But the presenter would not have this version, and told a tale of how an astrologer, an ancient man, had appeared at the time of the heir's birth, and told the laird that the Evil One would have power over the knave bairn, and he charged him that the bairn should be brought up in the ways of piety, and should aye hae a godly minister at his elbow; and the aged man vanished away, and so they engaged Dominie Sampson to be with him morn and night. But even that godly minister had failed to protect the child, who was last seen being carried off by Frank Kennedy on his horse to see a king's ship chase a smuggler. The excise-man's body was found at the foot of the crags at Warroch Point, but no one knew what had become of the child.
A smart servant entered with a note for the stranger, saying, "The family at Ellangowan are in great distress, sir, and unable to receive any visits."
"I know it," said his master. "And now, madam, if you will have the goodness to allow me to occupy the parlour——"
"Certainly, sir," said Mrs. MacCandlish, and hastened to light the way.
"And wha' may your master be, friend?"
"What! That's the famous Colonel Mannering, sir, from the East Indies."
"What, him we read of in the papers?"
"Lord safe us!" said the landlady. "I must go and see what he would have for supper—that I should set him down here."
When the landlady re-entered, Colonel Mannering asked her if Mr. Bertram lost his son in his fifth year.
"O ay, sir, there's nae doubt of that; though there are many idle clashes about the way and manner. And the news being rashly told to the leddy cost her her life that saym night; and the laird never throve from that day, was just careless of everything. Though when Miss Lucy grew up she tried to keep order. But what could she do, poor thing? So now they're out of house and hauld."
II.—Vanbeest Brown's Reappearance
Early next morning, Mannering took the road to Ellangowan. He had no need to inquire the way; people of all descriptions streamed to the sale from all quarters.
When the old towers of the ruin rose upon his view, thoughts thronged upon the mind of the traveller. How changed his feelings since he lost sight of them so many years before! Then life and love were new, and all the prospect was gilded by their rays. And now, disappointed in affection, sated with fame, goaded by bitter and repentant recollections, his best hope was to find a retirement in which to nurse the melancholy which was to accompany him to his grave. About a year before, in India, he had returned from a distant expedition to find a young cadet named Brown established as the habitual attendant on his wife and daughter, an arrangement which displeased him greatly, owing to the suggestions of another cadet, though no objection could be made to the youth's character or manners. Brown made some efforts to overcome his colonel's prejudice, but feeling himself repulsed, and with scorn, desisted, and continued his attentions in defiance. At last some trifle occurred which occasioned high words and a challenge. They met on the frontiers of the settlement, and Brown fell at the first shot. A horde of Looties, a species of banditti, poured in upon them, and Colonel Mannering and his second escaped with some difficulty. His wife's death shortly after, and his daughter's severe illness, made him throw up his command and come home. She was now staying with some old friends in Westmoreland, almost restored to her wonted health and gaiety.
When Colonel Mannering reached the house he found his old acquaintance paralysed, helpless, waiting for the postchaise to take him away. Mannering's evident emotion at once attained him the confidence of Lucy Bertram. The laird showed no signs of recognising Mannering; but when the man, Gilbert Glossin, who had brought him to this pass, had the effrontery to make his appearance, he started up, violently reproaching him, sank into his chair again, and died almost without a groan.
A torrent of sympathy now poured forth, the sale was postponed, and Mannering decided on making a short tour till it should take place, but he was called back to Westmoreland, and, owing to the delay of his messenger, the estate passed into the hands of Glossin. Lucy and Dominie Sampson, who would not be separated from his pupil, found a temporary home in the house of Mr. MacMorlan, the sheriff-substitute, a good friend of the family.
Colonel Mannering lost no time in hiring for a season a large and comfortable mansion not far from Ellangowan, having some hopes of ultimately buying that estate. Besides a sincere desire to serve the distressed, he saw the advantage his daughter Julia might receive from the company of Lucy Bertram, whose prudence and good sense might be relied on, and therefore induced her to become the visitor of a season, and the dominie thereupon required no pressing to accept the office of librarian. The household was soon settled in its new quarters, and the young ladies followed their studies and amusements together.
Society was quickly formed, most of the families in the neighbourhood visited Colonel Mannering, and Charles Hazlewood soon held a distinguished place in his favour and was a frequent visitor, his parents quite forgetting their old fear of his boyish attachment to penniless Lucy Bertram in the thought that the beautiful Miss Mannering, of high family, with a great fortune, was a prize worth looking after. They did not know that the colonel's journey to Westmoreland was in consequence of a letter from his friend there expressing uneasiness about serenades from the lake beside the house. However, he had returned without making any discovery or any advance in his daughter's confidence, who might have told him that Brown still lived, had not her natural good sense and feeling been warped by the folly of a misjudging, romantic mother, who had called her husband a tyrant until she feared him as such.
* * * * *
Vanbeest Brown had escaped from captivity and attained the rank of captain after Mannering left India, and his regiment having been recalled home, was determined to persevere in his addresses to Julia while she left him a ray of hope, believing that the injuries he had received from her father might dispense with his using much ceremony towards him.
So, soon after the Mannerings' settlement in Scotland, he was staying in the inn at Kippletringan; and, as the landlady said, "a' the hoose was ta'en wi' him, he was such a frank, pleasant young man." There had been a good deal of trouble with the smugglers of late, and one day Brown met the young ladies with Charles Hazlewood. Julia's alarm at his appearance misled that young man, and he spoke roughly to Brown, even threatening him with his gun. In the confusion the gun went off, wounding Hazlewood.
Gilbert Glossin, Esq., now Laird of Ellangowan, and justice of the peace, saw an opportunity of ingratiating himself with the country gentry, and exerted himself to discover the person by whom young Charles Hazlewood had been wounded. So it was with great pleasure he heard his servants announce that MacGuffog, the thief-taker, had a man waiting his honour, handcuffed and fettered.
The worthy judge and the captive looked at each other steadily. At length Glossin said:
"So, captain, this is you? You've been a stranger on these coasts for some years."
"Stranger!" replied the other. "Strange enough, I should think, for hold me der teyvil, if I have ever been here before."
Glossin took a pair of pistols, and loaded them.
"You may retire," said he to his clerk, "and carry the people with you, but wait within call." Then: "You are Dirk Hatteraick, are you not?"
"Tousand teyvils! And if you know that, why ask me?"
"Captain, bullying won't do. You'll hardly get out of this country without accounting for a little accident at Warroch Point a few years ago."
Hatteraick's looks grew black as midnight.
"For my part," continued Glossin. "I have no wish to be hard on an old acquaintance, but I must send you off to Edinburgh this very day."
"Poz donner! you would not do that?" said the prisoner. "Why, you had the matter of half a cargo in bills on Vanbeest and Vanbruggen!"
"It was an affair in the way of business," said Glossin, "and I have retired from business for some time."
"Ay, but I have a notion I could make you go steady about, and try the old course again," said Dirk Hatteraick. "I had something to tell you."
"Of the boy?" said Glossin eagerly.
"Yaw, mynheer," replied the captain coolly.
"He does not live, does he?"
"As lifelich as you or me," said Hatteraick.
"Good God! But in India?" exclaimed Glossin.
"No, tousand teyvils, here—on this dirty coast of yours!" rejoined the prisoner.
"But, Hatteraick, this—that is, if it be true, will ruin us both, for he cannot but remember."
"I tell you," said the seaman, "it will ruin none but you, for I am done up already, and if I must strap for it, all shall out."
Glossin paused—the sweat broke upon his brow; while the hard-featured miscreant sat opposite coolly rolling his tobacco in his cheek.
"It would be ruin," said Glossin to himself, "absolute ruin, if the heir should reappear—and then what might be the consequences of conniving with these men?"
"Hark you, Hatteraick, I can't set you at liberty, but I can put you where you can set yourself at liberty. I always like to assist an old friend."
So he gave him a file.
"There's a friend for you, and you know the way to the sea, and you must remain snug at the point of Warroch till I see you."
"The point of Warroch?" Hatteraick's countenance fell. "What—in the cave? I would rather it was anywhere else. They say he walks. But donner and blitzen! I never shunned him alive, and I won't shun him dead!"
The justice dismissed the party to keep guard for the night in the old castle with a large allowance of food and liquor, with the full hope and belief that they would spend the night neither in watching nor prayer. Next morning great was the alarm when the escape of the prisoner was discovered. When the officers had been sent off in all directions (except the right one), Glossin went to Hatteraick in the cave. A light soon broke upon his confusion of ideas. This missing heir was Vanbeest Brown who had wounded young Hazlewood. He hastily explained to Dick Hatteraick that his goods which had been seized were lying in the Custom-house at Portanferry, and there to the Bridewell beside it be would send this younker, when he had caught him; would take care that the soldiers were dispersed, and he, Dick Hatteraick, could land with his crew, receive his own goods, and carry the younker Brown back to Flushing.
