INSCRIBED TO HIS GRACE THE
DUKE OF BUCCLEUGH.
BY ANNA MARIA JOHNSON,
AUTHOR OF CALISTA, A NOVEL, &c.
Mark but my fall, and that which ruin’d me.
——————————Fling away ambition;
By that sin fell the angels: how can man, then,
(The poor weak image of his Maker) hope
To win by it. SHAKSPEARE.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
PRINTED FOR W. LANE, LEADENHALL STREET.
"WE now hastened to Bridgewater, where the inhabitants received us as their sole dependance; and, with regret I communicated my wishes for the assistance which I dreaded would be insufficient;—but the Earl, ever prudent, begged me to wait till our forces were strengthened equal to the attack; I coincided in his opinion, and took measures for informing our deliverer of our safety—our intention of endeavouring to free the Duchess, and our desire to gain intelligence of her welfare. His answer again raised that maddening rage, which disappointment is too apt to enkindle in sanguine dispositions.
"I GRIEVE," he said, "to tell my Lord, that his Lady is taken from hence; Lord HOWARD conveyed her in his barge down the Medway, and it is imagined they are to go by sea, to the Castle I mentioned in my last, which cannot be done till a vessel is provided for that purpose, the commander of which is my firm friend. He last week received orders to lie in waiting off Sheerness; yet, instigated by my entreaties, he has delayed the voyage under some plausible pretence, but can do so no longer. Hasten then, my Lord, to rescue your noble Duchess—you will know the ship, by a griffin carved on her stern, between the cabin windows: she is called the Swift."—The letter finished with particular directions for securing the arch-fiend, and perfectly coincided with my frantic hope of a terrible revenge.
"WE immediately hastened to Dover, after crossing the country by an obscure rout, where I hired a boat in the name of Capt. SLOANE, under the pretence of making a little excursion, and attended by a small party of valiant fellows, whom I had engaged at Bridgewater, navigated her to Sheerness. My impatience was ungovernable, to find the ship had sailed only two days before. "Now then," I cried, "she is indeed lost for ever—monster—villain—ingrate—but I will pursue him—he shall not evade my fury. Let us depart, my friend—ANTHONY has furnished us with ample means for discovering the black abode, where beauty, innocence and love, must fall a sacrifice to horrid cruelty."
"AND is this," said ARGYLE, "the prudence of a man who is every where proscribed, whose situation is so dangerous, that should his person be known, imprisonment—nay death, may be the consequence."—I was silent—I could not oppose the headstrong arguments of passion, to the cooler and more sober motives, urged by reason.
"WE soon came to the desperate resolution of following the ravisher, for, ARGYLE, pitying my impatience, and somewhat encouraged by the hearty concurrence of our little company, complied with my earnest wishes, though with evident reluctance: a short calm, which had prevailed for some hours, gave us hopes of getting within sight of the vessel, as our boat was light, and could be assisted by her oars. Upon the break of the ensuing day I perceived—what even now makes my blood recoil—I saw the very ship which contained my heart and soul: we were soon under her stern; our poor appearance could not alarm the watch, and we were permitted to sail along side of her without molestation; a light wind which just then sprung up, assisting us equally—our plan was formed, each man knew his business, and were preparing to board them—when just as I was about to enter—a voice, so sweet, so soft, so full of pathos, from the cabin window, stopped my purpose—I knew it—my heart had often vibrated to its melody—it was my ANNA’S—she was pouring out her plaintive orisons before the God she so devoutly served. What at that moment could restrain my impetuosity?—I called upon HOWARD—I demanded my wife—I challenged her betrayer—what madness!—but it was punished.—A violent shriek proclaimed the effect it had upon the Duchess—HOWARD instantly appeared—no time was to be lost—we rushed into the vessel with drawn swords—and backed by ARGYLE, I did wonders. The surprize of this sudden attack was favourable to us at first, but it soon subsided—the wretch was too faithfully served, and after receiving two slight wounds, I once more became HOWARD’S prisoner. My generous friend abated not his tenderness towards the man who had again given him up to unmerited disgrace, but even condescended to sooth that violence which had precipitated him into such mischief—nor once accused me of rashness. To know that a fond and helpless wife was agonizing with the excruciating idea of her husband’s danger—to feel every sweet emotion palpitating a heart that burned to communicate the ungovernable throbbings to hers. To look around in vain—for means to loosen the bonds that held me, was almost past endurance—and well was it for HOWARD that he came not to witness my distress.—Shut up in a dreadfully little cabin—we could only sit upon the boards, there not being length sufficient to admit the possibility of lying down, till stupified with intense meditation upon my singular misfortunes, and the want of rest for several successive nights, I sunk into a happy forgetfulness, which even the tormenting knowledge of my ANNA’S proximity could not prevent. My fellow-captives respected my sorrows, and ventured not, as ARGYLE afterwards informed me, even to speak during my continuance in that torpid state:—but it soon terminated, for a heavy gale of wind awoke me from an unquiet repose—and I quickly had the gloomy satisfaction of hoping to share one watry tomb, with the invaluable woman I could not embrace.—I need not describe the violence of a storm which proved the blessed means of exercising your benevolence—but will only say, that all I had before felt—every sorrow that had convulsed my heart, shrunk to nothing—when HOWARD rushed into our horrid prison, and with features distorted by agony, exclaimed—"What cursed demon filled your sails with destruction—what fiend of the infernal deep impelled you to pursue us—‘Heaven fights for you,’—so said your haughty Duchess. Yes, the grand agent I so long have served deceives his faithful votary—She is gone, MONMOUTH—let that intelligence reach your proud heart; she has escaped my ardent love—the ocean receives her. Now haughty Lords, at this moment she sinks; the pangs of death are on her—do you not feel them too?" O deep—deep I felt them; scalding tears would gratify his cruel heart—my brain beat with a pulsation almost too mighty for reason: I trembled with excessive agony—cold drops of anguish bedewed my fettered limbs, yet I rejoiced.
"TRAITOR," I cried, "for every woe you have made us suffer, double, nay treble sorrows shall wring your dark plotting soul—Sweet angel, thy spotless innocence shall exult in endless bliss, while he—" The encreasing tempest forbid any further altercation, and HOWARD left us at liberty to seek that freedom a wild ungovernable ocean offered.
"WE went upon deck, and I saw my dearest friend, my kind and faithful ARGYLE washed overboard. It was impossible to lend the least assistance in such a night of horror and confusion. Determined to bear it no longer, I plunged into the foaming waters, possessed with the certain idea that all the good a faithless world once held out to my acceptance, was swallowed in the dreadful abyss. I can scarcely yet account for the miraculous interposition between me and death: my senses failed, and their return was marked by a sudden shock, occasioned, as I suppose, by my being tossed by the waves upon the sand. The sea was still turbulent, though not so raging as when I tempted my fate. A feeble recollection of the late events passed through my mind. I arose and crept beyond the beating surf—day, melancholy and unpropitious, broke upon these ruined towers. I looked towards them, but devoid of any hope or wish, to find the relief my fatigued body and wasted spirits demanded: slowly I gained the eminence, and beheld a winking light from yonder turret—humanity conquered—though lamenting the loss of all my fond soul deemed desirable. Yet, nature pleaded her rights, and I sought the means of lengthening a life the bitterest misfortunes had made odious.—Your gentle MARGARET, like a messenger of peace, opened the friendly door—and I entered, to find hospitality and benevolence in the sacred person of DONALD BRUCE.
"VARIOUS and uncommon have been thy sufferings," said the sympathizing BRUCE—"the blood which, calm and tranquil, languidly flows through these veins, impelled by the recital of HOWARD’S treachery—rushes with an impetuous motion new to feeble age.—Was not the monster already conquered, this arm would nerve itself to avenge his baseness—but see, my friend, the lovely ANNA and the gentle MARGARET reproaches us by their presence, for neglecting to seek so sweet a pair."
THIS honest gallantry was not lost upon the grateful MONMOUTH; pleasure animated his whole frame, when leading his charming Duchess to the venerable DONALD.
"YOU will not," he said, "my love, refuse to gratify our noble host by an explanation of the black mystery which separated us?"—She modestly bowed assent over his offered hand; and placing herself by the amiable old man, with a sigh, embittered by sad recollection, complied with the wishes of her admiring auditors.
"I need not," observed the fair ANNA, "enter too deeply into a cause pregnant with so many evils—which, by abrupt degrees, disclosed themselves to my afflicted MONMOUTH. He saw afterwards, by its effect, that an ungovernable passion had poisoned every principle of faith, generosity, and integrity, that had thrown a specious veil over the worthless HOWARD’S actions—and by which my husband might have been longer deceived, had my concurrence met his base proposals. It is sufficient to say, I could not misunderstand the tendency of his behaviour, which, guarded by a cold hypocritical politeness in company, became more ardent and explicit, from that restraint, when no longer subject to it. A just and haughty disdain, and an invariable reserve, marked my notice of his fulsome adulation; but educated at court, LORD HOWARD passed over every testimony of my dislike with a persevering obsequiousness—and my distress, at being thus debased, grew above concealment. I could not preserve my usual tranquillity, while tormented with a continual dread of the consequences a discovery must produce—and accused myself of a shadow of criminality, in submitting to a concealment, which cast a tincture of disgrace upon the immaculate honour of a MONMOUTH. O the hours! nay, days of perplexity, I have passed—tears and sighs but partially relieving a heart which burnt to cast off the hateful oppression. You may possibly call to mind an event, my Lord, which precipitated the ruin I had for some time expected—a pacquet of importance, sent by an extraordinary messenger, from our friends, demanded your most serious attention. This pacquet, which contained a scheme for securing the DUKE of YORK, was committed to HOWARD for his inspection—he that day had been more than usually impertinent—I shut myself up from him, but his authority procured him admittance. The reproaches his audacity provoked, were made in the very spirit of haughtiness—and were answered—Gracious God! I can hardly bear the recollection of his temerity—he dared to demand—how can I say it—he demanded the forfeiture of my honour, as a security for the lives of my husband and his friends—which, he said, were already within the reach of the law.—Virtue, delicacy, indignation, contempt, fired me almost to frenzy. Unawed by the rage which animated my countenance, and unmindful of that dreadful silence I wanted words to break—he renewed his proposal—and I blush to say—my refusal of it was expressed by a blow. The spirit of BUCCLEUGH added force to my vengeance, and I struck him with violence upon the face. Hypocrisy, submission, adulation, were now at an end—his eyes declared the horrid purpose of his soul; and holding out the pacquet, with a malignant smile, cried, This shall avenge me of your unfeminine fury, proud unfeeling dame—enjoy your victory—but know its fruits shall be blood—the heart’s blood of your idolized MONMOUTH, and his traitorous friends. They shall die, lady, to expiate your crimes—nobly shall that victory be distinguished—a train of victims shall be offered to my polluted honour; nor will that suffice me—even you, disdainful as you are, shall join in the payment of the mighty debt.—I could bear no more, but flew to warn my devoted husband of the snare this serpent was preparing to catch his life. Soon were his threatenings put in execution, and I was dragged from the glorious defender of my virtue, to the hateful task of listening to, and execrating the destroyer of my peace. My firm resolution of rendering his moments perpetually wretched, who had agonized mine with every sad foreboding, soon procured me the welcome respite of his absence, and I was treated with decency and respect. Soon after this terrible explanation of HOWARD’S baseness, I was summoned to make one of his train in a visit to his castle—resistance was vain—and yet tacitly to consent to my own imprisonment, tore my soul. When we were embarked, he had the presumption to expect that I would sit in the cabin, which was rendered odious by the presence of such an iniquitous wretch; but the expression of my aversion, which I was too sincere to conceal, convinced him of the impossibility of hoping forgiveness. O! with what rapture did my ears take in the sound of a voice ever most interesting, when your generous impatience hastened your own captivity: but how did my heart sink at the finish of a scene which again subjected you to his tyranny.—Fear, which is a predominant passion in the bosom of the feeble, had no place in a heart occupied by so many contending passions. The rising wind inspired only the hope of freedom—and when the roaring billows tossed our vessel among the rocks, I exulted in the prospect of an unity in death with the object of my griefs—my love—my fondest cares. O what sweet, yet sad, expectations chilled my soul! How I dreaded the calm, which must secure peace to others, but death to me! "Now," I cried, "O thou mighty Governor of storms and tempests, save a poor creature from the evil she dreads more than the loss of existence!" A sacred dawn of peace opened to me a new source of patience and submission to the almighty behests.—HOWARD, employed in using every means for our safety, forgot his wonted caution—I was no longer watched—and inspired by I know not what idea—was tempted to seek the dear imprisoned friends of my honour—but unacquainted with the different apartments of my desultory habitation, and unable, from the agitation of the vessel, to keep my footing, I could only stagger into the gallery, where sinking upon a small bench, I waited in silent awe the destruction no one expected to shun—An exclamation, composed of horror, impatience, and fear, induced me to turn towards the agonizing sound. HOWARD saw me—"You are safe then, insensible obdurate—and have unwillingly contributed to my just revenge; come then, and let your heart weep drops of blood over the lovesick MONMOUTH’S fall."—No! every particle of that vital stream was congealed at this obscure and fatal intelligence—every limb seemed chilled by the cold hand of death. I could only gaze at the barbarous monster, till fancy represented him to my wild eyes, as the arch-fiend of iniquity. He interrupted not this unusual expression of my grief, which seemed to inflate his features with a savage triumph. The entrance of a sailor called back my frozen senses with a loud and joyous information, that we might safely reach the shore. I shrunk from HOWARD’S hand, that was extended to conduct me upon deck, offering mine to the messenger, who could not, I thought, communicate that contagion which corrupted the very breath of my gaoler. The boat designed to convey us from our shattered vessel, flew lightly over the waves, and I once more saluted the earth, that now contained no blessing over which my sad soul could linger with fond hope; and turning to the sea, consecrated what I thought to be the tomb of my love, with tender tears of anguish.
"THE refreshments our crew had hastily secured, were now offered to my taste; but, what was food, air, life, to one who sought only in the grave an asylum from misery. I sat silent, faint, and hopeless, and felt some little relief in the liberty of indulging a sad and rooted sorrow.—While HOWARD was employed in recruiting his wasted spirits, and fatigued body, I perceived at no great distance, a troop of Highlanders; a sweet idea arose in my mind, that my deliverance was in the hands of those men, and hastily following the divine impulse, I started up and ran towards them. I sunk at the feet of their chief, and exclaimed, "Save the wretched relict of your favourite MONMOUTH—your cruel seas have entombed my noble husband. He can no longer defend me from yonder villain, who dooms me to dishonour: MONMOUTH is lost—he whose cause has warmed a thousand Scottish bosoms to beat for his welfare, no more solicits your assistance: but you can still serve him in the protection of his forlorn widow; you can still gratify that heavenly spirit which even now, by me, urges a just and dear revenge." As if impelled by one glorious principle of benevolence, they all drew their broad swords, and with naked dirks stuck in their belts, swarmed about me—I was terrified at the ferocious appearance of these determined warriors; but the hasty approach of Lord HOWARD and his adherents, soon changed the objects of that terror—again I sought the gallant Captain, and entreated he would not deliver me up to such an infamous monster.
"DOUBT not, lady," said the brave Caledonian, "the word of a Scotsman;" and then turning to my persecutor, fiercely demanded his business with me.
"SHE is my wife, proud Sir."
"HIS wife," I exclaimed; "O, no, he has deprived me of that sacred title, by the death of him who alone could claim it."
