MEANWHILE the Lady Helen had retired
to her own apartments. Lord Mar’s banner being brought to her from the
armoury, she sat down to weave into its silken texture the amber locks of
the Scottish chief. Admiring their softness and
beauty, while her needle flew, she pictured to herself the fine
countenance they had once adorned.
The duller extremities of
the hair, which a sadder liquid than that which now dropped from her eyes,
had rendered stiff and difficult to entwine with the warp of the silk,
seemed to adhere to her fingers. Helen almost shrank from the touch.
"Unhappy lady!" sighed she to herself; "what a pang must
have rent her heart, when the stroke of so cruel a death tore her from
such a husband! and how must he have loved her, when for her sake he thus
forswears all future joys, but those which camps and victories may yield!
Ah! what would I give to be my cousin Murray, to bear this pennon at his
side! What would I give to reconcile so admirable a being to happiness
again— to weep his griefs, or smile him into comfort! To be that man’s
friend, would be a higher honour than to be Edward’s queen."
Her heart was thus
discoursing with itself, when a page opened the door, from her cousin, who
begged admittance. She had just fastened the flowing charge into its azure
field, and while embroidering the motto, gladly assented.
"You know not, my good
old man;" said the gallant Murray to Halbert, as he conducted him
across the galleries, "what a noble mind is contained in that lovely
young creature. I was brought up with her, and to the sweet contagion of
her taste, do I owe that love of true glory, which carries me to the side
of Sir William Wallace. The virtuous only, can awaken any interest in her
heart; and in these degenerate days, long might have been its sleep, had
not the history which my uncle recounted of your brave master, aroused her
attention, and filled her with an admiration equal to my own. I know she
rejoices in my present destination. And to prevent her hearing from your
own lips, all you have now told me of the mild, as well as heroic virtues
of my intended commander—all you have said of the heroism of his wife,—would
be depriving her of a mournful pleasure, only to be appreciated by a heart
such as hers."
The grey-haired bard of
Ellerslie, who had ever received the clearest rewards of his songs, in the
smiles of its mistress, did not require persuasion, to appear before the
gentle Lady of Mar; or to recite in her ears, the story of departed
loveliness, fairer than poet ever feigned.
Helen rose, as he and her
cousin appeared. Murray approved the execution of her work, and Halbert,
with a full heart, took the pennon in his hand. "Ah! little did my
dear lady think," exclaimed he, "that one of these loved locks
would ever be suspended on a staff to lead men to battle! What changes
have a few days made! She, the gentlest of women, laid in a bloody grave;
and he, the most benevolent of human beings, wielding an exterminating
"You speak of her
grave, venerable man," inquired Helen: "had you then an
opportunity of performing the rites of sepulture to her remains?"
replied he; "after the worthy English soldier, now in this castle,
assisted me to place her precious body in my Lord’s oratory, I had no
opportunity of returning to give her a more holy grave."
" Alas!" cried
Helen; "then her sacred relics have been consumed in the burning
"I hope not;’
rejoined Halbert; "the chapel I speak of is at some distance from the
main building. It was excavated in the rock by Sir Ronald Crawford, who
gave the name of Ellerslie to this estate, in compliment to Sir William’s
place of birth in Renfrewshire, and bestowed it on the bridal pair. Since
then, the Ellerslie of Clydesdale has been as dear to my master as that of
the Carth; and well it might be, for it was not only the home of all his
wedded joys, but under its roof his mother, the Lady Margaret Crawford,
drew her first breath. Ah! woe is me! that happy house is now, like
herself, reduced to cold, cold ashes! She married Sir Malcolm Wallace, and
he is gone too! Both the parents of my honoured master, died in the bloom
of their lives: and a grievous task will it be to whoever is to tell the
good Sir Ronald, that the last sweet flower of Ellerslie is now cut down!
that the noblest branch of his own stern, is torn from the soil to which
he had transplanted it, and cast far away into the waste wilderness "
[The Ellerslie in Renfrewshire here
referred to, and which was the birthplace of Sir William Wallace, and the
hereditary property of his father, Sir Malcolm Wallace, was situated in
the Abbey parish of Paisley, three miles west of the town of Paisley, and
nine from Glasgow. A large and old oak, still called Wallace’s Oak, stands
close to the road from Paisley to Beith; and within a short distance from
it once stood the manor of Ellerslie. This venerable name is now corrupted
into Elderslie; and the estate has become the property of Archibald Spiers,
Esq., M.P. for Renfrewshire. For this topographical account, I am indebted
to a Renfrewshire gentleman.—(1809.)]
The tears of the venerable
harper bore testimony to his inward resolve, that this messenger should
not be himself. Lady Helen, who had fallen into a reverie during the
latter part of his speech, now spoke, and with something of eagerness.
"Then we may
hope;" rejoined she, "that the oratory has not only escaped the
flames, but perhaps the access of the English soldiers? Would it not
comfort your Lord, to have that sweet victim entombed according to the
rites of the church?"
"Surely, my Lady; but
how can that be done? He thinks her remains were lost in the conflagration
of Ellerslie; and for fear of precipitating him into the new dangers which
might-have menaced him had he sought to bring away her body, I did not
disprove his mislike."
"But her body shall be
brought away," rejoined Lady Helen; "it shall have holy
"To effect this, command my
services," exclaimed Murray.
Helen thanked him for an
assistance which would render the completion of her design easy. The
English soldier as guide, and a troop from Bothwell, must accompany him.