"Ay, carry him to Flushing," said the captain, "or to America, or—to Jericho?"
"Psha! Wherever you have a mind."
"Ay, or pitch him overboard?"
"Nay, I advise no violence."
"Nein, nein! You leave that to me Sturm-wetter; I know you of old. But, hark ye, what am I, Dirk Hatteraick, to be the better for this?"
Glossin made him understand it would not be safe for either of them if young Ellangowan settled in the country, and their plans were soon arranged. None of the old crew were alive but the gipsy who had sent the news of Brown's whereabouts and identity.
Brown, or, as we may now call him, Harry Bertram, had retreated into England, but now, hearing that Hazlewood's wound was trifling, returned and landed at Ellangowan Bay; he approached the castle, unconscious as the most absolute stranger, where his ancestors had exercised all but regal dominion.
Confused memories thronged his mind, and he paused by a curious coincidence on nearly the same spot on which his father had died, just as Glossin came up the bank with an architect, to whom he was talking of alterations; Bertram turned short round upon him, and said:
"Would you destroy this fine old castle, sir?"
He was so exactly like his father in his best days that Glossin thought the grave had given up its dead. He staggered back, but instantly recovered, and whispered a few words in the ear of his companion, who immediately went towards the house, while Glossin talked civilly to Bertram. By the next evening he was safely locked up in the Bridewell at Portanferry, until Sir Charles Hazlewood, the injured youth's father, to whom Glossin had conducted him, could make inquiries as to the truth of his story.
Bertram, unable to sleep, gazing out of the window of his prison, saw a long boat making for the quay. About twenty men landed and disappeared, and soon a miscellaneous crowd came back, some carrying torches, some bearing packages and barrels, and a red glare illuminated land and sea, and shone full on them, as with ferocious activity they loaded their boats. A fierce attack was made on the prison gates; they were soon forced, and three or four smugglers hurried to Bertram's apartment. "Der teyvil," said the leader, "here's our mark!" And two of them seized on Bertram, and one whispered, "Make no resistance till you are in the street."
They dragged him along, and in the confusion outside the gang got separated. A noise as of a body of horse advancing seemed to add to the disturbance, the press became furiously agitated, shots were fired, and the glittering swords of dragoons began to appear. Now came the warning whisper: "Shake off that fellow, and follow me!"
Bertram, exerting his strength suddenly, easily burst from the other man's grasp, and dived through a narrow lane after his guide, at the end of which stood a postchaise with four horses.
"Get into it," said the guide. "You will soon be in a place of safety."
They were driven at a rapid rate through the dark lanes, and suddenly stopped at the door of a large house. Brown, dizzied by the sudden glare of light, almost unconsciously entered the open door, and confronted Colonel Mannering; interpreting his fixed and motionless astonishment into displeasure at his intrusion, hastened to say it was involuntary.
"Mr. Brown, I believe?" said Colonel Mannering.
"Yes, sir," said the young man modestly but firmly. "The same you knew in India, and who ventures to hope that you would favour him with your attestation to his character as a gentleman and man of honour."
At this critical moment appeared Mr. Pleydell, the lawyer who had conducted the inquiry as to the disappearance of Harry Bertram, who happened to be staying with Colonel Mannering, and he instantly saw the likeness to the late laird.
Bertram was as much confounded at the appearance of those to whom he so unexpectedly presented himself as they were at the sight of him. Mr. Pleydell alone was in his element, and at once took upon himself the whole explanation. His catechism had not proceeded far before Dominie Sampson rose hastily, with trembling hands and streaming eyes, and called aloud:
"Harry Bertram, look at me!"
"Yes," said Bertram, starting from his seat—"yes, that was my name, and that is my kind old master."
* * * * *
When they parted for the night Colonel Mannering walked up to Bertram, gave him joy of his prospects, and hoped unkindness would be forgotten between them. It was he who had sent the postchaise to Portanferry in consequence of a letter he had received from Meg Merrilies; it was she who had sent back the soldiers so opportunely, and through her the next day Dirk Hatteraick was captured; but, unhappily, she was killed by that ruffian at the moment of the fulfilment of her hopes for the family of Ellangowan.
Glossin also met the fate he deserved at the hands of Hatteraick, who had claims to no virtue but fidelity to his shipowners.
* * * * *
Mr. Pleydell carried through his law business successfully, and we leave him and the colonel examining plans for a new house for Julia and Bertram on the estate of Ellangowan. Another house on the estate was to be repaired for the other young couple, Lucy and Hazlewood, and called Mount Hazlewood.
"And see," said the colonel, "here's the plan of my bungalow, with all convenience for being separate and sulky when I please."
"And you will repair the tower for the nocturnal contemplation of the heavenly bodies. Bravo, colonel!"
"No, no, my dear Pleydell! Here ends the astrologer."
* * * * *
The Heart of Midlothian
John Ruskin coupled "Rob Roy" and "The Heart of Midlothian" as the best of all the "Waverley Novels." The latter, constituting the second series in the "Tales of My Landlord," was published in 1818, and was composed during a period of recurrent fits of intense bodily pain. The romance gets its name from Midlothian, or Middle Lothian, an Edinburgh prison which in days gone by used to mark the centre of the district of Lothian, between the Tweed and the Forth, now the County of Edinburgh. According to Scott himself, the story of the heroism of Jeannie Deans was founded on fact. Her prototype was one Helen Walker, the daughter of a small Dumfriesshire farmer, who in order to get the Duke of Argyle to intercede to save her sister's life got up a petition and actually walked to London barefoot to present it to his grace. Helen Walker died in 1791, and on the tombstone of this unassuming heroine is an inscription by Scott himself.
I.—In the Tolbooth
In former times England had her Tyburn, to which the devoted victims of justice were conducted in solemn procession; and in Edinburgh, a large oblong square, called the Grassmarket, was used for the same purpose. This place was crowded to suffocation on the day when John Porteous, captain of the City Guard, was to be hanged, sentenced to death for firing on the crowd on the occasion of the execution of a popular smuggler.
The grim appearance of the populace conveyed the impression of men who had come to glut their sight with triumphant revenge. When the news that Porteous was respited for six weeks was announced, a roar of rage and mortification arose, but speedily subsided into stifled mutterings as the people slowly dispersed.
That night the mob broke into the Tolbooth, the prison, commonly called the Heart of Midlothian, dragged the wretched Porteous from the chimney in which he had concealed himself, and carried him off to the Grassmarket, where, as the leader of the rioters, a tall man dressed in woman's clothes said he had spilled the blood of so many innocents.
"Let no man hurt him," continued the speaker. "Let him make his peace with God, if he can; we will not kill both soul and body."
A young minister named Butler, whom the rioters had met and compelled to come with them, was brought to the prisoner's side, to prepare him for instant death. With a generous disregard of his own safety, Butler besought the crowd to consider what they did. But in vain. The unhappy man was forced to his fate with remorseless rapidity, and Butler, separated from him by the press, and unnoticed by those who had hitherto kept him prisoner, escaped the last horror, and fled from the fatal spot.
His first purpose was instantly to take the road homewards, but other fears and cares, connected with news he had that day heard, induced him to linger till daybreak.
Reuben Butler was the grandson of a trooper in Monk's army, and had been brought up by a grandmother, a widow, a cotter who struggled with poverty and the hard and sterile soil on the land of the Laird of Dumbiedikes. She was helped by the advice of another tenant, David Deans, a staunch Presbyterian, and Jeannie, his little daughter, and Reuben herded together the handful of sheep and the two or three cows, and went together to the school; where Reuben, as much superior to Jeannie Deans in acuteness of intellect as inferior to her in firmness of constitution, was able to requite in full the kindness and countenance with which, in other circumstances, she used to regard him.
While Reuben Butler was acquiring at the university the knowledge necessary for a clergyman, David Deans, by shrewdness and skill, gained a footing in the world and the possession of some wealth. He had married again, and another daughter had been born to him. But now his wife was dead, and he had left his old home, and become a dairy farmer about half a mile from Edinburgh, and the unceasing industry and activity of Jeannie was exerted in making the most of the produce of their cows.
Effie, his youngest daughter, under the tend guileless purity of thought, speech, and action, as by her uncommon loveliness of person. The news that this girl was in prison on suspicion of the murder of her child was what kept Reuben Butler lingering on the hills outside Edinburgh, until a fitting time should arrive to wait upon Jeannie and her father. Effie denied all guilt of infanticide; but she had concealed the birth of a child, and the child had disappeared, so that by the law she was judged guilty.