"COME, then," retorted HOWARD, drawing his sword, "since I am doomed to contend with these untamed barbarians, it shall be in defence of the honour you have arraigned."
MY soul was convulsed with horror and indignation. I could only lift up my hands, in silent agony, to that Being, who inspired my deliverers with the resolution of opposing a savage tyrant, and just beheld the beginning of a bloody contest, which froze every remaining sense of fear, and shrouded my faculties in a temporary death: but to what transport, what pure delight did my dispairing soul awake—MONMOUTH restored—ARGYLE in safety—HOWARD overpowered—a generous protectress eager to do the tender offices so necessary to feminine helplessness.—Sweet and sacred recollection! how it swells a grateful heart! With a deep and conscious blush, MARGARET received the ardent embrace that accompanied the noble acknowledgement, while a half suppressed sigh returned to the bosom which gave it, unnoticed by the only person who had excited it. His eyes, fixed with inexpressible affection upon his ANNA, saw not what modest delicacy would for ever have hidden, and MARGARET had the chaste consolation of preserving a secret, known only to her own too susceptible heart.
SEVERAL days had lightly traced their existence upon the minds of these exalted friends, undisturbed by ought but the fear of ARGYLE’S safety; but they flew not in vain.—BRUCE, whose keen perception saw deeper into causes and effects than his esteemed MONMOUTH, employed much of his time in arranging such plans, as he conceived would be most conducive to the furtherance of his schemes. He had particularly attended to those circumstances in his narrative, which related to CHARLES’S partiality to his son; and could not help fancying the possibility of a reconciliation, at least so far as might supersede the hopes of his bigotted brother JAMES, and prevent the completion of those sanguinary intentions he had at first, in the warmth of his attachment, rather countenanced than discouraged.—MONMOUTH listened with patience, and opposed not, at that moment, the wisdom of his friend’s counsels.—Possessed of his Duchess, he could easily bear the contradiction of any favorite wish that militated not against love; and even felt a gleam of returning duty animate him to the desire of once more visiting a parent, whose weakness had not totally destroyed the paternal character; but when he considered the principles, the manners, the expectations of his uncle—his declared enmity to him—the power he had obtained over the King—the alliance he had made with a Catholic Prince, he shuddered at the idea of venturing so much, where so little was to be gained, and was silent to the request BRUCE warmly enforced.—Besides ARGYLE, had not he hazarded his all, to strengthen his interest?—and would he promote the reconciliation he had taken such measures to prevent?—Again, he thought it was extremely unlikely CHARLES should receive him with open arms, while under the opinion that a cruel son was seeking his life; and when again pressed to assent to the good old DONALD’S proposals, he fairly confessed the struggles of his mind, and delegated to ARGYLE the task of investigating a plan he half feared to adopt, yet chose not flatly to condemn.—BRUCE, with the inflexible steadiness natural to age, gave not up his own opinion, because it met not with MONMOUTH’S concurrence, but inwardly determined to try its importance upon his friend, and dropped a subject he could not help wishing to impress upon the Duke’s soul, even to conviction.
THE fourth evening after ARGYLE’S departure proving unfavourable, the ladies retired to an apartment that overlooked the distant hills, and commanded a view of the rugged road which led to BRUCE Castle. The solemnity of the scene, though often contemplated by MARGARET, never before held out such an uninviting appearance;—she sighed with an energy which startled her fair companion; who, gazing upon her face, perceived with astonishment, it was suffused with tears. "My friend," said the gentle Duchess, "speak, MARGARET—tell me, may I ask the cause of those tears?" Blushing to be detected, and fearful even of the shadow of reproach, MARGARET gave a filial reason for what might more properly have been appropriated to the conflict between love and virtue. The Duchess was too polite to take any further notice of her dejection, and a long silence prevailed; when the appearance of ARGYLE, at some little distance, interrupted the unpleasant reserve. Lady MONMOUTH read in MARGARET’S countenance the strong embarrassment his presence occasioned, and sighed for the friend she saw doomed to be unhappy; for it was too evident he had no interest in that gentle virgin’s bosom.
THE Earl’s arrival created a cheerful bustle in BRUCE Castle—MONMOUTH welcomed his friend with fervent sincerity—all but MARGARET was animated with pleasure—all strove to convince him of their attachment; and, with a natural eagerness, DONALD communicated his plan for MONMOUTH’S return to London; it was heard with impatience, and rejected with indignation. The Duke was hurt at ARGYLE’S impetuosity, though he secretly coincided in part with his sentiments; yet that faithful generosity which had forwarded the scheme, he thought demanded at least a quiet hearing: but as the Earl’s sole object was the prevention of JAMES’S accession to royalty, and his friend’s immediate possession of the British crown, every plan which had not those points in view, he considered as derogatory to MONMOUTH’S glory. Much altercation, and various arguments, were employed on both sides, to arrange the contested business; and, while DONALD pleaded the power the Duke would obtain by a reconciliation with his father, ARGYLE warmly insisted upon the danger he would be exposed to in the attempt; urging the treachery of HOWARD, the dark, designing plots his uncle had already formed against him, the duplicity of his King, and the little likelihood there was of a permanent alliance with a being so fickle. To these reasons, BRUCE opposed the parental regard CHARLES had, upon various occasions, expressed for his son; the futility of those accusations which had their foundation in malice, which openly implied the blow such a coalition would aim at the Catholic party, and the union of those who, equally incensed against JAMES and his partizans, were yet at war with each other:—but all was insufficient to convince ARGYLE of the necessity of a reconciliation—though the Duchess, who had attentively considered the different arguments as they passed before her, and whose gentle soul inclined to the soft hope of future peace, and the uninterrupted enjoyment of her husband’s society, modestly hinted her wishes for the union BRUCE had urged.
"CAN BUCCLEUGH’S daughter," said ARGYLE, "give her concurrence to a step which would have met with the most sincere dislike from her heroic father?—Would he have consented to a coalition, which must call in question the legality of MONMOUTH’S pretensions, and give the world room to suppose he had given up his right to a Romish successor? No, Madam, forgive me, if I presume to contradict the sentiments produced by a tenderness, only blameable, where it interferes with the vast design of preserving the sacred privileges of a great people."
THE honest affection, and unshaken fidelity which dictated this free address, carried its pardon in the noble friendship it discovered; and though conviction followed not, none could blame the integrity of a nobleman, who had forfeited his all, to further the schemes he now feared might be strongly shaken, if not totally overthrown;—but BRUCE, who in the Lady had gained a powerful auxiliary, would not yet give up his purpose; and, after many altercations, it was agreed, though without the suffrage of the gallant ARGYLE, that MONMOUTH should secretly and expeditiously repair to London, while his amiable consort, secure in DONALD’S protection, was to wait the event of this arduous undertaking;—and the Earl, determined to prosecute the plan his better judgment suggested, of encreasing the number of those adherents, who were already zealously resolved to oppose the Duke of YORK.
To be so soon separated from the woman of his ardent affection, created a pang in MONMOUTH’S bosom, nearly similar to those he had so often endured; but to betray any sign of reluctance, after the concession he had made, was derogatory to the principles he professed; and he parted with every sign of outward fortitude, while an inward agitation almost convulsed his soul. His example was followed by his ANNA, and her friend, who had more consequential reason for concealing her sorrow; and the consolation she offered to the Duchess, was strongly embittered by the sad reflection, that she was forced to conceal a tenderness, which, if properly exerted, is the glory of the female sex;—however, one palliation offered itself to support her sinking heart—the same vessel that conveyed MONMOUTH from Sky, wasted from her sight a man, whose friendship she could have valued, but whose love she considered as her greatest misfortune.
ON the morning after their departure, DONALD, who had watched with equal humanity and sagacity, the abandoned HOWARD, entered the hall, with looks composed of horror and amazement. "Merciful God," cried he, "avert the mischief which I fear awaits us!—O, lady, how shall I tell you, our bitter enemy has escaped;—is once more let loose upon a world, to which he must ever be a torment!—The little gate, which opens upon the shore, is torn from the hinges—the bolts are wrenched from their fastenings, and HOWARD has undoubtedly corrupted his guard, as they are both missing."
"THEN we are indeed ruined," exclaimed the Duchess, "my noble husband will be the first prey to that miscreant’s savage fury.—Dear, unhappy MONMOUTH, thou art now, perhaps, overtaken and caught in the toils of villainy;—O, my foreboding soul, what anguish, what misery is preparing to overwhelm thee!—Alas, these venerable walls cannot shield us from his barbarous arts—even thou, O DONALD, shalt mourn, perhaps, in ignominious chains, the benevolence which led thee to shelter a miserable pair;—and who knows, but that, like STAFFORD’s, thy precious life may be offered up on the execrable scaffold."
"DEAR lady," said MARGARET, "let not the expectation of future ills shut out the emanation of hope—certainly there is danger, but the evil has not yet fallen on us—HOWARD cannot reach London before the DUKE; and may we not reasonably imagine his peace will be established, upon a foundation too permanent to yield to the weight of that wretch’s testimony.—Look up, then, sweet sufferer, to the Being who has so wonderfully extricated you from such dreadful situations—Look up to my revered grandfather, for the assistance that God alone can sanctify."
"MY noble child," said the delighted BRUCE, "you teach us fortitude.—Listen then, Madam, to this dear creature; she inspires even me with her heroic principles—We will wait with patience the consequence of this unfortunate affair."
THE Duchess sighed, wrung her hands, and could utter nothing but "treason,! death! and MONMOUTH!"
WHILE these tender recluses were employed in the sad office of lamenting the hazard that nobleman would sustain, if HOWARD should prejudice his parent, before he could plead his own justification; and her excellent comforters were trying, by every means the most delicate generosity could invent, to combat her fears—his success at Court proved those fears vague and groundless.
ALONE—melancholy—and in disguise, the Duke landed at Harwich, while ARGYLE pursued his way to Holland, where he had a numerous party of friends, who were anxiously waiting such intelligence as should govern their future motions. With a fervent embrace they separated—silent, dejected, and unable to conquer the anxiety which hung upon their minds.
IT was night when MONMOUTH entered London, but the gloom of his ideas cast a deeper shade on his countenance than a temporary darkness could induce The nation he once hoped to govern—the people who were wont to bow at his very name, now distinguished him not from the common herd; he passed unnoticed, unattended and unsuspected, to the house of Lord HALLIFAX, whose joyful surprise at the first discovery of his illustrious visitor, convinced him that his attachment was sincere. It was with apparent pleasure the Duke received an account of his father’s favourable disposition towards him, and testified the most filial impatience to cast himself at the feet of one whom he yet confessed with a sigh, had not discharged the sacred duty of a husband to his hapless mother.
THE various perplexities of state, as well as those of a domestic nature, added to the consequences of a libertine life, had induced a weariness and lassitude of disposition in the King. His constitution was daily giving way to incurable distemper, and he had often been heard to wish for the society of that son who alone could give him comfort; sensible, though too late, of the importance of those hours he had given to thoughtless conviviality, and unsupported by strong health, he could only lament the injury his royal character had sustained, without a possibility of reparation. The licentious freedom he had used to others was as readily accorded to himself; and, among all his riotous companions, he had not one friend:—was it not natural, then, to wish for such an acquisition in the person of him whom, through the prudent representation of HALLIFAX, he considered as highly injured; and could any hazard attend the discovery of MONMOUTH’S arrival, at a time, too, when JAMES was rendering himself odious to the people of Edinburgh; and by his absence, forwarded the designs of those who considered him as an illegal oppressor, and an usurper of another’s right—thus prepossessed with the idea that a repentant father would extend the hand of conciliation, he inwardly congratulated himself upon BRUCE’s prescience, and his compliance with his amiable Duchess’s desires.
AS CHARLES had ever discovered a propensity to the marvellous, and was apt to be more strongly affected by sudden surprise, than the tedious preparation dictated by cautious prudence, HALLIFAX prevailed upon the Duke to present himself before the King, at a time when solitude and self-reproach held out the bitter consequence of criminal indulgence. Silent midnight was therefore fixed upon for the important interview; as CHARLES, to whom beds of down was no succedaneum for the loss of inward peace, generally passed those hours in his closet, which unincumbered minds devote to the renovation of the animal system. There was little difficulty in procuring admission to the antichamber, beyond which his Majesty’s privy closet lay. The hour approached—it struck twelve—Lord HALLIFAX, whose authority, at Whitehall, admitted every privilege a resident in the palace could enjoy, conducted his friend to the interior apartments, and then left him to realize a scene, the apprehension of which agitated every trembling nerve. The nights were warm—the closet door stood open—MONMOUTH approached, and at the farther end he beheld his parent, his feet supported by velvet cushions. His countenance palid—stern—and rendered still more unpleasant from the emotions of his soul—his eyes turned from the glaring light, as if disgusted with their beams, gave proof of the inefficacious power of royalty, which could not procure one hour of that repose the meanest of his subjects so sweetly enjoyed. Some papers lay upon the table, which had been left for CHARLES’S consideration—but his sick mind rejected the contents, and he sat restless, pensive and unhappy—when with a heart-piercing groan, he slowly exclaimed—"O MONMOUTH! O my son! where has my cruelty driven thee? O, that these eyes could once more view a child, so fatally dear to thy miserable parent!"
THIS was the very moment of discovery—the crisis of MONMOUTH’S fate.—He advanced, and prostrated himself before the astonished King, bathing his hands with filial tears.—"And does my father wish," he said, "to see the son of his first love—has the child of poor LUCY yet a claim to his affection?—Does he employ the solemn midnight hour in lamentations for MONMOUTH’S fate?"
"ALAS! my dear son," cried the amazed King—"thou dost yet exist—thou yet livest to pity the sorrows of a mistaken Monarch. See, MONMOUTH, what is royalty when divested of that dignity which should support the title—in private we are but men—subject to afflictions, great as our station. The tear of anguish steals down a cheek that would blush with indignation, to betray any public marks of a weakness so natural. Had I,"—and he groaned with undescribable agony,—"had I not stifled the soft pleadings of humanity—had I listened to the sweet supplications of your martyred mother, these solemn hours would have been divested of their terror; and the piercing reflections of an unsatisfied conscience been changed for the soothing composure of an untroubled mind: but no more of this—your danger calls forth every foreboding fear: your uncle governs—I shame to say—governs his King. Such is his power, and so much his artful administration overshadows my glory, that CHARLES of England is no longer the prince of nations."
WITH the most respectful pity MONMOUTH beheld the ebulition of that grief his father could no longer restrain, and turned from a sight so derogatory to the greatness of Majesty—when, partly recovering from his deep dejection, the King implored his son to guard against the mysterious designs of his uncle, whose hopes of a crown depended upon the conquest of every competitor for that greatness, and who had already employed every manoeuvre to counteract his suspected intentions; alive only to the pleasures of reconciliation, the Duke passed lightly over his father’s fears, and entered into a succinct account of every event which had followed his banishment from Court, touching, with the warmest pathos, those scenes in which his Duchess had endured such distress: the friendship of ARGYLE; the hospitality of BRUCE; the treachery and imprisonment of HOWARD, were painted in colours glowing enough to strike a less susceptible heart than CHARLES’S. He embraced his son, he blessed the marriage of his darling, and let loose every spring of parental tenderness; but, immediately recurred to his dread of JAMES’S resentment, whose emissaries, he doubted not, would directly communicate the important intelligence of MONMOUTH’S arrival at Court. The King’s forebodings were prophetic—no sooner was it rumoured that he had given audience to his son, than messengers were dispatched to Edinburgh, and JAMES wrote in terms of the sharpest reproach to his brother, for harbouring a rebel—a traitor—and an intended paracide—urging the necessity of his speedy banishment, if CHARLES consulted the tranquility and safety of his kingdom.—MONMOUTH’S spirit revolted against this indignant treatment; and he saw, with infinite concern, the imbecility of his parent, who almost trembled at the reading of the haughty letter:—But if the Duke beheld, in this blameable pusilanimity, fresh cause of trouble—how was that encreased, when, to the utter astonishment of the whole Court, JAMES suddenly made his appearance at Whitehall, with Howard in his train—HOWARD, the baleful, treacherous monster, supposed to be strictly confined in BRUCE Castle, escaped, countenanced and protected by his most virulent enemy.—The sarcastic sneer—the malignant smile—the fawning servility of courtly homage deceived not MONMOUTH.
