having passed over the sleepless heads of the inhabitants of Bothwell
castle; as soon as the sun arose, the Earl of Mar was carried from his
chamber, and laid on a couch in the state apartment. His lady had not yet
left the room of his daughter, by whose side she had lain the whole night,
in hopes of infecting her with the fears which possessed herself.
Helen replied, that she
could see no reason for such direful apprehensions, if her father, instead
of joining Wallace in person, would, when he had sent him succours, retire
with his family into the Highlands; and there await the issue of the
contest. "it is too late to retreat, dear madam," continued she;
"the first blow against the public enemy was struck in defence of
Lord Mar and would you have my father act so base a part, as to abandon
his preserver to the wrath such generous assistance has provoked ?"
"Alas, my child!"
answered the Countess, "what great service will he have done to me,
or to your father, if he deliver him from one danger, only to plunge him
into another? Edwards power in this country, is too great to be
resisted now. Have not most of our barons sworn fealty to him? and are not
the potent families of the Cummin, the Soulis, and the March, all in his
interest? You may perhaps say, that most of these are my relations, and
that I may turn them which way I will; but if I have no influence with a
husband, it would be madness to expect it over more distant kindred. How
then, with such a host against him, can your infatuated father venture,
without despair, to support the man who breaks the peace with England
"Who can despair,
honoured lady," returned Helen, "in so just a cause? Let us
rather believe with our good King David, that Honour must hope always;
for no real evil can befall the virtuous, either in this world or in the
next! Were I a man, the justice that leads on the brave Wallace, would
nerve my arm with the strength of a host. Besides, look at our country.
Gods gift of freedom is stamped upon it. Our mountains are his seal.
Plains are the proper territories of tyranny: there the armies of an
usurper may extend themselves with ease; leaving no corner unoccupied, in
which patriotism might shelter, or treason hide. But mountains, glens,
morasses, lakes, set bounds to conquest; and amidst these, stands the
impregnable seat of liberty. To such a fortress, to the deep defiles of
Loch Katrine, or to the cloud-curtained heights of Corryarraick, I would
have my father retire. In safety he may there watch the footsteps of our
mountain-goddess, till, led by her immortal champion, she plants her
standard again upon the hills of Scotland."
The complexion of the
animated Helen shone with a radiant glow. Her heart panted with a
foretaste of the delight she would feel, when all her generous wishes
should be fulfilled; and pressing the now completed banner to her breast,
with an enthusiasm she believed prophetic, her lips moved, though her
voice did not utter the inexpressible rapture of her heart.
Lady Mar looked at her.
"It is well, romantic girl, that you are of my own powerless sex: had
it been otherwise, your rash-headed disobedience might have made me rue
the day I became your fathers wife."
Helen, mildly, "could not have altered my sense of duty. Whether man
or woman, I would obey you in all things consistent with my duty to a
higher power; but when that commands, then, by the ordinance of Heaven, we
must leave father and mother, and cleave unto it."
"And what, O foolish
Helen! do you call a higher duty than that of a child to a parent, or a
husband to his wife?"
"Duty of any
kind;" respectfully answered the young daughter of Mar, "cannot
be transgressed with innocence. Nor would it be any relinquishing of duty
to you, should my father leave you, to take up arms in the assertion of
his countrys rights. Her rights are your safety; and therefore, in
defending them, a husband or a son best shows his sense of domestic, as
well as of public duty."
"Who taught you this
sophistry, Helen? Not jour heart, for it would start at the idea of your
Helen turned pale.
"Perhaps, madam, had not the preservation of my fathers blood
occasioned such malignity from the English, that nothing but an armed
force can deliver his preserver, I too might be content to see Scotland in
slavery. But now, to wish my father to shrink behind the excuse of
far-strained family duties, and to abandon Sir William Wallace to the
bloodhounds who hunt his life, would be to devote the name of Mar to
infamy, and deservedly bring a curse upon his offspring."
"Then it is to
preserve Sir William Wallace, you are thus anxious. Your spirit of freedom
is now disallowed, and all this mighty gathering is for him. My husband,
his vassals, your cousin, and, in short, the sequestration of the estates
of Mar and Both well, are all to be put to the hazard, on account of a
frantic outlaw; to whom, since the loss of his wife, I should suppose,
death would be preferable to any gratitude we can pay him."
Lady Helen, at this
ungrateful language, inwardly thanked Heaven, that she inherited no part
of the blood which animated so unfeeling a heart. "That he is an
outlaw, Lady Mar, springs from us. That death is the preferable comforter
of his sorrows, also, he owes to us; for was it not for my fathers
sake, that his wife fell, and that he himself was driven into the wilds? I
do not, then, blush for making his preservation my first prayer; and that
he may achieve the freedom of Scotland, is my second."
"We shall see whose prayers
will be answered first," returned Lady Mar, rising coldly from her
seat. "My saints are perhaps nearer than yours; and before the close
of this day, you will have reason to repent such extravagant opinions. I
do not understand them."