His limbs exhausted with fatigue, Butler dragged himself up to St. Leonard's crags, and presented himself at the door of Deans' habitation, with feelings much akin to the miserable fears of its inhabitants.
"Come in," answered the low, sweet-toned voice he loved best to hear, as he tapped at the door. The old man was seated by the fire with his well-worn pocket Bible in his hands, and turned his face away as Butler entered and clasped the extended hand which had supported his orphan infancy, wept over it, and in vain endeavoured to say more than "God comfort you! God comfort you!"
"He will—He doth, my friend," said Deans. "He doth now, and He will yet more in His own gude time. I have been ower proud of my sufferings in a gude cause, Reuben, and now I am to be tried with those whilk will turn my pride and glory into a reproach and a hissing."
Butler had too much humanity to do anything but encourage the good old man as he reckoned up with conscious pride the constancy of his testimony and his sufferings, but seized the opportunity as soon as possible of some private conversation with Jeannie. He gave her the message he had received from a stranger he had met an hour or two before, to the effect that she must meet him that night alone at Muschat's cairn at moonrise.
"Tell him," said Jeannie hastily, "I will certainly come"; and to all Butler's entreaties and expostulations would give no explanation. They were recalled—"ben the house," to use the language of the country—by the loud tones of David Deans, and found the poor old man half frantic between grief and zealous ire against proposals to employ a lawyer on Effie's behalf, they being, all, in his opinion, carnal, crafty self-seekers.
But when the poor old man, fatigued with the arguments and presence of his guests, retired to his sleeping apartment, the Laird of Dumbiedikes said he would employ his own man of business, and Butler set off instantly to see Effie herself, and try to get her to give him the information that she had refused to everyone.
"Farewell, Jeannie," said he. "Take no rash steps till you hear from me."
Butler was at once recognised by the turnkey when he presented himself at the Tolbooth, and detained as having been connected with the riots the night before. One of the prisoners had recognised Robertson, the leader of the rioters, and seen him trying to persuade Effie Deans to escape and to save himself from the gallows, being a well-known thief and prison-breaker, gave information, hoping, as he candidly said, to obtain the post of gaoler himself.
It became obvious that the father of Effie's child and the slayer of Porteous were one and the same person, and on hearing from Butler, who had no reason to conceal his movements, of the stranger he had met on the hill, the procurator fiscal, otherwise the superintendent of police, with a strong body-guard, interrupted Jeannie's meeting with the stranger that night; but he had made her understand that her sister's life was in her hands before, hearing men approaching, he plunged into the darkness and was lost to sight.
Soon afterwards, Ratcliffe, the prisoner who had recognised Robertson, received a full pardon, and becoming gaoler, was repeatedly applied to, to procure an interview between the sisters; but the magistrates had given strict orders to the contrary, hoping that they might, by keeping them apart, obtain some information respecting the fugitive. But Jeannie knew nothing of Robertson, except having met him that night by appointment to give her some advice respecting her sister's concern, the which, she said, was betwixt God and her conscience. And Effie was equally silent. In vain they offered, even a free pardon, if she would confess what she knew of her lover.
At length the day was fixed for Effie's trial, and on the preceding evening Jeannie was allowed to see her sister. Even the hard-hearted turnkey could not witness the scene without a touch of human sympathy.
"Ye are ill, Effie," were the first words Jeannie could utter. "Ye are very ill."
"O, what wad I gie to be ten times waur, Jeannie!" was the reply. "O that I were lying dead at my mother's side!"
"Hout, lassie!" said Ratcliffe. "Dinna be sae dooms downhearted as a' that. There's mony a tod hunted that's no killed. They are weel aff has such a counsel and agent as ye have; ane's aye sure of fair play."
But the mourners had become unconscious of his presence. "O Effie," said her elder sister, "how could you conceal your situation from me? O woman, had I deserved this at your hand? Had ye but spoke ae word——"
"What gude wad that hae dune?" said the prisoner. "Na, na, Jeannie; a' was ower whan once I forgot what I promised when I turned down the leaf of my Bible. See, the Book aye opens at the place itsell. O see, Jeannie, what a fearfu' Scripture!"
"O if ye had spoken ae word again!" sobbed Jeannie. "If I were free to swear that ye had said but ae word of how it stude wi' you, they couldna hae touched your life this day!"
"Could they na?" said Effie, with something like awakened interest. "Wha' tauld ye that, Jeannie?"
"It was ane that kenned what he was saying weel eneugh," said Jeannie.
"Hout!" said Ratcliffe. "What signifies keeping the poor lassie in a swither? I'se uphand it's been Robertson that learned ye that doctrine."
"Was it him?" cried Effie. "Was it him, indeed? O I see it was him, poor lad! And I was thinking his heart was as hard as the nether millstane, and him in sic danger on his ain part. Poor George! O, Jeannie, tell me every word he said, and if he was sorry for poor Effie!"
"What needs I tell ye onything about 't?" said Jeannie. "Ye may be sure he had ower muckle about onybody beside."
"That's no' true, Jeannie, though a saint had said it," replied Effie. "But ye dinna ken, though I do, how far he put his life in venture to save mine." And looking at Ratcliffe, checked herself and was silent.
"I fancy," said he, "the lassie thinks naebody has een but hersell. Didna I see Gentle Geordie trying to get other folk out of the Tolbooth forbye Jock Porteous? Ye needna look sae amazed. I ken mair things than that, maybe."
"O my God, my God!" said she, throwing herself on her knees before him. "D'ye ken where they hae putten my bairn? O my bairn, my bairn! Tell me wha has taen't away, or what they hae dune wi't!"
As his answer destroyed the wild hope that had suddenly dawned upon her, the unhappy prisoner fell on the floor in a strong convulsion fit.
Jeannie instantly applied herself to her sister's relief, and Ratcliffe had even the delicacy to withdraw to the other end of the room to render his official attendance as little intrusive as possible; while Jeannie commenced her narrative of all that had passed between her and Robertson. After a long pause:
"And he wanted you to say something to you folks that wad save my young life?" said Effie.
"He wanted," said Jeannie, "that I shuld be mansworn!"
"And you tauld him," said Effie, "that ye wadna hear o' coming between me and death, and me no aughteen year auld yet?"
"I dinna deserve this frae ye, Effie," said her sister, feeling the injustice of the reproach and compassion for the state of mind which dictated it.
"Maybe no, sister," said Effie. "But ye are angry because I love Robertson. Sure am I, if it had stude wi' him as it stands wi' you——"
"O if it stude wi' me to save ye wi' the risk of my life!" said Jeannie.
"Ay, lass," said her sister, "that's lightly said, but no sae lightly credited frae ane that winna ware a word for me; and if it be a wrang word, ye'll hae time enough to repent o' 't."
"But that word is a grievous sin."
"Well, weel, Jeannie, never speak mair o' 't," said the prisoner. "It's as weel as it is. And gude-day, sister. Ye keep Mr. Ratcliffe waiting on. Ye'll come back and see me, I reckon, before——"
"And are we to part in this way," said Jeannie, "and you in sic deadly peril? O, Effie, look but up and say what ye wad hae me do, and I could find it in my heart amaist to say I wad do 't."
"No, Jeannie," said her sister, with an effort. "I'm better minded now. God knows, in my sober mind, I wadna' wuss any living creature to do a wrang thing to save my life!"
But when Jeannie was called to give her evidence next day, Effie, her whole expression altered to imploring, almost ecstatic earnestness of entreaty, exclaimed, in a tone that went through all hearts:
"O Jeannie, Jeannie, save me, save me!"
Jeannie suddenly extended her hand to her sister, who covered it with kisses and bathed it with tears; while Jeannie wept bitterly.
It was some time before the judge himself could subdue his own emotion and administer the oath: "The truth to tell, and no truth to conceal, in the name of God, and as the witness should answer to God at the great Day of Judgement." Jeannie, educated in devout reverence for the name of the Deity, was awed, but at the same time elevated above all considerations save those to which she could, with a clear conscience, call him to witness. Therefore, though she turned deadly pale, and though the counsel took every means to make it easy for her to bear false witness, she replied to his question as to what Effie had said when questioned as to what ailed her, "Alack! alack! she never breathed a word to me about it."
A deep groan passed through the court, and the unfortunate father fell forward, senseless. The secret hope to which he had clung had now dissolved. The prisoner with impotent passion, strove with her guard. "Let me gang to my father! He is dead! I hae killed him!" she repeated in frenzied tones.
Even in that moment of agony Jeannie did not lose that superiority that a deep and firm mind assures to its possessor. She stooped, and began assiduously to chafe her father's temples.
The judge, after repeatedly wiping his eyes, gave directions that they should be removed and carefully attended. The prisoner pursued them with her eyes, and when they were no longer visible, seemed to find courage in her despair.