HE knew the heart that beat for revenge under the specious covering; and saw, in the haughty contraction of his uncle’s brow, the venom of a cloud ready to burst with sanguinary vengeance. Its first effects were expressed in CHARLES’S countenance, the tenderness of whose looks were changed to cold constraint, and sudden impressions of anger, darting over his features, as his veering thoughts now leaned to the suggestions of his concealed enemies, or now wished to have the innocence fully cleared, which he had no right to suspect: at length, impelled by an authority, he chose not to dispute; he appointed a private audience with his son, when he informed him of his resolution of again sending him abroad, as it was impossible to keep him within the reach of JAMES’S accusation, who still persisted in the propriety of subjecting him to a legal trial, for the imputed crimes of harbouring treasonable intentions against the life of his liege Lord, and daring to name himself as the lawful successor. Indignation, and offended pride now took the lead of prudence, and dictated a bitter retort to this command.—"Yes," he cried, "I will go—your Majesty shall be gratified, and the governor of yourself and kingdom shall no longer face the man, whose unsullied integrity shames his own want of every amiable principle; but let your brother remember, that his hopes of future power are equally futile and unjust—"for MONMOUTH (and he spoke with energy) is your lawful Heir."—He would have proceeded,—but the entrance of his uncle, with looks of unrestrained rage, turned the current of his high-souled resentment against that meanness which had made JAMES an ear-witness of his imprudent confession—and the natural impetuosity of his temper, rising above the dictates of unrestrained judgment—MONMOUTH charged the Duke of York, with designs that militated against the established Religion of England, the peace of the nation, and those rights and privileges which his grandfather had too freely infringed upon, and for which his zealous persecutors had taken his sacred life.—"I know," he continued, in a spirited tone, "I know what sacrifice is necessary to further your Catholic schemes,—MONMOUTH must fall to secure your footing—his heart must bleed upon the point of black assassination—or, condemned by a pretended legal trial, finish at the block those days your hatred has embittered.—To you is owing the base charge of paracide and treason; none but the Duke of YORK would dare to raise a father’s hatred against an unoffending son.—Conclude, then, your dark and bloody work! HOWARD is ready to aid his ignoble master in the business of death.—He shall stand forth the betrayer of the innocent—the destroyer of the worthy—and exult in the destruction of his friend."—To a charge so awful, so clear, so solemn, and so unexpected, even JAMES was unprepared for an answer, and the reproaches his countenance predicted upon his first entrance were useless, since he could not refute the charge; and he sullenly departed, in the full determination of seeking a sure and sweet revenge.
CHARLES, though subject to the will of his despotic brother, could not refuse his secret approbation of that noble spirit, which, bursting the bands of fear and caution, had soared above every consideration, but that of a glorious resentment; and, extending his arms,—"One last embrace, my dear ill-fated son, I feel we shall never meet again; your magnanimity confounds me, while it proves your integrity; and, alas, while it threatens your immediate destruction! I cannot condemn a virtue so glorious. Adieu, my son! fly from this den of serpents;—but let not your father’s throne feel the terrible effects of your anger. Soon will this decaying body be deposited in the receptacle of my ancestors; let not, then, my remaining days be disturbed by national tumult; I feel a premature decay through every part of this vital frame;—but O, my son! what is to follow the dissolution of nature; the thoughts of that create innumerable pangs in my harrassed mind. Prejudiced against the dissenters, by their puritanical severity, I imbibed, in Scotland, an early disgust to those tenets, which forbid a criminal indulgence of unbounded pleasure—not permitted to exercise that mode of religion, more congenial to my belief, and utterly despising the controversial disputes, which perpetually furnished fresh matter for contention, without conviction.—I, at last, professed myself a Latitudinarian in principle, and gloried in the utter neglect of every sacred duty:—these reflections plant thorns on that pillow, which no longer affords a salutary refreshment.—Remember then, my dear JAMES, to shun the sad and fatal errors that have disgraced my reign:—remember, and respect the sorrows of a King."—Melted by this candid confession, MONMOUTH tenderly embraced his parent;—and, after solemnly vowing, to wave his intention of claiming a right to the Crown, while Heaven continued the life of its present possessor—he quitted the presence, and prepared to follow his friend ARGYLE to Holland, where a powerful auxiliary had been assiduously employed in gaining proselytes to his cause.—
BUT though James had by his tyrannical behaviour superceded his brother’s design, to keep his beloved son near the throne—yet was this but a temporary relief to the corroding fears which were ever upon the rack of foreboding expectation, and which had received the most serious addition from HOWARD’S disclosure, of every plan concerted by the Duke and his friends, which were aggravated by the most artful malice, ungratified revenge could supply.—"You are not safe my Lord," said he, "while MONMOUTH is at liberty—depend upon it, he will not give up the glittering prospect of a crown, while a number of ignorant fanatics, and hot-headed Scots can be found to inflate his haughty soul with a prospect of success.—We must not stumble at delicate objections in cases of such importance—he must be seised, and I will take care proper witnesses shall be at hand to corroborate any testimony I shall produce; CHARLES is weak; but that imbecility which strengthens your power over him, gives equal, if not superior force to his son’s representations.—The arch-villain BRUCE is a dangerous object too, he must removed, he has a numerous clan, ready to execute any command, lawless despotism shall give; and I am well assured, means to rise in MONMOUTH’S cause, so soon as the dreadful schemes are ripened to a possibility of execution: let resolution then counteract the operations of treachery; I will embark a number of troops, whose disciplined strength shall overmatch the ferocity of the unskilled Highlanders;—we will destroy the very essence of a combination which threatens, though it cannot abolish, your legal claim: to chance alone was I indebted for my escape from a loathsome prison, where life would soon have given way to rigorous treatment, and the tormenting reflection, that I could no longer offer up the best blood in my veins to the service of an injured Prince. Yes, my Lord, the honest fellows by whom I was liberated, knew not that in me they emancipated an humble zealous follower of the Duke of YORK’s fortunes; to the support of which, I here vow to dedicate every future thought, word, and action." To protestations and proposals of such a tendency, JAMES lent the most eager attention, who, with a depth of cunning equal to the invention and performance of a thousand artful manoeuvres, necessary to the accomplishment of his own wishes, saw not the master-wheel which actuated this refined politician in wickedness, nor once considered, that he who could so long carry on a secret correspondence against the man he now professed to serve, and who so basely betrayed his friend for the vilest purposes, might, when detestable selfishness urged the practice, again exhibit fresh proof of villainy.
HOW weak the dependance vice can make upon its counterpart! and how futile the hope of experiencing that sincerity in another which itself possesses not—this ignoble Prince did not readily discover;—deceived by his professions, and conscious of the importance of that advice, suggested by deep unwarrantable motives, JAMES gladly delegated his authority to Lord HOWARD to raise the troops necessary for his sanguine purpose, and counselled him not to neglect the means his rancourous heart had imbibed for the destruction of his injured friend.
WHILE the secret schemes of diabolical revenge were fabricating to plant fresh thorns in the Duchess’s house, she began by the tender endeavours of her benevolent friends to regain her confidence in that Omniscience which had so often held forth a sacred ray of consolation to the extinction of terror, apprehension, and despair;—a tender idea that MONMOUTH would escape the malice of his enemies, was confirmed by the delightful intelligence of his interview with the King, and the conciliating disposition of that monarch;—but all that followed appearances so flattering, was with-held from her knowledge, to wound her feelings, to awaken the terrors which hope might have silenced, was totally repugnant to affection so delicate as that which sought but the ease and happiness of his soul’s dearest treasure;—she was wrapt in the contemplation of that exquisite felicity her generous MONMOUTH would enjoy in raising her to a throne, whom she now doubted not would be established in his right of succession, and waited somewhat impatiently for the messenger which her rapid imagination had charged with the commission of conveying her to London. Ah! how sweet are the emotions of a tender and sensible heart. What soft and gentle recollections expand the bosom lately throbbing with excess of anguish? When a fond and overcharged fancy supplies the expectation of future bliss, with what velocity that incomprehensible principle which we denominate Thought, darts through the boundless scale of hopes, fears, sorrows, joys, and cares, arranging some, discarding others; encouraging ideas most congenial to our sense of happiness, and brooding over those scenes which self-love appropriates as our right, easily passing, by every impediment reason would offer, to the completion of our darling schemes.
THE sweet security on which her soul reposed after a storm that had rooted up and displaced so many comforts, began to give way after a fortnight of suspence had elapsed; and the expectation of beholding her husband in the situation she had, in her presaging mind, decidedly placed him in, faded insensibly before the cruel uncertainty. The gentle consolations of her friends lost their efficacy, she attended to them in silence; but with pain they saw their endeavours to inspire her with fresh confidence, totally fruitless: she would trace her pensive steps along the shore, and listen to the roaring surf, with a listless vacancy of aspect, that denoted an attention fixed upon one dear, one hoarded grief, which every succeeding day encreased. The solitude to which a recess from mental and bodily fatigue, had communicated unspeakable charms, became melancholy, tedious, and irksome. The company she at first considered as possessed of every advantage she could derive from the most delightful society lost in the sad state of her soul—all that endearing softness which at first excited her grateful regard. MONMOUTH, ever dear, ever most sacredly beloved, filled all her thoughts, occupied every tender remembrance. When the chearfulness of early dawn first saluted her heavy eye, it could not banish the tear of disappointed love; nor could the softness of a setting sun illumine her care-worn countenance;—thus passed the days of sorrow, when the arrival of a messenger turned the current of her thoughts, and she once more indulged in the extatic hope of being soon united to her MONMOUTH; a fond and important letter communicated tydings that banished every forboding terror, it spoke of the Duke’s intention to meet her in Holland, where he had already secured a strong interest with the States.—It announced his design of resting in peace till the life of his parent, which already hovered on the verge of an opened grave, should no longer give the cast of criminality to his claim of succession; it invited her in terms so soft, so sweet, to come and share the splendour of his situation in a country devoted to him, that in the rapture of her heightened soul, she experienced pangs as severe as any disappointment could induce.—The congratulation of her sympathising friends, called forth every expression of gratitude for their patient respect of her grief, and the gentle kindness which had quietly indulged the gloomy habits of her mind.
MARGARET sighed at the idea, that she could now no longer render any service to MONMOUTH by her constant and ready attention to the Duchess;—"Alas!" she secretly cried, "how soon the great events, which have marked so large a portion of time, will be as though they had never been;—never been; ah! she thought one dear, one indelible impression, will ever prove an inexhaustible source of tender, but painful recollection;—what can obliterate a remembrance so sacred.—O, my father, with thy loved image is blended that of a virtuous hero!—It cannot disgrace thee; each shall reflect upon the other; that lustre which singly can dazzle a world: thou art inflexibly just; but thy soul rejects not the exercise of those gentler passions that militate not against honour, delicacy, and unspotted nobleness. Never shall this heart encourage an idea incompatible with the purity of a virgin, the peace of a wife.—No, thou amiable Duchess, I will partake of thy sorrows, but never cause them;—supremely blest in thy MONMOUTH’S affection, thou shall not suspect the sentiments of a heart which too powerfully unites love with admiration. With this glorious enthusiasm, MARGARET quieted the strong emotions of a bosom too noble to admit one selfish thought, where the peace of a single individual demanded the sacrifice of her feelings;—and she chearfully congratulated her lovely friend, upon her charming prospects of peace and happiness.
THE days which intervened between the arrival of the messenger and that of the vessel she expected to convey her Grace from Bruce Castle, were chequered alternately with hope, doubt, joy, and fear. She would shudder at the idea of being prevented in her intention of meeting her beloved, by the raging winds, which in the closing Autumn made that navigation extremely dangerous; and, but for the supposition that MONMOUTH’S reasons for sending for her by sea, were founded upon motives extremely important—would not have hesitated one moment to venture across the island—and in one of their small craft, attempt to reach the Highlands, over whose extensive hills she would have explored a passage to the coast opposite Holland.—It was in vain BRUCE urged the impossibility of any vessel making their shore, while the wind continued to blow in a contrary direction; nor could the respectful arguments urged by Capt. SCOFIELD, who had brought her letters, produce a desirable effect. She would weep in silent anxiety, through the melancholy hours which suspense embittered.—Alone, restless, and portending every horrible event from this procrastination—the Duchess occupied a gloomy apartment, enlivened only by a feeble lamp—her eyes half closed—her whole soul involved in the most painful meditation—her ear shocked by the beating of a heavy rain against the casement, and the hollow echoes of distant footsteps through the lower passages of the castle. She arose—traversed the room—sat down again—every feeling which hope had encouraged, crushed by heartless despair—every sweet expectation totally subdued—every occurence which had tinctured her life with sorrow, brought forward to swell the climax, and fill the measure of foreboding grief:—while thus employed, she started at the increase of those sounds below, which seemed to approach nearer. Faint shrieks, confused exclamations of terror, denunciations of vengeance—all pressed upon her affrighted imagination, with a force too rapid to permit the separation of a thousand shocking ideas which obtruded upon the dismal moment—she listened—"God of Mercy!" said the unhappy Lady, "what do I hear? Is not that the voice of BRUCE?" Again—"O patience, sweet Heaven—he groans—ah! where is MARGARET? What means this dreadful clamour? MONMOUTH, blessed MONMOUTH, is this the awful hour that must deprive thee of thy ANNA? Who knows—perhaps—ah! is not that agonizing shriek the omen of approaching death?—The expiring lamp will no longer illumine my miseries."
THE door burst open—BRUCE, pale, trembling—bleeding—his helpless arms stretched towards the frantic Lady, and followed by several armed men, entered to complete the horrible suspicions of her convulsed soul. The venerable sufferer, sick and giddy with his wounds, yet retained strength enough to bear him to her feet, as she leaned with clasped hands against the tapestried wall—sinking down by him, she exclaimed, "O, who has done this atrocious deed?—revered old man—thus must thou die!"
"LADY," said the fainting DONALD, "thou art lost:" and then casting a ghastly look towards the soldiers—"HOWARD—SCOFIELD—can best explain this work of death."
