My root is earthed; and I, a desolate branch,
Left scattered in the highway of the world,
Trod under foot, that might have been a column
Mainly supporting our demolished house.--Massinger.
|Old Friend with a New Face.||19|
|Distraction of Grief.||161|
|Distraction of Love.||205|
|Trial for High Treason.||235|
Hast thou a medicine to restore my wits
When I have lost them?--If not, leave to talk.
Beaumont and Fletcher; Philaster.
In this perplexity, whilst sitting down to clear up his thoughts and to consider of his future motions, Bertram suddenly remembered that immediately before the attack on the revenue officers, a note had been put into his hand--which he had at that time neglected to read under the overpowering interest of the scene which followed. This note he now drew from his pocket: it was written in pencil, and contained the following words:
"You wish to see the ruins of Ap Gauvon. In confidence therefore let me tell you that the funeral train will direct its course upon a different point. Take any convenient opportunity for leaving this rabble, and pursue your route to the Abbey through the valley which branches off on the left. You will easily reach it by nightfall; and you will there receive a welcome from AN OLD FRIEND."
The day was uncommonly dear and bright; the frosty air looked sharp, keen, and "in a manner vitreous;" and every thing wore a cheerful and promising aspect, except that towards the horizon the sky took that emerald tint which sometimes on such days foreruns the approach of snow. However, as it was now too late to return to Machynleth whilst the day-light lasted--and as the ruins of Ap Gauvon were both in themselves and in their accompaniments of scenery, according to the description which had been given of them, an object of powerful attraction to Bertram,--he resolved to go forward in the track pointed out. After advancing a couple of miles, he bent his steps through the valley which opened on his left; and soon reached a humble ale-house into which he turned for the sake of obtaining at the same time refreshments and further directions for his route.
"How far do you call it, landlord, to the Abbey of Griffith ap Gauvon."
"To Ap Gauvon? Why let me see--it'll be a matter of eight miles; or better than seven any way. But you'll never be thinking of going so far to-night."
"Why,--is there any danger, then?"
"Nay, I don't know for that: we've now and then odd sort of folks come up this way from the sea-side: but I reckon they wouldn't meddle of you: for you'll never sure be going into the Abbey?"
"But, suppose I did, is there nobody at the Abbey or near it that could give me a night's lodging?" The landlord stared with a keen expression of wonder,--and answered, with some reserve, "Why who should there be but the owls, and in summer time may be a few bats?"
"Well, perhaps I shall find a lodging somewhere in the neighbourhood: meantime I would thank you to put me into the nearest road."
"Why, that's sooner said than done: its a d---d awkward cross-country road, and there's few in this country can hit it. But the best way for you will be to keep right over the shoulder of yonder hill, and then bear away under the hills to your right, till you come to the old gallows of Pont-ar-Diawl: and there you must look about for somebody able to put you in the way."
"An old gallows! Surely you can't have much need of a standing gallows in a country so thinly peopled as this?"
"Why no, master; we don't make much use of it: not but there has been some fine lads in my time that have taken their last look of day-light on that gallows; and here and there you'll meet with an old body amongst these hills that has the heart-ache when she looks that way. But the gallows is partly built of stone: they say King Edward I. built it, to hang the Welsh harpers on; by the dozen at once, I have heard say. Well, all's one to you and me: by the score if it pleased him.
"But now-a-days I suppose it will not have many customers from the harpers: what little business it has will lie chiefly among those 'odd sort of folks from the sea-side,'--eh, landlord?"
"Why master, as to that, as long as folks do me no harm, it's never my way to say any thing ill of them. Now and then, may be, I hear a noise of winter nights in my barn: and my wife and daughters would have me to lock the barn-door before it's dark. But what? as I often says to them; it's better to have folks making free with one's straw, and now and then an armful of hay for a horse or so, than to have one's house burnt over one's head one of these long winter nights. And, to give the devil his due, I don't think they're much in my debt: for often enough I find a bottle or two of prime old wine left behind them."
"So then, on the whole, these sea-side gentry are not uncivil: and, if it's they that tenant Ap Gauvon, perhaps they'll show a little hospitality to a wanderer like myself?"
"Aye, but that's more than I'll answer for. I know little about Ap Gauvon: it's a place I never was at--nor ever will be, please God. Why should any man go and thrust his hand into a hornet's nest, where there's nothing to be got?"
"But landlord, if these smugglers come and visit you, I think they couldn't be angry with you for returning the visit."
"I tell you, I know of no smugglers at Ap Gauvon: some folks say there are ghosts at Ap Gauvon; and Merlin has been seen of moonlight nights walking up and down the long galleries: and sometimes of dark nights the whole Abbey in a manner has been lit up; and shouting and laughing enough to waken all the church-yards round Snowdon. But I mustn't stand gossiping here, master: I've my cows to fetch up, and fifty things to do before its dark."
So saying he turned on his heel, whilst Bertram pursued his way to the stone gallows. This he reached in about an hour and a half; by which time the light was beginning to decay. Looking round for some person of whom he could inquire the road, he saw or fancied that he saw--a human figure near the gallows; and, going a little nearer he clearly distinguished a woman sitting at its foot. He paused a little while to watch her. Sometimes she muttered to herself, and seemed as if lost in thought: sometimes she roused herself up suddenly, and sang in a wild and boisterous tone of gaiety: but it easily appeared that there was no joy in her gaiety: for the tone of exultation soon passed into something like a ferocious expression of vengeance. Then, after a time, she would suddenly pause and laugh: but in the next moment would seem to recover the main recollection that haunted her; and falling back as into the key-note of her distress, would suddenly burst into tears. Bertram saw enough to convince him that the poor creature's wits were unsettled; and from the words of one of the fragments which she sang, a suspicion flashed upon his mind that it could be no other than his hostess in the wild cottage; though how, or on what errand, come over to this neighbourhood--he was at a loss to guess. To satisfy himself on all these points if possible, he moved nearer and accosted her:
"A cold evening, good mother, for one so old as you to be sitting out in the open air."
"Yes, Sir," she answered, without expressing any surprise at his sudden interruption; "yes, Sir, its a cold evening: but I am waiting for a young lad that was to meet me here."
Bertram now saw that his conjecture was right: it was indeed his aged and mysterious hostess: but, before he could speak, she seemed to have forgotten that he was present--and sang in an under tone:
They hung him high aboon the rest, He was sae trim a boy; Thair dyed the youth whom I lov'd best --My winsome Gilderoy.
"A young man you were expecting to meet you?" said Bertram.
"Yes, Sir, a young man:" and then, holding up her apron to her face as if ashamed, she added--"he was a sweetheart of mine. Sir." But in a moment, as if recollecting herself, she cried out--"No, no, no: I'll tell you the whole truth: he was my son, my love, my darling: and they took him, Sir, they hanged him here. And, if you'll believe my word, Sir--they wouldn't let his old mother kiss his bonny lips before he died. Well, well! Let's have nothing but peace and quietness. All's to be right at last. There's more of us, I believe, that won't die in our beds. But don't say I told you."
"My good old hostess, can you show me the road to Griffith ap Gauvon?"
"Ap Gauvon, is it? Aye, aye: there's one of them: he'll never die in his bed, rest you sure of that. Never you trouble your head about him: I've settled all that: and Edward Nicholas will be hanged at this gallows, if my name's Gillie Godber."
"But, Mrs. Godber, don't you remember me? I was two nights at your cottage; and I'm now going to the Abbey of Ap Gauvon where I hope to meet one that I may perhaps be of some service to."
"Don't think it: there's nobody can ever be of service to Edward Nicholas. He's to be hanged, I tell you, and nobody must save him. I have heard it sworn to. You'll say that I am but a weak old woman. But you would not think now what a voice I have: for all it trembles so, my voice can be heard when it curses from Anglesea to Walladmor. Not all the waves of the sea can cry it down."
"But why must Edward Nicholas be hanged?"
"Oh, my sly Sir, you would know my secret--would you? You're a lawyer, I believe. But stay--I'll tell you why he must be hanged:" and here she raised her withered arm to the stars which were just then becoming visible in the dusk. Pointing with her forefinger to a constellation brighter than the rest, she said----
"There was a vow made when he was born; and it's written amongst the stars. And there's not a letter in that book that can ever be blotted out. I can read what's written there. Do you think that nobody's barns must be hanged but mine?"
"But who then was it, my good Mrs. Godber, that hanged your son?"
"Who should it be but the old master of Walladmor? He knows by this time what it is to have the heart-ache. Oh kite! he tore my lamb from me. But, hark in your ear--Sir Lawyer! I visited his nest, old ravening kite! High as it was in the air, I crept up to his nest: I did--I did!" And here she clapped her hands, and expressed a frantic exultation: but, in a moment after, she groaned and sate down; and, covering her face with her hands, she burst into tears; and soon appeared to have sunk into thought, and to be unconscious of Bertram's presence.
Once more he attempted to rouse her attention by asking the road to Ap Gauvon; but the sound of his voice only woke her into expressing her thoughts aloud:
"Nay, nay,--my old gentleman, that's a saying that'll never come true:
When black men storm the outer door, Grief than be over At Walladmor!
It's an old saying I'll grant, but it's a false one: grief will never be over at Walladmor: that's past all black men's healing!"
"But, Mrs. Godber, will you not come with me to Griffith ap Gauvon;"
She started up at the words Ap Gauvon; without speaking a word, she drew her cloak about her; and, as if possessed by some sudden remembrance, she strode off at so rapid a pace over the moor that Bertram had some difficulty in keeping up with her. This however he determined to do: for he remarked that her course lay towards a towering range of heights which seemed to overlook the valley in which they were walking, and which he had reason to believe was a principal range of Snowdon: he had been nearing it through the whole afternoon; and he knew that Ap Gauvon lay somewhere at the foot of that mountain. For some time his aged companion kept up her speed: but, on reaching a part of the moor which was intersected with turf pits, she was compelled to suit her pace to the intricacy of the ground; though even here she selected her path from the labyrinth before her with a promptitude and decision which showed that she was well acquainted with the ground she was traversing. On emerging again into smoother roads, she resumed at intervals her rapid motions: and again, on some sudden caprice as it seemed, would slink into a stealthy pace--and walk on tiptoe, as if in the act of listening or surprising some one before her. Once only she spoke, upon Bertram's asking if the abbey were a safe place for a stranger: "Oh aye," she replied, "Edward Nicholas is a lamb when he's not provoked: but his hand is red with blood for all that."
No question after this roused her attention. Now and then she sang; sometimes she crooned a word or two to herself; and more often she sank into thoughtful silence: until at length, after advancing in this way for about a mile and a half,--suddenly Bertram missed her; and looking round he saw the outline of a figure stealing away in the dusk and muttering some indistinct sounds of complaint. He felt considerable perplexity at being thus suddenly abandoned by his guide: but from this he was relieved by now distinguishing a group of towers and turrets close to him--which at first had escaped his eye from the dark background of mountainous barrier with which they seemed to blend: and going a few steps nearer, he perceived a light issuing from the window of a vault. To this window, for the purpose of reconnoitring the inmates of so lonely an abode, he now pushed his way with some difficulty through heaps of ruins and of tangled thorns. The upper edge of the window-frame however being on a level with the ground, he could perceive little more than a small part of a stone floor which lay at a great depth below him; and on this, by the strong light of a blazing fire, he saw the moving shadows of human figures as they passed and repassed: and at intervals he heard the rolling of casks and barrels. Determined to examine a little further, he stretched himself along the steep declivity of earth which sloped down to the lower edge of the window. In this posture he gained a complete view of the vault, which to his astonishment he now discovered to be a subterraneous church of vast dimensions, such as are sometimes found in the old monasteries below the ordinary chapel of the order. Seated at a table near the fire was a young man whose face, as it was at this moment lit up by a blazing fire, proclaimed him at once for the stranger whose services to Miss Walladmor and mysterious interview with her he had witnessed with so much interest. Round about him stood groups of armed men; but of these he took little notice. Bertram remarked that all of them treated him with an air of respect, and addressed him by the title of Captain: to which on his part he replied with an air of good natured familiarity that seemed to disown the station of authority which they were disposed to confer upon him. Anxious to hear and see a little more before he ventured into such a company, he endeavoured to shift his position for one more convenient to his purpose; but in this attempt he nearly, precipitated himself through the window. He recovered his footing however by suddenly catching at a mountain ash; but, in so doing, he dislodged a quantity of earth and stones which fell rattling down amongst the party below.
"Rats! rats!" instantaneously exclaimed the whole body: "shall we fire, Captain?"
"Stop a moment," said Nicholas; and mounting up a ladder, which stood near the window, he held up a lighted bough of Scotch fir to the place of Bertram's concealment.
"God bless my soul," exclaimed he, "its my young friend in search of the picturesque: I protest I never looked for is coming through the window. Here, bear a hand, and help him in."
The ladder was now applied and steadied; with some little difficulty in extricating himself from the rubbish and thorns which beset him, Bertram descended: and was not sorry to find himself, though amongst such society, suddenly translated from the severe cold of the air and a situation of considerable peril to the luxury of rest and a warm fire.
FOOTNOTE TO "CHAPTER X.":
 A picturesque expression borrowed from a celebrated English author in one of his letters from Paris, published in the Morning Chronicle.
O what an easie thing is to descry
The gentle blood, however it be wrapt
In sade misfortunes foule deformity
And wretched sorrowes which have often hapt!
For,--howsoever it may grow mis-shapt
Like this wyld man being undisciplyned
That to all virtue it may seeme unapt,--
Yet it will show some sparkles of gentle mynd
And at the last breake forth in his owne proper kynd.
Faerie Queene--B. vi. C, 5.
All the men were now dismissed by their leader except one--who was directed to place wine and refreshments on the table: this was done. "And now, Valentine," said the leader, "you may return home: for I think you have a scolding wife; and by the way, if she wishes to have a certificate of your good behaviour and fidelity to her during your absence from home, get me a pencil and I will write one."
"Ah! Captain Nicholas," said the man, "you're still the same man; always ready for a joke, let danger be as near as it will."
"Danger! what danger?"
"Why, to say the truth, I don't above half like the old woman from Anglesea."
"What, Gillie Godber?"
"Yes: she talks strangely at times; and, as sure as your name's mentioned, she puts on a d--d Judas face; and talks--God! I hardly know what she talks; but it's my belief she means you no good."
"Hm!--Well, so I have sometimes thought myself. Yet I know not. At times she's as kind as if she were my own mother. And at all events I can't do without her, so long as I have business at Walladmor Castle. Her son, you know, lives there: and, but for her, I should often be at a loss for means of communicating with him."
"And has Gillie been at Walladmor to-day?"
"Yes: pretty early this morning."
"Then take my word for it--its she that has blabbed to Sir Morgan about the funeral. And I'd be glad to think that were the worst: for I heard it whispered once or twice to-day that Sir Morgan had got notice of your return. Black Will saw an express of Sir Morgan's riding off to Carnarvon: and, by one that left Machynleth at noon I heard that Alderman Gravesend was stirring with all his bull-dogs."
"Well,--I think they'll hardly catch me this night. And, as the moon will soon be rising, I would advise you to make the best of your way to Aberkilvie. Pleasant moonlight to you; and give my compliments to your wife."
