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The Scottish Chiefs
Vol 2: Chapter 24 - Scotland

THE eighth morning from the day in which the Red Reaver’s ship was relaunched from the Norman harbour, Wallace, now the representative of that once formidable pirate, bearing the white flag of good faith, entered between the castled shores of the frith of Tay, and cast anchor under the towers of Dundee.

When Bruce leaped upon the beach, he turned to Wallace, and said with exultation, though in a low voice, "Scotland now receives her King! This earth shall cover me, or support my throne !"—"It shall support your throne, and bless it too," replied Wallace: "you are come in the power of justice, and that is the power of God. I know Him in whom I bid you confide; for He has been my shield and sword, and never yet have I turned my back upon my enemies. Trust, my dear Prince, where I have trusted; and while virtue is your incense, you need not doubt the issue of your prayers." Had Wallace seen the face of Bruce at that moment, but the visor concealed it, he would have beheld an answer in his eloquent eyes, which required not words to explain. He grasped the hand of Wallace with fervour, and briefly replied— "Your trust shall be my trust!"

The chiefs did not stay longer at Dundee, than was requisite to furnish them with horses to convey them to Perth; where Ruthven still bore sway. When they arrived, he was at Hunting-tower, and thither they went. The meeting was fraught with many mingled feelings. Helen had not seen her uncle since the death of her father; and, as soon as the first gratulations were over, she retired to an apartment to weep alone.

On Cummin’s being presented to Lord Ruthven, the Earl told him, he must now salute him as Lord of Badenoch; his brother having been killed a few days before, in a skirmish on the skirts of Ettrick forest. Ruthven then turned to welcome the entrance of Bruce, who, raising his visor, received from the loyal chief the homage due to his sovereign dignity. Wallace, and the Prince, soon engaged him in a discourse immediately connected with the design of their return; and learnt, that Scotland did indeed recquire the royal arm, and the counsel of its best, and lately almost banished, friend. Much of the eastern part of the country, was again in the possession of Edward’s generals. They had seized on every castle in the lowlands; none having been considered too insignificant to escape their hands. Nor could the quiet of reposing age elude the general devastation; and after a dauntless defence of his castle, the veteran knight of Thirlestane had fallen, and with him his only son. On hearing this disaster, the sage of Ercildown, having meanwhile protected Lady Isabella Mar at Learmont, conveyed her northward; but falling sick at Roslyn, he had stopped there. And the messenger he despatched to Hunting-tower with these calamitous tidings, (who happened to be that brave young Gordon, whose borrowed breastplate, had been that of Bruce’s, in his first battle for Scotland!) bore also information, that, besides several parties of the enemy, which were hovering on the heights near Roslyn, an immense army was approaching from Northumberland. Ercildown said, he understood Sir Simon Fraser was hastening forward with a small body, to attempt cutting off these advanced squadrons. But he added, while the contentions continued between Athol and Soulis for the vacant regency, no man could have hope of any steady stand against England.

At this communication, Cummin bluntly proposed himself as the terminator of this dispute. "If the regency were allowed to my brother, as head of the house of Cummin, that dignity now rests with me;—give the word, my sovereign," said he, addressing Bruce, "and none there, shall dare oppose my rights."—.Ruthven approved this proposal; and Wallace, deeming it not only the best way of silencing the pretensions of those old disturbers of the public tranquillity, but a happy opportunity of putting the chief magistracy into the hands of a confidant of their design, seconded the advice of Ruthven. Thus, John Cummin, Lord Badenoch, was invested with the regency; and immediately despatched to the army; to assume it, as if in right of his being the next heir to the throne in default of the Bruce.

Wallace sent Lord Douglas privately into Clydesdale, to inform Earl Bothwell of his arrival; and to request his instant presence with the Lanark division, and his own troops, on the banks of the Eske. Ruthven ascended the Grampians, to call out the numerous clans of Perthshire: and Wallace, with his Prince, prepared themselves for meeting these auxiliaries before the towers of Roslyn. Meanwhile, as Hunting-tower would be an insecure asylum for Helen, when it must be left to domestics alone, Wallace proposed to Edwin, that he should escort his cousin to Braemar; and place her there, under the care of his mother, and the widowed Countess. "Thither;" continued he, "we will send Lady Isabella also, should Heaven bless our arms at Roslyn." Edwin acquiesced; as he was to return with all speed to join his friend on the southern bank of the Forth; and Helen, aware that fields of blood were no scenes for her; while her heart was wrung to agony, at the thought of relinquishing Wallace to new dangers; yielded a reluctant assent—not merely to go, but to take that look of him which might be the last.

The sight of her uncle, and the objects around, had so recalled the image of her father, that ever since her arrival, a foreboding sadness had hung over her spirits. She remembered, that a few months ago she had seen that beloved parent, go out to a battle, whence he never returned.— Should the same doom await her with regard to Wallace!—The idea shook her frame with an agitation that sunk her, in spite of herself, on the bosom of this truest of friends, when Edwin approached to lead her to her horse. Her emotions penetrated the heart against which she leaned. "My gentle sister;" said Wallace, "do not despair of our final success; of the safety of all whom you regard."— "Ah! Wallace," faltered she, in a voice rendered hardly audible by tears, "but did I not lose my father ?"—"Sweet Helen," returned he, tenderly grasping her trembling hand; "you lost him, but he gained by the exchange. And should the peace of Scotland be purchased by the lives of some who contend for her emancipation; should they even be your friends, if Bruce survives, you must still think your prayers blest. Were I to fall, my sister, my sorrows would be over; and from the region of universal blessedness, I should enjoy the sight of Scotland’s happiness."

"Were we all to enter those regions at one time;" faintly replied Helen, "there would be comfort in such thoughts; but as it is—" here she paused; tears stopped her utterance.—"A few years, is a short separation," returned Wallace, "when we are, hereafter, to be united to all eternity. This is my consolation, when I think of Marion; —when memory dwells with the friends, lost in these dreadful conflicts ;—and, whatever may be the fate of those who now survive, call to remembrance my words, dear Helen, and the God who was my instructor, will send you comfort."

"Then farewell, my friend, my brother!" cried she, forcibly tearing herself away, and throwing herself into the arms of Edwin; "leave me now; and the angel of the just, will bring you in glory, here, or hereafter, to your sister Helen. Wallace fervently kissed the hand she again extended to him; and, with an emotion, which he had thought he should never feel again for mortal woman, left the apartment.

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