"YES, madam, the VESSEL is arrived to convey you—to destruction. See how she weeps for the ancient ruffian, he has lived long enough to harbour traitors."—Ah! the voice that thundered forth the vindictive language—how it shook the frame of innocence. She looked towards the monster, who had uttered it—but who can speak her desperation, when he continued, "Once more has fortune been just to my wrongs—once more you behold—"
"O MADNESS," she cried, "I do indeed once again behold the vilest monster that ever curst a wretched nation!"—and in that shocking moment, insensible to fear, she advanced with an intrepid air:—"Come then," she said, "and satisfy the dictates of thine infernal soul, since nought but death can soothe thy unsatiated thirst for blood—in BUCCLEUGH’s offspring thou beholdest no ignoble prey.—The pure stream thy fury shall let loose will consecrate these awful ruins. Yes, HOWARD, since thou aimest at so high a quarry, the life of MONMOUTH’S Duchess will be no inconsiderable addition to the numbers which must sink thee to eternal perdition: I shall fall, pure and unspotted—not Envy’s self shall taint my honest fame; and the turf which in this solitary spot shall bloom over my sad remains, will hereafter be sanctified as the sacred covering of injured integrity. SCOFIELD, approach—thou who with well-dissembled villainy could soothe an unsuspecting female with the hope of meeting a dear abused husband—thou who couldest fabricate the monstrous legend to lull the fears of a deceived Lady—approach, and execute that dark design thine agent’s cowardly heart trembles to perform. In that pale corse I see my destiny—no matter whether HOWARD or SCOFIELD deals the blow." And, then throwing herself upon her knees before the martyred BRUCE, she kissed, with impatient tenderness, his ghastly face, and ensanguined lifeless hands: "Thou art gone," she said, "best of men—thy benevolent spirit is for ever fled—MONMOUTH’S Duchess no longer interests every faculty of thy departed soul; and who knows but for me the stroke was given: in my defence, perhaps, those aged arms were stretched forth in helpless fury."
HOWARD, who had for some moments been collecting the bitter venom which her spirited address had at first driven back to the mansion that had fostered it, now prepared new tortures for her wounded brain. "You think me capable then," he cried, "of great revenge—you are not deceived—but could the mighty BUCCLEUGH’S offspring fondly imagine HOWARD would languish in infamous obscurity, nor boldly dare to rise superior to his oppressors?—No, madam, protected by the lawful heir of England’s Crown, he has greatly attempted to avenge that royal sufferer of his enemies. In one bloody undistinguished ruin they shall fall. The tragedy is but begun. This hoary traitor’s death opens but the way to a long succession of executions. JAMES is not to be provoked with safety:—come lady, you must go with us. The gallant SCOFIELD has already secured one charming prize—possessed of MARGARET, he will perform wonders: already has that spirited fair one been conveyed on board. Yes, haughty woman, you will now have a companion in your fancied distress; and who knows, if my emissaries prove successful as ourselves, but your adored husband may join us at London—there, in the Tower, ye may lament the disappointment of your air-built plans. The Tower gates have opened with destruction, and to many arch rebels—and there too MONMOUTH may expiate, upon the block, his presumptuous sins: the axe waits but for its noblest sacrifice."
"THE axe—the scaffold—the block—Mercy, sweet Heaven!—are all those instruments of cruelty preparing for my MONMOUTH?—But no—monster, he is beyond the reach of HOWARD’S arts."
"TOO securely," said the malignant wretch, "have we cast our schemes. MONMOUTH is now upon his passage to England, in the full hope of meeting you in honorable safety in CHARLES’S Court. Fearful you should quit this island before our troops could be prepared to exterminate this guilty nest of rebels, we sent the brave SCOFIELD to lull you into a false security; similar arts have been practised upon your deluded Duke, and I doubt not but with equal success—so you will not be disappointed. He shall meet his faithful Duchess in a prison. O, how it will gall his ambitious soul, when, for the pomp of royalty, he shall experience the shock of cold neglect; and, instead of the tapestried hall, a gloomy dungeon."
"THEN I shall see him," groaned the dispairing lady, "perhaps die with him: will not that be permitted?—but O MONMOUTH," with a deep sigh, "are we to meet only in death? Must our embraces be chilled with the idea of a speedy separation? Shall that noble countenance be clouded with the dread of approaching dissolution, that graceful form be humbled to the fatal block? Those beauteous locks trail in the dust, and, clotted with gore, hang over the pale and ghastly forehead?—Ah! now I behold the agonizing moment, when every spectator shall wait in silent horror the dreadful stroke. I hear his last address, his solemn and unfeigned declarations of loyalty, see him meekly bow to a surrounding multitude, whose streaming tears declare their unavailing pity; but, MONMOUTH, beloved by his people, shall not fall unrevenged. O, so sweet a sacrifice will secure the tenderest pity—and pity shall create a resolution of retaliation. The arbitrary Prince, through whose authority you act, shall feel pangs more pungent than any innocence can experience; deserted by those for whom he dares Heaven’s vengeance, no friendly bosom shall offer the repose his children shall destroy."—"No more: your prophecy may be in part fulfilled; but all that respects my royal master, passion only dictates." CHARLES is almost in the situation his enemies have long wished him, powerless, and almost breathless, he can no longer protect those who covertly seek his life.
THE sound of a severe contest interrupted the cruel HOWARD, who, giving the exhausted Duchess to SCOFIELD’S care, flew swiftly down to finish the tragedy his cruelty had begun. The gallant SCOTS, who found themselves inhumanly betrayed, would not yield in cowardly obedience to the brutal assassin; but though deprived of the smallest chance of overcoming a number so superior, both in skill and strength, determined, upon their first landing, to defend their ancient Laird to the utmost of their power.—When the vessel, which was fraught with evil so fatal, appeared in the offing, it was the received opinion, in BRUCE’S family, that its arrival was in consequence of SCOFIELD’S intelligence; but the good old man would not suffer the tidings to reach the Duchess, till certainty should prevent the possibility of deception. The landing of so many armed men, occasioned a momentary surprize among his vassals; but what despair agitated them, when their noble master, who went out to welcome them, was rudely seized, and inhumanly dragged into the castle, where, in consequence of his feeble resistance, he received those wounds which so soon extinguished a life so precious. Their next prey was the distracted MARGARET, whom they immediately bore to the ship, while another party followed BRUCE to the unhappy Lady’s chamber—and the rest, with unprincipled fury, fell upon the astonished Highlanders, who, thus attacked, and irritated by the massacre of their almost worshipped Laird, impetuously rushed upon the barbarous murderers with inconceivable rage;—but HOWARD and several more joining in the horrid fray, soon changed the favourable appearance; and the brave Caledonians reluctantly submitted to their fate, and sank in one general ruin.
NO time was now to be lost—the fatal intelligence, by the flight of a young domestic, flew swiftly to those parts of the island, yet remarkable for a steady attachment to DONALD and his family—and while the base complotters in this mischief, were revelling in confident security, the alarm was given, a scout entered, and, almost breathless with apprehension, warned them immediately to depart, as he had descried a large body of men descending the side of a mountain, about three miles distant.
HOWARD started from his seat—"Come, my friends," he said, "our wishes and intentions are nearly compleated;—let us not, by a careless dependance upon our good fortune, lose the advantage we have gained:—hasten on board the vessel, let every sailor do his utmost to be ready for a speedy departure;—two of you attend me to conduct our fair prisoner on board; we must not hazard a fresh engagement at present."—So saying, he took a lamp, and followed by a couple of soldiers, once more entered the gloomy abode of affliction.
THE venerable corse yet lay extended upon the floor, those locks which time had honoured with the purest hue, were dyed with the sacred stream that once had warmed a noble heart. The Duchess reclined in silent anguish—her drooping head, supported by her trembling hand, was bent towards his face—her eyes fixed with wild stupefaction upon the senseless object.—SCOFIELD, in cold unfeeling inattention, sat at some distance, nor once attempted to raise the poor sufferer from her painful situation. Her neglected garments had received from BRUCE’s wounds the crimson stain; her charming tresses were spread in wild disorder over her shoulders, neck, and arms. When the vile arbitrator of her fate came near the spot that was distinguished by the melancholy appearance, she lifted up her head, and fixing an agonizing look upon his countenance, which still betrayed marks of unsatisfied vengeance—"Well," she cried, in an exhausted tone—"Have you finished the work of death?—I hear not the groans of the dying, I no longer tremble for the destiny of those who have now paid the noblest tribute to the manes of this dear deceased. The clash of swords—the dread decisive blows of the broad axe, no more shake my tortured soul with forbodings of my own fate."—"Come, madam," said the wretch, "we have no leisure to attend such womanish lamentations, those who have suffered, deserved their punishment;—you may yet be happy, if you can forget your adherence to rebellious traitors—come then with me."—She started from his offered hand;—it was tinged with blood—"With you!"—she screamed, "What! with the murderer of BRUCE—with the betrayer of MONMOUTH!—See—see—perhaps the heart that now has lost sensation, bled upon this sacrilegious hand—Ah! barbarous hand, and who knows but it may soon be dipped in MONMOUTH’S hallowed life-blood."
IN pursuance of a signal made by HOWARD, SCOFIELD approached to assist in tearing the sweet creature from her inanimate friend; she caught his cold contracted fingers—"Save me; O! thou precious Being!—Blessed Heaven, work a miracle, and raise this fallen goodness in my defence.—O! is there not a ray of light to pierce this veil of darkness?" She struggled, but in vain: when near the door, she turned again toward BRUCE.—"One more look—only one last gaze at that affecting scene!"—and then forcibly dropping upon her knees, and casting her eyes upwards: "O," she said, "Thou awful Power, sanctify to me these vast afflictions, and what I cannot escape, teach me to endure with humble fortitude—Adieu, then, to the mangled remains of that pious sufferer."
NO longer sensible to the dreadful horrors of her situation, she sunk between her cruel guards, and was in that state conveyed to the vessel, which no sooner put to sea, than HOWARD felicitated himself upon an escape from a formidable enemy, who, with incredible haste, had just then attained the shore, and with inexpressible mortification, saw the objects of their justly excited fury, aided by a brisk wind, which at that moment changed in their favour, borne from the vengeance they had so basely provoked.
THAT deadly sickness, which generally seizes the unpractised voyager, so strongly united its influence with the sorrows that had weakened Lady MONMOUTH, as to produce sensations like those the debilitated body experiences, previous to its dissolution; and she lifted up an eye of gratitude to that Being, whom she conceived her sufferings had moved to pity.—But what did that languid eye encounter?—an object so desireable, as almost to banish the strong dejection she endured; she gazed as if uncertain of the truth she wished to prove, when tremulously breaking silence—"Am I," said she in a feeble tone—"am I so happy yet as to meet one friendly bosom, on which to breathe out this wearied soul?—Does MARGARET live to soothe her departing ANNA with the soft sounds of consolatory peace?—Ah! how did she escape the barbarians who slew her grandfather? Some faint idea strikes me, that she is reserved for a more fatal destruction—so be, perhaps—the monster SCOFIELD’S victim." "No, dearest Lady, MARGARET was not born to such a fate," answered the exalted virgin.—"SCOFIELD dares not to imagine an act so vile. It is true, I was brought hither by compulsion, forced from my revered parent’s presence; but the most profound respect followed my capture:—Ah, God! what horror I felt, when that sainted excellence fell under the repeated strokes of their bloody swords:—Oh! how they dragged me from his arms, those arms extended for a last embrace, while round us the faithful domestics were offering up their lives in the glorious cause—and yet I live in the hope of deliverance." A sudden shock, occasioned by the ship’s bottom touching the ground, produced the most tumultous confusion above their heads, and interrupted the sorrowing pair; the Duchess in silent resignation, encouraged an idea of shipwreck, but MARGARET waited to hear the anchors let down, as she imagined the tide had ebbed; and that they should only stay till there was water sufficient to carry them out to sea; nor could the noise of the breakers, which incessantly rolled against the vessel’s side, change her opinion—but, in a few minutes time, the cabin was filled with sailors, who, with their usual improvident manner, began to break open lockers, broach the casks, and commit every act desperation could induce. It was with the utmost difficulty HOWARD could prevail on the most thoughtful of them to assist in getting the ladies on shore—when one of the most active stepped forward, and, with the gentlest caution, conveyed the Duchess to a little boat, they were followed by HOWARD, SCOFIELD, and MARGARET; but no persuasions could induce the soldiers to leave their inebriated companions, though every beating wave threatened destruction. The shore, which consisted of a low uninhabited island, was at no great distance; but the surf prevented an immediate access, and the boat was agitated with the most dangerous violence. The approach of several small sailing vessels animated MARGARET with the prospect of that deliverance, she had so confidently expected; and her impatient eye was attracted by their various motions.—Favoured by the wind, they bore directly to the island, and HOWARD beheld, with terror, their increasing proximity. The Duchess weak, and almost expiring, was still supported by the humane person who had taken upon him the important charge; she heard the hasty execrations SCOFIELD threw out against the carelessness of those who had thus impeded their wishes of reaching a place of safety, and shuddered at the declaration HOWARD made, "that he would, were it possible, die a thousand deaths before he would be taken prisoner; for his suspicious soul suggested the probability of those boats being sent in pursuit of them." "Ah! what," whispered the poor feeble creature, "is at last to be my fate?" She was overheard by her kind attendant. "Fear nothing," said he, "honoured Lady, all will yet be well." A languid kind of joy crept through her whole frame; doubt, fear, and hope, by their active operation, renovated her decayed spirits, and she waited in silent agony an event so strange."
A SMALL inlet, unperceived by HOWARD, lay a little to the right of their perilous situation; but accident, or rather the strength of the breakers tossing them beyond the surf, a strong current bore them towards the stream, and carried them with rapidity to the island; where they landed, contrary to every idea of such unexpected success. This manoeuvre was immediately discovered by those in the small vessels, and they crouded every sail to take the same advantage. It was evident to HOWARD, that neither friendship nor pity were among the motives which induced them thus hastily to follow—as they could not be obliged, either by business or pleasure, to make the desolate island. How, therefore, to avoid a danger still more pressing than that they had escaped, occasioned no small perplexity, and MARGARET secretly rejoiced at the unwary expressions of their undisguised uneasiness. The boats were now near enough the ship to lend that succour which a mad multitude began to see the necessity of, as the stern was already carried away by the force of the waves, and she began to settle down in a position which could not admit the possibility of her keeping together many minutes, from the strain every timber endured. Humanity so far prevailed, as to induce the captain of the little fleet to give such assistance as their distress demanded; but from the peculiar situation of the wreck, they could only throw out ropes to those who were steady enough to venture upon the hazardous experiment, and of all who strove to avail themselves of this kindness, three only reached the shore;—the rest sunk with the wreck, which parted almost immediately after the fortunate few had left her. With the utmost horror HOWARD beheld this awful interposition of Providence, in depriving him of the help he now expected to find needful; but, conceiving the necessity of knowing the worst, and despair inducing rashness, he went down to the sea side, where the boats were by this time landing their troops;—he perceived they were Scots, but he likewise discovered they were regulars, apparently well disciplined, and headed by a person of a martial demeanor:—Guilt, and a sense of deserved punishment confirmed him in the opinion of being the object of their pursuit. To fly was madness. To attempt the gratification of his curiosity, promised no favourable explication of his suspicions: gloomy, therefore, thoughtful, and sullen, he waited till they marched towards him.—The commander, gazed for a moment, when, seizing him by the throat—"Villain, murderer," he cried, "where is the noble BRUCE? Where have you hidden the lovely MARGARET? Where is the wife of your betrayed friend? Are you not HOWARD? Are you not the wretch who could steal upon generous benevolence and harmless innocence? Who could lift the bloody sword to the throat of reverend age, and tear the helpless virgin from the castle of her forefathers? Seize him, soldiers, nor suffer him to escape."
MARGARET, who had just ventured beyond the tent which they had composed of a small sail, depending from the lower boughs of a larch tree, several of which grew near the spot, beheld, with sensations composed of several passions, this extraordinary manoeuvre, and gently, though with some trepidation advanced towards the guards of her mortal enemy. She advanced—but gracious Heaven—to whom—to her protector, her deliverer, her FATHER.—She knew him first—Tall, commanding, every motion governed with the most warlike dignity—every feature animated with heroic resolution—how could she mistake—or how overlook such a conspicuous being.