"Ah! Captain,--I wish there were no moonlight to-night: for my heart misgives me, unless you take better care, some cross luck will fall out. However, I'll not go to Aberkilvie: I'll stay in the neighbourhood: and, if I hear a shot, I'll come down with one or two more."
The man retired: and Nicholas for a few minutes appeared to be sunk in reverie: but soon recovering himself he addressed Bertram with an air of gaiety:
"Well, my young friend, and how do you like the world in Wales? You have taken my advice I find, and have come to see Ap Gauvon."
"It was you then that were my guide to Machynleth? I was beginning to suspect as much. Who it was that sent me the note this morning, I need not ask: for my eyes assure me that you were the person who presided on that occasion, both as commander and as chief mourner."
"And I hope you disapproved my behaviour in neither part."
"To do you justice, you behaved incomparably well in both. In the latter part, however,--well as you acquitted yourself,--you must excuse me if I doubt your sincerity."
"You surprise me," said Nicholas smiling: "what doubt the sincerity of my grief for the death of Captain le Harnois?"
"My doubts go even a little further. I doubt whether the body of Captain le Harnois at all accompanied the procession. But what, in the name of God then, could bring so large a train of mourners together?--Will you say upon your word that you have deposited the body in any burying-place?"
Nicholas laughed immoderately. "Your discernment is wonderful. As to the body, I can assure you that it has not only been deposited in a burying-place at Utragan,---but immediately afterwards dispersed as holy reliques all over the country: and no saint's reliques in Christendom will meet with more honour and attention. As to what brought the crowd together,--if you come to that, my young friend, what brought you thither? I have some plans which make it prudent for me to renew an old connexion with a body of stout friends at sea and on shore. Most of the others, I suppose, came for liquor. And you, if I do not affront you by that suggestion, were naturally desirous of seeing how the land lay before you commenced operations. For the oldest fox is at fault in a strange country."
"You still persist, I see, in looking upon me as an adventurer: is it your opinion that every body else would pass the same harsh judgment on me?"
"Ay, if not a harsher: but do you know, Mr. Bertram, that at first sight, I knew your profession by your face, and what your destiny is in this life."
"And which of my unhappy features is it that bears this unpleasant witness against me?"
"Unhappy you may truly call them," said the other, smiling bitterly--"unhappy indeed; for they are the same as my own. I rest a little upon omens and prefigurations; and am superstitious; as those must ever be who have lived upon the sea, and have risked their all upon the faith of its unsteady waves. It will mortify you (my young friend) to confess, (but it is true) that much as storm, sun, passion, and hardships, may have tanned and disfeatured my face, nevertheless it is still like thy gentle woman's face, with its fair complexion and its overshadowing locks; and when I look back upon that inanimate portrait which once an idle artist painted of me, in my 16th year, I remember that it was one and the same with thine. Kindred features should imply kindred dispositions and minds. The first time that I observed you closely, on that evening when you came on shore from Jackson's brig, sunk in reverie and thinking no doubt, if indeed you thought of me at all, that I was asleep; then did I behold in your eye my own; read in your forehead all the storms that too surely have tossed and rocked the little boat of your uneasy life; saw your plans, so wide and spacious--your little peace--your doubts about the end which you were pursuing--your bold resolves--bold, and with not much hope."
"Oh stranger, but thou knowest the art, far above thy education, of reading the souls of others."
A smile passed over his countenance whilst he replied: "Education! oh yes, I too have had some education: oh! doubtless education is a fine thing, not to run in amongst gentlemen of refinement like a wild beast, and shock the good pious lambs with coarse manners or ferocious expressions. Oh yes, education is of astonishing value: a man of the wildest pursuits, and the nature of a ruffian, may shroud himself in this, as a wolf in sheep's clothing--and be well received by all those accomplished creatures whom fortune brought into this world, not in smoky huts, but in rich men's rooms decked with tapestry. I too have stolen a little morsel of education amongst a troop of players; and if my coarse habits will sometimes look out, why that's no fault of mine, but of those worthy paupers that thought proper to steal me in my infancy. There are hours, Bertram, in which I have longings, longings keen as those of women with child--longings for conversations with men of higher faculties--men that I could understand--men that could answer me--aye, and that would answer me, and not turn away from the poor vagabond with disdain."
"And you have chosen me for such a comrade?"
"As you please: that rests with yourself. But, Bertram, at any rate, I rejoice to find amongst my equals one that does not--as others do of the plebeian rout--live the sport of the passing moment,--one that risks his life, yet in risking it knows what life is--that has eyes to see--thoughts to think,--feelings but such a dissembling hypocrite as you" (and here he smiled) "will laugh when he hears a ruffian talk of feelings."
"Your wish is, then, to find some well-educated comrade, who, when your conscience is troublesome, may present your crimes under their happiest aspect--may take the sting out of your offences, and give to the wicked deed the colouring of a noble one?"
Nicholas knit his brows, and said with a quick and stern voice:
"What I have done I shall never deny: neither here nor there above--if any above or below there be. I want nobody to call my deeds by pretty names, neither before they are executed nor after. What I want is a friend; one to whom I could confide my secret thoughts without kneeling as before a priest--or confessing as to a judge: one that will rush with me like a hurricane into life, till we are both in our graves; or one that refusing to do this, and standing himself upright, would yet allow the poor guilty outcast to attach himself to his support, and sometimes to repose his weary head upon a human heart."
Bertram stared at him; which the other observed, and said smilingly:
"You wonder at my pathos: but you must recollect that I told you I had once been amongst players."
"Speak frankly--what is it you wish of me?"
"This I wish: will you either run joint hazard with me--and try your fortunes in this country;--or will you take your own course, but now and then permit me, when my heart is crazed by passion, by solitude, and unparticipated anguish,--to lighten it by your society?"
"Once for all I declare to you, with respect to your first proposal, that I will enter into no unlawful connexions."
"Be it so: that word is enough. You refuse to become an adventurer like myself? I ask not for your reasons; your will in such a case is law enough. But then can you, in the other sense, be my friend?"
"Rash man! whence is it that you derive such boundless confidence in me?"
Nicholas stepped up to the young man nearer than before--looked him keenly but kindly in the eyes--as if seeking to revive some remembrance in him; then pressed his hand, and said--
"Have you forgotten then that poor wretch in the tumult of the waves, to whom, when he was in his agony, thou, Bertram, didst resign thy own security--and didst descend into the perilous and rocking waters? Deeply, oh deeply, I am in thy debt; far more deeply I would be, when I ask for favours such as this."
"Is it possible? Are you he? But now I recollect your forehead was then hidden by streaming hair; convulsive spasms played about your lips; and your face was disguised by a long beard."
"I am he; and but for thee should now lie in the bowels of a shark, or spitted upon some rock at the bottom of the ocean. But come, my young friend, come into the open air: for in this vault I feel the air too close and confined."
Owls and other night birds which had found an asylum here, disturbed by the steps of the two nightly wanderers, now soared aloft to the highest turrets. At length after moving in silence for some minutes, both stepped out through the pointed arch of a narrow gate-way into the open air upon a lofty battlement. Nicholas seized Bertram's hand, with the action of one who would have checked him at some dangerous point;--and, making a gesture which expressed--"look before you!" he led him to the outer edge of the wall. At this moment the full moon in perfect glory burst from behind a towering pile of clouds, and illuminated a region such as the young man had hitherto scarcely known by description. Dizzily he looked down upon what seemed a bottomless abyss at his feet. The Abbey-wall, on which he stood, built with colossal art, was but the crest or surmounting of a steep and monstrous wall of rock, which rose out of depths in which his eye could find no point on which to settle. On the other side of this immeasurable gulph lay in deep shadow--the main range of Snowdon; whose base was perhaps covered with thick forests, but whose summit and declivities displayed a dreary waste. Dazzled by the grandeur of the spectacle, Bertram would have sought repose for his eye by turning round; but the new scene was, if not greater, still more striking. From his lofty station he overlooked the spacious ruins of the entire monastery, as its highest points silvered over by moonlight shot up from amidst the illimitable night of ravines, chasms, and rocky peaks that form the dependencies of Snowdon. Add to these permanent features of the scene the impressive accident of the time--midnight, with an universal stillness in the air, and the whole became a fairy scene, in which the dazzled eye comprehended only the total impression, without the separate details or the connexions of its different points. So much however might be inferred from the walls which lay near with respect to those which gleamed in the distance--that the towers and buildings of the abbey had been for the most part built upon prominent peaks of rock. Those only, which were so founded, had resisted the hand of time: while the cross walls which connected them, wanting such a rocky basis, had all fallen in. Solemnly above all the chapels and turrets rose, brilliantly illuminated by the moon, the main tower. Upon a solitary crag, that started from the deeps, it stood with a boldness that seemed to proclaim defiance on the part of man to nature--and victorious efforts of his hands over all her opposition. Round about it every atom of the connecting masonry had mouldered away and sunk into heaps of rubbish below--so that all possibility of reaching the tower seemed to be cut off. But beyond this tower Gothic fretwork and imperfect windows rose from the surrounding crags; and in many places were seen pillars springing from two dissevered points of rock--rising higher and higher--and at last inclining towards each other in vast arches; but the central stones that should have locked the architraves of the mighty gates were wanting; and the columns stood to a fanciful eye like two lovers, whom nature and pure inclination have destined for each other, but whom some malicious mischance has separated for ever. Bertram shut his eyes, before the dazzling spectacle: when he opened them again, his guide said with a tranquil voice--in which however a tone of exultation might be distinguished,
"This is Griffith ap Gauvon, of which I lately spoke to you."
All words, as Bertram felt, would fail to express the strength of his emotions: language would but have violated the solemnity of the thoughts which riveted his gaze to the scene before him. He was silent therefore; and in a few moments his companion resumed:
"Here, Bertram, do I often stand on the giddy precipice; and I look down upon the dread tranquillity of the spectacle; and then often I feel as though I wanted no friend; as though nature, the mighty mother, were a sufficient friend that fulfilled all my wishes--a friend far better and wiser than any which the false world can offer. But, Bertram, come a little further!"
He led him, sideways, from that part of the building out of which they had issued by the little portal about 100 yards further. The wall, scarce three feet wide, stood here nearly insulated: and was on the one side bounded by the abyss just described, and on the other by what might have been an inner court--that lay however at least three stories deep below. Nothing but a cross-wall, which rose above the court towards a little tower, touched this main wall. At the extremity of this last, where it broke off abruptly, both stopped. Hardly forty steps removed from them, rose the great tower, which in past times doubtless had been connected with the point at which they stood, but was now divided by as deep a gulph as that which lay to the outside wall, "Further there is nothing," said his guide: "often have I come hither and meditated whether I should not make one step onwards, and in that way release myself from all anxiety about any future steps upon this earth."
"But the power and the grandeur of nature have arrested you and awed you?"
"Right. Look downwards into the abyss before us:--deep, deep below, trickles along, between pebbles and moss and rocky fragment, a little brook: now it is lit up by the moon;--and at this moment it seems to me as if something were stirring; and now something is surely leaping over:--but no--it was deception: often when I have stood here in meditation, and could not comprehend what checked me from taking one bold leap, a golden pillar of moonlight has met me gleaming upwards from the little brook below--(brook that I have haunted in happier days); and suddenly I have risen as if ashamed--and stolen away in silence."
"Nicholas, do you believe in God?"
"Will you know the truth? I have lately learnt to believe."
"By what happy chance?"
"Happy!" and his companion laughed bitterly. "Leagued with bold and desperate men, to rid the world of a knot of vipers, for months I had waited for the moment when they should assemble together, in order to annihilate at one blow the entire brood. Daily we prayed, if you will call that praying, that this moment would arrive: but months after months passed: we waited; and we despaired. At length on a day,--I remember it was at noon--in burst a friend upon us and cried out--'Triumph and glory! this night the King's ministers all meet at Lord Harrowby's.' At these words many stern conspirators fell on their knees; others folded their hands--hands (God knows!) but little used to such a folding: I could do neither; I stretched out my arms and cried aloud--There is a Providence!"
"Spare your horrors, and your morality. Providence, we know, has willed it otherwise: the honourable gentlemen, at whom we had levelled, flourish in prosperity and honour; and my friends moulder beneath the scaffold."
"Having this origin, I presume that your faith in a Providence is at present--"
"Unshaken: my dagger was meant for Lord Londonderry: and, although he has escaped my wrath, yet I know not how, but a curse seems to cling to my blade, that whomsoever I have once devoted to it with full determination of purpose, that man ---- ----"
Bertram shuddered, and said, "So then it was a conspirator from Cato-street that I delivered from death?"
"Well, push the conspirator over the wall, if you repent."
"But what carried you amongst such an atrocious band? What could you reap from the murder of the English ministers?--no merchant from Amsterdam stood with a full purse in the back ground."
"One step brings on another, and the rage of licentious mobs cannot be stopped until it has consumed itself. Upon the smoking ashes of the old palaces, between the overladen scaffold on one side and the charnel house on the other, blood from each side floating the slippery streets,--then is man's worth put to proof; then it is tried not by his prattling, which he calls eloquence--nor by his overloaded memory which he calls knowledge: then comes into play the arm, and then the head:"
"And what would you have gained as chief of a maddening populace?"
"What should I have gained? That sort of consideration I leave to the 'learned' and to 'ministers' and such people: my part is--to resolve and to execute as the crisis arises."
"So then it was mere appetite for destruction that drove you on? For that I should scarce have thought your misanthropy sufficient."
"Call it folly, call it frenzy, call it what you will--but something higher it was that stood in the back ground. A beautiful picture it was when I represented to myself all the great leaders, headless--and in that point on a level with the poor culprit that has just ascended the scaffold for stealing some half a pound of trash. This it was that allured me; and the pleasure of being myself the decapitator! Then worth should have borne the sway, and merit."
"Merit? What sort of merit?"
"You think a blood-hound has none,"--said Nicholas, with eyes that shot fire:--"but he can acquire it. Heaven and Earth! he that has such marrow--such blood in his veins--such a will--such an unconquerable will--he can begin a new life: he can be born again. Bertram, do not mock me when I tell you--passionate love has crazed my wits. See, here is a handkerchief of hers! For her sake do I curse my former life; for her sake, I would sink its memory into the depths of ocean! Oh that I could! that all the waters of the ocean could cleanse this hand! that I could come up from the deep sea as pure though I were as helpless as an infant! Once upon a dreadful night--But stop! what was that? Did you hear no whispering from below? Once upon a dreadful night----: Steps go there! hush! hush!"
Bertram's companion here suddenly drew his cloak from his shoulders--rolled it up under his arm--caught his coat-skirts under both arms--and stood with head and body bent forwards, whilst his eyes seemed to search and traverse the dark piles of building from which they had issued; his attitude was that of a stag, that, with pointed ears and with fore-feet rising for a bound, is looking to the thicket from which the noise issues that has startled him. Bertram too threw his eyes over the walls as far as he could to the lower part of the ruins; and remarked that, if any hostile attack were made, they should be without deliverance; they were shut in; and no egress remained except that which would be pre-occupied by their assailants.