"The bitterness of 't is now past," she said. "My lords, if it is your pleasure to gang on wi' this matter, the weariest day will have its end at last."
David Deans and his eldest daughter found in the house of a cousin the nearest place of friendly refuge. When he recovered from his long swoon, he was too feeble to speak when their hostess came in.
"Is all over?" said Jeannie, with lips pale as ashes. "And is there no hope for her?"
"Nane, or next to nane," said her cousin, Mrs. Saddletree; but added that the foreman of the jury had wished her to get the king's mercy, and "nae ma about it."
"But can the king gie her mercy?" said Jeannie.
"I well he wot he can, when he likes," said her cousin and gave instances, finishing with Porteous.
"Porteous," said Jeannie, "very true. I forgot a' that I culd mind maist. Fare ye well, Mrs. Saddletree. May ye never want a friend in the hour o' distress."
To Mrs. Saddletree's protests she replied there was much to be done and little time to do it in; then, kneeling by her father's bed, begged his blessing. Instinctively the old man murmured a prayer, and his daughter saying, "He has blessed mine errand; it is borne in on my mind that I shall prosper," left the room. Mrs. Saddletree looked after her, and shook her head. "I wish she binna roving, poor thing. There's something queer about a' thae Deanes. I dinna like folk to be sae muckle better than ither folk; seldom comes gude o't."
But she took good care of "the honest auld man," until he was able to go to his own home.
Effie was roused from her state of stupefied horror by the entrance of Jeannie who, rushing into the cell, threw her arms round her neck.
"What signifies coming to greet ower me," said poor Effie, "when you have killed me? Killed me, when a word from your mouth would have saved me."
"You shall not die," said Jeannie, with enthusiastic firmness. "Say what you like o' me, only promise, for I doubt your proud heart, that you winna' harm yourself? I will go to London and beg your pardon from the king and queen. They shall pardon you, and they will win a thousand hearts by it!"
She soon tore herself from her sister's arms and left the cell. Ratcliffe followed her, so impressed was he by her "spunk," he advised her as to her proceedings, to find a friend to speak for her to the king—the Duke of Argyle, if possible—and wrote her a line or two on a dirty piece of paper, which would be useful if she fell among thieves. Jeannie then hastened home to St. Leonard's Crags, and gave full instructions to her usual assistant, concerning the management of domestic affairs and arrangements for her father's comfort in her absence. She got a loan of money from the Laird of Dumbiedikes, and set off without losing a moment on her walk to London. On her way she stopped to bid adieu to her old friend Reuben Butler, whom she had expected to see at the court yesterday. She knew, of course, that he was still under some degree of restraint—he had been obliged to find bail not to quit his usual residence, in case he were wanted as a witness— but she had hoped he would have found means to be with his old friend on such a day.
She found him quite seriously ill, as she had feared, but yet most unwilling to let her go on this errand alone; she must give him a husband's right to protect her. But she, pointing out the fact that he was scarcely able to stand, said this was no time to speak of marrying or giving in marriage, asked him if his grandfather had not done some good to the forebear of MacCallumore. It was so, and Reuben gave her the papers to prove it, and a letter to the Duke of Argyle; and she, begging him to do what he could for her father and sister, left the room hastily.
With a strong heart, and a frame patient of fatigue, Jeannie Deans, travelling at the rate of twenty miles and more a day, traversed the southern part of Scotland, where her bare feet attracted no attention. She had to conform to the national extravagance in England, and confessed afterwards "that besides the wastrife, it was lang or she could walk as comfortably with the shoes as without them"; but found the people very hospitable on the whole, and sometimes got a cast in a waggon.
At last London was reached, and an audience obtained with the Duke of Argyie. His Grace's heart warmed to the tartan when Jeannie appeared before him in the dress of a Scottish maiden of her class. His grandfather's letter, too, was a strong injunction to assist Stephen Butler, his friends or family, and he exerted himself to such good purpose, that he brought her into the presence of the queen to plead her cause for herself. Her majesty smiled at Jeannie's awestruck manner and broad Northern accent, and listened kindly, but said:
"If the king were to pardon your sister, it would in all probability do her little good, for I suppose the people of Edinburgh would hang her out of spite." But Jeannie said: "She was confident that baith town and country would rejoice to see his majesty taking compassion on a poor unfriended creature." The queen was not convinced of the propriety of showing any marked favour to Edinburgh so soon—"the whole nation must be in a league to screen the murderers of Porteous"—but Jeannie pleaded her sister's cause with a pathos at once simple and solemn, and her majesty ended by giving her a housewife case to remind her of her interview with Queen Caroline, and promised her warm intercession with the king.
The Duke of Argyie came to Jeannie's cousin's, where she was staying, in a few days to say that a pardon had been dispatched to Effie Deans, on condition of her banishing herself forth of Scotland for fourteen years—a qualification which greatly grieved the affectionate disposition of her sister.
IV.—In After Years
When Jeannie set out from London on her homeward journey, it was not to travel on foot, but in the Duke of Argyle's carriage, and the end of the journey was not Edinburgh, but the isle of Roseneath, in the Firth of Clyde. When the landing-place was reached, it was in the arms of her father that Jeannie was received.
It was too wonderful to be believed—but the form was indisputable. Douce David Deans himself, in his best light-blue Sunday coat, with broad metal buttons, and waistcoat and breeches of the same.
"Jeannie—my ain Jeannie—my best—my maist dutiful bairn! The Lord of Israel be thy father, for I am hardly worthy of thee! Thou hast redeemed our captivity, brought back the honour of our house!"
These words broke from him not without tears, though David was of no melting mood.
"And Effie—and Effie, dear father?" was Jeannie's eager question.
"You will never see her mair, my bairn," answered Deans, in solemn tones.
"She is dead! It has come ower late!" exclaimed Jeannie, wringing her hands.
"No, Jeannie, she lives in the flesh, and is at freedom from earthly restraint. But she has left her auld father, that has wept and prayed for her. She has left her sister, that travailed and toiled for her like a mother. She has made a moonlight flitting of it."
"And wi' that man—that fearfu' man?" said Jeannie.
"It is ower truly spoken," said Deans. "But never, Jeannie never more let her name be spoken between you and me."
The next surprise for Jeannie Deans was the appearance of Reuben Butler, who had been appointed by the Duke of Argyle to the kirk of Knocktarlitie, at Roseneath; and within a reasonable time after the new minister had been comfortably settled in his living, the banns were called, and long wooing of Reuben and Jeannie was ended by their union in the holy bands of matrimony.
Effie, married to Robertson, whose real name was Staunton, paid a furtive visit to her sister, and many years later, when her husband was no longer a desperate outlaw, but Sir George Staunton, and beyond anxiety of recognition, the two sisters corresponded freely, and Lady Staunton even came to stay with Mrs. Butler, after old Deans was dead.
A famous woman in society was Lady Staunton, but she was childless, for the child of her shame, carried off by gypsies, she saw no more.
Jeannie and Reuben, happy in each other, in the prosperity of their family, and the love and honour of all by gypsies, she saw no more.
* * * * *
"Ivanhoe," in common with "The Legend of Montrose" and "The Bride of Lammermoor," was written, or rather dictated to amanuenses, during a period of great physical suffering; "through fits of suffering," says one of Scott's biographers, "so great that he could not suppress cries of agony." "Ivanhoe" made its appearance towards the end of 1819. Although the book lacks much of that vivid portraiture that distinguishes Scott's other novels, the intense vigour of the narrative, and the striking presentation of mediaeval life, more than atone for the former lapse. From the first, "Ivanhoe" has been singularly successful, and it is, and has been, more popular among English readers than any of the so-called "Scottish novels." According to Sir Leslie Stephen, it was Scott's culminating success in the book-selling sense.
I.—The Hall of Cedric the Saxon
In the hall of Rotherwood at the centre of the upper table sat Cedric the Saxon, irritable at the delay of his evening meal, and impatient for the presence of his favourite clown Wamba, and the return of his swineherd Gurth. "They have been carried off to serve the Norman lords," he exclaimed. "But I will be avenged. Haply they think me old, but they shall find the blood of Hereward is in the veins of Cedric. Ah, Wilfred, Wilfred!" he went on in a lower tone, "couldst thou have ruled thine unreasonable passion, thy father had not been left in his age like the solitary oak that throws out its shattered branches against the full sweep of the tempest!"
From his melancholy reflections, Cedric was suddenly awakened by the blast of a horn.
"To the gate, knaves!" said the Saxon, hastily. "See what tidings that horn tells us of."
Returning in less than three minutes, a warder announced "that the Prior Aymer of Jorvank, and the good knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Commander of the Order of Knights Templars, with a small retinue, requested hospitality and lodging for the night, being on their way to a tournament to be held not far from Ashby-de-la-Zouche."