WILD, starting almost into madness, she rushed forward—checked the impulse of her trembling feet—again she strove, by the velocity of her motion, to shorten the distance between them. The gallant ARTHUR observed her extreme perturbation; but, as time had added more to her perfections than it had taken from his, and the disorder of her dress in some measure altered the appearance of her lovely person, he could only wonder at the apparent agitation she discovered—and when she sunk breathless at his feet, raised her with an anxiety, dictated more by native tenderness than parental affection.
SHE revived; he looked with encreasing wonder upon her charming face—"Oh," said she faintly, "do you not know your MARGARET? Tell me, Sir, are you not the son of ——?" She stopt, she could not articulate the revered name of her slaughtered grandsire. ARTHUR stood a moment silent—tears burst from his eyes.—His child, whom he had left in the most sacred protection driven from home—his father massacred by vile miscreants—his patrimony appropriated to the worst of uses, that, most likely, of rewarding the murderers of his parent—and one of these murderers in his presence yet unpunished: he was almost frantic, and even groaned with excess of agony. "O," said he, "is it thus I greet my daughter? she whose excellence entitles her to an exemption from misery. What has she not endured? But," turning to his speechless prisoner, "I will have revenge.—Come, MARGARET, where are the rest of his competitors—the blood of BRUCE burns through every beating vein, and cries for vengeance; those who could listen unmoved to the pleadings of defenceless age, shall entreat in vain for pity:" and then casting an eye of fury upon HOWARD, "Bring on," he cried, "that remorseless villain. Yonder, I imagine, lurks the guilty few, whom heaven has spared to fall by this injured arm. Lament not, my beloved daughter, thy father shall supply the place of him you so dutifully mourn."
"FORGIVE these tears, my dearest protector; alas! they flow from various causes; beneath yonder tree, great MONMOUTH’S Duchess weeps away the sad remains of a feeble existence: treachery, malice, and the vilest barbarity, have conspired to rack a noble heart; and she sinks into death, without the hope of breathing out her innocent soul in a state of freedom—hasten then, while she has power to acknowledge her deliverer; hasten to comfort, to cheer, and, it may be, to restore an oppressed sufferer." ARTHUR answered not this tender adjuration, but, by quickening his steps, SCOFIELD, with his abettors, were instantly surrounded; resistance was useless, they submitted in abject despondency to their fate, while HOWARD, as if enraged at the pusillanimity of those who could not contend against such odds, turned indignantly from them, confining in his own bosom that inflated pride, which even this mortifying circumstance could not overcome.
MARGARET now led her father into the tent, and going up to the Duchess, who was still guarded by her unknown friend, begged her to look up, for her captivity was at an end. She did look up, but it was only to see her kind companion fiercely attacked by ARTHUR, who, conceiving him to be an object of terror to Lady MONMOUTH and his child, drew his sword, and would have ended a life to which those ladies were indebted for their present hope of liberty. "Stop, gracious Sir," said the man, "nor confound the guilty with those who are not so; it would pain your generous soul to know the motives which have awakened your fury—when too late to remedy the evil you are about to commit." ARTHUR stood suspended, but returned not his sword into the scabbard, "speak then," said he, "and be sure you clear yourself of a crime so horrid, or certain death awaits your presumption."
THE unknown, with a modest confidence, addressed the half-fainting Duchess; who, terrified at ARTHUR’s impetuosity, sunk into MARGARET’S arms, and was scarcely able to attend the story she yet wished to hear. "You have doubtless, Madam," said he, "forgotten the person of one, who was happy to be serviceable to you, at a moment when excessive danger prevented your attention to any thing but an immediate escape. Even the royal Duke might not recognise his faithful servant: but while ANTHONY RIVERS lives, his whole services shall be dedicated to the noble Lord and Lady he will always love and honour.
"I WAS many years a domestic in the family of the great ALGERNON SYDNEY; and continued in it, till that best of men was brought to the block; after which LORD HOWARD thought proper to retain me at his country seat; from whence I communicated the important intelligence respecting my infamous Lord’s design to carry you off. About a week since, the expedition to Scotland was rapidly agreed upon; and I could neither find time nor opportunity to inform you of their dreadful design. All then, that could be done, was to accompany the assailants, and watch every probable event to do you service. My friend, who commanded the Swift, was happily chosen to navigate the vessel employed upon this occasion; but we were extremely mortified, to find the plan had been so cautiously laid as to preclude any expectation we might entertain of preventing the shock you must endure; so that we could only hope, by some lucky finesse, to counteract a part of his Lordship’s base intention. The business being concluded, for which he had destroyed so many brave fellows, and the hostile appearance, which alarmed him from the mountain, urging his departure, we were obliged to embark without the possibility of preventing the massacres we shuddered to behold, or relieving the distresses our hearts agonized to witness. While I was musing upon the cruel situation of the illustrious captives, my friend interrupted me with the welcome information, that he had planned a scheme which bore the appearance of success, though it was attended with unavoidable danger. He had seen, and truly guessed at this gentleman’s design in pursuing us; and, fearful we should not be overtaken, proposed to run the vessel upon the rocks, not doubting, but, by his skill and care, to save our lives, though the ship would of course be destroyed. I gladly consented, and the event, though humanity trembles for the fate of so many wretches, who so rashly sought an awful eternity, clearly proves that an eternal Providence sometimes condescends to justify his ways to man."
ANTHONY concluded his information with entreating ARTHUR would set at liberty the gallant man who had so nobly interested himself in the cause of distressed innocence. "Free him," answered he; "Yes; at the hazard of my life, I would set at liberty the preserver of my child and this Lady."—His child! O what rapture did those words convey to the Duchess’s soul. She feebly strained her faithful MARGARET to a heart that fluttered as if upon the point of sinking into eternal silence, and held out a trembling hand to the father of her generous friend, who received the sacred offer with the most dutiful respect, vowing never to sheath his sword till MONMOUTH’S right was permanently established; and then departed to arrange the necessary means for securing his prisoners, producing ANTHONY’S friend, and contributing to the peace and consolation of his lovely charges.
THE news of CHARLES’S demise, which happened about this time; the impatience of those friends, who were perpetually urging him to make a descent upon England; and the silence of his adored ANNA to the many letters he had written, determined MONMOUTH to sail to Scotland, for the purpose of summoning those who had lavishly promised him their interest, as well as to satisfy his foreboding heart respecting the Duchess. ARGYLE immediately prepared to accompany his friend, under the secret impression of that affection, which absence had embittered with numberless pangs; and they arrived at Sky the very evening after those horrid transactions had been committed. The deserted appearance of Bruce Castle, which had for numerous years grounded in the observer ideas of the most gloomy solitude, became yet more desolate to the eye of MONMOUTH, who eagerly sought the entrance of that ancient fortress. The falling of a heavy snow prevented, for some time, the discovery of the path which led to the avenue; and in vain they looked for the signal of society that constantly, of a dark night, illumined one or other of the Gothic windows:—but now all was dreary, silent and solitary.—The brown horrors of the awful fabric were strongly contrasted by the whiteness of its covering, which, driven by the wind, adhered to the eastern wall, and threw additional gloom upon the other parts of the building. With difficulty they waded through the melting snow; and with terror perceived the inner door that led to the hall thrown wide open. Fearful of they knew not what, though dreading every evil, they cautiously descended several steps, suppressing almost the tumultuous agitation of their throbbing hearts, and hardly daring to respire, left it should retard the means of satisfying a curiosity which had almost deprived them of every sense, but that of hearing.—Alas! it met with no interruption, but the melancholy echo of their own feet. They proceeded to the stairs that led to the western turret, when ARGYLE stumbled with a force that impelled him to the ground; and, in searching for the occasion of his fall, caught hold of a hand that chilled his soul. He started backwards,—"My friend," said MONMOUTH, "wherefore do you hesitate? Let us know the worst."
"THE worst is death," exclaimed the astonished Earl. "Death, remorseless and unrelenting, presides over the harmless inmates of Bruce Castle. Be not impatient, MONMOUTH; be not terrified, but much I dread the hand of HOWARD and his abettor have struck a bloody stroke."
THE truth, like lightning, pervaded the Duke’s prophetic soul—"Ah!" he cried, "have they reached this peaceful abode already? Are we then too late even for vengeance?" The cold perspiration run from his limbs, while, in inconceivable anguish, he called upon BRUCE, the Duchess, and MARGARET—a sullen silence followed the echo of his voice. "They are murdered," groaned the poor distressed—"ARGYLE, they are sacrificed: hark! do you not hear their ineffectual shrieks? O, Fancy brings to my tortured imagination, their prayers for mercy, their tears. I hear my adored ANNA’S adjurations to MONMOUTH to save her from the assassin. I see the reverend BRUCE lift up his aged hands for pity—the lovely MARGARET too, upon her trembling knees, implores a respite for her beloved parent; and now the fatal weapon pierces a heart, whose last throbs were for her absent husband’s sorrows, when the dreadful tale should reach his ear."
"NO more, my dearest friend," said the Earl, "we will return to the boat that landed us, and procure a light; we shall then be enabled to investigate the shocking transaction." They were turning to leave the place, when the noise of some one coming down the stairs, caught their ear, and arrested their steps.—"Stop," said the Duke, "all are not dead; they listened, but all was again silent. "It is but an imaginary sound," rejoined he, and was proceeding, when they again heard it, as though retiring towards the upper gallery. He then turned hastily about, and went up some of the broken steps, when a bell, which was occasionally made use of in the Castle, sounded several times. Courage, rashness, even despair was hardly able to contend against the strong apprehensions such unaccountable surprises had raised—MONMOUTH hesitated—ARGYLE, though bold and enterprising, seemed more inclined to retreat for a light—but was again struck by a repetition of several soft sighs, as though breathed from the bosom of a female. The Duke would no longer linger in suspence, but, rushing forward, again uttered those names so dear to him. He had now reached the door of his Lady’s chamber, when, by the dim glimmer which the snow had reflected through the window, he discerned the figure of a woman, who, sinking at his feet, could scarcely articulate a plea for mercy. "Whoever thou art, I conjure thee," said MONMOUTH, "to inform me of the fate of BRUCE and his family."
"ALAS, my Lord," answered the trembling damsel, "they are doubtless murdered: to chance alone am I indebted for some hours of a miserable existence; but my laird, and the ladies are victims to a band of robbers who last night stormed the Castle."
"WHO then are you?" asked ARGYLE, who by this time had reached the gallery, and who, though stunned by the terrible information, applied the question his friend could not put—petrified as he was at intelligence so distracted.
"I AM JANET," she replied, "and should now have been numbered with the dead, but, when my dear master was pursued by the wretches into this room, I crept into a closet under the stairs, nor should now have ventured out, but was encouraged by hearing your voices, which I thought I knew, and ventured to touch the alarm bell."
"AND are they all murdered?" exclaimed MONMOUTH, with a sigh which shook his bosom.
"INDEED, my honoured Lord, I think so," said the poor creature; "but I fainted away with terror when I heard my master’s dying groans, and the Duchess’s sad shrieks—so that I can only guess they are killed, from the silence which nothing but your entrance interrupted." A noise below alarmed the feeble JANET, and she clung to ARGYLE, saying, "They are returned again, and we must all die." MONMOUTH and ARGYLE, who imagined the cause of her fright, hastily descended, and met in the hall those sailors, who, uneasy at their long stay, had left the boat, and with several lighted torches, which they had fetched from the ship, soon explored a doubtful passage through the snow, and were hailing the gentlemen in the loudest terms. The entrance of the lights immediately explained what JANET had no power to tell; and they beheld the marble pavement stained with human gore, while extended in different parts of the hall, lay the bodies of those who had bravely fallen in defence of liberty. Almost frantic at a sight so terrible—the Duke struck his forehead, clasped his hands, and was ready in the despair of his soul, to arraign the Providence who had given its suffrage to acts so atrocious. "My wife," he cried, "ANNA—my murdered love—O, in what part of this tomb of the innocent lie remains so precious:" and then wildly flying from his friend, who was little more composed than himself—he snatched a torch from one of the men, and, with a resolution despair only could supply, again mounted the steps of the turret, and explored every arched recess and closet, that might be supposed to contain the affecting object he yet shuddered to meet. Her chamber door was open, the couch on which she had often reclined stood opposite, against it leaned her harp, and upon the ground lay a scarf, which she wore upon her arm, because it was valued by her MONMOUTH. He entered—tears, scalding his manly cheeks at the sight of remembrances so precious—but if these tokens agonized his heart with a tenderness that knew no bounds—how did rage, hatred, and the bitterest feelings, dry up the sources of soft pity, and raise his fury to the highest pitch, when he beheld—the corse of that noble friend, who had sheltered him from the fury which at last had proved fatal to himself. He threw himself upon his knees before it, and raising his hands to Heaven, in a solemn and affecting manner, vowed never to lay aside his resentment, till the house of HOWARD had expiated by its blood the injuries of that martyred sufferer, and his extirpated clan: then rising, he again resumed the search, which he gave not over, till convinced it was utterly fruitless. With the opening dawn new scenes of horror presented themselves; a desolation, the most chilling, was only to be seen, where he had left all the charms of cultivated society. A silence, the most melancholy, now received no interruption from the piper’s national harmony, or the cheerful occupations of a happy family.—MONMOUTH could not bear the gloomy contrast; and acceded to ARGYLE’S request, to hasten from the dreary mansion, not forgetting to take the lamenting JANET from a place, where misery had now taken up its abode.