"I believe I was mistaken," said Nicholas, drawing his breath again, just as Bertram fancied he saw a stirring of the shadow which lay within the gateway at the further end. He was on the point of communicating what he observed to the other, when suddenly a shot was fired. In that same instant Nicholas had thrown his cloak into the abyss; and without a word spoken ran straight, with an agility and speed that thunderstruck Bertram, to the archway; from which figures of armed men were now seen to issue apparently with the intention of intercepting the fugitive. Bertram now expected to see a struggle, as Nicholas was running right into the mouth of the danger. But in the midst of his quickest speed he checked--turned to the left about--leaped down with the instinctive agility of a chamois upon the wall below, which, bisecting the inner court, connected the main wall with the outer, and then ran along upon the narrow ridge of this inner wall, interrupted as it was by holes and loose stones. At every instant Bertram expected to see him fall and never rise again. But the danger to Nicholas came from another quarter. The pursuers, it would seem, had calculated on the intrepidity and agility of their man, and another group of men faced him on the opposite side. No choice appeared left to the fugitive--but to surrender, or to leap down. Suddenly he stood still, pulled out of his belt a brace of pistols--fired one in each hand upon the antagonists who stood near to him; and, whilst these shrank back in sudden surprise, though no one appeared wounded, with incredible dexterity and speed he sank from the eyes of Bertram--and disappeared. In a moment after Bertram thought he heard a dull sound as of a sullen plunge through briars and brambles into the rubbish below. All was then still.----
"One has burst the net," exclaimed the men, "but there stands his comrade: and, if he prove the right one, no matter what becomes of the other." So saying, both parties neared cautiously to possess themselves of Bertram.
On his part Bertram had no wish, as indeed (he was aware) no power, to escape them. Advancing therefore with a tranquil demeanour, he surrendered himself at once: and the next moment an Irishman of the party, being summoned to examine his features, held up a torch to his face and solemnly pronounced the prisoner to be that Nicholas of whom they were in search.
Prot. 'Tis wonderful dark! I have lost my man;
And dare not call for him, but I should have
More followers than I would pay wages to.
What throes am I in--in this travel! These
Be honourable adventures!
Beaumont and Fletcher: Thierry and Theodor.
"Come, let's away from this old monk's nest," said one of the constables, "for it looks uncanny."
"Aye, Sampson, and who knows but some of Nicholas's gang may be lurking behind the pillars?"
"Nay it's not altogether that I'm thinking of; but the old monks with their cowls; and Merlin; and God knows how many ghosts beside;--I could fancy that I saw some of them just now at the end of these long galleries. So let's away."
Others however objected that they were starved by their long watching in the cold, and stood in need of refreshments. It was determined therefore to make a halt. Two men staid by the prisoner, whilst the rest collected wood and soon succeeded in lighting a prodigious fire upon the spacious area before the main entrance into the Abbey. Round this the party collected: a hamper of smuggled claret, which they had fortunately intercepted on its road from the abbey, was unpacked: wine and the genial warmth of the fire disposed all present except the prisoner to mirth and festivity; and not one soul but seemed to regard it as a point of conscience to reward their fatigue and celebrate their success by getting royally intoxicated.
"Why so downcast, my lad?" said one of the constables to Bertram; "in my youth I was as near to the gallows as you; and yet you see I am now virtuous; and a man of credit in the state."
"Aye, Sampson," said Kilmary, "unless you're much belied, you got your reprieve just as you were going to be turned off."
"And you, Kilmary, got yours something later: for I've often heard that you were cut down after hanging some five minutes or so. This was in Wicklow, gentlemen: and being in time of rebellion there was so much business that they were often obliged to employ dilettanti artists in hanging: and now and then there was not time to go through the work properly.--But, as I was saying, courage my young lad. Were I in your place, I would bless my stars that I had fallen into the company of honest men, and got rid of such rascally friends as yours, that run away at the pinch. You see by this that no dependance can be placed upon such villains, and that virtue only can be relied on. Oh! I could preach finely to you, my boy: but where's the use of it? If you're hanged, you'll not want it: and, if you're not hanged, you'll forget it."
Bertram meantime had for a moment withdrawn his attention from the unpleasant circumstances of his own situation to the striking features of the scene before him. In the back ground lay Snowdon bending into a vast semicircus, and absorbing into its gigantic shadows the minor hills which lay round its base: all were melted into perfect unity: and from the height of its main range the whole seemed within a quarter of a mile from the spot which he himself occupied. Between this and the abbey lay a level lawn, chequered with moonlight and the mighty shadows of Snowdon. Of the abbey itself many parts appeared in the distance; sullen recesses which were suddenly and partially revealed by the fluctuating glare of the fire; aerial windows through which the sky gleamed in splendour, unless when it was obscured for a moment by the clouds which sailed across; pinnacles and crosses of sublime altitude in the remote distance; and in the immediate foreground the great gateway of the abbey and the wide circle of armed men carousing about the fire in sitting or recumbent attitudes.
From this fine natural composition, which he contemplated with a half regret that Merlin did not really make his appearance from some long gallery or gloomy arch-way leading Salvator Rosa by the hand, Bertram was suddenly called off to the conversation around him--which, as the wine began to act, had gradually risen into the high key of violent altercation. A reward of 500l. had been offered, as he now collected, for the apprehension of Nicholas; and the dispute turned upon the due appropriation of this sum.
"What the d---l, Sampson! rank or precedency has nothing to do in this case: that's settled, and we are all to share alike."
"D---- your impudence," cried Sampson--"Social distinctions in all things: it's as clear as sunlight in October that I, as leader and the man of genius, am to have 300l.; and you divide the other 200l. amongst you."
"What?" said the Irishman: "200l. amongst eight men?"
"Why, as for you, Kilmary, you get nothing. You stayed behind and wouldn't venture yourself upon the wall."
"No: Red-hair, you sheer off," exclaimed all the rest: but Red-hair pro tested against this; and almost screamed with wrath:
"By rights I should have half," said Kilmary; "for without me you would never have known who he was."
"Not a farthing more than according to merit; and then your share will come short."
Kilmary leaped up and clenched his fist:
"May the great devil swallow----." But scarce had he uttered a word, when a shot was fired; then a second--a third--a fourth; and a wild shout arose at a little distance of--
"Cut them down!"
Sampson had fallen back wounded: but, full of presence of mind, he called out to the Irishman--"Seize him, Kilmary! seize the prisoner, or he'll escape."
But Kilmary had been the first to escape himself; some others had followed: two of more resolution were preparing to execute the orders of the constable; when suddenly they were assailed so fiercely that one tumbled into the fire, and the other rolled over the wounded constable. An uproar of shouts and curses arose: and in this tumult Bertram found himself seized by two stout fellows who hurried him off, before he had time to recollect himself, into the shades of a neighbouring thicket. Here, where nobody could discover them by the light of the fire, they made a halt and cut the cords that confined the prisoner.
"Take breath for a moment," said one of his conductors, "and then away with us through thick and thin, before the bloodhounds rally."
"Captain Nicholas, shall we give them another round?" said a voice which struck Bertram as one which he had somewhere heard before.
"No, no, Tom,--let us be quiet whilst we are well: we have executed our work in a workmanlike style: another discharge would but serve to point out the course of our flight: for fly we must; a little bird whispered in my ear that they have a rear guard: and it will be well if we all reach our quarters this night in safety: to do which, my lads, our best chance will be to disperse; so good night to you all, and thanks for your able services. Mr. Bertram, I will put you in the way."
All the rest immediately stole away like shadows amongst the bushes; and Bertram again found himself alone with Edward Nicholas, who now guided him away from the neighbourhood of the abbey by intricate and almost impracticable paths up hill and down--through blind lanes and the shadowy skirts of forests--and once or twice along the pebbly channels of the little mountain brooks. On such ground Bertram often lost his footing; and Nicholas, who kept a-head, was more than once obliged to turn back and lend him his assistance. It was with no little pleasure therefore that at length he found himself again upon a level path which wound amongst the crags and woodlands--but in so mazy a track that it required little less than an Indian sagacity to hit it. From this they immerged into a series of ridings cut through the extensive woods of Tre Mawr; and, as they approached the end of one of these alleys, Bertram saw before them a wide heath stretching like a sea under the brilliant light of the wintry moon which had now attained her meridian altitude.
"Here," said Nicholas, as they issued upon the heath, "here we must part: for the road, which I must pursue, would be too difficult for a person unacquainted with the ground.--You, I suppose, admire this bright moon and the deluge of light she sheds: so do not I; and I heartily wish some poet or sonneteer had her in his pocket: for a dark night would have favoured our retreat much better. As it is, we must cross the heath by separate routes. You shall have the easiest. Do you see that black point on the heath? It is a stone of remarkable size and shape. When you reach it, turn to the left; and then, upon coming to the peat-trenches, to the right--until you arrive at a little hill: from the summit of this, and about a mile distant, you will observe some inclosures: there dwells Evan Williams: mention my name, and he will gladly harbour you until the heat of the pursuit is over. I will contrive to communicate with you in a day or two by means of Tom Godber--the young man who spoke to me as we left Ap Gauvon."
"Ah! by the way, I thought I knew his voice: he is the son then of old Mrs. Gillie Godber from Anglesea?"
"Exactly: and he is a helper in the stables at Walladmor Castle. You may trust him safely; for he is entirely attached to my interests: but now good night; for there is every appearance of snow coming on: it has been threatening for the last twenty-four hours: cold so severe as this is always the harbinger of snow: and, from the appearance of the sky at this moment, I doubt there will be a heavy fall before morning: good night!"
So saying Edward Nicholas struck across the heath, leaving Bertram in some perplexity as to the course he ought to adopt. He was aware that the most favourable step to the establishment of his own innocence would be to disclaim all voluntary participation in the late rescue by surrendering himself again to the officers of justice. Yet he could not but feel that to retrace his steps to Ap Gauvon was a matter of peril or impossibility under any state of the weather: and at this moment the threatening aspect of the sky, over which a curtain of clouds was gradually drawing, combined with his own weariness and craving for rest to urge him onwards upon the route pointed out by Nicholas. There was no time for long deliberations: the moon was now left in a deep gulph of the heavens, which the thick pall of clouds was hastening every moment to close over: and with some anxiety Bertram started off hastily in the direction of the stone. This he reached without much difficulty; took the right turn; and hoped soon to arrive at the peat-ditch which formed the second point in his carte du pays. After walking however for a longer time than seemed requisite for traversing the distance, he began to fear that he had wandered from the track. He turned; grew anxious; diverged a little to the right, and then again to the left, in hopes of coming upon the object he was in search of; then turned again; and finally lost all knowledge of his bearing or the direction in which he had just come, Mounting a little rising ground he beheld the abbey of Ap Gauvon, apparently two miles distant, still reddening with the angry glare of torches--sometimes gleaming over the outer walls, sometimes flashing from the windows or upper battlements; a proof that the police-officers had not yet renounced all hopes of recovering their prisoner. This spectacle did not tend to restore him to his self-possession: he descended the hill in trepidation: and, on reaching its foot, anxiously considered what it would be best to do. At this moment, the touch of something wet and cold upon his face struck a deadly chill to his heart: he hoped he might be mistaken; but the next instant came a second--a third--a fourth, until the whole air was filled with snow-flakes. Raising his head at this time he beheld the moon, at an immense altitude above him, shooting down her light through a shaft as it were in the clouds: the slender orifice of the shaft contracted: a sickly mist spread over the disk of the luminary; in a moment after all was gone; and one unbroken canopy of thick dun clouds muffled the whole hemisphere.
In this perplexity what was he to do? From the hill, which he had just descended, he remembered to have seen some dark object, apparently about half a mile distant: this might be a hovel or small cottage; and in this direction he determined to run. The snow was now in his back; and the dark spot soon began to swell upon his sight: in five minutes more he came up to it. He felt about for door or window; but could find none: and great was his disappointment when, upon more attentive examination, he perceived that what he had mistaken for a place of shelter was the antique stone gallows which he had passed in the afternoon. Under the lee of this old monument of elder days he was seeking out a favourable spot for a temporary shelter from the violence of the storm, when to his sudden horror and astonishment up started a tall female figure and seized him eagerly by the arm. At first she seemed speechless from some strong passion, and shaken as if by an ague fit: but, in a few moments she recovered her voice; and with piercing tones, in which, though trembling from agitation, Bertram immediately recognized those of poor Gillie Godber, she exclaimed--
"Ah Gregory! is it you? Are you come at last?--My darling! I have waited for thee--oh how long! Four and twenty years I have wept and watched, and watched and wept.--Oh come with me, my boy--my boy! God's curse on them that ever took thee away! Turn to me, my son: oh come, come, come, come!"
With the energy of a maniac she flung her withered arm about his neck: but Bertram was so overcome by the sudden shock of surprise, and by mingled emotions of awe, pity, and distraction of purpose, on finding himself thus suddenly in the arms of a lunatic, that he tore himself violently away and ran off without asking himself whither. The poor frantic mother pursued him, with outstretched arms and her aged locks streaming upon the wind; crying out continually,
"Gregory, my love! turn back: the wind is high and stormy; and the snowflakes are driving--driving--driving! I have kept a fire to warm you in Anglesea for four and twenty years. Turn back to me, my bonny lad! my love! my darling!"
Her powers were unable to support her in this contest of speed with the energies of a young man suddenly restored by the excitement of panic: and, on looking back within half a minute, Bertram perceived that her figure was already obscured by the tumult of snow which raged in the air. Her shrill voice however still at intervals forced its way to his ear, in the very teeth of the wind, and contributed to aggravate the distressing circumstances of his situation at this moment. It was a situation indeed which might have shaken the fortitude of one more accustomed to struggle with danger. The clouds had now lost their colour of yellowish dun, and assumed a livid lead colour which contrasted powerfully with the white livery in which all things were already arrayed: the snowflakes, conflicting with the baffling wind as they descended, "tormented all the air,"--and, to the eye of one looking upwards, seemed to cross--thwart--and mazily interweave with each other as rapidly as a weaver's shuttle, and with the lambent scintillating lustre of fire-flies: and the plashes or shallow pools of water, which were frequent in this part of the heath amongst the excavations from which peats had been dug, now began under the sudden breaking up of the frost to give way beneath their warm covering of snow to the weight of a man. The wind, which was likely to subside as the fall of snow grew more settled, at present blew a perfect hurricane; and unfortunately the accidental direction which Bertram had taken on extricating himself from the poor mad woman,--a direction which he was unwilling to change from his fear of again falling in with her,--brought him into direct opposition to it. To these disheartening and bewildering circumstances of his present situation were added those of previous exhaustion, cold, hunger, and anxiety in regard to the probable construction of the share he had borne, as a passive spectator, in the events of the day; having, however unintentionally, become a party in the eye of the law to the attack on the revenue officers--and possibly, as he feared, to that upon the police officers at Ap Gauvon. Under all these circumstances of distress however he continued to make way; but more and more slowly: and at length, whilst cowring his head before the blinding drift of the snow, he plunged unawares into a peat trench. He found himself up to the shoulders in water; and with some difficulty crawled out on the opposite bank. This, which under other circumstances might have been regarded as a misfortune, now turned out a very serviceable event: for the sudden shock of this cold bath not only communicated a stimulus to the drooping powers of his frame, and liberated him from the sleepy torpor which had been latterly stealing over him,--but, by urging him to run as vigorously as he could in order to shake off the extreme chill which now seized him, tended still more to restore the action of his animal powers. A reviving hope too had suddenly sprung up that this might be the peat trench to which the directions of Nicholas referred: and he ran with alacrity and chearfulness. In this course however he was all at once arrested by a violent blow on his temples. Raising his head, which he still carried slanting against the wind, to his sudden joy he discovered in the cause of this rude shock a most welcome indication of approach to some beaten road, and probably to the dwellings of men. It was a lofty pole, such as is ordinarily erected upon moorish or mountainous tracts against the accidents of deep snow. Bertram's hopes were realized. At a little distance he found a second pole, then a third, and a fourth, &c. until at length he dropped down upon a little cluster of cottages. He saw indeed neither house, nor tree, nor hedge before him: for even a whole village at such a time--its low roofs all white with snow--would not have been distinguishable: but he heard the bleating of sheep. Seldom had his heart throbbed with such a sudden thrill of gladness as at this sound. With hurried steps he advanced, and soon found a low hedge which without hesitation he climbed; he felt the outer wall of a house, but could not find the door. Close to the house however was a wooden barn, from which issued the bleating which had so much gladdened the poor wanderer; and to this he directed his steps.
