THE women, and the men whom
age withheld from so desperate an enterprise, now thronged around
Halbert, to ask a circumstantial account of the disaster which had filled
all with so much horror!
Many tears followed his recital: not
ones of his.
auditors was an indifferent listener; all had individually, or in persons
dear to them, partaken of the tender Marion’s benevolence. Their sick
beds had been comforted by her charity; her voice had often administered
consolation to their sorrows; her hand had smoothed their pillows, and
placed the crucifix before their dying eyes. Some had recovered to bless
her and some departed to record her virtues in heaven.
"Ah! is she gone?" cried a
raising her face, covered with tears, from the bosom of her infant;
"is the loveliest lady that ever the sun shone upon, cold in the
grave? Alas, for me! she it was that gave me the roof under which my baby
was born; she it was who, when the Southron soldiers slew my father, and
drove us from our home in Ayrshire, gave to my old mother, and she and some other women whose anxieties would not my then wounded
husband, our cottage by the burnside. Ah! well can I spare him now to
avenge her murder."
The night being far advanced Halbert retired, at the invitation of this
young woman, to repose on the heather-bed of her husband, who was now
absent with Wallace.
The rest of the peasantry withdrew to their coverts, while allow them
to sleep, sat at the cavern’s mouth watching the slowly moving hours.
The objects of their fond and fervent prayers, Wallace and his little
army, were rapidly pursuing their march. It was midnight—all was silent
as they hurried through the glen, as they ascended with flying footsteps
the steep acclivities that led to the cliffs which overhung the vale of
Ellerslie. Wallace must pass along their brow. Beneath was the tomb of his
sacrificed Marion! He rushed forward to snatch one look, even of the roof
which shrouded her beloved remains.
But in the moment before he mounted the intervening height, a soldier
in English armour crossed the path, and was seized by his men. One of them
would have cut him down, but Wallace turned away the weapon. "Hold,
Scot!" cried he, "you are not a Southron, to strike the
defenceless. This man has no sword."
The reflection on their enemy, which this plea of mercy contained,
reconciled the impetuous Scots to the clemency of their leader. The
rescued man joyfully
recognising the voice of Wallace, exclaimed, "It is my Lord! It is
Sir William Wallace that has saved my life a second time!"
"Who are you?" asked Wallace: "that helmet can cover
no friend of mine."
"I am your servant Dugald," returned the man; "he whom
your brave arm saved from the battle-axe of Arthur Heselrigge."
"I cannot now ask you
how you came by that armour; but if you be yet a Scot throw it off and
"Not to Ellerslie, my
Lord," cried he; "it has been plundered and burnt to the ground
by the governor of Lanark."
Wallace, striking his breast, "are the remains of my beloved Marion
for ever ravished from my eyes! Insatiate monster !"
"He is Scotland’s
curse," cried the veteran of Largs; "Forward, my Lord, in mercy
to your country’s groans!"
Wallace had now mounted the
craig which overlooked Ellerslie. His once happy home had disappeared and
all beneath lay a heap of smoking ashes. He hastened from the sight, and
directing the point of his sword with a forceful action towards Lanark,
re-echoed with supernatural strength, "Forward!"
With the rapidity of
lightning his little host flew over the hills, reached the cliffs which
divided them from the town, and leaped down before the outward trench of
the castle of Lanark. In a moment Wallace sprang so feeble a barrier; and
with a shout of death, in which the tremendous slogen of his men now
joined, he rushed upon the guard that held the northern gate.
Here slept the governor.
These opponents being slain by the first sweep of the Scottish swords,
Wallace hastened onward, winged with twofold retribution. The noise of
battle was behind him; for the shout of his men had aroused
the garrison and drawn its soldiers, half naked, to the spot. He reached
the door of the governor. The sentinel who stood there flew before the
terrible warrior that presented himself. All the mighty vengeance of
Wallace blazed in his face and seemed to surround his figure with a
terrible splendour. With one stroke of his foot he drove the door from its
hinges, and rushed into the room.
"What a sight for the
now awakened and guilty Heselrigge! It was the husband of the defenceless
woman he had murdered, come in the power of justice, with uplifted arm and
vengeance in his eyes! With a terrific scream of despair, and an outcry
for the mercy he dared not expect, he fell back into the bed and sought an
unavailing shield beneath its folds.
"Marion! Marion!" cried
Wallace, as he threw himself towards the bed and buried the sword, yet red
with her blood, through the coverlid deep into the heart of her murderer.
A fiend-like yell from the slain Heselrigge, told him his work was done;
and drawing out the sword he took the streaming blade in his hand.
"Vengeance is satisfied," cried he: "thus, O God!" do
I henceforth divide self from my heart!" As he spoke he snapt the
sword in twain, and throwing away the pieces, put back with his hand the
impending weapons of his brave companions; who having cleared the passage
of their assailants, had hurried forward to assist in ridding their
country of so detestable a tyrant.
cried he. As he spoke he drew down the coverlid and discovered the body of
the governor weltering in blood. The ghastly countenance, on which the
agonies of hell seemed imprinted, glared horrible even in death.
Wallace turned away; but the men
exulting in the sight, with a shout of triumph exclaimed, "So fall
the enemies of Sir William Wallace !"
"Rather so fall the
enemies of Scotland!" cried he:
"from this hour
Wallace has neither love nor resentment but for her. Heaven has heard me
devote myself to work our country’s freedom or to die. Who will follow
me in so just a cause?"
"All !—with Wallace for
The new clamour which this
resolution excited intimidated a fresh band of soldiers, who were
hastening across the court-yard to seek the enemy in the governor’s
apartments. But on the noise they hastily retreated, and no exertions of
their officers could prevail on them to advance again, or even to appear
in sight, when the resolute Scots with Wallace at their head soon
afterwards issued from the great gate. The English commanders seeing the
panic of their men, and which they were less able to surmount on account
of the way to the gate being strewn with their slain comrades, fell back
into the shadow of the towers, where by the light of the moon, like men
paralysed, they viewed the departure of their enemies over the trenches.