DETERMINED to seek the author of his calamities—the Duke separated from his friend, who hastened to the isle of Bute, Dumbarton, and all those places from whence he expected the forces he now thought necessary to bring forward—while MONMOUTH, after settling a place of general rendezvous, with a heart burnt up with grief and revenge, desperately sought his mortal enemy—even in the Court of JAMES; but disappointed in his furious expectations, and fortunate enough to escape the snares that King had prepared for him, he would no longer delay the execution of a plan which long had divided his attention with the fair one he had now, in idea, consigned to death—and hastened back to Amsterdam, where the representation of his unprecedented wrongs increased the number of his followers to a consequential degree; even the Prince of ORANGE, watchful for his safety, discovered a formidable plot laid by JAMES’S ambassador, to secure, and send him back to England;—and, with unexampled kindness, protected him from his enemies’ designs. The uniformity with which he had hitherto acted, respecting his intentions of dethroning his uncle, now gave way to schemes of revenge, and he had more consolation in the hope of HOWARD’S destruction, than pleasure in the idea of overcoming a bigotted catholic. The loss of his Duchess became every day more poignant, and the uncertainty of her fate, tormented his feelings with the most corroding anguish.—His plans were formed without prudence, and communicated without circumspection. The rashness which had ever sullied his character, became the most blameable trait in it, and, deprived of the only friend who had preserved his influence over that unhappy Prince, he gave way to impatience, peevishness, and sudden fits of anger; which encreased to an inexcusable heighth, when opposed by the slightest contradiction. Alas! the only mitigation of his griefs was yet with-held—the only circumstance which could have molified the acrid disposition he had of late indulged, seemed not to cheer his gloomy soul; his ANNA, though liberated from her mortal enemy, was so far reduced, by the consequence of her late afflictions, as to be utterly unable to bear a voyage, either to England or Holland;—all that could be done then was to convey her to the nearest Scottish port; where, guarded by RIVERS and his friend, ARTHUR left MARGARET and the Duchess, while he went in pursuit of the Duke to offer his services, and to inform him of his Lady’s safety. Unwilling to trust HOWARD from his sight, and loath to be the inflicter of that justice his crimes deserved—he found him a heavy clog upon his intention.—It was impossible to set him at liberty;—resentment, prudence, reason, all forbid a step so dangerous; and to be under the necessity of keeping so bad a member of society continually about him, was not only disagreeable, but inconvenient.—However, the only punishment he could at present substitute, and which was a present solution to his perplexities—was to have him conveyed to the castle he had desolated, where, under a strict and guarded confinement, he might, at leisure, reflect upon the cruelties which had rendered it an abode of solitary horror. The bigotry of JAMES had already rendered the English Court a scene of confusion, and was daily making innovations upon the privileges of a free and happy people.—Popery was soon understood to be the leading principle of that Monarch’s actions; nor did he scruple to avow his intention of establishing that mode of worship throughout the nation. This terrifying resolution gave the most pungent alarm to all who had hoped to ground in their offspring a sacred sense of the reformed religion, and who now trembled for the fate of those who had strongly contended for the necessity of enforcing the penal law.—All the martyrdoms which branded MARY’S reign with the vilest odium—all the horrible persecutions that had rendered France a scene of unprecedented barbarity—the character of CATHERINE of Medicis—CHARLES the Ninth—and the Duke of Guise—were held up as the consequence of Romish finesse, and unfeeling superstition.—One only hope remained to calm the apprehensions of a suspicious people, and MONMOUTH’S pretensions, however futile, received additional force from the attempts JAMES made to weaken them. It was the very point to which his friends had aimed to bring him, the moment on which depended the confirmation of his wishes; all who had secretly favoured the Duke, now openly confessed their attachment; conspiracies were every where forming to strengthen his forces. Expresses daily sent to invite him to take possession of a throne, which they now considered in the greatest danger.—ARGYLE had summoned together all who had professed an inclination to serve the Duke, and he now waited, with the utmost impatience, for that Prince to join him.—ARTHUR, likewise, was trying the strength of his interest among the islands, and had invited all on whom he could depend to join him at Brussels, where MONMOUTH yet lingered—to whom he sent the heart-cheering news of his ANNA’S safety.—Ah! what was the triumph of his soul, when this intelligence saluted his heavy eye?—O, what was royalty, grandeur, victory, the adoration of a multitude, the conquest of a king, the gratification of ambition, and the future prospect of glory, to the extatic information, contained in ARTHUR’S letter!
JANET, to whom this event was related, with tears intreated she might be dispatched to the Duchess, and her beloved mistress.—"Yes," said the Duke, "thou shalt carry to that heavenly creature that assurance, that her husband yet means to place her on the throne of his forefathers—that he will not see her, till he can embrace her as Queen of England.—I will no longer dally with the wishes of a nation.—To know that my ANNA lives, will give my sword its keenest edge;—it is the prognostication of victory, as her love is the highest reward my deeds can deserve."
IF the charming hope of once more meeting his suffering love, changed the course of his ideas, and softened the ferocity of his disposition, which nothing less could meliorate—a sudden blow from Scotland roused every spark of resentment, rage and revenge.—ARGYLE, who had sailed from Holland, some time before, with the most sanguine expectations of success, and safely reached the castle of Dunstaffnage, which he converted into a place of arms, collected a numerous body of vassals and dependants—but, defeated by the watchfulness of the royalists, saw his army dispersed, and himself so hotly pursued, as to be necessitated to quit his horse; and was discovered by a peasant, standing up to his neck in water.—The fellow, ignorant of ARGYLE’S consequence, and feeling an artless pity for a situation so painful, extricated the Earl, and conducted him to a small and lonely seat, some miles distant from Inverness:—It stood upon the edge of a vast and barren moor, which rendered the cultivated appearance about the cottage extremely delightful. He was amazed, upon his entrance, with a reception so contrary to any idea he could have formed of its inhabitants, from the size and figure of the building; an elegant neatness distinguished the apartments, and a polite frankness their possessor, who was a venerable lady, with features, in which shone the softest benevolence; the assistance his distress demanded was accorded with an engaging frankness, and received with the most unfeigned gratitude. To the Earl’s thankful expressions for the services she so liberally tendered—she answered with a self-congratulating smile, and a confession that she had been happy enough that day to render the duties of humanity to more than him—ARGYLE started. He knew not but the danger he had so narrowly escaped, might even, beneath this hospitable roof, be ready to overwhelm him—and could scarcely articulate a wish to know who had availed themselves of this lady’s kindness—"I believe," she replied "the gentlemen are stirring; and if so, they will soon appear to gratify your curiosity—and then setting before him the viands he had no inclination to partake—she withdrew, to provide such necessary comforts as her generous heart deemed consequential to his fatigued state.—Melancholy, and too apprehensive of being discovered to enjoy the sweets of a situation so desirable, the Earl sighed for the security he dreaded that place could not afford, and sat lost in meditation upon his adverse fortune, which had doomed him to be the sport of a successless passion, and too probably the victim of friendship.—Reclining his cheek upon his elbow, he perceived not the entrance of several strangers, till one of them roughly seizing him by the collar—exclaimed in a furious tone—"Ah! traitor, thou art caught at last."—Disengaging himself with a violent effort, he drew his sword; but the immersion he had recently endured, had so enfeebled his limbs, as to prevent the possibility of standing a contest so unequal. He was immediately disarmed; when, lifting up a sullen eye to his conqueror, he felt a gleam of vindictive rage animate his brave, though depressed heart.—Ah! well might hope, courage, resolution, all be annihilated by dispair;—well might his subdued soul forbode a fatal conclusion to a life composed of various troubles, keen disappointments, and bitter mortification; when in the features of his guard he beheld his death;—when, in the person who had captured him, he saw the base, deceitful, murderous—HOWARD—who, aided by SCOFIELD and two soldiers, claimed the vast honour of overpowering an exhausted man!—The noise they made alarmed their hostess—who, entering with trembling haste, begged to know the cause of this confusion, and seeing ARGYLE struggling ineffectually against his adversaries, intreated upon her aged knees they would not injure that noble gentleman—"Faithless woman," said HOWARD, "would you protect a rebel? is this your allegiance to our sovereign JAMES?" "Alas! Sir," she cried, "pity a feeble creature, whose love of hospitality may have led her into an error, but whose attachment to her king makes her shudder for the treason, though pity for this poor sufferer induces her to plead for his deliverance."—"You know him then; you know the rebellious ARGYLE, and yet you do not execrate the villain."
"Forgive me, Sir," she said, while tears, extorted by fear and grief, run from her eyes—"Believe me—though I would relieve a fellow creature’s sufferings, I detest his crimes."—"Will you," said the haughty HOWARD, "appear against this enemy to national peace?"—"O! no, I cannot injure one who has never offended me." "Then, madam, you shall accompany this traitor to Edinburgh, and take your trial;—we have laws against those who harbour rebels."—"Monster," cried the exasperated ARGYLE—"you cannot mean to punish that goodness, which equally sheltered you with my unfortunate self;—I know you hitherto to be remorseless;—I ask no mercy for myself;—but disgrace not this venerable woman by such a horrid deed."—"O do not," added the terrified lady, "for Heaven’s sake, do not let me finish a life spent in harmless innocence, in a manner so shocking."—"Then corroborate the evidence I shall give, and save the life you prize so much—or confirm at the stake your adherence to JAMES’S enemies."—"In pity to my age, I intreat you to relax the severe decree—look upon these venerable hairs—see these trembling hands lifted for pity—and condemn not to the flames a frame so feeble." "No, madam," retorted the savage, "I can be obstinate as well as you—prepare to accompany this gentleman to Edinburgh."—"O," said ARGYLE, "what fiend has let this instrument of darkness loose upon mankind again?" "Perhaps," said the insulting HOWARD, with a sarcastic smile, "you wish to know.—I will gratify a request put with so much kindness.—It was not ARTHUR’S cunning that could keep Lord HOWARD a prisoner—the agent which acted in my behalf was a friendly storm, which overtook us upon a lonely moor, when each man, careful for himself, neglected to watch us, and we easily escaped before we were conveyed to the detestable habitation our goaler had prepared.—But come, you shall not complain of assassination, a fair and legal trial awaits the heroic ARGYLE.—Yes, he shall own his fate deserved, and the decision upon his crimes nobly just."—To this taunting address, the Earl disdained reply—and could only sigh for the fate of his unhappy protectress, whose tears, entreaties, and exclamations, were insufficient to reach the feelings of her barbarous persecutor; and they were both conducted to the strictest confinement, without hope of escape or deliverance.
NOT long were they permitted to linger in uncertainty; the sentence of decollation was quickly pronounced upon ARGYLE, as his crime was by no means equivocal: and, to the eternal disgrace of the legislators, the utter condemnation of Lord HOWARD, and the shame of a court, which laid claim to the characteristic of mercy, that reverend sufferer, whose untainted heart would not permit her to accuse a man of whom she knew no ill, was doomed to the stake. To know that for him such an exalted being was to endure a death so excruciating, was the chiefest pang that embittered ARGYLE’S latest moments. A near view of death, in all its tremendous pomp, aroused ideas more consonant to his situation than any that rage, resentment, ardent friendship, a love of his country, or even the soft remembrance of unrequited affection could supply. All the heroic fortitude which had hurried him into so many dangers was now considered but as rashness. A proper submission to the dispensation that was so soon to deprive him of life; a patient resignation to the fate he had primarily precipitated, cooled his hatred to HOWARD; whom he now looked upon as an instrument, in the hand of Providence, to finish a work so important. For MONMOUTH and his cause he offered the prayer of an humbled soul. For the lovely MARGARET, whom these awful circumstances could not eradicate from his memory, he preferred the most devout oraisons; and for the aged partner of his destiny, he tried every power, supplicated every friend, and applied to every one whose interest he hoped might be of consequence to her; but in vain were his petitions, his prayers, his wishes; and he had only the consolation of knowing, he should suffer first. His end was, that of a man conscious of no crime, glaring enough to extinguish his hopes of mercy: and his last breath respired with the names of MARGARET and MONMOUTH.
THUS died the support of that noble Duke, whose furious despair, at this shocking intelligence, was equal to a state of madness. He groaned forth the name of ARGYLE; he vowed the most extraordinary vengeance upon the arbiters of his fate; he drew his sword, rushed into the streets, called upon those who had engaged to support him, hastened to the port, and, with less than half the forces he had relied upon, sailed out of the Texel, breathing nothing but defiance and death. His passage, though short, appeared insufferably tedious. Every sail was unfurled; and, though the wind blew a perfect hurricane, they flew over the immensity of waters with a velocity which strained their vessels to an alarming degree. His birth, his dignity, his pretensions, injuries, and impetuosity, all contributed to enforce his commands. None dared to dispute, and, though destruction threatened to be the consequence of their obedience, no one offered the slightest opposition to his will. The shores of England rapidly opening to their view, encouraged the attempts they made to gain the land MONMOUTH so eagerly sought; and the wind assisting their endeavours, they made Lyme in Dorsetshire. The Duke, not intimidated by the waves, which ran frightfully high, ordered the boats to be put out, and, actuated by the same frenzy that had induced him so suddenly to quit Holland, leaped into the first that was ready, and, with the utmost danger, was conveyed on shore. His followers, impelled by an enthusiasm, for which they beheld such a powerful support, staid not for the consideration of any argument reason might deduce from their desperate situation, but crouded after him, and, in the practice of a rashness which seldom succeeds, were safely landed. The country people, who were at first seriously alarmed, no sooner understood that their beloved MONMOUTH was come to redress their grievances, than the loudest acclamations testified their joy.
AT Axminster and Taunton he received considerable reinforcements, and at both those places was proclaimed King, notwithstanding the attempts Lord ALBEMARLE made to dispossess him of his footing, who had advanced to meet him, but, doubtful of his own strength, ventured not a battle in a place where he could not promise himself the smallest assistance, and quietly suffered the Duke to march to Bridgewater without opposition. The sight of that town excited sensations of a pungent nature in MONMOUTH’S bosom. It recalled the tender remembrance of ARGYLE’S friendship, his patient forbearance, his ardent stedfastness. It did more; it brought back the memory of those painful moments which HOWARD had embittered by imprisoning the Duchess, and allayed the fermenting passion of anger by the sweeter and more prevailing one of connubial love. He sighed for his ANNA. He accused himself of unkindness, in leaving her to an uncertain fate. Perhaps, thought he, she now considers me as one careless of her inestimable worth. Why do I neglect to send for the dear creature? She shall come—I will stay till she arrives.—It was enough, the rapidness of execution immediately succeeded determination; and he began (like a man who is recovering from the stupor sleep has imposed on his intellects) to wonder at the delirium which had prevented the arrangement of a business, to him the most important, and was amazed at a neglect so blameable.
WHILE MONMOUTH was giving the necessary orders respecting the safe conduct of his lady, a scout informed him of the distant appearance of some troops, which seemed marching directly towards their camp. He was surprised, and, ordering a party to meet them, waited the result. Their chief readily owned himself a friend to MONMOUTH, and, with the utmost joy, that Prince received the father of his tenderly esteemed MARGARET, while ARTHUR gazed in silent admiration on the graceful form of the Duke, and secretly owned his Duchess only was worthy of a consort so noble. After the necessary ceremonies were performed, the gallant ARTHUR informed MONMOUTH of all those particulars which he had hitherto imperfectly understood, telling him he had sailed to Holland, in expectation of joining him there, and that, in consequence of his absence, he had hastened to England, to offer the lives and services of a few chosen veterans, who feared not death so much as dishonour. The Duke received a supply so necessary, with a grace entirely his own, and, after returning thanks, untinctured by pride or degraded by meanness, condoled his friend upon the loss of his revered father, and in a spirited accent vowed revenge upon the base perpetrators of a deed so foul. Grateful was this declaration to the soul of ARTHUR.
"THEN," said he, "I may hope to see revenge in its most awful colours blacken the days of that monster HOWARD, who, I am much concerned to say, has for the present escaped our just resentment."
"BLACKEN the days," repeated MONMOUTH, "no, the first moment that brings him within my reach, shall be the last of a life so horrid; but say, my friend, will you do me an essential service, will you escort, for whom can I so safely trust, will you escort the Duchess and MARGARET hither. Here they will be safe. Since our strength is so considerable we need not fear a surprise; and when the approach of an enemy calls us into the field, this town shall be their asylum."
WITH the utmost satisfaction ARTHUR BRUCE accepted the important office, and, charged with numberless commissions respecting their safe conveyance, he left the camp accompanied only by two or three servants, as he deemed a numerous train extremely improper, as well as dangerous, at a time when every extraordinary circumstance might awaken suspicion, and occasion inquiry into a conduct not so safe to explain.
LONG ere this period JANET’S arrival had calmed those apprehensions which HOWARD’S cruel insinuations had raised in the Duchess’s bosom, and she was joyfully convinced of her husband being still at liberty to prosecute his claim to the crown. The quiet repose her present state afforded, was extremely consequential to the delicate and languid situation of her spirits; and she once more lifted an eye of hope to a prospect so long obscured. The attention of her friend was rewarded with a chearful smile, and the dutiful respect of RIVERS and his companion received with grateful dignity. The chiefest allay to her present tranquility was, the rumour of ARGYLE’S death; even MARGARET shed tears of pity for the misfortunes of a man whom yet she could never love; and when that report was confirmed, felt something like remorse, for adding one pang to those which had pierced a noble heart.
