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body, which was once its vestment, lies mouldering in the earth.
Gloucester contemplated this chaste union of two spotless hearts, with an admiration almost amounting to devotion. “Noble lady,” said he, “ the message that I came to impart to Sir William Wallace bears with it a show of hope; and I trust that your gentle spirit will yet be as persuasive, as consolatory. A deputation has just arrived from our border-counties, headed by the good Barons De Hilton and De Blenkinsopp, praying the royal mercy for their gallant foe, who had been most generous to them, they set forth, in their extremity. And the king was listening to them, with what temper I know not, when a private embassy, as opportunely, made its appearance from France, on the same errand; in short, to negotiate with Edward for the safety of our friend, as a prince of that realm. I left the embassadors,” continued the earl, turning to Wallace, “ in debate with his Majesty ; and he has at length granted a suspension — nay, has even promised a repeal — of the horrible injustice that was to be completed to-morrow, if you can be brought to accord with certain proposals, now to be laid before you. Accept them, and Edward will comply with all King Philip's demands in your behalf."
“ Then you will accept them!” cried Helen, in a tumult of suspense. The communication of Gloucester had made no change in the equable pulse of Wallace; and he replied, with a look of tender pity upon her animated countenance,“ The proposals of Edward are too likely to be snares for that honor which I would bear with me uncontaminated to the grave. Therefore, dearest consoler of my last hours, do not give way to hopes which a greater King than Edward may command me to disappoint.” Helen bowed her head in silence. The color again faded from her cheek, and despair once more seized on her heart.
Gloucester resumed; and, after narrating some particulars concerning the conference between the king and the embassadors, he suggested the impracticability of secretly retaining Lady Helen, for any length of time, in the state dungeon. “I dare not,” continued he, “ be privy to her presence here, and yet conceal it from the king. I know not what messengers he may send to impart his conditions to you ; and should she be discovered, Edward, doubly incensed, would tear her from you; and as an accessory, so involve me in his displeasure that I should be disabled from serving either of you further. Were I so to honor his feelings as a man as to mention it to him, I do not believe that he would oppose her wishes; but how to reveal such a circumstance with any regard to her fair fame, I know not; for all are not sufficiently virtuous to believe her spotless innocence.” Helen hastily interrupted Gloucester, and with firmness said : “ When I entered these walls the world and I parted forever. The good or the evil opinion of the impure in heart can never affect me; they shall never see me more. The innocent will judge me by themselves, and by the end of my race. I came to minister with a sister's duty to my own and my father's preserver; and while he abides here, I will nerer consent to leave his feet. When he goes hence, if it be to bless mankind again, I shall find the longest life too short to pour forth all my gratitude; and for that purpose I will dedicate myself in some nunnery of my native land. But should he be taken from a world so unworthy of him, soon, very soon, I shall cease to feel its aspersions in the grave!”
“No aspersions which I can avert, dearest Helen,” cried Wallace," shall ever tarnish the fame of one whose purity can only be transcended by her who is now made perfect in heaven ! Consent, noblest of women, to wear for the few days I may yet linger here, a name which thy sister angel has sanctified to me. Give me a legal right to call you mine, and Edward himself will not then dare to divide what God has joined together!”
Helen paused — even her heart seemed to cease its pulsation in the awful moment. Did she hear aright? and was she indeed going to invade the rights of the wife she had so often vowed to regard as the sole object of Wallace's dearest wishes ? Oh, no; it was not the lover that shone in his luminous eyes; it was not the mistress that glowed in her bosom. Words might be breathed; but no change would be wrought in the souls of them who were already separated from the earth. With these thoughts Helen turned toward Wallace; she attempted to answer, but the words died on the seraphic smile which beamed upon her lips, and she dropped her head upon his breast.
Gloucester, who saw no other means of insuring to his friend the comfort of her society, was rejoiced at this mutual resolution. He had longed to propose it; but considering the peculiarities of their situation, knew not how to do so without seeming to mock their sensibility and fate. It was now near midnight; and having read the consent of Helen in the tender emotion which denied her speech, without further delay he quitted the apartment to summon the confessor of the warden to unite their hands.
On his re-entrance he found Helen sitting, dissolved in tears, with her hand clasped in her friend's. The sacred rite was soon performed which endowed her with all the claims upon Wallace which her devoted heart had so long contemplated with resigned hopelessness — to be his helpmate on earth, his partner in the tomb, his dear companion in heaven! With the last benediction she threw herself on her knees before him, and put his hand to her lips in eloquent silence. Gloucester, with a look of kind farewell, withdrew with the priest.
“ Thou noble daughter of the noblest Scot!” said Wallace, raising her from the ground,“ this bosom is thy place, and not my feet. Long it will not be given me to hold thee here; but even in the hours or years of our separation my spirit will hover near thee, to bear thine to our everlasting home.”
The heart of Helen alternately beat violently, and stopped, as if the vital currents were suddenly impeded. Hope and fear agitated her by turns; but clinging to the flattering ideas which the arrival of the embassadors had excited, she timidly breathed a hope that, by the present interference of King Philip, Edward might not be found inexorable.
