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wish had been the sole foundation of his proposals to Wallace. And his interview with Lady Helen, though so intemperately conducted, was dictated by the same subtle policy.
When Gloucester found the impossibility of obtaining any further respite from the murderous decree, he attempted to prevail for the remission of the last clause, which ordered that his friend's noble body should be dismembered, and his limbs sent as terrors to rebellion to the four capital fortresses of Scotland. Edward spurned at this petition with even more acrimony than he had done the prayers for his victim's life, and Gloucester, then starting from his knee, in a burst of honest indignation exclaimed, “Oh! king, remember what is done by thee this day. Refusing to give righteous judgment in favor of one who prefers virtue to a crown and life! As insincere, as secret, have been your last conditions with him, but they will be revealed when the great Judge that searcheth all men's hearts shall cause thee to answer for this matter at the dreadful day of universal doom. Thou hast now given sentence on a patriot and a prince, and then shall judgment be given on thee!”
“Dangerous indeed is his rebellious spirit,” cried Edward, in almost speechless wrath, “ since it affects even the duty of my own house! Gloucester, leave my presence, and on pain of your own death dare not to approach me till I send for you, to see this rebel's head on London Bridge!”
To disappoint the revengeful monarch of at least this object of his malice, Gloucester was now resolved, and imparting his wishes to the warden of the Tower, who was his trusty friend, he laid a plan accordingly.
Helen had believed his declaration to her, and bowed her head in sign that she was satisfied with his zeal. The earl, addressing Wallace, continued, “ Could I have purchased thy life, thou preserver of mine, with the forfeiture of all I possegg I should have rejoiced in the exchange. But as that may not be, is there aught in the world which I can do to administer to thy wishes ?”
"Generous Gloucester!” exclaimed Wallace,“ how unwearied has been your friendship! But I shall not tax it much further. I was writing my last wishes when this angel entered my apartment; she will now be the voice of William Wallace to his friends. But still I must make one request to you - one which I trust will not be out of your power. Let this heart,
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ever faithful to Scotland, be at least buried in its native country. When I cease to breathe, give it to Helen, and she will mingle it with the sacred dust of those I love. For herself, dear, Gloucester! ah! guard the vestal purity and life of my best beloved ! for there are those who, when I am gone, may threaten both.”
Gloucester, who knew that, in this apprehension, Wallace meant the Lords Soulis and De Valence, pledged himself for the performance of his first request; and for the second, he assured him he would protect Helen as a sister.
But she, regardless of all other evils than that of being severed from her dearest and best friend, exclaimed in bitter sorrow, “ Whereever I am, still and forever shall all of Wallace that remains on earth be with me. He gave himself to me and no mortal power shall divide us !”
Gloucester could not reply before the voice of the warden, calling to him that the hour of shutting the gates was arrived, compelled him to bid his friend farewell. He grasped the hand of Wallace with a strong emotion, for he knew that the next time he should meet him would be on the scaffold. During the moments of his parting, Helen, with her hands clasped on her knees, and her eyes bent downward, inwardly and earnestly invoked the Almighty to endow her with fortitude to bear the horrors she was to witness, that she might not, by her agonies, add to the tortures of Wallace.
The cheering voice, that was ever music to her ears, recalled her from this devout abstraction. He laid his hand on hers, and gazing on her with a tender pity, held such sweet discourse with her on the approaching end of all his troubles, of his everlasting happiness, where “all tears are dried away!” that she listened, and wept, and even smiled. “ Yes,” added he, “a little while, and my virgin bride shall give me her dear embrace in heaven; angels will participate our joy, and my Marion's grateful spirit join the blessed communion! She died to preserve my life ; you suffered a living death to maintain my honor! Can I then divide ye, noblest of created beings, in my soul? Take then, my heart's kiss, dear Helen, thy Wallace's last earthly kiss!” She bent toward him, and fixed her lips to his. It was the first time they had met; his parting words still hung on them, and an icy cold ran through all her veins. She felt his heart beat heavily against hers, as he said, “I have not many hours to be with thee, and yet a strange lethargy overpowers my senses ; but I shall speak to thee again!” He looked on her, as he spoke, with such a glance of holy love, that not doubting he was now bidding her, indeed, his last farewell, that he was to pass from this sleep out of the power of man, she pressed his hand without a word, and as he dropped his head back upon his straw pillow, with an awed spirit she saw him sink to profound repose.