EVERY moment now was pregnant with important intelligence. The Duke’s hasty passage to England, was reported as the consequence of his intention immediately to dethrone the King. His success in the western parts was related to the Duchess, who, while she put up the most ardent petitions to Heaven for his safety, felt a secret wish arise, that he had been void of that ambition which precipitated him into such danger. Ah! she thought, what pity the obscurity of his birth should have thus clouded his pretensions to royalty. How sad to consider he must probably wade through the blood of those who would have proved themselves his most loyal subjects, had his father declared his legitimacy, and perhaps erect his throne in the blood of thousands of gallant Englishmen.
HER meditations were interrupted by the hasty entrance of MARGARET, who, in a voice of terror, said she had seen several men in disguise, parleying, or rather contending with ANTHONY, for admittance at the gate; and that, upon seeing that gallant servant draw his sword, she was convinced their arrival portended no good. "Dreadful," exclaimed the Duchess, "then we are again discovered: none but HOWARD and his infernal emisaries would avail themselves of a disguise, still further aided by the darkness of the night; but see, yonder is RIVERS entering the door—ah! what drooping figure is that supported by him. He sinks—would RIVERS thus attend an enemy like HOWARD."
"O, SAVE me," said MARGARET, "from the horror of my own suspicions; but surely I now behold a dying father."
"CONDEMN not RIVERS," said the gallant ARTHUR, "he knew not against whom he lifted his sword." I dared not discover myself, as within hearing stood a mortal enemy to MONMOUTH’S cause, no other than the savage KIRK; a monster, who by serving at Tangier, and renouncing his Saviour, is rewarded with a Colonel’s commission; and, in conjunction with the horrid JEFFRIES, carries destruction wherever he sets his foot. The penitent RIVERS, upon his knees, implored BRUCE’S forgiveness for a rashness so fatal, while MARGARET summoned every assistance to her father’s aid.
"BE not distressed my love," he said, "the wound is slight: think not of my sufferings, I fear a more shocking termination of this event, and should not wonder if KIRK has been informed of your asylum; and if so, destruction comes in the most terrible form it can assume. We must fly this night, perhaps we may escape the ruffian’s hands."
"ALAS!" cried the Duchess, whom surprise and sorrow had hitherto kept silent, "am I for ever to be the cause of mischief to your noble family—O MARGARET, will you not detest the woman whose misfortunes have brought such misery upon you?" MARGARET pressed her hand, sighed deeply, and with a look of the tenderest esteem answered the unhappy Lady’s question.
"BE GONE," cried BRUCE to RIVERS, "prepare this instant for our departure, MONMOUTH expects his Duchess at Bridgewater, where he waits till she arrives. Let JANET bring proper disguises for the ladies; my hurts will not prevent my travelling. Get two of the swiftest horses you can procure; my daughter must ride behind you. I will protect my honoured Lady, if she will condescend to such a mode of conveyance." Happy to an excess in the idea that she should soon join her beloved MONMOUTH, the impatient Duchess gladly acceded to his proposal, nor considered her weakness, which was yet unable to cope with the fatigue such a method of travelling must necessarily occasion.
ANTHONY, though overwhelmed with vexation for the accident his fidelity had produced, lost not a moment in making the arrangement required, notwithstanding his advanced age, speedily procuring the horses, and before midnight the fair adventurers were placed behind their protectors, silently invoking the interposition of that Providence, without whose gracious suffrage the most laudable actions would be unblessed with success. The weather, which during the forepart of the evening had been extremely favourable, gave signs of a disagreeable change. The wind agitated the bushes with uncommon violence; the moon set encircled by a foggy mist; the clouds covered the sky with a gloomy and foreboding aspect, and these prognosticating appearances were soon followed by a heavy fall of rain and sleet, almost petrifying the luckless wanderers, whose garments were soon drenched by the soaking deluge. The feeble Duchess, who could scarcely sit the horse, buffetted as she was by the contending elements, entreated she might be permitted to alight, were it only for the purpose of resting upon the cold ground—for she could no longer bear a motion that almost convulsed her emaciated frame.
"COURAGE, dear Lady," said BRUCE, "a few miles further is a small village, where you may rest without dread of a pursuit." She was silent, faint, sick, and hopeless, she lost even the ardent desire that induced her to make an attempt so rash, and threw her eyes to the miry ground, as an envied rest she was not permitted to enjoy; when casting a despairing look towards the dreary horizon, she tremulously begged ARTHUR to observe a light which seemed at no great distance, and might probably lead them to a necessary shelter.
"ALAS! no, Madam," said he, "I fear that is only a beacon, intended for the use of shipping, which otherwise might fail too near this rocky shore."
"O, MY father," cried MARGARET, whose attention was attracted by the same doubtful object, and who equally wished a respite from the misery they endured, "let us hope Almighty Goodness has conducted us within view of the relief our harrassed state demands; at least, let us ride towards that signal of comfort." Their anxiety and distress induced the sympathising BRUCE to turn out of the road, which they had till then pursued; and, winding about the bottom of the hill, endeavoured to find a path which might lead to the discovery of what he considered as a delusive temptation, and began to climb an eminence from whence he wished to convince the poor itinerants of their error: soon they beheld again the light their eager eyes strained to discover; but, alas! it was no nearer than before, and, from its situation, they were fatally certain it could hold out no consolation to them. The hope which had supported MARGARET’S feeble spirits, now gave way at once; it was the last resource her fainting soul could cling to, and Lady MONMOUTH felt with exaggerated pain the horrors of darkness. Cold, sickness, and despair, united to shut out almost the wish of a deliverance; but her generous protector, in the most respectful accents, entreated her to admit the possibility of succour; and, once more they turned their horses heads to seek the road they had quitted, but in vain they sought it, so intricate were the various paths which led to the rapid descent of the hill; and when, with the utmost caution, the poor animals, who were almost as weary as their riders, had safely reached the bottom, they found themselves almost under the rocky eminence that overhung, in a tremendous manner, the road they meant to pursue, encreasing a gloom already too formidable not to create the keenest sensations of fear in the female bosom.
ENVELOPED in the dreary shade they could no longer distinguish their way, but, with a slow and melancholy pace, wandered in search of the road they had lost; every step the horses took adding to their terror, by the fear of plunging into a morass, with which some of those hills in that part of Scotland were skirted. The heavy dawn began slowly to break upon the bleak and barren prospect. The rain had ceased, but a thick damp fog, which had spread its hazy veil over every object, rendered, for some time, the opening day of little effect; deep sighs, accompanied by unavailing tears, was the welcome given by MARGARET and the Duchess to the returning light, for it seemed to promise but little relief to the sorrow their aching hearts indulged.
DEJECTED, and unable to give utterance to the fears and doubts their situation excited, they all avoided any overtures to a conversation that might tend to strengthen the dismay under which they struggled. Even ARTHUR would have preferred a field of battle to this sad and lonely scene. The wound he had unhappily received from ANTHONY grew stiff and painful, and his arm could scarcely guide the horse. Thus despirited, bewildered and forlorn, they continued till the echo of several distant voices animated their desponding hearts; and the Duchess faintly exclaimed, "Gracious Heaven! shall we once more enter the cheerful haunts of mankind," Her spirits reviving in proportion as the noise encreased. ARTHUR listened, stopped the horses, and waited with a fearful kind of hope the arrival of these men, who now came near enough to perceive the harrassed creatures, when ARTHUR, riding up to the first who approached, begged his direction to the nearest cottage. The surly tone, and broken English of the person he addressed, shook his soul with foreboding fear, as they were in a part of the world then agitated by intestine feuds, and he knew not but in seeking a friend, he might find an enemy; turning therefore his horse instinctively, as it were, from a repulse he so little expected to meet, it excited the curiosity of the stranger to know what could have induced them to have wandered among such unfrequented passes. The same motive for enquiry struck BRUCE respecting this troop, which was numerous, formidable, and well armed; but he neither chose to give them the truth of his situation, or appear desirous to know theirs. In sullen silence then they passed along, till the Duchess who could no longer support the fatigue she endured, sunk from her horse, and, in falling, lost the cloak with which she had been enveloped.
"A LOVELY creature, by Heaven," said the stranger, as he hastily dismounted to help her. MARGARET and BRUCE, as if struck by one sad sentiment, endeavoured to assist her, and drew the cloak about her; but totally insensible, she threw it aside, and stretching out her hands, "O," she cried, "do not hide him from me, MONMOUTH, protect thy wretched ANNA."
"AH," said the stranger, "is it so?—we have indeed, then, found a prize.—Come, Sir," to BRUCE, "surrender—your fair Lady has unknowingly betrayed you; we little expected to meet you here—it is true your Duchess’s hiding-place was suspected, and has long been watched, but we knew not it contained the rebellious MONMOUTH."
THIS laconic address, delivered with a fierce, yet sneering aspect, convinced BRUCE, that however mistaken this wretch might be in the person, he was not in the pretensions of MONMOUTH, and trembled for the ladies, whom, to his sad surprize, he found were likely to be captured by the monster KIRK, into whose brutal hands he saw they were fallen.—To resist, he knew, was madness—to give sanction to KIRK’s supposition could answer no salutary purpose—and to ask mercy was an attempt to still the tempestuous ocean. The lamentations of MARGARET over her lost friend, as they attracted the notice of this barbarian, gave ARTHUR time for the above reflections, and he at length concluded upon making an ample confession, as it were possible, by that means, he might at least procure the relief necessary to the recovery of the Duchess, who still continued wildly gazing upon MARGARET, and calling upon her husband in the most affecting terms;—but KIRK had now no leisure to attend the request he made to be heard. MARGARET, the enchanting MARGARET, beautiful in distress, and touchingly striking from the pathos of her manner, inflamed those passions which never yet had known opposition; and he could not behold her bending over her suffering companion, without appropriating to himself, in idea, all those gentle beauties that animated the affectionate virgin: commanding therefore, that his prisoners should be safely guarded, he contrived a fort of bier, on which the ladies might repose, and rode by their side, inflated with the triumph he secretly hoped to enjoy.—ARTHUR and ANTHONY followed the cavalcade, with sensations too acute to be described, almost too poignant to be endured. The wretched father saw his child in the power of a monster, whose vile principles, respecting the female sex, could only be paralleled by his inhumanity to the other—and shuddered with indignation and horror at the bare idea of what a delicacy so amiable might endure from an unfeeling renegade.
THE distant view of a populous town, which, not an hour before, he considered as the ultimate object of his wishes, increased only his fears, that a separation from his lovely MARGARET would soon take place; and, when they entered the gates, found those fears realized; himself and ANTHONY being led to the common prison as criminals, who could expect no mercy.—It was fruitless to make any application for redress, in a place where all the inhabitants were at JAMES’S devotion; consequently, they were considered as traitors from KIRK’S representation; therefore ARTHUR could only, by the most fervent aspirations to Heaven, intreat its protection for the unhappy Duchess and his daughter.
EVERY restorative was now liberally tendered to the exhausted fair ones—but MARGARET, who had missed her father, resolutely refused to take any nourishment, but in his presence.
KIRK was greatly disappointed to hear he had not MONMOUTH in his possession, but consoled himself in the hope of a ransom for his lady—whom he had now no pretence for detaining.—TO MARGARET’S reiterated entreaties to see her parent, she received the most insulting denials—and when, with a frantic air, she demanded to be a sharer in his confinement, was informed even that could not be granted, till some arrangements were made, which depended upon herself.
SENSIBLE from the brutality of a conduct that made her tremble, she could obtain no favour by violence, she turned from him to the sinking partner of her undeserved affliction—who, just alive to the horrors of the moment, could only press to her bosom the faithful friend she could not assist.—Their silence, their tears, their sighs, their tenderness, carried pleasure to the hardened bosom of their persecutor;—and it was with reluctance he left them to negociate the business necessary to his employment:—"I see," said the Duchess, as soon as he was departed, "I see the operation of a vindictive Providence throughout the sad workings of a miserable fate—and from the departure of my revered MONMOUTH from my father’s seat, disappointment has embittered every hope, and destroyed every comfort. The climax is dreadful, it increases, it rises even to destruction.—Sorrow is succeeded by anguish—and the rest is despair:—It can rise no higher—it can strike no deeper—it comprizes every chilling sensation—every forbidding care.—Not through the vast and gloomy prospect which spreads a desolating view around me, can my weakened eye discern one gleam of consolation;—MONMOUTH may live—he may reign, but who shall tell him of our horrid situation? He may lament a loss no earthly power will repair—subject to the despotic will of a monster, we shall groan out the short remnant of our lives in abject slavery:—perhaps—how shall I speak it—perhaps my gentle generous MARGARET may be the victim of a detestable passion—and her father the blameless sacrifice to diabolic cruelty."—"Ah, me!" said MARGARET, while her eye shot beams of indignant fire: "me!—the offspring of royalty,—me!—whose pride would scorn the most honourable proposal from a wretch like him, shall I be debased by even a contaminating thought:—No, dearest Madam, fear not for MARGARET BRUCE.—He dare not imagine the most distant thought of such vileness."—"Yes, my proud dame—I dare imagine—and what I dare imagine, I dare to execute," said KIRK, who had overheard her noble sentiments:—"You have a haughty soul, but it shall be humbled—to me—the despised master of your person—it shall be humbled."—"To you—to KIRK—the betrayer of his God—the persecutor of the innocent!—No, never—and before that God, I swear an everlasting, unalterable detestation of you and your actions."
EVEN KIRK trembled; such was the force of virtue dignified by awful beauty. He trembled—but, it was a momentary emotion.—Too firmly practised in the trade of death and ruin, he soon recovered; and, looking sternly at her, "Well, then," he said, "there remains but this:—Your father, Madam, looks up to me for the mercy his daughter denies him.—I give you to-night to consider; and I warn you to remember—that on your resolution depends his fate; for the disdainful determination that gives me up, sharpens the axe against his life.—He dies, unless you retract your scornful thoughts of me!"
"My father’s life, said you—does that depend on me?—My father—he who gave me birth—horrible!—What? shall I lift up a weapon of destruction against a life so precious?—See, KIRK!—behold these tears; they fall for a parent!—behold this posture; a parent’s safety demands it!—Do mind turn from me—Leave me but my virtue—spare but my father—and I will—ah! what would I say?—He does not mind me—he laughs at my supplications. Well, then, I know the worst;" and she arose, "we will die together!—O, Madam," and she turned to the Duchess, "what mercy can you expect?—See, that villain; the arbiter of our dreadful destiny. He will not stop at our destruction.—You—the Duke—all whom merit, birth, or fortune, render subjects for his envy, are his proper prey. He marks them for such." Then clasping her hands, her uplifted eyes swimming in tears, "God of Vengeance! on thee I call to exterminate a wretch, who braves thy just resentment."
"STOP, Madam," cried he, "nor think the soul of KIRK composed of materials flexible enough to give way to a woman’s petition. Ye are our property, trifling, insignificant as ye are; our addresses do ye honour. Mere babling children, ye are well enough to pass away an idle hour with: your ranting exclamations are in character, and are of equal consequence with your tenderest expressions; but—" and his features assumed the horrid ferocity which the blackness of his heart imprinted on them—"once more I counsel you, reject not the grace I offer. Go to your father, and ask him, if he be willing to bend his neck to an inexorable daughter’s hand."
HE then once more departed, leaving them to the melancholy liberty of indulging their sorrows. "Go to my father—tell him, he must die for me.—Did not the monster say so, Madam?" The poor Duchess, in speechless grief, could only press her hand, and MARGARET went on—"Yes, I will go.—Adieu, dear suffering goodness!—I will go to prepare that heroic parent for the death his child precipitates!"