Many a reader, when he runs over this chapter by his warm fire-side, or possibly in summer, will not forbear laughing. But whosoever, led by pleasure or necessity, has in winter roamed over a heath in the Scotch Highlands, and has been fairly mist-foundered,--knows what a blessed haven for the weary and frozen way-farer is a reeking sheep-cote. The author of this novel speaks here feelingly and from a memorable personal experience: upon a romantic pedestrian excursion from Edinburgh to the western parts of Strathnavern he once lost his way in company with his friend, Thomas Vanley, Esq. who departed this life about ten years ago, but will live for ever in his tender recollection. After wandering for several hours in the thickest mist upon this Novembry heath, and what by moorish ground--what by the dripping atmosphere being thoroughly soaked, and stiffening with cold, the author and Mr. Vanley discovered on a declivity of the bleak Mount Patrick a solitary hovel. It stood apart from all houses or dwellings; and even the shepherd on this particular night had stolen away (probably on a love-tryst): however, if the shepherd was gone, his sheep were not: and we found about fifty of them in the stall, which had recently been littered with fine clean straw. We clambered over the hurdle at the door; and made ourselves a warm cozy lair amongst the peaceful animals. Many times after in succeeding years Mr. Vanley assured me--that, although he had in India (as is well known to the public) enjoyed all the luxuries of a Nabob whilst he served in those regions under Sir Arthur Wellesley, yet never had any Indian bed been so voluptuous to him as that straw-bed amongst the sheep upon the desolate wilds of Mount Patrick.
To his great delight Bertram found the door of the barn only latched: without noise he opened it just wide enough to admit his person; and then, closing it again cautiously, climbed over the great hurdle which barricadoed the entrance. Then he groped along in a stooping posture--feeling his way on the ground, as he advanced, with his hands; but, spite of all his precaution, the sheep were disturbed; they fled from him bleating tumultuously, as commonly happens when a stranger intrudes amongst them, and crowded to the furthest corner of the barn. Much greater was his alarm however when all at once he stumbled with his hands upon a long out-stretched human body. He shrank back with sudden trepidation; drew in his breath; and kept himself as still as death. But, observing by the hard and uniform breathing that it was a man buried in profound sleep, he stepped carefully over him, and sought a soft and warm bed in the remotest corner of the barn. Luckily he found means to conciliate the aboriginal tenants of the barn; and in no long time two fleecy lambs couched beside him; and he was forced to confess that after the fatigues of such a day no bed could have been more grateful or luxurious.
Som. O monstrous traitor!--I arrest thee, York,
Of capital treason 'gainst the king and crown:
Obey, audacious traitor!
Henry VI. Second Part.
On awaking the next morning, Bertram perceived by the strength of the light now brightened by reflexion from the dazzling snow that the morning was far advanced; and, rising hastily from his bed of heath and fern, he was somewhat startled to perceive a whole family of women and children standing at a little distance and surveying him with looks of anxious curiosity checked however and disturbed by something of fear and suspicion. These feelings appeared a little to give way before the interesting appearance of the youthful stranger: an expression of pity arose for the distress which could have brought him into that situation: and in a few words of Welsh, which were rendered intelligible to Bertram by the courteous gestures which accompanied them, he was invited into the house--and seated by a blazing fire of peat and wood. With the cheerful hospitality of mountaineers, his fair hostesses proceeded to prepare breakfast for him; and Bertram had no reason to complain of any coldness or remissness in their attentions. Yet, in the midst of all their kindness, he could not but discover an air of lurking distrust which somewhat embarrassed him. At first he had accounted for this upon the natural shock which it must have given to a few women to find an unknown intruder upon their premises dressed in a foreign style, and occupying so very unusual a situation amongst their sheep. And this interpretation appeared the more reasonable--as he now became aware that the women and children were left almost to their own protection; for the house was in a lonely situation; and all the men of the family were abroad, except an imbecile grey-beard whom one of the young women addressed as her grandfather. All fears however, Bertram flattered himself, should have been dispersed immediately by his appearance and the gentleness of his demeanour: much therefore it perplexed him to observe after the lapse of some time that the shyness and something like displeasure, which had at first clouded the faces of his fair friends, seemed in no degree to give way before his amiable looks and manners. The children in particular, he remarked, regarded him with eyes of dislike, and rejected all his advances. Happening to follow them to the door for a moment, he there observed what threw some light upon the case: the children were mourning over the body of a dog which lay dead in the corner of a little garden: and, from the angry glances which they directed at himself, he no longer doubted that they regarded him as the destroyer of their favourite. To a young man of sensibility and amiable disposition, and chiefly in search of the picturesque, it was peculiarly unpleasant to find himself the object of such a suspicion. To lie under the reproach of an act, which, unless it were a necessary act, was a very savage and brutal one,--must naturally be painful under any circumstances; much more so at a time when he was indebted to the goodness of the family, whom he was supposed to have thus wantonly injured, for the most hospitable attentions. At this moment a sudden recollection darted into his mind of his nocturnal companion in the barn, to whom he doubted not the death of the dog was to be attributed. Unable however from his ignorance of the Welsh language to explain this circumstance, or to make his own vindication, he prepared to liberate himself from the uneasy and humiliating situation, in which he now found himself placed, by taking his leave as soon as possible.
At this moment an ill-looking fellow, who seemed to have some acquaintance with the family, entered the cottage: he fixed his eyes keenly upon Bertram; and, when the latter rose to depart, offered himself as a guide to Machynleth. Bertram had noticed his scrutiny with some uneasiness and displeasure; but having no ready excuse for declining his offers, nor indeed seeing any use in doing so, he said that he would be glad to avail himself of his services; took his hat; and, bowing to the family with as much composure and as obliging an air as his embarrassing feelings would allow, moved towards the door. On this there was a general murmur amongst the women; and a sudden stir as if from some wish to detain him. Their looks meantime expressed compassion: and Bertram discovered no signs of any hostile intention: yet, as he was unable to imagine any reason advantageous to himself which they could have for detaining him, he persisted in departing.
The day was beautiful; but the roads were heavy and toilsome to the foot-passenger; for the snow lay deep; and frost had succeeded just sufficient to glaze the surface into a crispness which retarded without absolutely resisting the pressure of the foot. Their progress was therefore slow: but they had floundered on between two and three miles: and as yet Bertram had found no cause for openly expressing his dissatisfaction with his guide. The manners and deportment of the man were indeed unpleasant: his head he carried in a drooping posture; never looked directly in Bertram's face; and now and then eyed him askance. Occasionally he fell behind a little; and once, upon turning suddenly round, Bertram detected him in the act of applying a measure to his footsteps. These were alarming circumstances in his behaviour: but otherwise he was civil and communicative in his replies; and showed a good deal of intelligence in his account of the different objects on the road about which Bertram inquired. All at once however he was missing; and, looking round, Bertram perceived him, at the top of a slight eminence a little to the left of the road, waving his handkerchief and whistling a loud summons to some person or party in the neighbourhood.
"Ah rascal!" cried Bertram: but before he could complete the sentence, his attention was drawn off to a party of horsemen who now wheeled into sight and rapidly extended their line--man[oe]uvring their horses with the evident purpose of intercepting him, if he should attempt to escape. This however, if it had been feasible, was no part of his intention: judging from their appearance that they were police officers, he advanced to meet them with a firm step--calling out at the same time--
"Take notice, I surrender myself voluntarily: the magistrates, I have no doubt, will consider my explanations satisfactory: and all I have to regret is---that any body should have been wounded in an affair connected in any way with myself."
This he said on observing, in the person of one who rode foremost, the "virtuous" Mr. Sampson carrying his arm in a sling. Mr. Sampson however replied to this indirect expression of condolence by a sceptical and somewhat satirical grin:
"Do but hearken to him," said he to the other constables: "hearken to this pious youth: we, that are honest men now, are not so religious by one half. And he can satisfy the magistrates? Aye, no doubt: but first he must hang a little; hang a little,--do you hear, Sir? But pray, Kilmary, how came you to let him move off till we got up?"
"He wouldn't stay," said Kilmary, in whom Bertram now recognised his guide: "nothing would content him but off he must bolt: and the farmer's people would not help me to keep him. Nay, I believe they would have hid him, or let him out at the back door, if he hadn't killed their old dog last night. I palavered to them about the laws, and justice, and what not: but they wouldn't stand it."
"Faith and I can't blame them," said Sampson: "it's no joke for a lonesome family on a heath side to make an enemy of such a pious youth as our friend here."
"Well, bind him fast and keep him better than you did the last time: for I shall hardly catch him for you a third time. It was no such easy matter to track him, I'll assure you; his footmarks were half snowed up."
"Aye, Kilmary, thou art a good hound for running down a fox. To give thee no more than thy due, thou art a hound in every thing; a perfect hound."
"But no hound that will fetch and carry for others, Mr. Sampson: if I'm always to be the hound to hunt the fox home, I'll have my right share of the reward."
"You shall, Kilmary: and what's that? What's a hound's share? A bone or so when his master has dined: isn't it, Kilmary? eh, my boy?"
Kilmary muttered a few inarticulate words; and slunk behind. Meantime the constables dismounted; and, having handcuffed Bertram, passed a cord round his body, the two extremities of which were carried in the hands of Sampson and another, who remounted their horses and led him after them in this felonious style.
Fortunately for Bertram's comfort, Sampson's wound obliged him to ride slowly: notwithstanding which he was heartily thankful when, after advancing for some hours, they came within view of the church towers at Machynleth, distant about three miles--and found Alderman Gravesand with a barouche-and-four waiting for them at the top of the hill.
Bertram was placed in the carriage; and Sampson took his seat by his side; Kilmary mounting Sampson's horse. By this time it was four o'clock; and Alderman Gravesand directed the whole party to push forward at their utmost speed; "it was his intention to carry the prisoner to Walladmor Castle nearly thirty miles distant; and he wished to be through Machynleth before the light failed."
"Would his worship then go through the town?" asked Sampson: "might it not be better to send forward with orders for horses to meet them in the outskirts, and avoid the town by making a little circuit?"
"No:" this proposal the Alderman rejected, as he would have done any other which looked like a compromise of the magisterial dignity or a concession to the popular spirit. Mr. Gravesand was a man who doated on what he called energy and vigour; others called it tyranny and the spirit of domineering. Of Lord Chesterfield's golden maxim--Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re--he attended so earnestly to the latter half that he generally forgot the former. And upon the present occasion he was resolved to parade his contempt for "the jacobinical populace" of Machynleth by carrying his prisoner boldly through the midst of them.
The fact is--that the populace of Machynleth were not Jacobinical, nor ever showed any disposition to insubordination unless in behalf of smuggling (which on this coast was a matter of deep interest to the poor man's comforts), or in cases where Alderman Gravesand was concerned. The Lord Lieutenant, whom they loved and reverenced, could at all times calm them by a word; and any inferior magistrate, who would take the least pains to cultivate their good will, was sure of finding them in all ordinary cases reasonable and accessible to persuasion. But for Alderman Gravesand,--who had never missed an opportunity of expressing his hatred and affected contempt for them, they were determined on showing him that there was no love lost between them: right or wrong, in every case they gave him as much trouble as they possibly could. And in the present case, which was supposed to be an arrest for some participation in the smuggler's affair of the funeral, they had one motive more than was needed to sharpen the spirit of resistance to the worshipful gentleman.
That when the people, which had thereabout
Long wayted, saw his sudden desolation,
They gan together in tumultuous rout
And mutining to stirre up civil faction
For certain losse of so great expectation:
For well they hoped to have got great good
And wondrous riches by his innovation:
Therefore resolving to revenge his blood
They rose in armes, and all in battell order stood.
Faery Queene, B. V. C. III.
Rapidly as the magisterial party moved, the news of their approach had run before them; and, on entering the north gates of Machynleth, they found nearly all the male population in the streets. Large bodies of smugglers were dispersed in the crowd, many of whom saw clearly that the magistrate was in a mistake as to the person of his prisoner: but they had good reasons for leaving him in his error. Up to the inn-door, where it was foreseen that the carriage would draw up to change horses, no particular opposition was offered to the advance of that or it's escort. Hisses indeed, groans, hooting, curses, and every variety of insult short of manual violence, continued to rise in stormy chorus all the way to the inn-door. But the attack, which was obviously in agitation, waited either for the first blow to be struck by some one more daring than the rest--or for some more favourable situation.
Just as the carriage stopped, an upper window was thrown up, and forth came the head of Mr. Dulberry the radical reformer in a perfect panic of exultation. This was the happiest moment of his existence. No longer in mere vision or prophetic rapture, but with his bodily eyes, he beheld the civil authority set at nought, insulted, threatened; and a storm rising in which he might have the honour to preside and direct. He was suffocated with joy; and for a minute found himself too much affected to speak.
Whilst he was yet speechless, and distracted by the choice amongst ten thousand varieties of argument and advice for the better nursing of the infant riot,--a drunken man advanced from the inn and laid himself across the street immediately before the feet of the horses which were at this moment harnessing to the carriage, loudly protesting that they should pass over his body before he would see them carry off to a dungeon so noble a martyr to the freedom of trade. Alderman Gravesand directed the constables to remove the man by force. This fired the train of Dulberry's pent-up eloquence. He "adjured the mob by those who met at Runnymead to resist such an act of lawless power; applauded the heaven-born suggestion of the drunkard; called upon them all to follow his example; by Magna Charta every Englishman was entitled to stretch himself at length in the mud when and where he would; and at the Alderman's peril be it, if he should presume to drive over them."
Meantime the constables had seized the man, and tossed him into the gutter. So far the system of vigour seemed to carry the day. But either this act or the urgency of the time (the horses being now harnessed and the postillions on the point of mounting) was the signal for the universal explosion of the popular wrath. Stones, coals, brickbats, whizzed on every side: the traces of the barouche were cut: the constables were knocked down: those of them, who were seated in the carriage, were collared and pulled out; excepting only Sampson who, being a powerful and determined man, still kept his hold of Bertram: and the Alderman, who was the main cause of the whole disturbance, was happy to make a precipitate retreat into the inn; at an upper window of which he soon appeared with the Riot Act in his hand.
