The Fair Maid of Perth
by Sir Walter Scott
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12
Home - Random Browse

The victors had the general meed of gratulation. The Duke of Albany and others went down to survey the field; and Henry Wynd was honoured with particular notice.

"If thou wilt follow me, good fellow," said the Black Douglas, "I will change thy leathern apron for a knight's girdle, and thy burgage tenement for an hundred pound land to maintain thy rank withal."

"I thank you humbly, my lord," said the smith, dejectedly, "but I have shed blood enough already, and Heaven has punished me by foiling the only purpose for which I entered the combat."

"How, friend?" said Douglas. "Didst thou not fight for the Clan Chattan, and have they not gained a glorious conquest?"

"I fought for my own hand," [meaning, I did such a thing for my own pleasure, not for your profit] said the smith, indifferently; and the expression is still proverbial in Scotland.

The good King Robert now came up on an ambling palfrey, having entered the barriers for the purpose of causing the wounded to be looked after.

"My lord of Douglas," he said, "you vex the poor man with temporal matters when it seems he may have short timer to consider those that are spiritual. Has he no friends here who will bear him where his bodily wounds and the health of his soul may be both cared for?"

"He hath as many friends as there are good men in Perth," said Sir Patrick Charteris, "and I esteem myself one of the closest."

"A churl will savour of churl's kind," said the haughty Douglas, turning his horse aside; "the proffer of knighthood from the sword of Douglas had recalled him from death's door, had there been a drop of gentle blood in his body."

Disregarding the taunt of the mighty earl, the Knight of Kinfauns dismounted to take Henry in his arms, as he now sunk back from very faintness. But he was prevented by Simon Glover, who, with other burgesses of consideration, had now entered the barrace.

"Henry, my beloved son Henry!" said the old man. "Oh, what tempted you to this fatal affray? Dying—speechless?"

"No—not speechless," said Henry. "Catharine—" He could utter no more.

"Catharine is well, I trust, and shall be thine—that is, if—"

"If she be safe, thou wouldst say, old man," said the Douglas, who, though something affronted at Henry's rejection of his offer, was too magnanimous not to interest himself in what was passing. "She is safe, if Douglas's banner can protect her—safe, and shall be rich. Douglas can give wealth to those who value it more than honour."

"For her safety, my lord, let the heartfelt thanks and blessings of a father go with the noble Douglas. For wealth, we are rich enough. Gold cannot restore my beloved son."

"A marvel!" said the Earl: "a churl refuses nobility, a citizen despises gold!"

"Under your lordship's favour," said Sir Patrick, "I, who am knight and noble, take license to say, that such a brave man as Henry Wynd may reject honourable titles, such an honest man as this reverend citizen may dispense with gold."

"You do well, Sir Patrick, to speak for your town, and I take no offence," said the Douglas. "I force my bounty on no one. But," he added, in a whisper to Albany, "your Grace must withdraw the King from this bloody sight, for he must know that tonight which will ring over broad Scotland when tomorrow dawns. This feud is ended. Yet even I grieve that so many brave Scottishmen lie here slain, whose brands might have decided a pitched field in their country's cause."

With dignity King Robert was withdrawn from the field, the tears running down his aged cheeks and white beard, as he conjured all around him, nobles and priests, that care should be taken for the bodies and souls of the few wounded survivors, and honourable burial rendered to the slain. The priests who were present answered zealously for both services, and redeemed their pledge faithfully and piously.

Thus ended this celebrated conflict of the North Inch of Perth. Of sixty-four brave men (the minstrels and standard bearers included) who strode manfully to the fatal field, seven alone survived, who were conveyed from thence in litters, in a case little different from the dead and dying around them, and mingled with them in the sad procession which conveyed them from the scene of their strife. Eachin alone had left it void of wounds and void of honour.

It remains but to say, that not a man of the Clan Quhele survived the bloody combat except the fugitive chief; and the consequence of the defeat was the dissolution of their confederacy. The clans of which it consisted are now only matter of conjecture to the antiquary, for, after this eventful contest, they never assembled under the same banner. The Clan Chattan, on the other hand, continued to increase and flourish; and the best families of the Northern Highlands boast their descent from the race of the Cat a Mountain.


While the King rode slowly back to the convent which he then occupied, Albany, with a discomposed aspect and faltering voice, asked the Earl of Douglas: "Will not your lordship, who saw this most melancholy scene at Falkland, communicate the tidings to my unhappy brother?"