"Alas! my young
Lord," interposed Halbert, "suppose you should meet some of the
English still loitering there!"
"And what of that, my
honest Halbert, would not I and my trusty band make them clear the way? Is
it not to give comfort to the deliverer of my uncle, that I seek the glen?
and shall anything in mortal shape make Andrew Murray turn his back? No,
Halbert, I was not born on Saint Andrew’s day for nought; and by his
bright cross I swear, either to lay Lady Wallace in the tomb of my
ancestors, or to leave my bones to blanch on the grave of hers."
Helen loved the resolution
of her cousin; and believing that the now ravaged Ellerslie had no
attractions to hold marauders amongst its ruins, she dismissed Lord Andrew
to make his preparations, and turned herself to prefer her suit
accordingly to her father.
Ere Halbert withdrew, he
respectfully put her hand to his lips. "Good night;" continued
she; "ere you see me again, I trust the earthly part of the angel now
in Paradise, will be safe within these towers." He poured a thousand
blessings on her head, and almost thought that he saw in her beautiful
form one of heaven’s inhabitants, sent to bear away his dear mistress to
her divine abode.
On entering her father’s
apartment, Lady Helen found him alone. She repeated to him the substance
of her conversation with Wallace’s faithful servant; "and my wish
is," continued she, "to have the murdered lady’s remains
entombed in the cemetery of this castle."
The Earl approved her
request, with expressions of satisfaction at the filial affection, which
so lively a gratitude to his preserver evinced.
"May I then, my dear
father;" returned she, "have your
permission to pay our debt of gratitude to Sir William Wallace, to the
utmost of our power?"
"You are at liberty,
my noble child, to do as you please. My vassals, my coffers, are all at
kissed his hand: "May I have what I please from the Bothwell armoury?"
there," said the Earl; "your uncle Bothwell is too true a Scot
to grudge a sword in so pious a cause.
Helen threw her arms about
her father’s neck, thanking him tenderly, and with a beating heart
retired to prosecute her plans. Murray, who met her in the anteroom,
informed her, that fifty men, the sturdiest in the glen, awaited her
orders; while she, telling her cousin of the Earl’s approval, took the
sacred banner in her hand, and followed him to the gallery in the hall.
The moment she appeared, a
shout of joy bade her welcome. Murray waved his hand in token of silence;
while she, smiling with the benignity that spoke her angel errand, spoke
with agitation: "My brave friends!" said she, "I thank you
for the ardour with which, by this night’s enterprise, you assist me to
pay, in part, the everlasting tribute due to the man who preserved to me
the blessing of a father."
"And to us, noble
lady;" cried they, "the most generous of chiefs !"
"With that spirit,
then," returned she, "I address ye with greater confidence. Who
amongst you will shrink from following this standard to the field for
Scotland’s honour? Who will refuse to make himself the especial guardian
of the life of Sir William Wallace? and who, in the moment of peril, will
not stand by him to the last?"
"None are here,"
cried a young man, advancing before his fellows," who would not
gladly die in his defence."
"We swear it;"
burst from every lip at once.
She bowed her head, and
said, " Return from Ellerslie to-morrow, with the bier of its sainted
mistress. I will then bestow upon every man in this band, a war-bonnet
plumed with my colours; and this banner shall then lead you to the side of
Sir William Wallace. In the shock of battle look at its golden ensign, and
remember that God not only armeth the patriot’s hand, but
shieldeth his heart. In this faith, be ye the bucklers which Heaven sends
to guard the life of Wallace; and so honoured, exult in your station, and
expect the future gratitude of Scotland."
"Wallace and Lady
Helen! to death or liberty!" was the animated response to this
exhortation; and smiling, and crossing her hands over her bosom, in token
of thanks to them and to heaven, she retired in the midst of their
acclamations. Murray, ready armed for his expedition, met her at the door.
Restored to his usual vivacity by the spirit-moving emotions which the
present scene awakened in his heart, he forgot the horrors which had
aroused his zeal, in the glory of some anticipated victory; and giving her
a gay salutation, led her back to her apartments, where the English
soldier awaited her commands. Lady Helen, with a gentle grace, commended
his noble resentment of Heselrigge’s violence.
"Lands in Mar shall be
yours," added she; "or a post of honour in the little army the
Earl is now going to raise. Speak but the word, and you shall find, worthy
Englishman, that neither a Scotsman, nor his daughter, know what it is to
The blood mounted into the
soldier’s cheek. "I thank you, sweetest lady, for this generous
offer; but, as I am an Englishman, I dare not accept it. My arms are due
to my own country; and whether I am tied to it by lands and possessions,
or have nought but my English blood, and my oath to my king, to bind me,
still I should be equally unwarranted in breaking those bonds. I left
Heselrigge because he dishonoured my country; and for me to forswear her,
would be to make myself infamous. Hence, all I ask is, that after I have
this night obeyed your gracious commands, in leading your men to Ellerslie;
the Earl of Mar will allow me instantly to depart for the nearest
Lady Ellen replied, that
she revered his sentiments too sincerely, to insult them by any
persuasions to the contrary; and taking a diamond clasp from her bosom,
she put it into his hand: "Wear that in remembrance of your virtue,
and of Helen Mar’s gratitude." The man kissed it respectfully, and
bowing, swore to preserve so distinguishing a gift to the latest hour of
Helen retired to her
chamber to finish her task; and Murray, bidding her good night, repaired
to the Earl’s apartments, to take his final orders, before he and his
troop set out for the ruins of Ellerslie.