At this crisis, however, from some indications which he observed below of the state of temper in regard to himself just now prevailing amongst the mob he thought it prudent to lay aside his first intentions; and, putting the Riot Act into his pocket, he began to bow; most awkwardly attempted the new part of gracious conciliator; expostulated gently; laid his hand on his heart; and endeavoured to explain that the prisoner was not arrested for any offence against the revenue laws, but for high treason. Not a syllable of what he said was heard. At the adjoining window stood Mr. Dulberry, labouring with a zeal as ineffectual to heighten and to guide the storm which the Alderman was labouring to lay. Like two rival candidates on the hustings, both stood making a dumb show of grimaces, rhetorical gestures, and passionate appeals; blowing hot and cold like Boreas and Phoebus in their contest for the traveller; the one striving to sow, the other to extirpate sedition: the reformer blowing the bellows and fanning the fire which the magistrate was labouring to extinguish.
Fortunately perhaps for both, and possibly for all the parties concerned, arguments were now at hand more efficacious than those of either. At this moment a trampling of horses was heard; words of command could be distinguished in military language; and amidst a general cry of "The red coats! the red coats!" a squadron of dragoons was seen advancing rapidly along the street. The mob gave way immediately, and retired into the houses and side alleys. Just as the dragoons came up, a bold fellow had knocked the wounded constable backwards, and was in the act of seizing firm hold of Bertram,--when the commanding officer rode up and with the flat of his sabre struck him so violently over the head and shoulders that he rolled into the mud, but retained however presence of mind enough to retire within a party of his friends.
In a few minutes the officer had succeeded in restoring order: he now took the prisoner from the carriage and mounted him behind a dragoon. His hands, which had been hitherto tied behind him, were for a moment unfettered--passed round the dragoon's body--and then again confined by cords. These arrangements made,--the whole cavalcade accompanied by two constables drew off at a rapid pace to the city gates. Under this third variety in the style of his escort, Bertram began to experience great fatigue and suffering. Without any halt, or a word speaking, the cavalry proceeded at a long trot for two hours along a well-beaten road. On reaching a wretched ale-house, however, necessity obliged them to make a short halt and to take such refreshments as the place afforded. To the compassion of a dragoon Bertram was here indebted for a dram; and he was allowed to stretch himself at length on the floor of the house and to take a little sleep. From this however he was soon roused by the gingling of spurs; roughly shaken up; and mounted again in the former fashion behind the dragoon. It was now dark; a night-storm was beginning to rise; and it appeared to the prisoner as though the road were approaching the coast. The air grew colder and colder, the wind more piercing, and Bertram--whose situation made all change of posture impossible--felt as though he could not long hold out against the benumbing rigour of the frost. So much was his firmness subdued, that he could not forbear expressing his suffering by inarticulate moans. The dragoon, who rode before him, was touched with compassion and gave him a draught from his rum flask. The strength, given by spirituous liquors to a person under the action of frost, is notoriously but momentary and leaves the sufferer exposed to an immediate and more dangerous reaction of the frost. This effect Bertram experienced: a pleasant sensation began to steal over him; one limb began to stiffen after another; and his vital powers had no longer energy enough to resist the seductive approaches of sleep. At this moment an accident saved him. The whole troop pulled up abruptly; and at the same instant a piercing cry for help, and a violent trampling of horses' hoofs, roused Bertram from his stupefaction.
The accident was this: a trooper had diverged from the line of road, and was in the act of driving his horse over a precipice which overhung the sea-coast just at the very moment when his error was betrayed to him by the moving lights below. The horse however clung by his fore-feet, which had fortunately been rough-shod, to a tablet of slanting rock glazed over with an enamel of ice; and his comrades came up in time to save both the trooper and his horse. Meantime the harsh and sudden shock of this abrupt halt, together with the appalling character of the incident which led to it, had roused Bertram; and he was still further roused by the joyful prospect of a near termination to his journey as well as by the remarkable features of the road on which his eyes now opened from his brief slumber.
The road, as he now became aware, wound upwards along the extreme edge of the rocky barrier which rose abruptly from the sea-coast. In the murky depths below he saw nothing but lights tossing up and down, gleaming at intervals, and then buried in sudden darkness--the lights probably of vessels driving before wind and weather in a heavy sea. The storm was now in its strength on the sea-quarter. The clouds had parted before the wind; and a pale gleam of the moon suddenly betrayed to the prisoner the spectacle of a billowy sea below him, an iron barrier of rocky coast, and at some distance above him the gothic towers and turrets of an old castle running out as it were over the sea itself upon one of the bold prominences of the cliffs. The sharp lines of this aerial pile of building were strongly relieved upon the sky which now began to be overspread with moonlight. To this castle their route was obviously directed. But danger still threatened them: the road was narrow and steep; the wind blustered; and gusty squalls at intervals threatened to upset both horse and rider into the abyss. However the well-trained horses overcame all difficulties; at length the head of the troop reached the castle; and the foremost dragoon seizing a vast iron knocker struck the steel-plated gate so powerfully, that the echo on a more quiet night would have startled all the deer in the adjacent park for two miles round.
Goaler. You shall not now be stolen: you have locks upon
you: So graze as you find pasture.--Cymbeline, Act. V.
During the two or three minutes that the cavalry and their prisoner were waiting for an answer to the summons,--Bertram, who was relapsing at every instant into a dozy slumber and then as suddenly starting awake (probably in consequence of the abrupt stillness succeeding to the severe motion of a high-trotting horse), was suddenly awakened by the noise and stir of admission into the castle, which unfolded a succession of circumstances as grand and impressive as if they had been arranged by some great artist of scenical effect. From one of the towers which flanked the gates, a question was put and immediately answered by the foremost trooper: question and answer however were alike lost to Bertram and dispersed upon the stormy ravings of the wind. Soon after was heard the clank of bars and the creaking of the gates,--gates
That were plated with iron within and without Whence an army in battle array had march'd out.
They were like the gates of a cathedral, and they began slowly to swing backward on their hinges. As they opened, the dimensions and outlines of their huge valves were defined by the light within; and, when they were fully open, a beautiful spectacle was exposed of a crowd of faces with flambeaus intermingled fluctuating on the further side of the court. The gateway and the main area of the court were now cleared for the entrance of the cavalry; and the great extent of the court was expressed by the remote distance at which the crowd seemed to stand. Then came the entrance of the dragoons, which was a superb expression of animal power. The ground continued to ascend even through the gateway and into the very court itself; and to the surprise of Bertram who had never until this day seen the magnificent cavalry of the English army, the leading trooper reined up tightly, and spurred his horse, who started off with the bounding ramp of a leopard through the archway. Bertram's horse was the sixtieth in the file; and, as the course of the road between him and the gates lay in a bold curve, he had the pleasure of watching this movement as it spread like a train of gun-powder, or like a race of sun-beams over a corn-field through the whole line a-head of him: it neared and neared: in a moment he himself was carried away and absorbed into the vortex: the whole train swept like a hurricane through the gloomy gateway into the spacious court flashing with unsteady lights, wheeled round with beautiful precision into line, halted, and dressed.
What followed passed as in a dream to Bertram: for he was by this time seriously ill; and would have fallen off horseback, if unsupported. The lights, the tumult, and his previous exhaustion, all contributed to confuse him: and, like one who rises from his bed in the delirium of a fever, he saw nothing but a turbulent vision of torches, men, horses' heads, glittering arms; windows that reverberated the uncertain gleams of the torches; and overhead an army of clouds driving before the wind; and here and there a pencil of moonlight that played upon the upper windows of an antique castle with a tremulous and dreamy light. To his bewildered senses the objects of sight were all blended and the sounds all dead and muffled: he distinguished faintly the voice of an officer giving the word of command: he heard as if from some great distance the word--"Dismount:" he felt himself lifted off horseback; and then he lost all consciousness of what passed until he found himself sitting in the arms of a soldier, and an old man in livery administering a cordial. On looking round, he perceived many others in the same dress, which he recognised as the Walladmor livery; and he now became aware that he was in Walladmor Castle.
"Is the Lord Lieutenant at home, Maxwell?" said the officer, addressing the old man who bore the office of warden in the castle.
"No, Sir Charles: he dines at Vaughan house--about twenty miles off. But he will return by midnight. And he left orders that the prisoner should be confined in the Falcon's tower."
Bertram here stood up, and signified that he was able to walk: upon which Sir Charles Davenant, the officer who had commanded the party of dragoons, directed the two constables to go before the prisoner and two dragoons behind--whilst the old warden showed the way.
Raising his head as they crossed the extensive court, Bertram saw amongst the vast range of windows three or four which were open and crowded by female heads as he inferred from the number of white caps. Under other circumstances he would have been apt to smile at such a spectacle as a pleasant expression of female curiosity: but at present, when he was taking his leave of social happiness--for how long a time his ignorance of the English laws would not allow him to guess, the sight was felt rather as a pathetic memento of the household charities under their tenderest aspect--and as suggesting the gentleness of female hands in painful contrast to the stern deportment of the agents of police and martial power by whom he was now surrounded. "Let all cynical women-haters," thought he, "be reduced for a month or two to my situation--and they will learn the blessed influences on human happiness of what they idly affect to despise." His own indiscretion however, as he could not disguise from himself, had reduced him to this situation: and however disturbed at the prospect before him he submitted with an air of cheerfulness and followed his guides with as firm a step as his bodily weakness would allow. Passing from the great court, at one corner, through a long and winding gateway feebly illuminated by two lanthorns, they found themselves at the edge of a deep abyss. It was apparently a chasm in the rock that had been turned to account by the original founder of the castle, as a natural and impassable moat; far beyond it rose a lofty wall pierced with loop-holes and belted with towers--that necessarily overlooked and commanded the whole outer works through which they had passed. At a signal from the old man a draw-bridge was dropped with a jarring sound over the chasm. Crossing this they entered a small court--surrounded by a large but shapeless pile of buildings, which gave little sign externally of much intercourse with the living world: here and there however from its small and lofty windows, sunk in the massy stonework, a dull light was seen to twinkle; and, as far as the lanthorn would allow him to see, Bertram observed every where the marks of hoary antiquity. At this point the officer quitted them, having first given his orders to the two dragoons in an under voice.
The termination of their course was not yet reached. At the further end of the court, the old warden opened a little gate; through this, and by a narrow arched passage which the dragoons could only pass by stooping, they reached at length a kind of guard-room which through two holes pierced in the wall received some light--at this time but feebly dispensed by the moon. This room, it was clear, lay near to the sea-shore; for the wind without seemed as if it would tear up the very foundations of the walls. The old man searched anxiously in his bundle of keys, and at length applied an old rusty key to the door-lock. Not without visible signs of anxiety he then proceeded to unlatch the door. But scarce had he half performed his work, when the storm spared him the other half by driving in the door and stretching him at his length upon the floor.
Below them at an immense depth lay the raging sea--luridly illuminated by the moon which looked out from the storm-rent clouds. The surf sent upwards a deafening roar, although the raving of the wind seemed to struggle for the upper hand. This aerial gate led to a little cell which might not unjustly have been named the house of death. From the rocky wall, upon which the guard-room stood, ran out at right angles into the sea a curtain of granite--so narrow that its utmost breadth hardly amounted to five feet, and resembling an artificial terrace or corridor that had been thrown by the bold architect across the awful abyss to a mighty pile of rock that rose like a column from the very middle of the waves. About a hundred feet from the shore this gallery terminated in a circular tower, which--if the connecting terrace had fallen in--would have looked like the work of a magician. This small corridor appeared the more dreadful, because the raging element below had long since forced a passage beneath it; and, the breach being continually widened by the equinoctial storms, it was at length so far undermined that it seemed to hang like an archway in the air; and the narrow causeway might now with some propriety be termed a sea-bridge.
Bertram here recognized that part of Walladmor Castle which he had seen from the deck of the Fleurs de Lys.
The rude dragoons even looked out with awe upon the dreadful spectacle which lay before and below. One of them stepped with folded arms to the door-way, looked out in silence, and shaking his head said--"So that's the cage our bird must be carried to?"
"Aye," said the old man, (who had now raised himself from the floor;) "desperate offenders are always lodged there."
"By G---," replied the dragoon, "at Vittoria I rode down the whole line of a French battalion that was firing by platoons: there's not a straw to choose between such service as that and crossing a d---d bridge in the clouds through a gale of wind like this. A man must have the devil's luck and his own to get safe over."
"What the h---ll!" said the other dragoon,--"this fellow is to be killed at any rate; so he's out of the risk: but must we run the hazard of our lives for a fellow like him? I'm as bold as another when I see reason: but I'll have some hire, I'll have value down, if I am to stand this risk."
"It's impossible," cried the first constable--"no man can stand up against the wind on such a devil's gallery: what the devil? it has no balustrade."
"Shall we pitch the fellow down below?" said the second constable.
"I have nothing to say against it," replied one of the dragoons.
"Nor I," said the other, "but then mind--we must tell no tales."
"Oh! as to that," replied the first constable, "we shall say the wind carried him out of our hands; and I suppose there's no cock will crow against us when the job's done."
"And besides it is no sin," observed the second; "for hang he must; that's settled; such a villain as him can do no less. So, as matters stand, I don't see but it will be doing him a good turn to toss him into the water."
Unanimous as they were in the plan, they differed about the execution; none choosing to lay hands on the prisoner first. And very seasonably a zealous friend to Bertram stepped forward in the person of the warden. He protested that, as the prisoner was confided to his care, he must and would inform against them unless they flung him down also. Under this dilemma, they chose rather to face again the perils of Vittoria. Ropes were procured, passed round the bodies of all the men, and then secured to the door-posts. That done, the constables stepped out first, the old man in the centre, and after them the two dragoons taking the prisoner firmly under their arms. The blasts of wind were terrifically violent; and Bertram, as he looked down upon the sea which raged on both sides below him, felt himself giddy; but the dragoons dragged him across. The old man had already opened the tower, and Bertram heard chains rattling. They led him down several steps, cut the ropes in two which confined him, but in their stead put heavy and rusty fetters about his feet and swollen hands. The five agents of police then remounted the steps; the door was shut: and the sound of bolts, locks, and chains, announced to the prisoner that he was left to his own solitary thoughts.
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XV.":
 See p. 80. of vol. 1.
Anton. You do mistake me, Sir.
Off. No, Sir, no jot: I know your favor well,
Though now you have no sea-cap on your head:
Take him away; he knows I know him well.
Twelfth Night--Act 3.
Apprehended as a great state-criminal, Bertram had been committed to the safekeeping of Walladmor Castle as the only place in the county strong enough to resist the attempts for his deliverance which were anticipated from the numerous smugglers on the coast.--As regarded his personal comfort however, and putting out of view the chances of any such violent liberation, this arrangement was one on which a prisoner had reason to congratulate himself. For Sir Morgan Walladmor would not allow that any person within his gates should be inhospitably treated: and, with the exception of his shackles, Bertram now found himself more comfortably lodged in his prison than he had been for some time before. He flung himself into bed, and was soon asleep. But the fury of the wind about this exposed rock, and the fury of the sea at its base,--with his own agitation of mind and body,--frequently awoke him. As often he fell asleep again; and continually dreamed of the fields of Germany and the friends whom he had left there. Sometimes he was betrayed into imminent peril--sometimes into battle--sometimes into flight: now he saw hands stretched forth from thick vapours to help him; and again he saw the countenances of familiar friends turned upon him with altered looks and glaring with mysterious revenge. Then came running from the depth of forests a dear companion of his youth with a coronet of flowers who smiled as in former times: but suddenly he shook his head and vanished. The forests also vanished; and the flowers perished: and he found himself on board the Fleurs-de-lys, with Captain le Hamois by his side, fleeting over endless seas--and seeking in vain for an anchor. He was on board the ship, and yet was not; but saw it from a distance: and in this perplexity the Fleurs-de-lys changed into a judgment-seat; and an orator was before it--pleading in some unknown tongue against himself, and bringing to light many a secret crime that had lain buried under a weight of years----
Confusion, struggle, shame, and woe:
Things to be hid that were not hid;
Which all confus'd he could not know
Whether he suffer'd or he did:
and when the judgment seat began to speak, he died away with fear and--suddenly awoke.