THE intervening hours, between this awful moment and that which was to witness the shocking interview, were spent by MARGARET in arming her noble soul against the approaching conflict, and generously offering that consolation to her friend, who saw her depart with the most poignant grief.
ARTHUR, who was reclined upon a miserable pallat which lay in one corner of the dungeon, beheld his beloved daughter enter with a parental rapture; and rising to receive her, started back when he beheld her unwelcome guard; (for KIRK would not permit her to go alone) but, on observing the wild agonizing look she threw over the gloomy apartment, BRUCE took her hand with a benignant smile, "My love," said he, "are you come to make a palace of my prison? how much are we indebted to Heaven for a permission which will lighten the sorrow we have endured!—MARGARET—my child—lift up your eye to an affectionate father.—Your presence will prolong his life, he looks to you for the solace no one else can bestow.—O, you know not how I have prayed for this unexpected happiness!—My daughter—speak to me—what can this terrifying silence forebode?—"She comes," said the cruel KIRK, "with a message you may not so gladly receive—shall I, Madam, explain the cause of this mighty solemnity?"—"O thou savage barbarian," cried the wretched virgin, "to put a sword into a child’s hands against her father’s life! and then to sharpen its point by the most insulting triumph!—Hear me, Sir," falling on her knees before him,—"One request—only one request I have to make:—You delight in death; no matter who the object so its heart’s blood flows beneath your murderous weapon. Here then is food for your unnatural rage"—(pointing to her bosom)—"Strike! and I will bless that mercy which accepts the sacrifice I make in lieu of a revered parent’s life."—"No more, lady"—interrupted the miscreant—"You know the alternative—I hear not your frantic pleadings—either death then—or a compliance with my wishes.—A father’s death, or his daughter’s love!"—The truth in this unequivocal threat flashed upon the unhappy BRUCE’s soul—"Ten thousand deaths," he cried, "rather than submit, even in thought, to my child’s dishonour.—Her’s—mine—the extinction of the world I could smile at; but—to see her contaminated by thee—never could I bear the vile supposition!—See, KIRK, we ask only to die together; behold us upon our knees entreating the sad favour.—Surely it is not so much.—Come, confirm the grant.—Say, you will execute a decree much milder than that those horrible looks portend!"—"Ah! save my father," exclaimed MARGARET—"Give me but time—O, I am distracted!—What do I ask for?—Time for what?—Shall this haughty soul bend to thee?—Yes—for a life so precious—what would I not do?"
"I TAKE you at your word," said KIRK, with a sullen smile: "it is prudent to ask for time; you shall have it.—And now, Madam, it may be necessary to withdraw—Your friend will expect your presence.—To-morrow your father will be in another situation; you shall then visit him again."—"What," cried ARTHUR, "and is the compliance of my daughter with your detestable wishes to lighten these chains—first take your weapon, in gentle mercy, and end this wretched life; or crush me with the weight of additional fetters. Let these warlike limbs that have bled in the service of royalty, now tremble beneath the heaviest bonds. They may bend under the galling iron, but cannot conquer my free soul; nothing can do that but—(and he cast an indignant look at MARGARET)—nothing can do that, but a child’s disgrace!" "What then you still persist in hardening your daughter’s heart against me?" "Ay, KIRK, to the latest moment of existence, cheered by her noble resolution to reject thee and thy vile offers, I could bear without a groan all the tortures papistical cunning could furnish; and while my flesh quivered beneath the excruciating knife, or every member was racked to the utmost stretch remorseless fury could extend them, I would rapturously exclaim—To the virtue of an angel I dedicate this glorious sacrifice!"
"BE it as you please, proud Sir; I leave you to the contemplation of your heroic greatness." KIRK then rapidly retired, determined to secure MARGARET, though greatly fearing the effects her father’s resentment might produce on a mind which yet, he saw, felt more for a parent’s danger than her own.—"And do you," said BRUCE, "shrink from the idea of contributing to my death?—Do you know so little of ARTHUR BRUCE? Speak, MARGARET—say—are you yet my child?—or must I spurn you from my feet?"—He then threw himself upon the ground, tore his hair, and every action took the appearance of raging madness, vowing never to rise till she revoked her intention of giving time. "Rise, dear Sir," she exclaimed, "and fear me not. To a wrong cause have you attributed a silence, indignation and grief only induced. I am your daughter. Let that assurance strengthen your confidence in my decisions."—"Then," said the enraptured father, "I am once more happy.—Now, KIRK, I defy thy utmost malice.—Let him prepare his torments; let him, while thus reclined on the unspotted bosom of my noble daughter, let him pierce my heart; let him deface thy lovely form with the weapon of destruction; let him strike the mortal blow. We will bless the hand which opens to us the gates of Heaven. Thus, clasped in each others arms, our unpolluted spirits shall escape the tyrant’s malice; and Omniscience itself shall smile upon an offering so pure.—Go then, my daughter, this night is given to peace:—go, and comfort the sorrowing Duchess.—She at least will be safe.—Avarice will not permit the monster to keep a prize, the redemption of which will be so dear to MONMOUTH."—"Alas, my father, let me watch this night by your side.—How can I leave you to pass the tedious hours in a dungeon so dreary? Supported upon my arm you may forget your misery; and, surely, I shall be justified in giving the claims of friendship up to duty." "No, my sweet comforter, it must not be. This prison is not proper for a delicate female to reside in; we shall be liable to many interruptions from those who think themselves justified in harrassing the hapless unprotected prisoner.—Go, then, and Heaven shield thee from every danger."—With trembling feet, and foreboding heart, MARGARET reluctantly quitted the presence in which, only, she could consider herself safe, and was conducted by her unwelcome guard to the apartment where Lady MONMOUTH, wearied out with continual pain, had happily sunk into a quiet sleep. "You see, Madam," said KIRK, "the situation of your friend.—I shall not leave you alone.—My company, I should hope, might compensate for the loss of hers.—Refreshment is absolutely needful to us both."—So saying he led her to an adjoining room, where every viand was produced, of consequence to renovate the exhausted body and spirits.
WITH the tear of aversion, and a burning blush, she accepted his hand; and, while her irritated soul would have suggested the most scornful refusal—prudence forbid those outward tokens of hatred which she had the utmost difficulty to conceal;—but a father’s danger (perhaps death) stood before her in the most frightful form; and, though unable to eat, she refused, with a mildness that encouraged the savage to assure her, that upon the softness of her behaviour depended his safety and emancipation.—"Then," said she, "he shall be free to-morrow." "He shall, if you desire it?" "If I desire it!—O, KIRK, what would not I suffer to purchase that grace?"—"But, Madam, does not his stubbornness create yours?"—"Ask me no questions, Sir?—you have said he shall be free."—"I have—but the conditions"—MARGARET felt her terror, her rage, her scorn, struggling in a bosom that sent forth such sighs as to choak her voice, nor could she have trusted it with the delivery of those sentiments his discourse excited.—"Why are you silent, Madam? Does your boasted duty permit you one moment to balance against a scheme which shall procure a father’s freedom?—Come, speak, and remember upon your determination depends—"—"Ah, what!" she cried, clasping her hands, and sinking upon her knees—"but too well I know."—Then rising and looking with a noble modesty in his face—"Sir, you will abide by your promise—permit me to retire for to-night, and suffer me to-morrow morning to see him again, and you shall know my decided resolution." She then turned to go to her apartment—he did not prevent her—but, as she was leaving the room, "Stop," said he, "one moment, and in your turn make me one promise, and I will abide by it;—if, when you see your father next, he makes no objection to your union with me—will you any longer oppose it?" She was transported.—"No," she cried, "by the life of him who died on the Cross for our sins, I swear his will in that instance shall be mine."—"Well, Madam, you have solemnly sworn—but perhaps he may not counsel you to accept me—yet, if his scruples are silenced, if he consent by a tacit expression only—if he do not forbid you—if he quietly submit without contradiction—without anger—or any reluctance—then you promise."—"I do, KIRK;—but if he on the contrary, remain in the resolution of dying, rather than giving me up—my vow of course becomes void."—"Yes, if he shall tell you so."
IN an extasy of gratitude she then retired, and, with a heart lightened of half its pain, humbly offered to the God of Mercy—the thanks of filial duty; for well she knew, not the temptation of royalty could induce her father one moment ever to temporize, and felt a degree of humiliation in the idea, that she had by her submission buoyed up the tyrant’s hopes.
TO her account of this evening’s painful transactions, the Duchess, whose repose had been extremely transient—listened with a degree of wonder, pity, terror, and unbelief; for that KIRK should so far deceive himself as to suppose BRUCE could possibly alter his sentiments, was a problem her deepest investigation could not solve.—Loath to check the lively hope MARGARET had conceived, she opposed only a tender and mute acquiescence to that lady’s appeal for her congratulation—expressing a wish that she would try the salutary effects of sleep, as a necessary restorative.—"Sleep! what, when the rising morn is to behold a father restored to light and liberty? O, no, Madam; every thought, every feeling, is and will be awake to the precious expectations."
THUS passed the tedious night—with the Duchess, foreboding fears, horrors, for which she had no name—doubts that tore her tender bosom with all the fond and painful ideas of separated love:—with MARGARET, a thousand schemes of a future establishment, undisturbed by the tyrant’s will—or despotic government.—"Ah, my father!" she softly cried, "we will leave this world, where ambition, cruelty, and rapine claim the foremost rank;—where humble virtue, gentle resignation, and heroic integrity, must hide in obscurity their benign influence. Bruce Castle, desolate as it is, has yet a corner large enough to contain two wandering exiles. To this revered lady, and a nation that wants his patronage, I leave the noble MONMOUTH! Ah, may happiness gild the palace that shall contain them; and I have a presentiment, that a beam of its glory shall reach our almost roofless habitation."
WITH the tardy morning KIRK appeared, to signify his wish that MARGARET should visit her father.—Blessed permission—she thought, O KIRK! how blind art thou? how infatuated to suppose a mind so noble can change?—They soon arrived at the prison.—With eager and trembling feet she followed the more assured and haughty step of her conductor.—He stopped at the door, drew back, and taking her hand, while his own shook with various emotions—"Remember your solemn asseveration—look to it fair lady; I expect the performance of your promise in all its forms:—Do not depend too much upon your father’s obstinacy—I know you think me cruel, sanguine, and arbitrary; but observe me rightly—I am not to be trifled with; justice is my due, more particularly while you claim it from me—and now, Madam, hear if this gentleman will longer dare to contend with ACHMET KIRK."—He then ordered the goaler to unlock the grate; but his words had made such a terrible impression upon MARGARET, she had scarcely fortitude to advance.—The darkness of the place added to her fears; and she stood pale, silent, and almost convulsed.—"Approach, Madam," said KIRK, "and" pointing to the floor, "there, now ask his consent, think you he will refuse? Think you he will reprobate you for an acquiescence to the will of your lord; he envied you the honour of my notice; but fear him not; nay, come nearer: is this your boasted duty to a parent?"
AH God! what a scene for a tender, fond, and sympathizing child; she stooped forward;—she passed her hand across her eyes—started up—and uttered a piercing scream—"O monster!—is it thus you have silenced his objections—cold—murdered—see the hallowed blood streams upon the pavement.—That bosom the abode of every virtue—torn—mangled—defaced!—Father—protector—counsellor of my actions—supporter of my youth—guide of my helpless state—gone, for ever gone—no duteous daughter to support thy drooping head—none to ward the savage blow from a fettered hero—tyrant—coward—KIRK—who did this deed of death? what assassin stole upon the sad midnight hour to disgrace it by an act so dreadful?"
"I, Madam—he now can tell no tales—he cannot upbraid you with your kindness to me."—"Nor can he witness my revenge!"—She exclaimed, and suddenly catching at his sword, would have avenged the execrable villainy, but Heaven, whose ends were not yet answered, prevented the blow, and, for some mysterious ordination, reserved his punishment to a future period.—"Come, my spirited lady," he cried, "I see you inherit the enthusiasm of your rebellious father, what did you suppose me mad enough to give liberty to him, who would have used it to the destruction of a nation? No, no; he has lived long enough—and if your pride is not sufficiently humbled, perhaps a longer contemplation of this object may lower it."—So saying he left her, ordering the grate to be shut upon the living and the dead.
A SULLEN stupor following the rage which animated MARGARET to make the daring attempt—she sunk upon the ground by the corse, nor heeded KIRK’S departure—but, lost to the horrid scene before her, remained in a happy insensibility, till a sudden noise without induced her to raise her heavy eyelids—and she once again awoke to misery and despair!—The door was hastily thrown open, when RIVERS, who had been confined in a separate prison from his beloved master, advanced towards the wretched MARGARET, and was followed by a croud of the town’s people.—He raised the unhappy lady from the ground, but observing the slaughtered cause of her grief, burst into tears, and turning to those who had entered with him,—"Ah! my friends," he said, "we are too late; the villain has compleated the bloody work, and has himself escaped our vengeance; but he shall not long be suffered to disgrace mankind; the spirit which induced us to set his prisoners at liberty shall now be employed in giving him the punishment his crimes deserve. Come, my friends, he cannot be far from hence; his troops are awed into obedience—we have therefore only him to cope with."—They then proceeded to examine every part of the prison; but in vain, as he had eluded their vigilance by leaping over a wall which surrounded the yard. This extraordinary incident was produced by a circumstance which KIRK’S keenest sagacity had not provided against. Determined to massacre the noble ARTHUR, whom he conceived had contributed to his daughter’s obstinacy—he went openly to the goal, demanded admittance, and daringly boasted of his intention to take the life of a rebel, whose principles were so directly opposite to those of the inhabitants; but though loyalty was their characteristic, it had not conquered their humanity—and even the keeper of a prison shuddered for the destiny of one, who, without the benefit of a legal trial, was thus privately, thus infamously to be destroyed; and he ventured to expostulate with the wretch upon the justice of such a step. A sudden blow marked the reception of this contradiction to his wishes, while it roused the hatred of the goaler, who secretly determined to avenge himself, and prevent the murder of an unhappy man: but KIRK was too well guarded to fear the civil power, and all that could be done was to appeal to the magistrates of a town, which this atrocious act must for ever stigmatize.
ARTHUR, whom fatigue, pain, and mental sufferings had thrown into a sound repose, was awakened by the light of a torch gleaming before him, which discovered the features of a savage assassin; and he started from the ground in an agony of suspicious terror, hardly certain if what he beheld was a dream, or not;—but the pale ghastly countenance of his unwelcome visitor, the ferocity of his attendants, and the hour of the night, convinced him some evil was at hand.—"I believe," said KIRK, "you did not expect to see me here, but I am come to know if you will relax in your boasted notions of honour—and enforce, by your commands, my request to your daughter?" Without hesitation, BRUCE answered this shocking question: "No, KIRK, you know my mind, I will die, for well I am assured my fate is at hand, I will die in the full possession of my unspotted integrity. Here, at this bosom, scarred with wounds received in defence of my country—here, point your swords, and take the blood of an unarmed man." He then fell upon his knees, and lifting his eyes with the most fervent devotion—cried—"Father! to thee I offer up the sacrifice of an untainted soul: protect my child from the murderer of her parent, and accept my fleeting spirit."—"No more, enthusiast," exclaimed the midnight disturber of innocence; and, while in the attitude of humble adoration, ARTHUR received a mortal stab from him.—He fell immediately to the earth—and the inhuman soldiers following their colonel’s example, pierced his bosom in many places—and then retired, exulting in the cruelty they had committed.
THE END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.