"Not for broad Scotland," said the Douglas. "I would sooner bare my breast, within flight shot, as a butt to an hundred Tynedale bowmen. No, by St. Bride of Douglas! I could but say I saw the ill fated youth dead. How he came by his death, your Grace can perhaps better explain. Were it not for the rebellion of March and the English war, I would speak my own mind of it."

So saying, and making his obeisance to the King, the Earl rode off to his own lodgings, leaving Albany to tell his tale as he best could.

"The rebellion and the English war!" said the Duke to himself. "Ay, and thine own interest, haughty earl, which, imperious as thou art, thou darest not separate from mine. Well, since the task falls on me, I must and will discharge it."

He followed the King into his apartment. The King looked at him with surprise after he had assumed his usual seat.

"Thy countenance is ghastly, Robin," said the King. "I would thou wouldst think more deeply when blood is to be spilled, since its consequences affect thee so powerfully. And yet, Robin, I love thee the better that thy kind nature will sometimes show itself, even through thy reflecting policy."

"I would to Heaven, my royal brother," said Albany, with a voice half choked, "that the bloody field we have seen were the worst we had to see or hear of this day. I should waste little sorrow on the wild kerne who lie piled on it like carrion. But—" he paused.

"How!" exclaimed the King, in terror. "What new evil? Rothsay? It must be—it is Rothsay! Speak out! What new folly has been done? What fresh mischance?"

"My lord—my liege, folly and mischance are now ended with my hapless nephew."

"He is dead!—he is dead!" screamed the agonized parent. "Albany, as thy brother, I conjure thee! But no, I am thy brother no longer. As thy king, dark and subtle man, I charge thee to tell the worst."

Albany faltered out: "The details are but imperfectly known to me; but the certainty is, that my unhappy nephew was found dead in his apartment last night from sudden illness—as I have heard."

"Oh, Rothsay!—Oh, my beloved David! Would to God I had died for thee, my son—my son!"

So spoke, in the emphatic words of Scripture, the helpless and bereft father, tearing his grey beard and hoary hair, while Albany, speechless and conscience struck, did not venture to interrupt the tempest of his grief. But the agony of the King's sorrow almost instantly changed to fury—a mood so contrary to the gentleness and timidity of his nature, that the remorse of Albany was drowned in his fear.

"And this is the end," said the King, "of thy moral saws and religious maxims! But the besotted father who gave the son into thy hands—who gave the innocent lamb to the butcher—is a king, and thou shalt know it to thy cost. Shall the murderer stand in presence of his brother—stained with the blood of that brother's son? No! What ho, without there!—MacLouis!—Brandanes! Treachery! Murder! Take arms, if you love the Stuart!"

MacLouis, with several of the guards, rushed into the apartment.

"Murder and treason!" exclaimed the miserable King. "Brandanes, your noble Prince—" Here his grief and agitation interrupted for a moment the fatal information it was his object to convey. At length he resumed his broken speech: "An axe and a block instantly into the courtyard! Arrest—" The word choked his utterance.

"Arrest whom, my noble liege?" said MacLouis, who, observing the King influenced by a tide of passion so different from the gentleness of his ordinary demeanour, almost conjectured that his brain had been disturbed by the unusual horrors of the combat he had witnessed.

"Whom shall I arrest, my liege?" he replied. "Here is none but your Grace's royal brother of Albany."

"Most true," said the King, his brief fit of vindictive passion soon dying away. "Most true—none but Albany—none but my parent's child—none but my brother. O God, enable me to quell the sinful passion which glows in this bosom. Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis!"

MacLouis cast a look of wonder towards the Duke of Albany, who endeavoured to hide his confusion under an affectation of deep sympathy, and muttered to the officer: "The great misfortune has been too much for his understanding."

"What misfortune, please your Grace?" replied MacLouis. "I have heard of none."

"How! not heard of the death of my nephew Rothsay?"

"The Duke of Rothsay dead, my Lord of Albany?" exclaimed the faithful Brandane, with the utmost horror and astonishment. "When, how, and where?"

"Two days since—the manner as yet unknown—at Falkland."

MacLouis gazed at the Duke for an instant; then, with a kindling eye and determined look, said to the King, who seemed deeply engaged in his mental devotion: "My liege! a minute or two since you left a word—one word—unspoken. Let it pass your lips, and your pleasure is law to your Brandanes!"

"I was praying against temptation, MacLouis," said the heart broken King, "and you bring it to me. Would you arm a madman with a drawn weapon? But oh, Albany! my friend—my brother—my bosom counsellor—how—how camest thou by the heart to do this?"