But a voice now reached him that was no voice of judgment or dismay; the tones were low and sweet; and they spoke as woman speaks when she comes to comfort. "Edward, dear Edward!" he heard distinctly uttered at a few yards from his bed side. The storm was laid; the wind was hushed; the sea had ceased to rave: it was two o'clock in the morning; and every motion was audible. Recollecting the adamantine strength of his prison, Bertram felt his German superstitions stealing over him; but again he heard the voice; and, opening his eyes, he saw a dull light in the room. Instantly he raised his head; and he beheld the figure of a young woman standing by a little table. She was muffled up in the rich furs of the sea-otter; and the small lamp which she held in her hand streamed upwards a feeble gleam upon her countenance, sufficient however to discover the superb beauty and touching expression which had drawn all eyes upon St. David's day. It was indeed Miss Walladmor: and at her elbow, but retiring half a step behind her, stood a young person who was apparently her maid. "Dear Edward!" she began again, "listen to me. I dare not stay now: if I were seen, all would be discovered: but I will write an answer to your letter addressed to Paris. Meantime, I will find some friend that shall put the means of escape in your way; I hope to-morrow in the dusk of the evening. Oh! Edward, do not--do not let it pass by: for every body here is your enemy:" and saying this she burst into tears. "Go on board a ship immediately. And here is money, Edward: and here is my watch, that you may know how the hours go. It is now two o'clock. Promise me that you will escape: better times may come: promise me, dear Edward."
Before Bertram could reply however, a hasty clank was heard at one of the bars: this, it appeared, was a signal understood by Miss Walladmor: she started and trembled; and exclaimed--"Farewell, Edward! Remember!----" Something she would have added; but the door opened a little, and a voice impatiently called "Miss Walladmor! Miss Walladmor!" and in the next moment she and her attendant had glided inaudibly from the room, and the door was again barred outside with as little noise as possible. As it opened however, Bertram caught a glimpse of the person stationed outside, who appeared to be a young boy of seventeen; he was wrapped up in a cloak, but underneath it Bertram perceived the dragoon uniform. That Miss Walladmor's visit had been intended for Edward Nicholas he was sufficiently aware: and, feeling at once that he could have no right to use to the prejudice of either a knowledge which he had gained in this way, he took care as soon as the light came to secrete from the sight of his jailors the watch and the other articles left on the table: which appeared to be chiefly letters of credit on Paris to a large amount obtained from the Dolgelly Bank.
Pretty early in the morning one of the Walldamor servants, attended by a soldier, brought breakfast into his cell; and soon after desired him to follow them. By a great circuit, and partly over the same ground as he had traversed the night before, they conducted him into a large library, at one end of which sate four magistrates for the county, before whom he was placed: Sir Morgan Walladmor and Sir Charles Davenant were also present; but they sate at a distance, and took no part in the examination; though they surveyed the prisoner from time to time with great apparent interest; and the latter, who was writing, occasionally laid down his pen to attend to the prisoner's answers.
"What is your name?"
"Whence do you come?"
"Where is your home?"
"So far as I can be said to have one, in Germany."
"And you were educated in Germany?"
"And yet speak English like a native?"
"I was bred up in an English family resident in North Germany."
"What was your object in coming to England?"
"Upon that point you must pardon me: I do not feel myself called upon, simply for the purpose of clearing myself from unfounded charges, to make disclosures of that nature."
"How do you know that the charges against you are unfounded? You have not yet heard them."
"Without pretending to any accurate knowledge of the English laws, I am sure that I cannot have transgressed the laws of any country during my short residence in Wales."
"Were you at the attack of the revenue officers near the chapel of Utragan?"
"I was; but simply as a spectator: I neither understood the object of that attack, nor took any part in it."
"By what ship did you come to England?"
"By the steam-packet Halcyon?"
"And you were on board the Halcyon when she blew up?"
"I was knocked overboard the moment before, and in that manner I escaped."
"And what became of you?"
"I was drifted by the waves towards the Isle of Anglesea: a few miles to the southward of Holyhead I was picked up by I know not whom. Afterwards I obtained a passage to the main land."
"And took up your abode----where?"
"At the inn in Machynleth."
"Where was it that you were first apprehended?"
"At an abbey, I forget the name, amongst the Merionethshire mountains: no, upon recollection, amongst the Carnarvonshire mountains."
"What led you thither?"
"I was advised by an acquaintance to visit it."
"For what purpose?"
"Simply as an interesting relic of antiquity, and as a very picturesque building."
Here the magistrates looked at each other and smiled.
"What sort of night was that on which you visited this abbey?"
"A very severe and inclement night."
"And on such a night you were engaged in studying the picturesque?"
The prisoner was silent.
"You stated that you were apprehended at this abbey: who were the persons that delivered you?"
"I do not know."
"Upon what motives did the persons act who rescued you?"
"So far as I know, upon motives of gratitude: one of them had received a service from myself."
"Do you know any thing of Captain Edward Nicholas, or Captain Nicolao, as he is sometimes called?"
The Prisoner replied--"No:" but at the same time he coloured. Feeling that his confusion would weigh much against himself, Bertram now endeavoured to disperse it by assuming the stern air of an injured person, and demanded to know upon what grounds he was detained in custody, or subjected to these humiliating examinations. One of the magistrates rose, and addressed him with some solemnity:
"Captain Nicholas, we cannot doubt about the person we have before us. Judge for yourself when I read to you the information we have received, much of which has been now confirmed by yourself. Edward Nicholas, charged with various offences against the laws, is on the point of leaving the Isle of Wight for France: he is apprehended; put on board the Halcyon steam-packet; the Halcyon blows up; nearly all on board perish: but Nicholas is known to have escaped. He is seen by several in the company of a Dutchman called Vander Velsen: to assist that person and Captain le Harnois alias Jackson of the Fleurs-de-lys in a smuggling transaction, but for what purpose of self interest is not known, he plays off a deception on the lord lieutenant, and conducts a mock funeral to the chapel of Utragan. A skirmish takes place on the road between the revenue officers and the mourners suborned by le Harnois and Nicholas. You have acknowledged that you were present at that skirmish; and we have witnesses who can prove that you were both present and armed with a cudgel of unusual dimensions: in fact," said the magistrate by way of parenthesis, "of monstrous dimensions:" (here the prisoner could not forbear smiling, which did him no service with the magistrate; who went on to aggravate the enormity of the cudgel;)--"a cudgel in fact, such as no man carries, no man ever did carry, no man ever will carry with peaceable intentions. Nicholas is known to have gone on from Utragan to Ap Gauvon: you admit that you were there, and without any adequate motive; for as to the picturesque and all that, on a night such as the last, it is really unworthy of you to allege any thing so idle. At Ap Gauvon you are apprehended and immediately rescued. You steal away into the barn of a peasant, and kill the dog to prevent detection from his barking. Your footsteps however are tracked: you are again apprehended on the following morning: and again an attempt is made to rescue you: and a riot absolutely raised in your behalf. And finally, when it became known last night that you were conveyed to Walladmor, a smuggling vessel was observed to stand in close to the shore--making signals for upwards of five hours which no doubt were directed to you. The chain of circumstantial evidence is complete."
Bertram was silent: he could not but acknowledge to himself that the presumptions were strong against him. Omitting the accidental coincidences between his own movements and those of Nicholas, whence had he--a perfect stranger by his own account--drawn the zealous assistance which he had received? By what means could he have obtained such earnest and continued support?--He would have suggested to the magistrate that the same mistake about his person, which had led to his apprehension, was in fact the main cause (combined with the general dislike to Alderman Gravesand) of the second mistake under which the mob had acted in attempting his rescue. But dejection at the mass of presumptions arrayed against himself, even apart from his own unfortunate resemblance to the real object of those presumptions, self-reproach on account of his own indiscretion, and pain of mind at the prospect of the troubles which awaited him in a country where he was friendless, suddenly came over him; and the words died away upon his lips. The magistrates watched him keenly; and, interpreting these indications of confusion and faultering courage in the way least favourable to the prisoner, they earnestly exhorted him to make a full confession as the only chance now left him for meriting any favour with government.
This appeal had the effect of recalling the prisoner to his full self-possession, and he briefly protested his innocence with firmness and some indignation; adding that he was the victim of an unfortunate resemblance to the person who was the real object of search; but that, unless the magistrates could take upon them to affirm as of their own knowledge that this resemblance was much stronger than he had reason to believe it was, they were not entitled so confidently to prejudge his case and to take his guilt for established.
All present had seen Captain Nicholas, but not often, nor for the last two years. One of the magistrates however, who had seen him more frequently than the others and had repeatedly conversed with him, declared himself entirely satisfied of the prisoner's identity with that person: it was not a case, he was persuaded, which could be shaken by any counter-evidence. Upon this they all rose: assured the prisoner that he should have the attendance of a clergyman; conjured him not to disregard the spiritual assistance which would now be put in his way: and then, upon the same grounds as had originally dictated the selection of Bertram's prison--distrust of so weak a prison as that at Dolgelly against the stratagems and activity of Captain Nicholas within and the violence of his friends without--they finally recommitted him to the Falcon's tower.
At the suggestion of Sir Morgan Walladmor however, who had taken no part in the examination, but apparently took the liveliest interest in the whole of what passed, the prisoner was freed from his irons--as unnecessary in a prison of such impregnable strength, and unjust before the full establishment of his guilt. This act of considerate attention to his personal ease together with a pile of books sent by the worthy baronet, restored Bertram to some degree of spirits: and such were the luxurious accommodations granted him in all other respects, compared with any which he had recently had, that--but for the loss of his liberty and the prospect of the troubles which awaited him--Bertram would have found himself tolerably happy, though tenanting that ancient and aerial mansion which was known to mariners and to all on shore for at least six counties round by the appellation of "the house of death."
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XVI.":
 Coleridge, from imperfect recollection.
 Amongst which we are happy to say (on the authority of a Welch friend) was the first volume of Walladmor, a novel, 2 vols. post 8vo.; the second being not then finished.
Aumerle. --Give me leave that I may turn the key,
That no man
enter till my tale be done.
Boling. Have thy desire.
York (without). My liege, beware: look to thyself:
Thou hast a traitor in thy presence there.
Aum. Stay thy revengeful hand;
Thou hast no cause to fear.--Richard II. Act. V.
Meantime Miss Walladmor exerted herself as earnestly for the secret liberation of the prisoner as due regard to concealment would allow. Her first application was made to Sir Charles Davenant: much would depend, as she was well aware, on the dispositions of that officer towards Captain Nicholas; and in the present case circumstances well known to both forbade her relying with too much hope upon the natural generosity of his disposition. Something however must be risked; and she wrote a note to him requesting that he would meet her in the library.
Sir Charles probably anticipated the subject of Miss Walladmor's communication: for, though he hastened to know her commands, the expression of his countenance showed none of that alacrity which might naturally have been looked for in a military man not much beyond thirty on receiving a summons to a private interview with the beautiful heiress of Walladmor.
On entering the room he bowed, but without his usual freedom of manner; and something like an air of chagrin was visible, as he begged to know upon what subject he had been fortunate enough to be honored with Miss Walladmor's commands. He spoke with extreme gravity; and Miss Walladmor looked up to him in vain for any signs of encouragement. She trembled: but not, as it seemed, from any feminine embarrassments: grief and anxiety had quelled all lighter agitations; and she trembled only with the anguish of suspense.
"Sir Charles," she said at length, "there was a time when you would not have refused me any request which it was in your power to grant."
"Nor would now, Miss Walladmor: my life should be at your service, if that would promote your happiness; any thing but----my honor."
"I am to understand then that you think your honor concerned in refusing what I was going to have asked you: for I perceive that you apprehend what it was."
"I will not affect, Miss Walladmor, to misapprehend what it is you wish: the prisoner is committed to the soldiers under my command; and you wish me to favor his escape."
Miss Walladmor bowed her assent.
"But, my dear Miss Walladmor, this is quite impossible: believe me, it is: even if my duty as a military man did not forbid me to engage in such an act, which in me would be held criminal in the highest degree, I fear that it would be wholly thrown away: for this person, the prisoner I mean, is perfectly mad. I beg your pardon, Miss Walladmor: I did not mean to distress you: but what I meant to say was--that, if he were liberated, actuated by such views as appear to govern him at present, I fear that he would linger in this neighbourhood: he would inevitably be recaptured: and I should have violated my duty as a soldier without at all forwarding your wishes."
Perceiving that Miss Walladmor looked perplexed and agitated, and incapable of speaking, Sir Charles went on:
"Much of his later conduct may not have reached your ears: many acts attributed to him----"
"Sir Charles," interrupted Miss Walladmor, bursting into tears, "you know well that those, who have once lost their footing in the world's favor, and are become unfortunate, meet with but little tenderness or justice in the constructions or reports of any thing they may do. Every hand, it seems to me, is raised against a falling man. But, let the unhappy prisoner have done what he may, you have yourself suggested an apology for him: and you distress me far less when you advert to it, than when you appear to forget it."
"I do not forget it, Miss Walladmor: believe me, I do not: neither will it be forgotten in a court of justice. So much the less can it be necessary that in such a cause you should put any thing to the hazard of a false interpretation amongst censorious people, who are less capable of appreciating your motives than myself."
"Oh, Sir Charles Davenant!" exclaimed Miss Walladmor, "do not allude to such considerations: any other than myself they might become; but not me, who have been indebted to him of whom we are speaking three times for my own life."
The last words were almost inarticulate: her voice failed her from strong emotion; and she wept audibly.
Sir Charles was moved and softened: the spectacle of a woman's tears--of a woman so young, beautiful, and evidently unhappy,--her supplicating countenance and attitude, and the pleading tones of her low soft voice ("an excellent thing in woman!"), were more than his gallantry could support. To such a pleader he had not the heart to say that she must plead in vain: he put his hand to his forehead; considered for a moment or two; and then said----
"My dear Miss Walladmor, I fear I am doing very wrong: what may be quite right for you--may be wrong indeed in me: yet I cannot resist a request of yours urged so persuasively; and I will go to the utmost lengths I can in meeting your wishes; to go further might expose them to the risk of discovery. Use any influence you please with the soldier on guard: I will place only one at the prisoner's door, and will endeavour to select such a one as may be most readily induced to----forget his duty. The centinel at the gate will not challenge any person leaving the castle: he is placed there only to prevent the intrusion of suspicious persons from without. In short proceed as you will; and depend upon my looking away from what passes--which is the best kind of assistance that I can give to your intentions in this case, without running the risk of defeating them."