"Normans both," muttered Cedric; "but, Norman or Saxon, the hospitality of Rotherwood must not be impeached; they are welcome since they have chosen to halt; in the quality of guests, even Normans must suppress their insolence."
The folding doors at the bottom of the hall were cast wide, and preceded by the major domo with his wand, and four domestics bearing blazing torches, the guests of the evening entered the apartment, followed by their attendants, and, at a more humble distance, by a pilgrim, wearing the sandals and broad hat of the palmer.
No sooner were the guests seated, and the repast about to commence, than the major domo, or steward, suddenly raising his wand, said aloud—"Forbear!—Place for the Lady Rowena." A side door at the upper end of the hall now opened, and Cedric's ward, Rowena, a Saxon lady of rare beauty and lofty character, entered. All stood up to receive her, and, as she moved gracefully forward to assume her place at the board, the Knight Templar's eyes bent on her with an ardour that made Rowena draw with dignity the veil around her face.
Cedric and the Prior discoursed on hunting for a time, the Lady Rowena seemed engaged in conversation with one of her attendants; while the haughty Templar's eye wandered from the Saxon beauty to the rest of the company.
"Pledge me in a cup of wine, Sir Templar," said Cedric, "and fill another to the Abbot. To the strong in arms, Sir Templar, be their race or language what it will, who now bear them best in Palestine among the champions of the Cross!"
"To whom, besides the sworn champions of the Holy Sepulchre, whose badge I wear, can the palm be assigned among the champions of the Cross?" said Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert.
"Were there, then, none in the English army," said the Lady Rowena, "whose names are worthy to be mentioned with the Knights of the Temple?"
"Forgive me, lady," replied de Bois-Guilbert, "the English monarch did, indeed, bring to Palestine a host of gallant warriors, second only to those whose breasts have been the bulwark of that blessed land."
"Second to NONE," said the Pilgrim, and all turned towards the spot from whence the declaration came. "I say that the English chivalry were second to none who ever drew sword in defence of the Holy Land. I saw it when King Richard himself and five of his knights held a tournament after the taking of Sir John-de-Acre, as challengers against all comers. On that day each knight ran three courses, and cast to the ground three antagonists. Seven of these assailants were Knights of the Temple—and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert well knows the truth of what I tell you."
A bitter smile of rage darkened the countenance of the Templar. At Cedric's request the Pilgrim told out the names of the English knights, only pausing at the sixth to say—"he was a young knight—his name dwells not in my memory."
"Sir Palmer," said the Templar, scornfully, "I will myself tell the name of the knight before whose lance fortune and my horse's fault occasioned my falling—it was the Knight of Ivanhoe; nor was there one of the six that for his years had more renown in arms. Yet this I will say, and loudly—that were he in England, and durst repeat, in this week's tournament, the challenge of St. John-de-Acre, I, mounted and armed as I now am, would give him every advantage of weapons and abide the result."
"Your challenge would be soon answered," replied the Palmer, "were your antagonist near you. If Ivanhoe ever returns from Palestine, I will be his surety that he meet you. And for pledge I proffer this reliquary," taking a small ivory box from his bosom, "containing a portion of the true cross, brought from the Monastery of Mount Carmel."
The Templar took from his neck a gold chain, which he flung on the board, saying, "Let Prior Aymer hold my pledge, and that of this nameless vagrant, in token that when the Knight of Ivanhoe comes within the four seas of Britain, he underlies the challenge of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, which, if he answers not, I will proclaim him as a coward on the walls of every Temple Court in Europe."
"It will not need," said the Lady Rowena, breaking silence; "my voice shall be heard, if no other in this hall is raised on behalf of the absent Ivanhoe. I affirm he will meet fairly every honourable challenge, and I would pledge name and fame that Ivanhoe gives this proud knight the meeting he desires."
"Lady," said Cedric, "this beseems not; were further pledge necessary, I myself, justly offended as I am, would yet gage my honour for the honour of Ivanhoe."
The grace-cup was shortly after served round, and the guests marshalled to their sleeping apartment.
II.—The Disinherited Knight
The Passage of Arms, as it was called, which was to take place at Ashby, attracted universal attention, as champions of the first renown were to take the field in the presence of Prince John himself.
The laws of the tournament, proclaimed by the heralds, were briefly:
First, the five challengers were to undertake all comers.
Secondly, the general tournament in which all knights present might take part; and being divided into two bands of equal numbers, might fight it out manfully, until the signal was given by Prince John to cease the combat.
The challengers, headed by Brian de Bois-Guilbert, were all Normans, and Cedric saw, with keen feeling of dissatisfaction, the advantage they gained. No less than four parties of knights had gone down before the challengers, and Prince John began to talk about adjudging the prize to Bois-Guilbert, who had, with a single spear, overthrown two knights, and foiled a third.
But a new champion had entered the lists. His suit of armour was of steel, and the device on his shield was a young oak-tree pulled up by the roots, with the Spanish word Desdichado, signifying Disinherited. To the astonishment of all present he struck with the sharp end of his spear the shield of Brian de Bois-Guilbert until it rang again. Amazed at his presumption was the redoubted knight, whom he had thus defied to mortal combat.
"Have you confessed yourself, brother," said the Templar, "that you peril your life so frankly?"
"I am fitter to meet death than thou art," answered the Disinherited Knight.
"Then look your last upon the sun," said Bois-Guilbert; "for this night thou shalt sleep in paradise."
The champions closed in the centre of the lists with the shock of a thunderbolt. The Templar aimed at the centre of his antagonist's shield, and struck it so fair that his spear went to shivers, and the Disinherited Knight reeled in his saddle. On the other hand, that champion addressed his lance to his antagonist's helmet, and hit the Norman on the visor, where his lance's point kept hold of the bars. The girths of the Templar's saddle burst, and saddle, horse, and man rolled on the ground under a cloud of dust.
To extricate himself from the stirrups and fallen steed, was to the Templar scarce the work of a moment; and stung with madness, he drew his sword, and waved it in defiance of his conqueror. The Disinherited Knight sprung from his steed, and also unsheathed his sword. The marshals of the field, however, intervened, for the laws of the tournament did not permit this species of encounter, and Bois-Guilbert returned to his tent in an agony of rage and despair.
The Disinherited Knight then sounded a defiance to each of the challengers, and the four Normans each in his turn retired discomfited.
The acclamations of thousands applauded the unanimous award of the Prince and marshals, announcing that day's honours to the Disinherited Knight.
To Prince John's annoyance the champion declined either to raise his visor or to attend the evening banquet, pleading fatigue and the necessity of preparing for the morrow. As victor it was his privilege to name the lady, who, as Queen of Honour and of Love, was to preside over the next day's festival; and Prince John, having placed upon his lance a coronet of green satin, the Disinherited Knight rode slowly around the lists and paused beneath the balcony where Cedric and the Lady Rowena were placed. Then he deposited the coronet at the feet of the fair Rowena, while the populace shouted "Long live the Lady Rowena, the chosen and lawful Queen of Love and of Beauty!"
On the following morning the general tournament was proclaimed, and about fifty knights were ready upon each side, the Disinherited Knight leading one body, and Brian de Bois-Guilbert the other.
Prince John escorted Rowena to the seat of honour opposite his own, while the fairest ladies present crowded after her to obtain places as near as possible to their temporary sovereign.
It was not until the field became thin by the numbers on either side who had yielded themselves vanquished that the Templar and the Disinherited Knight at length encountered hand to hand, with all the fury that mortal animosity and rivalry of honour could inspire. Bois-Guilbert, however, was soon joined by two more knights, the gigantic Front-de-Boeuf, and the ponderous Athelstane, who, though a Saxon, had enlisted under the Norman—to Cedric's disgust. The masterly horsemanship of the Disinherited Knight enabled him for a few minutes to keep at sword's point his three antagonists, but it was evident that he must at last be overpowered.
An unexpected incident changed the fortune of the day. Among the ranks of the Disinherited Knight was a champion in black armour, who bore on his shield no device of any kind, and who, beyond beating off with seeming ease those who attacked him, evinced little interest in the combat.
On discovering the leader of his party so hard beset, this knight threw aside his apathy and came to his assistance like a thunderbolt, exclaiming in trumpet tones, "Desdichado, to the rescue!" It was high time; for, while the Disinherited Knight was pressing upon the Templar, Front-de-Boeuf had got nigh to him with his uplifted sword; but ere the blow could descend, the Black Knight dealt a blow on the head—and Front-de-Boeuf rolled to the ground, both horse and man equally stunned. The Black Knight then turned upon Athelstane, wrenched from the hand of the bulky Saxon the battle-axe which he wielded, and bestowed him such a blow on the crest that Athelstane also lay senseless on the field. Having achieved this double feat he retired calmly to the extremity of the lists, leaving his leader to cope as best he could with Brian de Bois-Guilbert. This was no longer matter of so much difficulty. The Templar's horse had bled much, and gave way under the shock of the Disinherited Knight's charge. Brian de Bois-Guilbert rolled on the field, and his antagonist, springing from horseback, waved his fatal sword over the Templar's head, and commanded him to yield. But Prince John saved him that mortification by putting an end to the conflict.
Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche. The Knight of the Black Armour having disappeared, the Disinherited Knight was named the champion of the day, and was conducted to the foot of that throne of honour which was occupied by Lady Rowena. His helmet having been removed, by order of the marshals, the well-formed, yet sun-burnt features of a young man of twenty-five were seen, and no sooner had Rowena beheld him than she uttered a faint shriek. Trembling with the violence of sudden emotion, she placed upon the drooping head of the victor the splendid chaplet which was the destined reward of the day.
The Knight stooped his head, and then, sinking down, lay prostrate at the feet of his lovely sovereign.
There was general consternation. Cedric, struck mute by the sudden appearance of his banished son, now rushed forward. The marshals hastened to undo Ivanhoe's armour, and finding that the head of a lance had penetrated his breastplate and inflicted a wound in his side, he was quickly removed from the lists.
III.—The Burning of Torquilstone
Cedric, Rowena, and Athelstane, returning home with their retinue from Ashby, were waylaid by Bois-Guilbert and his followers, and boldly carried off as prisoners to Torquilstone, Front-de-Boeuf's castle. In those lawless times these Norman nobles trusted thus to obtain a good ransom for Cedric and Athelstane, and to win Rowena for a bride. Ivanhoe, who, enfeebled by his wound, lay concealed in a litter, unknown to his father, was also taken.
But Gurth rallied the Saxon outlaws and yeomen of the neighbourhood to the rescue, the Black Knight of the tournament led the attacking party, and in spite of a ferocious defence Torquilstone was stormed. The Black Knight bore the wounded Ivanhoe in his arms from the burning castle, Rowena was saved by Cedric and Gurth, just as she had abandoned all hopes of life.
One turret was now in bright flames, which flashed out furiously from window and shot hole. But, in other parts, the great thickness of the walls resisted the progress of the flames, and there the rage of man still triumphed. The besiegers pursued the defenders of the castle from chamber to chamber, and satiated in their blood the vengeance which animated them against the soldiers of the tyrant Front-de-Boeuf. Most of the garrison resisted to the uttermost—few of them asked quarter—none received it.
The courtyard of the castle was soon the last scene of the contest. Here sat the fierce Templar mounted on horseback, with a remnant of the defenders, who fought with the utmost valour. Athelstane who, on the flight of the guard, had made his way into the ante-room and thence into the court, snatched a mace from the pavement, and rushed on the Templar's band striking in quick succession to the right and left: he was soon within two yards of Bois-Guilbert, whom he defied in his loudest tone.
But Athelstane was without armour, and a silken bonnet keeps out no steel blade. So trenchant was the Templar's weapon that it levelled the ill-fated Saxon to the earth.
Taking advantage of the dismay which was spread by the fall of Athelstane, and calling aloud, "Those who would save themselves, follow me!" the Templar pushed across the drawbridge, and then galloped off with his followers.
And now the towering flames surmounted every obstruction, and rose to the evening skies one huge and burning beacon. Tower after tower crashed down, with blazing roof and rafter, and the combatants were driven from the courtyard.
When the last turret gave way, the voice of Robin Hood was heard, "Shout, yeomen!—the den of tyrants is no more! Let each bring his spoil to our chosen place of rendezvous, and there at break of day will be made just partition among our own bands, together with our allies in this great deed of vengeance."
Cedric, ere he departed, earnestly entreated the Black Knight to accompany him to Rotherwood, "not as a guest, but as a son or brother."
"To Rotherwood will I come, brave Saxon," said the Knight, "and that speedily. Peradventure, when I come, I will ask such a boon as will put even thy generosity to the test."
"It is granted already," said Cedric, "were it to affect half my fortune. But my heart is oppressed with sadness, for the noble Athelstane is no more. I have but to say," he added, "that during the funeral rites I shall inhabit his castle of Coningsburgh—which will be open to all who choose to partake of the funeral banqueting."
Rowena waved a graceful adieu to the Black Knight, the Saxon bade God speed him, and on they moved through a wide glade of the forest.
At the castle of Coningsburgh all was a scene of busy commotion when the Black Knight, attended by Ivanhoe, who had muffled his face in his mantle, entered and was welcomed gravely by Cedric—by common consent the chief of the distinguished Saxon families present.
"I crave to remind you, noble Thane," said the Knight, "that when we last parted, you promised, for the service I had the fortune to render you, to grant me a boon."
"It is granted ere named, noble Knight," said Cedric; "yet, at this sad moment——"
"Of that also," said the Knight, "I have bethought me—but my time is brief—neither does it seem to me unfit that, in the grave of the noble Athelstane, we should deposit certain prejudices and hasty opinions."
"Sir Knight," said Cedric, colouring, "in that which concerns the honour of my house, it is scarce fitting a stranger should mingle."
"Nor do I wish to mingle," said the Knight, mildly, "unless you will admit me to have an interest. As yet you have known me but as the Black Knight—know me now as Richard Plantagenet, King of England. And now to my boon. I require of thee, as a man of thy word, to forgive and receive to thy paternal affection the good Knight, Wilfred of Ivanhoe."
"My father!—my father!" said Ivanhoe, prostrating himself at Cedric's feet, "grant me thy forgiveness."
"Thou hast it, my son," said Cedric, raising him up. "The son of Hereward knows how to keep his word, even when it has been passed to a Norman. Thou art about to speak, and I guess the topic. The Lady Rowena must complete two years mourning as for a betrothed husband. The ghost of Athelstane himself would stand before us to forbid such dishonour to his memory were it otherwise."
Scarce had Cedric spoken than the door flew open, and Athelstane, arrayed in the garments of the grave, stood before them, pale, haggard, and like something arisen from the dead!
"In the name of God," said Cedric, starting back, "if thou art mortal, speak! Living or dead, noble Athelstane, speak to Cedric!"
"I will," said the spectre, very composedly, "when I have collected breath. Alive, saidst thou? I am as much alive as he can be who has fed on bread and water for three days. I went down under the Templar's sword, stunned, indeed, but unwounded, for the blade struck me flatlings, being averted by the good mace with which I warded the blow. Others, of both sides, were beaten down and slaughtered above me, so that I never recovered my senses until I found myself in a coffin—an open one, by good luck—placed before the altar in church. But that villain Abbot has kept me a prisoner for three days and he shall hang on the top of this castle of Coningsburgh, in his cope and stole. I will be king in my own domains, and nowhere else. Cedric, I rise from the tomb a wiser man than I descended."
"My ward, Rowena," said Cedric—"you do not intend to desert her?"
"Father Cedric," said Athelstane, "be reasonable. The Lady Rowena cares not for me—she loves the little finger of my kinsman Wilfred's glove better than my whole person. There she stands to avouch it—nay, blush not, kinswoman, there is no shame in loving a courtly knight better than a country thane,—and do not laugh neither, Rowena, for grave-clothes and a thin visage are, God knows, no matter of merriment. Nay, as thou wilt needs laugh, I will find thee a better jest—Give me thy hand, or, rather, lend it me, for I but ask it in the way of friendship. Here, cousin Wilfred of Ivanhoe, in thy favour I renounce and abjure—Hey! our cousin Wilfred hath vanished!"
Ivanhoe had disappeared, and King Richard had gone also.
Ivanhoe hastened away at a secret message to fight once more with Brian de Bois-Guilbert, who had abducted a Jewish maiden named Rebecca, and spurned by Rebecca, Bois-Guilbert only escaped condemnation by the Grand Master of the Templars for his offence by admitting Rebecca to be a sorceress, and by challenging to mortal combat all who should dare to champion the high-souled and hapless Hebrew maid.
Bois-Guilbert fell in the lists as Ivanhoe approached, and, unscathed by the lance of his enemy, died a victim to the violence of his own contending passions.
Ivanhoe and King Richard (who had followed Wilfred) hastened back to Coningsburgh, and Cedric, finding his project for the union of Rowena and Athelstane at an end by the mutual dissent of both parties, soon gave his consent to the marriage of his ward Rowena and his son Wilfred of Ivanhoe.
The nuptials thus formally approved were celebrated in the noble Minster of York. The King himself attended, and the presence of high-born Normans, as well as Saxons, joined with the universal rejoicing of the lower orders, marked the marriage as a pledge of the future peace and harmony betwixt the two races.