"Till now, you never
"I allowed them in your
infancy," replied the Countess, "because I thought they went no
further than a minstrels song; but since they are become so dangerous,
I rue the hour in which I complied with the entreaties of Sir Richard
Maitland, and permitted you and your sister to remain
at Thirlestane, to imbibe these romantic ideas from the wizard of
Ereildown. [Few personages are so renowned in tradition as Thomas of
Ereildown, usually called The Rhymer. He was a poet and a sage, and
believed by his contemporaries to be a prophet. He was born at Ereildown,
a village on the Leader (or Lauder,) where the ruins of his paternal,
castle, called Learmont Tower, still remain.(1809.)] Had not Sir
Richard been your own mothers father, I would not have been so easily
prevailed on; and thus am I rewarded for my indulgence."
"I hope, honoured
madam," said Helen, still wishing to soften the displeasure of her
stepmother, "I hope you will never be ill-rewarded for that
indulgence, either by my grandfather, my sister, or myself. Isabella, in
the quiet of Thirlestane, has no chance of giving you the offence that I
do; and I am forced to offend you, because I cannot disobey my
conscience." A tear stood in the eye of Lady Helen. "Cannot you,
dear Lady Mar," continued she, forcing a smile, "pardon the
daughter of your early friend, my mother, who loved you as a sister?
Cannot you forgive her Helen, for revering justice, even more than your
More influenced by the
sweet humility of her daughter-in-law, than by the ingenuous eloquence
with which she maintained her sentiments, or with the appeal to the memory
of the first Lady Mar, the Countess relaxed the frigid air she had
assumed; and kissing her, with many renewed injunctions to bless the hand
that might put a final stop to so ruinous an enthusiasm in her family; she
quitted the room.
soon as Helen was alone, she forgot the narrow-minded arguments of the
Countess; and calling to recollection the generous permission with which
her father had endowed her the night before, she wrapped herself in her
mantle, and, attended by her page, proceeded to the armoury. The annourer
was already there; having just given out arms for three hundred men, who,
by the Earls orders, were to assemble by noon on Bothwell Moor.
Helen told the man she came
for the best suit of armour in his custody" one of the most
He drew from an oaken chest
a coat of black mail, studded with gold. Helen admired its strength and
beauty. "It is the richest in all Scotland:" answered he;
"and was worn by our great Canmore in all his victories."
"Then it is worthy its
destination. Bring it, with its helmet and sword, to my apartment."
The armourer took it up;
and, accompanied by the page carrying the lighter parts, followed her into
the western tower.
When Helen was again alone,
it being yet very early in the morning, she employed herself in pluming
the casque, and forming the scarf she meant should adorn her present. Thus
time flew, till the sand-glass told her it was the eighth hour. But ere
she had finished her task, she was roused from the profound stillness in
which that part of the castle lay, by the doleful lament of the troop
returning from Ellerslie.
She dropped the half-formed
scarf from her hand; and listened, without daring to draw her breath, to
the deep-toned lamentations. She thought that she had never before heard
the dirge of her country so piercing, so thrillingly awful. Her head fell
on the armour and scarf. "Sweet lady !" sighed she to herself,
"who is it that dares thus invade thy duties! But my gratitudegratitude
to thy once-loved lord, will not offend thy pure spirit!" Again the
mournful wailings rose on the air; and with a convulsion of feelings she
could not restrain, she threw herself on her knees, and leaning her head
on the newly adorned helmet, wept profusely.
Murray entered the room
unobserved. "Helen! my dear cousin!" cried he. She started, and
rising, apologised for her tears by owning the truth. He now told her,
that the body of the deceased lady was deposited in the chapel of the
castle; and that the priests from the adjacent priory, only awaited her
presence, to consign it, with the churchs rites, to its tomb.
retired for a few minutes to recover herself; and then re-entering,
covered with a black veil, was led by her cousin to the awful scene.
The bier lay before the
altar. The prior of Saint Fillan, in his holy vestments, stood at its
head; a band of monks were ranged on each side. The maids of Lady Helen,
in mourning garments, met their mistress at the portal. They had wrapped
the beautiful corpse in the shroud prepared for it; and now having laid
it, strewed with flowers, upon the bier, they advanced to their trembling
lady, expecting her to approve their services. Helen drew nearshe bowed
to the priests. One of the women put her hand on the pall, to uncover the
once lovely face of the murdered Marion. Lady Helen hastily resisted the
womans motion, by laying her hand also upon the pall. The chill of
death struck through the velvet, to her touch. She turned pale; and waving
her hand to the prior to begin, the bier was lowered by the priests into
the tomb beneath. As it descended, Helen sunk upon her knees, and the
anthem for departed souls was raised.. The pealing notes, as they rose and
swelled, seemed to bear up the spirit of the sainted Marion to its native
heaven; and the tears which now flowed from the eyes of Helen, as they
mingled with her pious aspirations, seemed the balm of paradise descending
upon her soul.
When all was over, the
venerable Halbert, who had concealed his overwhelming sorrow behind a
pillar, threw himself on the cold stone which now closed the last chamber
of his mistress. With faint cries, he gave way to the woe that shook his
aged bosom, and called on death to lay him low with her. The women of Lady
Helen again chanted forth their melancholy wailings for the dead; and
unable longer to bear the scene, she grasped the arm of her cousin, and
with difficulty walked from the chapel.
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