Miss Walladmor smiled through her tears, and thanked him fervently: Sir Charles bowed and departed.
Sir Charles Davenant was a man of ancient family and of great expectations, but of very small patrimonial fortune: he had been a ward of Sir Morgan Walladmor's; between whom and the Davenants there was some distant relationship: and it was to the Walladmor interest, supported by the Walladmor purse, that Sir Charles was originally indebted for his commission upon entering the army and his subsequent promotion. These were circumstances which could not be unknown to Miss Walladmor: but she had been too delicate and too just to use them as any arguments with Sir Charles upon the present occasion. So much the more however was Sir Charles disposed to recollect them: and he now exerted himself without delay to make such inquiries and arrangements as might put things in train for accomplishing Miss Walladmor's design; conscious as he was that every post might bring down orders from government which would make any such design impracticable.
Miss Walladmor, on her part, found that it would be impossible to pursue this design without the co-operation of her own maid; and for that purpose it was necessary to admit this young person in some degree to her confidence. To any woman of delicate and deep feelings this must naturally have been under ordinary circumstances a painful necessity; but the time was now past for scruples of that sort: and difficulties, which would have appeared insuperable in a situation of free choice, melted away before the extremities of the present case. Moreover, apart from the pain of making such disclosures at all, there was no person to whom Miss Walladmor would more willingly have made them than to her own attendant; for Grace Evans was an amiable girl: had been bred up in superstitious reverence for the whole house of Walladmor; and with regard to Miss Walladmor in particular, who had been the benefactress of her own family in all its members, her attachment was so unlimited that she would have regarded nothing as wrong which her young mistress thought right--nor have suffered any obstacles whatsoever to deter her in the execution of that thing which she had once understood to be her mistress's pleasure. In the present case however there was nothing that could press heavily on her sense of duty; nor any need to appeal to her affections against her natural sense of propriety. On the contrary both were in perfect harmony. She had long known, in common with all the country, the circumstances of Miss Walladmor's early meetings with Edward Nicholas--and the attachment which had grown out of them. And it is observable that to all women endowed with much depth and purity of feeling, more particularly to women in humble life who inherit a sort of superstition on that subject (and are besides less liable to have it shaken by the vulgar ridicule of the world, and the half-sneering tone with which all deep feelings are treated in the more refined classes of society)--love, but especially unfortunate love, is regarded with a sanctity of interest and pity such as they give to religion or to the memory of the dead. In this point women of the lowest rank (as a body) are much more worthy of respect and admiration than those above them, in proportion to the rarity of the temptations which beset them for diverting the natural course of their own affections--and to the less worldly tone of the society in which they move. Women however of all classes manifest a purity and elevation of sentiment on this subject to which the coarseness of the other sex rarely ascends.
Hence it was that Miss Walladmor found in her humble attendant a sympathy more profound than she might possibly have met with in many of her own rank. The tender hearted girl had long been deeply affected in secret by the spectacle of early grief and unmerited calamity which had clouded the youthful prospects of her mistress; she was delighted with the honor of the confidence reposed in her: and she immediately set her little head to work, which (to do her justice) was a very woman's head for its fertility in plots and wiles, to consider of the best means for accomplishing the deliverance of the prisoner. Political offences are naturally no offences at all in the eyes of women: and independently of the deeper interest which she took in the present case, she would at any time with hearty good will have given her gratuitous assistance to effect a general gaol delivery of all prisoners whatsoever whose crimes, had relation chiefly to the Secretaries of State for the time being.
A tap at the door, which came at this moment, served to abridge and to guide her scheming. It was a servant with a note from Sir Charles Davenant to the following effect:
"My dear Madam,
"I may possibly be under the necessity of leaving the castle this evening for a few days on some business connected with my military duties: and for that reason, as well as because it is on all accounts adviseable that any attempt which is contemplated should be made without much delay, I take the earliest opportunity of informing you that Thomas Godber, a late servant on the Walladmor establishment, will relieve guard at eight o'clock this night. He was, I believe, recently a groom or helper in the castle stables: and he enlisted into one of the two troops now quartered in the castle with the knowledge and approbation of Sir Morgan. I know nothing of him more than this, and that he bears the character amongst his fellow troopers of a goodnatured young man. But I presume that, as a former servant of the family, he shares in the general attachment which all about her manifest for Miss Walladmor. On this account I have placed him on guard in the only station which is of any importance. It will be necessary, I must add, that he should go out of the way for a time after the escape of the prisoner.
"Wishing, my dear Miss Walladmor, in secret that success to your enterprize on this occasion--which, on all other occasions, I shall be proud to wish you openly,--I remain, with the greatest regard,
"Your faithful and devoted servant,
"5 o'clock. "CHARLES DAVENANT."
This note relieved Miss Walladmor from much of her anxiety: for Thomas Godber was not only deeply attached to the family, having been a servant about the castle from his boyish days; but of late he had been bound in a new tie of gratitude to Miss Walladmor by the sanction which she had given to his future marriage with Grace, to whom Tom had long been a zealous suitor. Grace was not less rejoiced on hearing of the arrangement which Sir Charles had made; and answered for Tom's services with the air of one who claimed more unlimited obedience from him, in the character of lover, than his colonel or his sovereign could exact of him in those of soldier and subject.
It was necessary, however, in so perilous a matter, that Miss Walladmor should see and converse with Tom: throwing a large shawl therefore about her person, and trusting herself to the guidance of Grace, who led her by passages and staircases which she had never trod before, Miss Walladmor descended to a sort of cloisters or piazza which opened by arches upon one side of the great court of the castle. Here Grace introduced her into a small parlour, usually occupied by one of the upper female servants, who was likely to be absent at this time of the evening for some hours; and, after she had seen her mistress seated and secured from intrusion, she ran off to summon Tom. With him she was already disposed to be somewhat displeased that he was not immediately to be found; and, after she had found him, lectured him all the way for his temerity in presuming to be absent when Miss Walladmor condescended to want him. Tom's intellectual faculties were not of the most brilliant order: whether Tom had any latent and yet undiscovered profundity which qualified him for philosophic speculations, we cannot say: for the honor of the male sex, we heartily hope that he had some bright endowment in his brain which was deeply concealed from all men to balance his prodigious inferiority to Grace in all which was revealed. Indeed Tom had no vanity on this subject: nobody could have a lower opinion of his own wit than he had himself, nor a higher opinion of Grace's. And on the present occasion, after once hinting that he could not foresee that so very rare an event as a summons to "the lady's" presence would occur precisely at half past five on this particular evening, he hastily withdrew that absurd argument before Grace's displeasure--and did not again resort to so weak a line of justification; but took the wisest course for a man in his condition of guilt by throwing himself on Grace's mercy. This was prudent: for Grace was always reasonable and forgiving when people acknowledged their crimes: and she now cheered Tom by an encouraging smile. Such encouragement was quite necessary to Tom at this moment; there needed no frowns from Grace for a man scared out of his wits already at the prospect of an interview with Miss Walladmor; an honor which he had never looked for; and he could not divine what was to be the subject of conversation. Which of his virtues could it be that had procured him this distinction? He knew of none that was likely to recommend him to Miss Walladmor's notice. Which of his crimes then? These were certainly easier for Tom to discover: but still he saw no probability that so exalted a person as Miss Walladmor would interest herself in a poor lad's sins, the most important part of which were scored at the public house. Grace, to whom he applied for information, told him to do whatever he was bid to do; to trouble his foolish head about nothing else; and then he was sure to be right. And, so saying, she opened the door and ushered him in to her mistress's presence.
Miss Walladmor, with her usual kindness, prefaced the special matter of her application to Tom by making various inquiries about his mother and his own temporary change of situation. Thus far Tom was able to meet her questions with tolerable fluency, and no more embarrassment than was inseparable from the novelty of his situation. But, when she proceeded to question him about his knowledge of Captain Edward Nicholas, Tom faultered and betrayed the greatest confusion. The truth was that he knew him well, and was devotedly attached to his interests; and with some reason; for the Captain had on one occasion with much generosity protected him at the risk of his own life from the fury of a smuggling crew who were on the point of shooting him for a supposed act of treachery to their interests; in which, however, as was afterwards discovered, Tom's mother had been the sole mover. In spite however of this and other reasons for deep gratitude to Captain Nicholas, it so frequently happened that the manifestation of this gratitude laid him under the necessity of violating his duties as a servant of Sir Morgan Walladmor, that he lived in perpetual fear of exposure; and never heard the name of Edward Nicholas without some twinges of conscience, and evident signs of embarrassment. It had recently become more dangerous than ever to be suspected of any connexion with the Captain; and hence it was that the standing fear, which weighed upon Tom's mind, at this moment banished from his recollection that Miss Walladmor was not the person (as all the country knew) to scan his conduct in this particular (had it even been known to her) with any peculiar severity. He was struck dumb with the belief that at length he was detected: and under that feeling continued to stammer unintelligibly.
"Dull thing!" said Grace, "cannot you tell my mistress whether you know the Captain or not?"
Certainly, Tom replied, he knew the Captain by sight.
"Well, and if my mistress wished you to open his prison door, I suppose you would not pretend to make any objections."
Tom stared with all his eyes: and betrayed his feelings of reluctance no less than of surprize. The fact was--he knew secretly that the prisoner was not Captain Nicholas; and was unwilling to see any speedy termination to a mistake which was at this moment the best protection of his benefactor. He muttered therefore some absurdities about high treason, the king, and the parliament.
"High treason!" said Grace, "Fiddle-de-dee! what signifies high treason, in comparison with my mistress's orders?"
"But the king"--said Tom.
"The king. Sir!--don't lay your own wickedness to the king's door: the king would be very well pleased to hear that you had done a little treason yourself, if you told him that it was by a lady's orders. But come, Sir, do as you are bid; or I shall remember."
And here Grace shook her fore-finger menacingly at Tom, and began to lower upon him so gloomily, that Tom found himself running into the pains and penalties of treason against higher powers than the king. He hastened therefore by submission, in words and looks, to clear himself of the guilt of rebellion, and avert the impending wrath of Grace; assuring her that he would do whatsoever he was bid. Treason, or misprision of treason, was now alike indifferent to Tom; and he was perfectly penitent, and determined to wash out his sin by entire obedience for the future.
Miss Walladmor then proceeded to give her instructions to Tom; but suddenly she was interrupted by a tumultuous uproar of voices in the great court. This was succeeded by a violent hurrying of feet from all parts of the castle: and conscious that they were now exposed to immediate intrusions, Grace suddenly dismissed Tom; whispered a word or two in his ear; and then, snatching up the lamp and flinging the shawl about her mistress, lighted her back as rapidly as possible to her own apartments.
The interruption had arisen from Mr. Dulberry. That intense patriot was incensed at the apprehension of a prisoner on political charges or presumptions which he conceived to be in the highest degree honorable to their object. Still more was he incensed that, instead of being committed to the weak gaol of Dolgelly, from which it would have been easy for a party of patriotic friends to deliver him, the prisoner had been shut up in a fortress so secure as the Falcon's tower of Walladmor, strengthened as it now was by two troops of dragoons. This again was one of the worst features of the transaction: martial power had usurped the functions of the civil authorities: and the constitutional jealousy of all purists upon matters of Magna Charta was, he conceived, summoned to the case.
He had accordingly walked up to the castle; and, upon being challenged by the sentinel, had demanded to speak with Sir Morgan Walladmor: but, as he accompanied this demand with a torrent of abuse against the worthy baronet and much political jargon in relation to the prisoner, the sentinel refused to let him pass, and assured him that he would fire if he should attempt to advance. Mr. Dulberry retreated to a station behind an angle of the castle which he conceived not to be within musquet range; and there, stretching his head round the corner, commenced a political lecture upon the Bill of Rights as affected by the use of soldiers in riots; thence diverging to the "Manchester massacres," "Londonderry's hussars," "hoofs of dragoons," and other topics by no means calculated to win a favourable attention from his present audience. Some of the dragoons were loitering about the gate: others were soon attracted by the violence of Mr. Dulberry: and a party of them, taking advantage of the dusk, slipped round into the rear of the reformer--seized him and carried him off to the lamps under the gateway. In the tumult Mr. Dulberry's white hat fell off; and a kick from one of the soldiers sent it to the very edge of the rocky platform before the gate--where this pure badge of a pure faith unfortunately rolled over the precipice and dropped into the sea. Closer examination of Mr. Dulberry's features revealed to the dragoons a face already pretty familiar to them as one which, whenever they passed through Machynleth, they had seen popping out from an upper window of the Walladmor Arms, and fulminating all sorts of maledictions upon them, their officers, and their profession. Consideration for his age would not allow them to think of any severe vengeance: but, as they had caught the old nuisance, they determined to retort his civilities in a pleasant practical way, and to have a little sport before they parted with him. Placing themselves therefore in a ring they sent round this shining light of politics from hand to hand like the Grecian torch-bearers of old. Bursts of laughter arose from the dragoons and their comrades; piercing invocations of the Habeas Corpus act from Mr. Dulberry: and the tumult became so great that at length the old warden Maxwell sallied forth to learn the cause. Putting his head out from a window of a turret, he summoned the parties to attention by a speaking trumpet; and demanded to know the occasion of this uproar. Mr. Dulberry stated his grievances; the loss of his white hat, his violent circumrotation or gyration which threatened to derange all his political ideas, and (what vexed him still more) the violation in his person of Magna Charta. From his personal grievances he passed to those of his party in general; citing a statute enacted by the second parliament of Queen Elizabeth in the behalf of those who professed "the Reformed Faith," which statute he applied to the benefit of the modern Radical reformers in Manchester and elsewhere; and contended that Sir Morgan, as a discountenancer and oppressor of all the reforming party in his neighbourhood, was clearly upon that statute liable to the penalties of high treason.
All present were scandalized at such language applied to Sir Morgan Walladmor at his own castle gates. The whole household of the baronet had now flocked to the spot: and Mr. Dulberry, perceiving by their gestures that he had a second course of circumrotation or some severer discipline to anticipate, for this once resolved to leave Magna Charta to take care of itself--and took himself as fast as possible to his heels. A general rush was now made by the servants and the dragoons to the ramparts on the other side of the castle, a station from which, in consequence of the winding line pursued by the road, they promised themselves the gratification of snowballing the poor reformer for nearly a quarter of a mile.
Whilst all the world was at these "high jinks" with Mr. Dulberry, a stranger muffled up in a cloak had very early in the disturbance taken advantage of the general confusion to pass the gate unobserved. He appeared to be well acquainted with the plan of the castle, and pressed on to one of the principal saloons, in which at this moment Sir Morgan Walladmor was sitting alone. A slight rustling at the other end of the room caused Sir M. to raise his head from the letters which lay before him; and, seeing a dusky figure standing between two whole-length portraits of his ancestors, he almost began to imagine that some one of the house of Walladmor had returned from the grave to give him ghostly admonition.
The stranger turned and locked the door; and then, without unmuffling himself, advanced towards Sir Morgan; who, on his part, was struck with some indistinct sense of awe as before a mysterious being--but kept his seat without alarm. At a few paces from the table, the stranger paused; and said--
"Sir Morgan Walladmor! I come to let you know that an innocent man is confined under your sanction: the prisoner in the chambers of the Falcon's tower is not the person you take him for."