* * * * *
Scott's success in portraying the character of Mary Stuart in "The Abbot" fired him with the desire of doing likewise with her great rival Elizabeth; and although history has modified his picture of the English Queen, the portrait still remains a vivid and in many respects a faithful likeness. In his preface to the first edition of "Kenilworth," which was published in January, 1821, Scott, referring to his delineation of Elizabeth, admits that he is a "Scottishman," and therefore may be pardoned for looking at his subject with certain prejudices. Another source of inspiration that led him to write the romance was the old ballad of "Cumnor Hall," in which the tale of Amy Robsart is told. Scott's genius for depicting the life and manners and customs of the Middle Ages, of visualising scenes of long-gone chivalry, is exhibited in "Kenilworth" as in none other of his works. In common also with all his historical novels, "Kenilworth" bears witness to its author's passion for historical truth.
The village of Cumnor, within three or four miles of Oxford, boasted in the eighteenth of Queen Elizabeth an excellent inn, conducted by Giles Gosling, whom no one excelled in his power of pleasing his guests of every description.
A traveller in the close of the evening was ushered, with much semblance of welcome, into a large, low chamber, where several persons were seated in different parties, some drinking, some playing cards, some conversing.
The host soon recognised, without satisfaction, his graceless nephew, Michael Lambourne, who had not been heard of for long years; but, saying his sister's son should be called to no reckoning in his house, he heartily invited all who would to join them at supper in honour of his nephew's return. Many present remembered him as a school companion, and so forth, and, encouraged by the precept and example of Michael Lambourne, they soon passed the limits of temperance, as was evident from the bursts of laughter with which his inquiries after old acquaintances were answered. Giles Gosling made some sort of apology to a solitary guest who had sat apart for their license; they would be to-morrow a set of painstaking mechanics, and so forth, though to-night they were such would-be rufflers, and prevailed on him to join them.
Most of Michael's old friends seemed to have come to some sad end, but one, Tony Foster, for whom he inquired had married, and become a good Protestant, and held his head high, and scorned his old companions. He now dwelt at Cumnor Place, an old mansion house, and had nothing to do with anybody in Cumnor, not entirely from pride; it was said there was a fair lady in the case.
Here Tressilian, the guest, who had sat apart, intervened in the conversation, and was informed that Foster had a beautiful lady closely mewed up at Cumnor Place, and would scarcely let her look upon the light of day.
Michael Lambourne at once wagered that he would force Tony Foster to introduce him to his fair guest, and Tressilian asked permission to accompany him, to mark the skill end valour with which he should conduct himself, and, in spite of the host's warnings, the next morning they set off together to Anthony Foster's dwelling.
Michael Lambourne soon let Tressilian know that he suspected other motives than simple curiosity had led him, a gentleman of birth and breeding, into the company of such a scant-of-grace as himself, and owned that he expected both pleasure and profit from his visit.
They found the gate open, and passed up an avenue overshadowed by old trees, untrimmed for many years. Everything was in a dilapidated condition. After some delay, they were introduced into a stone-paved parlour, where they had to wait some time before the present master of the mansion made his appearance. He looked to Tressilian for an explanation of this visit, so true was Lambourne's observation that the superior air of breeding and dignity shone through the disguise of an inferior dress. But it was Michael who replied to him, with the easy familiarity of an old friend, and though Foster at first made it obvious that he had no wish to renew the acquaintance, in a few minutes he requested him to follow him to another apartment, and the two worthies left the room, leaving Tressilian alone.
His dark eyes followed them with a glance of contempt, some of which was for himself for having stooped for a moment to be their familiar companion. A slight noise interrupted his reverie. He looked round, and in the beautiful and richly attired female who entered he recognised the object of his search. His first impulse urged him to conceal his face in the cloak, but the young lady (she was not above eighteen years old) ran joyfully towards him, and, pulling him by the cloak, said playfully:
"Nay, my sweet friend, after I have waited for you so long, you come not to my bower to play the masquer."
"Alas, Amy," said Tressilian, in a low and melancholy voice. Then, as she turned pale as death, he added: "Amy, fear me not."
"Why should I fear you?" said the lady; "or wherefore have you intruded yourself into my dwelling, uninvited, sir, and unwished for?"
"Your dwelling, Amy?" said Tressilian. "Alas! is a prison your dwelling? A prison, guarded by the most sordid of men, but not a greater wretch than his employer?"
"This house is mine," said Amy, "mine while I choose to inhabit it. If it is my pleasure to live in seclusion, who shall gainsay me?"
"Your father, maiden," answered Tressilian, "your broken-hearted father, who dispatched me in quest of you with that authority which he cannot exert in person."
"Tressilian," said the lady, "I cannot—I must not—I dare not leave this place! Go back to my father. Tell him I will obtain leave to see him within twelve hours from hence. Tell him I am well—I am happy. Go, carry him the news. I come as sure as there is light in heaven—that is, when I obtain permission."
"Permission? Permission to visit your father on his sick-bed, perhaps on his death-bed?" repeated Tressilian impatiently. "And permission from whom? Amy, in the name of thy broken-hearted father, I command thee to follow me!"
As he spoke, he advanced and extended his arm, as with the purpose of laying hold upon her. But she shrunk back from his grasp, and uttered a scream which brought into the apartment Lambourne and Foster.
"Madam, fare you well!" said Tressilian. "What life lingers in your father's bosom will leave him at the news I have to tell."
He departed, the lady saying faintly as he left the room:
"Tressilian, be not rash. Say no scandal of me."
Tressilian pursued the first path through the wild and overgrown park in which the mansion of Foster was situated. At the postern, a cavalier, muffled in his riding cloak, entered, and stood at once within four yards of him who was desirous of going out. They exclaimed, in tons of resentment and surprise, the one "Varney!" the other, "Tressilian!"
"What takes you here?" said Tressilian. "Are you come to triumph over the innocence you have destroyed? Draw, dog, and defend thyself!"
Tressilian drew his sword as he spoke, but Varney only replied:
"Thou art mad, Tressilian! I own appearances are against me, but by every oath Mistress Amy Robsart hath no injury from me!"
Tressilian forced him to draw, and Varney received a fall so sudden and violent that his sword flew several paces from his hand. Lambourne came up just in time to save the life of Varney, and Tressilian perceived it was madness to press the quarrel further against such odds.
"Varney, we shall meet where there are none to come betwixt us!"
So saying, he turned round, and departed through the postern door.
Varney, left alone, gave vent to his meditations in broken words. "She loves me not—I would it were as true that I loved not her! But she must not leave this retreat until I am assured on what terms we are to stand. My lord's interest—and so far it is mine own, for if he sinks I fall in his train—demands concealment of this obscure marriage."
II.—The Earl and the Countess
At first, when the Earl of Leicester paid frequent visits to Cumnor, the Countess was reconciled to the solitude to which she was condemned. But when these visits became rarer and more rare, the brief letters of excuse did not keep out discontent and suspicion from the splendid apartments which love had once fitted up for beauty. Her answers to Leicester conveyed these feelings too bluntly, and pressed more naturally than prudently that she might be relieved from the obscure and secluded residence, by the Earl's acknowledgement of their marriage.
"I have made her Countess," Leicester said to his henchman Varney; "surely she might wait till it consisted with my pleasure that she should put on the coronet?"
The Countess Amy viewed the subject in directly an opposite light.
"What signifies," she said, "that I have rank and honour in reality, if I am to live an obscure prisoner, without either society or observance, and suffering in my character, as one of dubious or disgraced reputation?"
Leicester, high in Elizabeth's favour, dared not avow his marriage, and Varney was always at hand to paint the full and utter disgrace that would overwhelm him at the Court were the marriage known, and to spur his ambition to avoid the ruin of his fortunes.
Varney even prompted Leicester to invite the Countess to pass as Varney's wife, lest Elizabeth's jealousy should be aroused, and this suggestion and the knowledge that Varney desired her for himself (for he made no secret of his passion), drove the Countess to escape from Cumnor and to seek her husband at Kenilworth, Janet Foster, her faithful attendant, at first suggested that the Countess should return home to her father, Sir Hugh Robsart, at Lidcote Hall, in Devonshire.
"No, Janet," said the lady mournfully; "I left Lidcote Hall while my heart was light and my name was honourable, and I will not return thither till my lord's public acknowledgement of our marriage restore me to my native home with all the rank and honour which he has bestowed on me. I will go to Kenilworth, girl. I will see these revels—these princely revels—the preparation for which makes the land ring from side to side. Methinks, when the Queen of England feasts within my husband's halls, the Countess of Leicester should be no unbeseeming guest."
