interrupting him; "what altar is held sacred by
the enemies of our country !—O! wonder not, then;" added she,
putting her face to that of her child, that I should wish this innocent
babe never to be from under the wing of such a protector."
"But that is
impossible, Joanna," rejoined the Earl; "Sir William Wallace has
duties to perform, superior to that of keeping watch over any private
family. His presence is wanted in the field; and we should be traitors to
the cause, did we detain him."
cried she, bursting into tears, "thus to echo the words of the
barbarian Kirkpatrick; thus to condemn us to die! You will see another
tragedy; your own wife and child, seized by the returning Southrons. and
laid bleeding at your feet !"
Wallace walked from her
Joanna," whispered Lord Mar to her, in an angry voice, "to make
such a reference, in the presence of our protector! I cannot stay to
listen to a pertinacity, as insulting to the rest of our brave leaders, as
it is oppressive to Sir William Wallace. Edwin, you will come for me, when
your aunt consents to be guided by right reason." While yet speaking,
he entered the passage that led to his own apartment.
Lady Mar sat a few minutes
silent. She was not to be warned from her determination, by the
displeasure of a husband, whom she now regarded with the impatience of a
bondwoman towards her taskmaster; and only solicitous to compass the
detention of Sir William Wallace, she resolved, if he would not remain at
the castle, to persuade him to conduct her himself, to her husband’s
territories in the Isle of Bute. She could contrive to make the journey
occupy more than one day; and for holding him longer she would trust to
chance, and her own inventions. With these resolutions, she looked up.
Edwin was speaking to Wallace. "What does he tell you?" said
she, "that my Lord has left me in displeasure? Alas! he comprehends
not, a mother’s anxiety for her sole remaining child. One of my sweet
twins, my dear daughter, died on my being brought a prisoner to this
horrid fortress; and to lose this also, would be more than I could bear.
Look at this babe; cried she, holding it up to him; "let it plead to
you, for its life! Guard it, noble Wallace, whatever may become of
The appeal of a mother,
made instant way to Sir William’s heart; even her weaknesses, did they
point to anxiety respecting her offspring, were sacred with him:
"What would you have me do, madam? If you fear to remain here, tell
me where you think you would be safer, and I will be your conductor
She paused, to repress the
triumph with which this proposal filled her; and then with downcast eyes,
replied:— "In the sea-girt Bute stands Rothsay, a rude, but strong
castle of my Lord’s. It possesses nothing to attract the notice of the
enemy; and there I might remain in perfect safety. Lord Mar may keep his
station here, until a general victory sends you, noble Wallace, to restore
my child to its father."
Wallace bowed his assent to
her proposal; and Edwin, remembering the Earl’s injunction, inquired if
he might inform him of what was decided. When he left the room, Lady Mar
rose, and suddenly putting her son into the arms of Wallace : "Let
his sweet caresses thank you." Wallace trembled, as she pressed its
little mouth to his; and mistranslating this emotion, she dropped her face
upon the infant’s and in affecting to kiss it, rested her bead upon the
bosom of the chief. There was something in this action, more than
maternal; it surprised, and disconcerted Wallace. "Madam," said
he, drawing back, and relinquishing the child, "I do not require any
thanks, for serving the wife and son of Lord Mar?"
At that moment the Earl
entered. Lady Mar, flattered herself that the repelling action of Wallace,
and his cold answer, had arisen from the expectation of this entrance; yet
blushing with something like disappointment, she hastily uttered a few
agitated words, to inform her husband that Bute was to be her future
Lord Mar approved it; and
declared his determination to accompany her. "In my state, I can be
of little use here;" said he; "my family will require
protection, even in that seclusion; and therefore, leaving Lord Lennox
sole governor of Dumbarton, I shall unquestionably attend them to Rothsay
This arrangement would
break in upon the lonely conversations she had meditated to have with
Wallace, and therefore the Countess objected to the proposal. But none of
her arguments being admitted by her lord, and as Wallace did not support
them by a word, she was obliged to make a merit of necessity, and consent
to her husband being their companion.