Albany, seeing that the King's mood was softening, replied with more firmness than before: "My castle has no barrier against the power of death. I have not deserved the foul suspicions which your Majesty's words imply. I pardon them, from the distraction of a bereaved father. But I am willing to swear by cross and altar, by my share in salvation, by the souls of our royal parents—"

"Be silent, Robert!" said the King: "add not perjury to murder. And was this all done to gain a step nearer to a crown and sceptre? Take them to thee at once, man; and mayst thou feel as I have done, that they are both of red hot iron! Oh, Rothsay—Rothsay! thou hast at least escaped being a king!"

"My liege," said MacLouis, "let me remind you that the crown and sceptre of Scotland are, when your Majesty ceases to bear them, the right of Prince James, who succeeds to his brother's rights."

"True, MacLouis," said the King, eagerly, "and will succeed, poor child, to his brother's perils! Thanks, MacLouis—thanks. You have reminded me that I have still work upon earth. Get thy Brandanes under arms with what speed thou canst. Let no man go with us whose truth is not known to thee. None in especial who has trafficked with the Duke of Albany—that man, I mean, who calls himself my brother—and order my litter to be instantly prepared. We will to Dunbarton, MacLouis, or to Bute. Precipices, and tides, and my Brandanes' hearts shall defend the child till we can put oceans betwixt him and his cruel uncle's ambition. Farewell, Robert of Albany—farewell for ever, thou hard hearted, bloody man! Enjoy such share of power as the Douglas may permit thee. But seek not to see my face again, far less to approach my remaining child; for, that hour thou dost, my guards shall have orders to stab thee down with their partizans! MacLouis, look it be so directed."

The Duke of Albany left the presence without attempting further justification or reply.

What followed is matter of history. In the ensuing Parliament, the Duke of Albany prevailed on that body to declare him innocent of the death of Rothsay, while, at the same time, he showed his own sense of guilt by taking out a remission or pardon for the offence. The unhappy and aged monarch secluded himself in his Castle of Rothsay, in Bute, to mourn over the son he had lost, and watch with feverish anxiety over the life of him who remained. As the best step for the youthful James's security, he sent him to France to receive his education at the court of the reigning sovereign. But the vessel in which the Prince of Scotland sailed was taken by an English cruiser, and, although there was a truce for the moment betwixt the kingdoms, Henry IV ungenerously detained him a prisoner. This last blow completely broke the heart of the unhappy King Robert III. Vengeance followed, though with a slow pace, the treachery and cruelty of his brother. Robert of Albany's own grey hairs went, indeed, in peace to the grave, and he transferred the regency which he had so foully acquired to his son Murdoch. But, nineteen years after the death of the old King, James I returned to Scotland, and Duke Murdoch of Albany, with his sons, was brought to the scaffold, in expiation of his father's guilt and his own.


The honest heart that's free frae a' Intended fraud or guile, However Fortune kick the ba', Has aye some cause to smile.


We now return to the Fair Maid of Perth, who had been sent from the horrible scene at Falkland by order of the Douglas, to be placed under the protection of his daughter, the now widowed Duchess of Rothsay. That lady's temporary residence was a religious house called Campsie, the ruins of which still occupy a striking situation on the Tay. It arose on the summit of a precipitous rock, which descends on the princely river, there rendered peculiarly remarkable by the cataract called Campsie Linn, where its waters rush tumultuously over a range of basaltic rock, which intercepts the current, like a dike erected by human hands. Delighted with a site so romantic, the monks of the abbey of Cupar reared a structure there, dedicated to an obscure saint, named St. Hunnand, and hither they were wont themselves to retire for pleasure or devotion. It had readily opened its gates to admit the noble lady who was its present inmate, as the country was under the influence of the powerful Lord Drummond, the ally of the Douglas. There the Earl's letters were presented to the Duchess by the leader of the escort which conducted Catharine and the glee maiden to Campsie. Whatever reason she might have to complain of Rothsay, his horrible and unexpected end greatly shocked the noble lady, and she spent the greater part of the night in indulging her grief and in devotional exercises.

On the next morning, which was that of the memorable Palm Sunday, she ordered Catharine Glover and the minstrel into her presence. The spirits of both the young women had been much sunk and shaken by the dreadful scenes in which they had so lately been engaged; and the outward appearance of the Duchess Marjory was, like that of her father, more calculated to inspire awe than confidence. She spoke with kindness, however, though apparently in deep affliction, and learned from them all which they had to tell concerning the fate of her erring and inconsiderate husband. She appeared grateful for the efforts which Catharine and the glee maiden had made, at their own extreme peril, to save Rothsay from his horrible fate. She invited them to join in her devotions; and at the hour of dinner gave them her hand to kiss, and dismissed them to their own refection, assuring both, and Catharine in particular, of her efficient protection, which should include, she said, her father's, and be a wall around them both, so long as she herself lived.