(From “ The Scottish Chiefs.") LONG and silently had she watched his rest.
So gentle was his breath, that he scarcely seemed to breathe ; and often, during her sad vigils, did she stoop her cheek to feel the respiration which might still bear witness that his outraged spirit was yet fettered to earth. She tremblingly placed her hand on his heart, and still its warm beat spake comfort to hers. The soul of Wallace, as well as his beloved body, was yet clasped in her arms. “ The arms of a sister enfold thee," murmured she to herself; "they would gladly bear thee up, to lay thee on the bosom of thy martyred wife; and there, how wouldst thou smile upon and bless me! And shall we not meet so before the throne of Him whose name is Truth?”
The first rays of the dawn shone upon his peaceful face just as the door opened, and a priest appeared. He held in his hands the sacred host, and the golden dove, for performing the rites of the dying. At this sight, the harbinger of a fearful doom, the fortitude of Helen forsook her; and throwing her arms frantically over the sleeping Wallace, she exclaimed, " He is dead! his sacrament is now with the Lord of Mercy!” Her voice awakened Wallace; he started from his position; and Helen, seeing with a wild sort of disappointment that he, whose gliding to death in his sleep she had even so lately deprecated, now, indeed, lived to mount the scaffold, in unutterable horror, fell back with a heavy groan.
Wallace accosted the priest with a reverential welcome; and then turning to Helen, tenderly whispered her, “My Helen! in this moment, of my last on earth, 0! engrave on thy heart, that — in the sacred words of the patriarch of Israel - I remember thee, in the kindness of thy youth! in the love of thy desolate espousals to me! when thou camest after me into the wilderness, into a land that thou didst not know, and comforted me! And, shalt thou not, my soul's bride, be sacred unto our Lord ? the Lord of the widow and the orphan! To Him I commit thee; in steadfast faith, that He will never forsake thee! Then, 0 dearest part of myself, let not the completion of my fate shake your dependence on the only True and Just! Rejoice, that Wallace has been deemed worthy to die for having done his duty. And what is death, my Helen, that we should shun it, even to rebelling against the Lord of Life? Is it not the door which opens to us immortality ? and in that blest moment who will regret that he passed through it in the bloom of his years ? Come, then, sister of my soul, and share with thy Wallace the last supper of his Lord; the pledge of the happy eternity to which, by His grace, I now ascend!”
Helen, conscience-struck and reawakened to holy confidence by the heavenly composure of his manner, obeyed the impulse of his hand, and they both knelt before the minister of peace. While the sacred rite proceeded, it seemed the indissoluble union of Helen's spirit with that of Wallace : “My life will expire with his !” was her secret response to the venerable man's exhortation to the anticipated passing soul; and when he sealed Wallace with the holy cross, under the last unction, as one who believed herself standing on the brink of eternity, she longed to share also that mark of death. At that moment the dismal toll of a bell sounded from the top of the Tower. The heart of Helen paused. The warden and his train entered. “I will follow him,” cried she, starting from her knees, “ into the grave itself !”
What was said, what was done, she knew not, till she found herself on the scaffold, upheld by the arm of Gloucester. Wallace stood before her, with his hands bound across and his noble head uncovered. His eyes were turned upward, with a martyr's confidence in the Power he served. A silence, as of some desert waste, reigned throughout the thousands who stood below. The executioner approached to throw the rope over the neck of his victim. At this sight Helen, with a cry that was re-echoed by the compassionate spectators, rushed to his bosom. Wallace, with a mighty strength, burst the bands asunder which confined his arms, and, clasping her to him with a force that seemed to make her touch his very heart, his breast heaved as if his soul were breaking from his outraged tenement; and, while his head sunk on her neck, he exclaimed, in a low and interrupted voice,