"Dearest madam," said the maiden, "have you forgotten that the noble Earl has given such strict charges to keep your marriage secret, that he may preserve his Court favour? And can you think that your sudden appearance at his castle, at such a juncture, and in such a presence, will be acceptable to him?"
"I will appeal to my husband alone, Janet. I will be protected by him alone. I will see him, and receive from his own lips the directions for my future conduct. Do not argue against my resolution. And to own the truth, I am resolved to know my fate at once, and from my husband's own mouth; and to seek him at Kenilworth is the surest way to attain my purpose."
"May the blessing of God wend with you, madam," said Janet, kissing her mistress's hand.
With pomp and magnificence, Leicester entertained the Queen at the Castle of Kenilworth. Of the Countess he saw nothing for some days, and Varney let it be thought that the unhappy lady who had made her way into the castle was his wife, while Amy, mindful of the alarm which Leicester had expressed at the Queen's knowing aught of their union, kept out of the way of her sovereign.
Then, on one memorable morning, when a hunt had been arranged, Leicester escorted the Queen to the castle garden, with another chase in view. Without premeditation, but urged on by vanity and ambition, his importunity became the language of love itself.
"No, Dudley," said Elizabeth, yet with broken accents. "No, I must be the mother of my people. Urge it no more, Leicester. Were I, as others, free to seek my own happiness, then indeed—but it cannot be. It is madness, and must not be repeated. Leave me. Go, but go not far from hence; and meantime let no one intrude on my privacy."
The Queen turned into a grotto in which her hapless, and yet but too successful, rival lay concealed, and presently became aware of a female figure beside an alabaster column.
The unfortunate countess dropped on her knee before the queen, and looked up in the queen's face with such a mixed agony of fear and supplication, that Elizabeth was considerably affected.
"What may this mean?" she said. "Stand up, damsel, what wouldst thou have with us?"
"Your protection, madam," faltered the unfortunate countess. "I request—I implore—your gracious protection—against—against one Varney!"
"What, Varney—Sir Richard Varney—the servant of Lord Leicester? What are you to him, or he to you?"
"I was his prisoner, and I broke forth to—to—"
Amy hastily endeavoured to recall what were best to say which might save her from Varney without endangering her husband.
"To throw thyself on my protection, doubtless," said Elizabeth. "Thou art Amy, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart. I must wring the story from thee by inches. Thou didst leave thine old and honoured father, cheat Master Tressilian of thy love, and marry this same Varney."
Amy sprung on her feet, and interrupted the queen eagerly with: "No, madam, no! As there is a God above us, I am not the wife of that contemptible slave—of that most deliberate villain! I am not the wife of Varney! I would rather be the bride of Destruction!"
The queen, startled by Amy's vehemence, replied: "Why, God, ha' mercy, woman! Tell me, for I will know, whose wife, or whose paramour, art thou? Speak out, and be speedy. Thou wert better dally with a lioness than with Elizabeth!"
Urged to this extremity, Amy at length uttered in despair: "The Earl of Leicester knows it all!"
"The Earl of Leicester!" said Elizabeth, in astonishment. "The Earl of Leicester! Come with me instantly!"
As Amy shrunk back with terror, Elizabeth seized on her arm, and dragged the terrified countess to where Leicester stood—the centre of a splendid group of lords and ladies.
"Stand forth, my Lord of Leicester!" cried the queen.
Amy, thinking her husband in danger from the rage of an offended Sovereign, instantly forgot her own wrongs, and throwing herself before the queen, exclaimed, "He is guiltless, madam—he is guiltless; no one can lay aught to the charge of noble Leicester!"
"Why, minion," answered the queen, "didst not thou thyself say that the Earl of Leicester was privy to thy whole history?"
At that moment Varney rushed into the presence, with every mark of disorder.
"What means this saucy intrusion?" said Elizabeth.
Varney could only prostrate himself before her feet, exclaiming: "Pardon, my Liege, pardon! Or let your justice avenge itself on me; but spare my noble, my generous, my innocent patron and master!"
Amy started up at the sight of the man she deemed most odious so near her, and besought the queen to save her from "that most shameless villain!" "I shall go mad if I look longer on him."
"Beshrew me, but I think thou art distraught already," answered the queen. Then she bade Lord Hunsdon, a blunt, warm-hearted old noble, "Look to this poor distressed young woman, and let her be safely bestowed, till we require her to be forthcoming."
"By our Lady," said Hunsdon, taking in his strong arms the swooning form of Amy, "she is a lovely child! And though a rough nurse, your Grace hath given her a kind one. She is safe with me as one of my own ladybirds of daughters."
So saying he carried her off, and the queen followed him with her eye, and then turned angrily to Varney, for Leicester stared gloomily on the ground.
"Speak, Sir Richard, and explain these riddles."
"Your Majesty's piercing eye," said Varney, "has already detected the cruel malady of my beloved lady. It is the nature of persons in her disorder, so please your Grace, to be ever most inveterate in their spleen against those whom, in their better moments, they hold nearest and dearest. May your Grace then be pleased to command my unfortunate wife to be delivered into the custody of my friends?"
Leicester partly started, but making a stronger effort, he subdued his emotion, while Elizabeth answered sharply, that her own physician should report on the lady's health.
That night Leicester sought the countess in her apartment, and would have avowed his marriage to the queen, but for Varney's influence. Finding all other argument vain, Varney finally urged that the countess was in love with Tressilian, and mentioned that he had seen him at Cumnor. Leicester allowed his mind to be poisoned, and was silent when, on the Queen's physician declaring Lady Varney to be sullen and the victim of fancies, Elizabeth answered, "Nay, then away with her all speed. Let Varney care for her with fitting humanity, but let them rid the castle of her forthwith."
IV.—The Death of the Countess
Armed with the authority of Leicester's signet-ring Varney induced the countess to leave Kenilworth for Cumnor, declaring that the earl had ordered it for his own safety. But no sooner was the lady gone than Leicester repented of the consent Varney had wrested from him. An interview with Tressilian and the recovery of a letter written by Amy at Cumnor revealed all Varney's villainy. Too late he acknowledged his marriage to the queen, and when the fury of Elizabeth's anger had somewhat subsided, she ordered Tressilian and Sir Walter Raleigh to repair at once to Cumnor, bring the countess to Kenilworth, and secure the body of Richard Varney, dead or alive.
But Varney's fell purpose had already decided that the countess must be got rid of. A part of the wooden gallery immediately outside her door was really a trap-door, and beneath it was an abyss dark as pitch. This trap-door remained secure in appearance even when the supports were withdrawn beneath it.
"Were the lady to attempt an escape over it," said Varney, to his accomplice Foster, who held the house by Varney's favour, "her weight would carry her down."
"A mouse's weight would do it," Foster answered.
"Why, then, she die in attempting her escape, and what could you or I help it? Let us, to bed; we will adjust our project to-morrow."
On the next day, when evening approached, Varney summoned Foster to the execution of their plan. Foster himself, as if anxious to see that the countess suffered no want of accommodations, visited her place of confinement. He was so much staggered at her mildness and patience, that he could not help earnestly recommending to her not to cross the threshold on any account until Lord Leicester should come. Amy promised that she would resign herself to her fate, and Foster returned to his hardened companion with his conscience half-eased of the perilous load that weighed on it. "I have warned her," he said; "surely in vain is the snare set in the sight of any bird!"
He left the countess's door unsecured on the outside, and, under the eye of Varney, withdrew the supports which sustained the falling trap, which, therefore, kept its level position merely by a slight adhesion. They withdrew to wait the issue on the ground floor adjoining; but they waited long in vain.
"Perhaps she is resolved," said Foster, "to await her husband's return."
"True! Most true!" said Varney, rushing out; "I had not thought of that before."
In less than two minutes, Foster, who remained behind, heard the tread of a horse in the courtyard, and then a whistle similar to that which was the earl's usual signal. The instant after the door to the countess's chamber opened, and in the same moment the trap-door gave way. There was a rushing sound—a heavy fall—a faint groan, and all was over.
At the same instant Varney called in at the window, "Is the bird caught? Is the deed done?"
"O God, forgive us!" replied Foster.
"Why, thou fool," said Varney, "thy toil is ended, and thy reward secure. Look down into the vault—what seest thou?"
"I see only a heap of clothes, like a snowdrift," said Foster. "O God, she moves her arm!"
"Hurl something down on her."
"Varney, thou art an incarnate fiend!" replied Foster. "There needs nothing more—she is gone!"
"So pass our troubles," said Varney; "I dreamed not I could have mimicked the earl's call so well."
While they were at this consultation Tressilian and Raleigh broke in upon them. Foster fled at their entrance, and escaped all search. He perished miserably in a secret passage, behind an iron door, forgetting the key of the spring-clock, and years later his skeleton was discovered.