They retired from the presence of the widowed Princess, and partook of a repast with her duennas and ladies, all of whom, amid their profound sorrow, showed a character of stateliness which chilled the light heart of the Frenchwoman, and imposed restraint even on the more serious character of Catharine Glover. The friends, for so we may now term them, were fain, therefore, to escape from the society of these persons, all of them born gentlewomen, who thought themselves but ill assorted with a burgher's daughter and a strolling glee maiden, and saw them with pleasure go out to walk in the neighbourhood of the convent. A little garden, with its bushes and fruit trees, advanced on one side of the convent, so as to skirt the precipice, from which it was only separated by a parapet built on the ledge of the rock, so low that the eye might easily measure the depth of the crag, and gaze on the conflicting waters which foamed, struggled, and chafed over the reef below.

The Fair Maiden of Perth and her companion walked slowly on a path that ran within this parapet, looked at the romantic prospect, and judged what it must be when the advancing summer should clothe the grove with leaves. They observed for some time a deep silence. At length the gay and bold spirit of the glee maiden rose above the circumstances in which she had been and was now placed.

"Do the horrors of Falkland, fair May, still weigh down your spirits? Strive to forget them as I do: we cannot tread life's path lightly, if we shake not from our mantles the raindrops as they fall."

"These horrors are not to be forgotten," answered Catharine. "Yet my mind is at present anxious respecting my father's safety; and I cannot but think how many brave men may be at this instant leaving the world, even within six miles of us, or little farther."

"You mean the combat betwixt sixty champions, of which the Douglas's equerry told us yesterday? It were a sight for a minstrel to witness. But out upon these womanish eyes of mine—they could never see swords cross each other without being dazzled. But see—look yonder, May Catharine—look yonder! That flying messenger certainly brings news of the battle."

"Methinks I should know him who runs so wildly," said Catharine. "But if it be he I think of, some wild thoughts are urging his speed."

As she spoke, the runner directed his course to the garden. Louise's little dog ran to meet him, barking furiously, but came back, to cower, creep, and growl behind its mistress; for even dumb animals can distinguish when men are driven on by the furious energy of irresistible passion, and dread to cross or encounter them in their career. The fugitive rushed into the garden at the same reckless pace. His head was bare, his hair dishevelled, his rich acton and all his other vestments looked as if they had been lately drenched in water. His leathern buskins were cut and torn, and his feet marked the sod with blood. His countenance was wild, haggard, and highly excited, or, as the Scottish phrase expresses it, much "raised."

"Conachar!" said Catharine, as he advanced, apparently without seeing what was before him, as hares are said to do when severely pressed by the greyhounds. But he stopped short when he heard his own name.

"Conachar," said Catharine, "or rather Eachin MacIan, what means all this? Have the Clan Quhele sustained a defeat?"

"I have borne such names as this maiden gives me," said the fugitive, after a moment's recollection. "Yes, I was called Conachar when I was happy, and Eachin when I was powerful. But now I have no name, and there is no such clan as thou speak'st of; and thou art a foolish maid to speak of that which is not to one who has no existence."

"Alas! unfortunate—"

"And why unfortunate, I pray you?" exclaimed the youth. "If I am coward and villain, have not villainy and cowardice command over the elements? Have I not braved the water without its choking me, and trod the firm earth without its opening to devour me? And shall a mortal oppose my purpose?"

"He raves, alas!" said Catharine. "Haste to call some help. He will not harm me; but I fear he will do evil to himself. See how he stares down on the roaring waterfall!"

The glee woman hastened to do as she was ordered, and Conachar's half frenzied spirit seemed relieved by her absence.

"Catharine," he said, "now she is gone, I will say I know thee—I know thy love of peace and hatred of war. But hearken; I have, rather than strike a blow at my enemy, given up all that a man calls dearest: I have lost honour, fame, and friends, and such friends! (he placed his hands before his face). Oh! their love surpassed the love of woman! Why should I hide my tears? All know my shame; all should see my sorrow. Yes, all might see, but who would pity it? Catharine, as I ran like a madman down the strath, man and woman called 'shame' on me! The beggar to whom I flung an alms, that I might purchase one blessing, threw it back in disgust, and with a curse upon the coward! Each bell that tolled rung out, 'Shame on the recreant caitiff!' The brute beasts in their lowing and bleating, the wild winds in their rustling and howling, the hoarse waters in their dash and roar, cried, 'Out upon the dastard!' The faithful nine are still pursuing me; they cry with feeble voice, 'Strike but one blow in our revenge, we all died for you!'"