“ Disturb not the holy composure of your soul by such an expectation,” returned Wallace; “I know my adversary too well to anticipate his relinquishing the object of his vengeance but at a price more infamous than the most ignoble death. Therefore, best-beloved of all on earth ! look for no deliverance for thy Wallace but what passes through the grave; and to me, dearest Helen, its gates are on golden hinges turning; for all is light and bliss which shines on me from within their courts !”
Helen's thoughts, in the idea of his being torn from her, could not wrest themselves from the direful images of his execution : she shuddered, and in faltering accents replied, " Ah! could we glide from sleep into so blessed a death, I would hail it even for thee! But the threatened horrors, should they fall on thy sacred head, will in that hour, I trust, also divorce my soul from this grievous world!”
“ Not so, my Helen,” returned he, “keep not thy dear eyes forever fixed on the gloomy appendages of death. The scaffold and the grave have naught to do with the immortal soul; it can not be wounded by the one nor confined by the other. And is not the soul thy full and perfect Wallace? It is that which now speaks to thee — which will cherish thy beloved ideal forerer. Lament not, then, how soon this body, its mere apparel, is laid down in the dust. But rejoice still in my existence, which, through Him who led captivity captive,' will never know a pause! Comfort then thy heart, my soul's dear sister, and sojourn a little while on this earth, to bear witness for thy Wallace to the friends he loves.”
Helen, who felt the import of his words in her heart, gently bowed her head, and he proceeded :
“ As the first who stemmed with me the torrent which, with God's help, we so often laid into a calm, I mention to you my faithful men of Lanark. Many of them bled and died in the contest; and to their orphans, with the children of those who yet survive, I consign all of the world's wealth that yet belongs to William Wallace: Ellerslie and its estates are theirs. To Bruce, my sovereign and my friend — the loved companion of the hour in which I freed you, my Helen, from the arms of violence! to him I bequeath this heart, knit to him by bonds more dear than even loyalty. Bear it to him; and when he is summoned to his heavenly throne, then let his heart and mine fill up one urn. To Lord Ruthven, to Bothwell, to Lockhart, to Scrymgeour, and to Kirkpatrick I give my prayers and blessings."
Here Wallace paused. Helen had listened to him with a holy attention, which hardly allowed a sigh to breathe from her steadfast heart. She spoke; but the voice was scarcely audible. “ And what for him who loves you dearer than life — for Edwin ? He can not be forgotten !” Wallace started at this: then she was ignorant of the death of that too faithful friend! In a hurrying accent he replied, “Never forgotten! Oh, Helen. J asked for him life; and Heaven gave him long life, even for ever and ever!” Helen's eyes met his with a look of inquiry : “ That would mean he is gone before you?” The countenance of Wallace answered her. “Happy Edwin!” cried she, and the tears rained over her cheeks as she bent her head on her arms. Wallace continued: “ He laid down his life to preserve mine in the hovel of Lumloch. The false Monteith could get no Scot to lay hands on their true defender; and even the foreign ruffians he brought to the task might have spared the noble boy, but an arrow from the traitor himself pierced his heart. Con
This bequest of Wallace is a fact.
tention was then no more, and I resigned myself, to follow him.”
“What a desert does the world become !” exclaimed Helen; then turning to Wallace with a saint-like smile, she added, “1 would hardly now withhold you. You will bear him Helen's love, and tell him how soon I shall be with you. If our Father will not allow my heart to break, in His mercy He may take my soul in the prayers which I shall hourly breathe to Him!” “ Thou hast been lent to me as my sweet consolation here, my Helen,” replied he; " and the Almighty Dispenser of that comfort will not long banish you from the object of your innocent wishes."
While they thus poured into each other's bosoms the ineffable balm of friendship's purest tenderness, the eyes of Wallace insensibly closed. “Your gentle influence,” gently murmured he, “ brings that sleep to my eyelids which has not visited them since I first entered these walls. Like my Marion, Helen, thy presence brings healing on its wings.” “Sleep, then," replied she," and Marion's angel spirit will keep watch with mine.”
THE STATE DUNGEON.
(From “The Scottish Chiefs.") Though all the furies of the elements secmed let loose to rage around the walls of the dungeon, still Wallace slept in the loud uproar. Calm was within ; and the warfare of the world could not disturb the balmy rest into which the angel of peace had steeped his senses. From this profound repose he was awakened by the entrance of Gloucester. Helen had just sunk into a slight slumber ; but the first words of the earl aroused her, and rising, she followed her beloved Wallace to his side.
Gloucester put a scroll into the hand of Wallace: - Sign that,” said he, “and you are free. I know not its contents ; but the king commissioned me, as a mark of his grace, to be the messenger of your release.”
Wallace read the conditions, and the color deepened on his cheek as his eye met each article. “He was to reveal the asylum of Bruce; to forswear Scotland forever; and to take an oath of allegiance to Edward, the seal of which should be the English earldom of Cleveland !” Wallace closed the parchment. “King Edward knows what will be my reply, I need not speak it.” “ You will accept his terms?” asked the earl.