While the unhappy youth thus raved, a rustling was heard in the bushes.

"There is but one way!" he exclaimed, springing upon the parapet, but with a terrified glance towards the thicket, through which one or two attendants were stealing, with the purpose of surprising him. But the instant he saw a human form emerge from the cover of the bushes, he waved his hands wildly over his head, and shrieking out, "Bas air Eachin!" plunged down the precipice into the raging cataract beneath.

It is needless to say, that aught save thistledown must have been dashed to pieces in such a fall. But the river was swelled, and the remains of the unhappy youth were never seen. A varying tradition has assigned more than one supplement to the history. It is said by one account, that the young captain of Clan Quhele swam safe to shore, far below the Linns of Campsie; and that, wandering disconsolately in the deserts of Rannoch, he met with Father Clement, who had taken up his abode in the wilderness as a hermit, on the principle of the old Culdees. He converted, it is said, the heart broken and penitent Conachar, who lived with him in his cell, sharing his devotion and privations, till death removed them in succession.

Another wilder legend supposes that he was snatched from death by the daione shie, or fairy folk, and that he continues to wander through wood and wild, armed like an ancient Highlander, but carrying his sword in his left hand. The phantom appears always in deep grief. Sometimes he seems about to attack the traveller, but, when resisted with courage, always flies. These legends are founded on two peculiar points in his story—his evincing timidity and his committing suicide—both of them circumstances almost unexampled in the history of a mountain chief.

When Simon Glover, having seen his friend Henry duly taken care of in his own house in Curfew Street, arrived that evening at the Place of Campsie, he found his daughter extremely ill of a fever, in consequence of the scenes to which she had lately been a witness, and particularly the catastrophe of her late playmate. The affection of the glee maiden rendered her so attentive and careful a nurse, that the glover said it should not be his fault if she ever touched lute again, save for her own amusement.

It was some time ere Simon ventured to tell his daughter of Henry's late exploits, and his severe wounds; and he took care to make the most of the encouraging circumstance, that her faithful lover had refused both honour and wealth rather than become a professed soldier and follow the Douglas. Catharine sighed deeply and shook her head at the history of bloody Palm Sunday on the North Inch. But apparently she had reflected that men rarely advance in civilisation or refinement beyond the ideas of their own age, and that a headlong and exuberant courage, like that of Henry Smith, was, in the iron days in which they lived, preferable to the deficiency which had led to Conachar's catastrophe. If she had any doubts on the subject, they were removed in due time by Henry's protestations, so soon as restored health enabled him to plead his own cause.

"I should blush to say, Catharine, that I am even sick of the thoughts of doing battle. Yonder last field showed carnage enough to glut a tiger. I am therefore resolved to hang up my broadsword, never to be drawn more unless against the enemies of Scotland."

"And should Scotland call for it," said Catharine, "I will buckle it round you."

"And, Catharine," said the joyful glover, "we will pay largely for soul masses for those who have fallen by Henry's sword; and that will not only cure spiritual flaws, but make us friends with the church again."

"For that purpose, father," said Catharine, "the hoards of the wretched Dwining may be applied. He bequeathed them to me; but I think you would not mix his base blood money with your honest gains?"

"I would bring the plague into my house as soon," said the resolute glover.

The treasures of the wicked apothecary were distributed accordingly among the four monasteries; nor was there ever after a breath of suspicion concerning the orthodoxy of old Simon or his daughter.

Henry and Catharine were married within four months after the battle of the North Inch, and never did the corporations of the glovers and hammermen trip their sword dance so featly as at the wedding of the boldest burgess and brightest maiden in Perth. Ten months after, a gallant infant filled the well spread cradle, and was rocked by Louise to the tune of—

Bold and true, In bonnet blue.

The names of the boy's sponsors are recorded, as "Ane Hie and Michty Lord, Archibald Erl of Douglas, ane Honorabil and gude Knicht, Schir Patrick Charteris of Kinfauns, and ane Gracious Princess, Marjory Dowaire of his Serene Highness David, umquhile Duke of Rothsay."

Under such patronage a family rises fast; and several of the most respected houses in Scotland, but especially in Perthshire, and many individuals distinguished both in arts and arms, record with pride their descent from the Gow Chrom and the Fair Maid of Perth.


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12
Home - Random Browse