"And is this your reason for pressing thus unceremoniously to my presence?"
"Then appear as a witness for the accused, and give your evidence before the jury by whom he will be tried."
"Sir Morgan, I again assure you that your prisoner is not Captain Edward Nicholas."
"Let it suffice that he is not Captain Nicholas?"
"But who is it that I am required to believe? Who are you? What vouchers, what security, do you offer for the truth of what you tell me?"
"Security!--You would have security? You shall. Do you remember that time, when the great Dutch ship was cruizing off the coast, and the landing of the crew was nightly expected?"
"I remember it well; for at that time I had beset the coast with faithful followers: political disturbances at Chester and Shrewsbury concurred at that time to make such a descent on the coast a subject of much alarm; and once or twice I watched myself all night through."
"True: and on the 29th of September you were lying upon your arms behind Arthur's pillar. About midnight a man in the uniform of a sea-fencible joined you: and you may remember some conversation you had with him?"
Had Sir M. Walladmor been addicted to trembling, he would now have trembled: with earnest gaze, and outstretched arms, he listened without speaking to the stranger, who continued: "You talked together, until the moon was setting; and then, when the work was done--Sir Morgan--when the work was done, a shot was fired: and in the twinkling of an eye up sprang the sea-fencible; and he cried aloud, as I do now, Farewell! Sir Morgan Walladmor!" And so saying the stranger threw open his cloak, discovering underneath a dirk and a brace of pistols; and at the same time, with an impressive gesture, he raised his cap from his head.
"It is Captain Nicholas!" exclaimed the baronet.
"At your service, Sir Morgan Walladmor. Do you now believe that your prisoner is innocent?"
Sir Morgan here threatened to detain him: but Captain Nicholas convinced him that he had taken his measures well, and was not likely to be intercepted. "I have the command of the door," said he; "and your household, Sir Morgan, at this moment is too much occupied with Mr. Dulberry to have any ears for your summons." Then, in a lower and more impressive voice, he added--
"Grey hairs I reverence: and to you in particular, least of all men, do I hear malice: though oft, God knows, in my young days, old Sir, you have cost me an ague-fit."
He folded his cloak; looked once again upon the old man; and with an aspect, in which some defiance was blended with a deep sorrow that could not be mistaken, he turned away slowly with the words--"Farewell!--Gladly, Sir Morgan, I would offer you my hand: but that in this world is not to be: a Walladmor does not give his hand to an outlaw!"
Sir Morgan was confounded: he looked on whilst the bold offender with tranquil steps moved down the whole length of the saloon, opened the folding doors, and vanished. Sir Morgan was still numbering the steps of the departing visitor, as he descended the great stair-case: and the last echo had reached his ear from the remote windings of the castle chambers, whilst he was yet unresolved what course he should pursue.
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XVII.":
 Less worldly, observe, good reader: let the immoralities of such society be occasionally what they may, the affections speak a far simpler and more natural language: and one remark is sufficient to illustrate this. Love, as it is represented in comedy, is absolutely unintelligible to the lower classes: in tragedy it first becomes perfectly comprehensible to them.
 The λαμπαδκφοροι.
O, tiger's heart, wrapt in a woman's hide!
How could'st thou drain the life-blood of the child,
To bid the father wipe his eyes withal,
And yet be seen to bear a woman's face?
Women are soft, mild, pitiful and flexible;
Thou--stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.
Third part of King Henry VI.
Bertram was now immediately restored to liberty. Indeed the baronet had never perfectly acquiesced in the presumptions, however circumstantial, which went to identify him with Captain Nicholas. Bertram, as it struck him, looked younger; and had the appearance of greater delicacy of constitution, or at least of having been bred up less hardily: whence perhaps was derived his more juvenile aspect. His voice also sounded very different: and, though Sir Morgan had not been able to recal the peculiar tone of Captain Nicholas, he recognized it most unequivocally at that instant when the Captain threw off his disguise. A considerable interest in Bertram had from the first arisen in Sir Morgan's mind from the general air of candor and amiable feeling which marked his demeanour; and this interest was not weakened by the remarkable resemblance which Sir Morgan believed that he discovered in Bertram's features and expression to the portraits in the Walladmor picture-gallery of two distinguished ancestors of his own house. Partly on these special claims to his notice, and partly with the general desire of expressing his concern to the young man for the unmerited distress into which he had been thrown, the kind-hearted old gentleman gave him a pressing invitation to take up his abode for some time in Walladmor Castle; an invitation which, as it offered him a ready introduction into English society, and was pressed with evident sincerity, Bertram did not hesitate to accept.
The clergyman of the parish, who had been sent to Bertram as a ghostly adviser and summoner to repentance, could not boast of much success with his subject in that character. In fact the young stranger had been too much interested by some of the books furnished from Sir Morgan's library to have leisure for such serious thoughts. But a thing or a person, that is of no use in one function, may do excellent service in another: and the Reverend Mr. Williams, who had failed in his spiritual mission, was turned to good worldly account by Bertram as a gossiper and a mine of information upon all questions which had arisen to excite his curiosity in the course of his recent adventures.
The case of poor Mrs. Godber, his aged hostess in Anglesea, was easily explained.
Four and twenty years ago her eldest son, at that time about seventeen years old, had participated in some smuggling transaction during which two revenue officers had been killed under circumstances which the law adjudged to be murder. Nobody suspected young Godber of having (in the English sense of the word) assisted in this murder, foreseen it, or approved it: but in the French sense he did 'assist:' that is, he was present: and therefore in the eye of the law an accessary. As such, he was put upon his trial--found guilty--and sentenced to death. Unfortunately at this time the outrages of the smugglers upon the coast of Wales had become so frequent and terrific, that it was judged necessary to make an example. The case came before the Privy Council: the opinion of Sir Morgan Walladmor, as lord lieutenant of the two counties chiefly infested by the smugglers, naturally weighed a good deal with the council: and this opinion was unfavorable to the poor young criminal.
"But in later years," said Mr. Williams, "and when Sir Morgan had come to think very differently on some parts of that unhappy affair, I have often heard him protest with earnestness that in giving the opinion he did at the council hoard he was simply reporting the universal judgment of the magistracy throughout the maritime counties of North Wales. This, Mr. Bertram, I am sure was true. But that was known to few; and Sir Morgan from his high station drew the whole blame upon himself: and perhaps in one view not unjustly. For, though he was not single in the opinion which decided the case against the poor boy, it was generally believed that his single voice on the other side the question would have outweighed all opposition, and have obtained the mercy of the crown. So at least the poor boy's mother thought: and she addressed herself to Sir Morgan morning, noon, and night. The lad was her darling child; indeed her other son, Tom, was then only an infant; and, as the time drew near for his execution, she was like a mad thing. Never was there such an agony of intercession. She wept, and prayed, and clung about Sir Morgan's knees, and tore her hair: she rushed through all the servants, ran up stairs, and found out lady Walladmor's room: lady Walladmor was then ill, and sitting in her dressing-room: but she (God love her!) was the kindest creature in the world: and she was easily won to come and beg for the poor distracted mother. In the great hall she kneeled to Sir Morgan: but all wouldn't do. I have heard Sir Morgan say that his heart relented even at that time: and he had a sort of misgiving upon him that night, as he looked back upon the frantic woman from the head of the great stair-case, that all could not go right--and that some evil would fall upon him for standing out against such pleadings as he had just heard. Still his sense of duty, according to the notion he then had of his duty, obliged him to persist: and besides he told them both that, after what had been said to the council, it was now impossible to make another application on the case--unless some new circumstance in the boy's favor had come out. This was very unadvised in Sir Morgan: for it confirmed the mother in her belief that it was his representations which had determined the fate of her son.
"Mr. Bertram, you have read Virgil: and in that fine episode of Mezentius, which we all admire so much (and which, by the way, seems to me finer even than the 'Shield of Æneas,' or with the critics' leave than any thing in the sixth book), there are two grand hemistichs applied to the case of Mezentius in the moment of his mounting his horse to avenge the death of his gallant son who (you will remember) had fallen a sacrifice to his filial piety:
"----mixtoque insania luctu, Et furiis agitatus amor----"
"I remember them well," said Bertram "and Virgil has reflected rather a weakening effect on them by afterwards applying the same words to a case of inferior passion."
"He has so. But, to return to the case of Mrs. Godber, these fine words of the Roman poet may convey some picture of her state of mind; it was truly the state of Mezentius--'mixtoque insania luctu'--frenzy mixed with grief; and the tenderness of maternal love, that love which is taken in Scripture as the express image of the love which exists in the divine nature, tarnished and darkened by earthly--I may say by hellish--passions. Even then, and from that very night, she altered much: as one passed her, she muttered indistinctly; often she would lift up her hands in the air, clench them, and shake them as if at some figure that she saw in the clouds; and at times she slunk into corners, refused all comfort or society, and sank wholly into herself."
"And how meantime did her son behave?"
"Oh, Sir, incomparably well. He knew his mother's temper: and the very night before he suffered, as he hung about her neck and kissed her at their farewell interview, he wrung her hand and prayed her to put aside all thoughts of vengeance. I attended him to the last: and his final words to me on the scaffold, as the executioner prepared to draw the cap over his face, were--'God bless you. Sir, and remember!' by which he meant to remind me of his only request; and that was that I would visit his mother, and endeavour to soothe her into resignation, and persuade her to let him sleep unremembered in his grave; and not to recal the memory of his unhappy end to people's minds by any action that might make shipwreck of her own conscience. Young as he was, Mr. Bertram, these were the thoughts that made the bitterness of death to him; 'thoughts high for one so tender:'--most of all the thought afflicted him that he should be made the occasion of overthrowing the peace of mind of her whom he loved beyond all things in the world. Sir Morgan mused much when he heard this report of the boy's latter hours; and afterwards much more, when two of the older smugglers were taken and condemned for the same murders: for their confessions wholly exonerated him from all knowledge of their worst actions: he was considered by the whole gang as a mere child; so indeed he was: and nothing was ever communicated to him of their schemes: nor was he ever present at any of them except by mere accident. The extent of his connexion appeared to have been this--that now and then he had given them a helping hand in stowing away their smuggled goods; and that only for the sake of his mother, who was very poor, having just become a widow,--and in this way obtained a few groceries or other additions to her domestic comforts. This it was that made the sharpest sting in the mother's wretchedness: she knew that all had been done for her; that, but for her sake, he would never have gone near the smugglers; and that, without perhaps directly giving her sanction to such connexions, she had never decidedly opposed them--and had availed herself of their profits. Some were unfeeling enough to throw this in the poor creature's teeth, whose heart was already wounded beyond what she could bear; and after that she became perfectly frantic."
"You visited her then, Mr. Williams?"
"I did for a time; and indeed she has always been willing to hold intercourse with me in consideration of what I did and attempted to do for her son. But I will confess to you, Mr. Bertram, that the spectacle of a human being originally of strong mind driven by extremity of wretchedness into the total wreck of her own final peace,--her moral feelings all giving way before a devilish malignity, and her wits gradually unsettling under this tremendous internal conflict,--was too pitiable to be supported by me, unless I had felt myself able in some way or other to stem the misery which I witnessed: and, after the perpetration of that great crime by which she sought to avenge herself, I could never bear to go near her; though I have occasionally conversed with her on the roads."
"What crime do you speak of, Mr. Williams? and how is it that, having committed any crime to justify your present language, she is yet allowed to go at large?
"I do not speak of any crime proved in a court of justice, or perhaps capable of being so; but nobody ever doubted that Mrs. Godber was the secret mover in the matter; though the very nature of her purpose obliged her to employ the hand of an intermediate agent.--About three months after the execution of the poor boy, and when the ferment of that unhappy affair was beginning to subside in all minds but those of his mother and of Sir Morgan, lady Walladmor lay in of twins. By whose means it never has been discovered,--the only person, who could certainly have cleared up that matter, being so soon removed by death,--but from some quarter or other a moving representation had been made to lady Walladmor, when riding out, in favour of a young woman who about that time applied for the place of under nurse: she was described to have been deserted under circumstances of peculiar interest by a person to whom she was under an engagement of marriage; and other particulars, implying some unusual elevation of character in the young woman, were reported in a way which was likely to plead powerfully with a woman of her ladyship's known goodness of heart. But all these representations were false, as came out when it was too late. However she was hired. It was not known at that time,--or, if it were, only to those who allowed it no weight in their minds,--that she was a niece of Gillie Godber's. That perhaps of itself was not so important a fact: but she had lived for the seven last years of her life in her aunt's house, had fallen deeply under her influence, and shared in her feelings with regard to the execution of the young boy her cousin. Moving chiefly under this influence, and confirmed no doubt by the means which suddenly offered of appropriating a very large sum of money, this woman lent herself as the instrument to the savage vengeance of her aunt--which in one hour laid prostrate the happy prospects of an ancient house and ravaged their peace in a way which time has done nothing to heal. And here it was, Mr. Bertram, that Gillie Godber forfeited all hold on the public sympathy--even amongst those whose rank indisposed them to judge Sir Morgan with any charity. All hearts were steeled against her. Sir Morgan might be thought to have done her wrong: with regard to the fact, as it ultimately came out, he certainly had; though not, as I am sure, in design or according to the light of his conscience at that time. But for lady Walladmor, the meek and gentle lady that had wept with her--wept for her--pleaded for her--prayed for her--knelt for her;--Gillie Godber, that was a mother by so bitter a mother's pang, to forget the mother's heart in her benefactress; she, that mourned for a son, to tear the infants for ever from their mother's breasts, and consign them--oh! heart of Herod--to a life worse than a thousand deaths amongst robbers, pirates, murderers,--this it was that blotted out from all men's memories her own wrongs, cancelled and tore the record of her sufferings.--Mr. Bertram, it will be four and twenty years next summer from the date of this miserable transaction; and yet I protest that the storm of affliction, which in one night descended upon this ancient house of Walladmor, was, in itself--in its origin--and its irreparable nature, so memorable a scene of human frailty, such a monument of the awful power for evil which is lodged in the humblest of human beings when shaken by extremity of passion and liberated from restraints of conscience, that at this moment the impression of all its circumstances is as fresh and perfect as if it happened yesterday; nor do I think that any time could avail to dim them. To me, as also in the end to Sir Morgan, the moral of the whole was this--that human affections, love and grief in excess, are holy things,--yes, even in that wicked woman, were holy--and not lightly to be set at nought or rejected without judgment and vengeance to follow."
Here Mr. Williams paused: but Bertram was so much interested in the story, both in itself and from the connexion into which he had so recently been brought with two of those who bore a principal share in it, that he earnestly requested him to complete his narrative; which, after a short interval of thought, he did.
"The dreadful event, to which I have been alluding, took place on the 12th of June, three-and-twenty years ago--dating from the summer which is past. About seven o'clock on the evening of that day, finding herself unusually languid and weary, lady Walladmor had lain down on a sopha in one of the children's apartments. A fortnight, I ought to mention, had passed from the time of her accouchement: she had suffered much, and was recovering but slowly: and her female attendants had, in consequence, been a good deal harassed by unseasonable watchings and sudden disturbances of their rest. They, poor creatures! submitted to these, as they would have done to far greater hardships, cheerfully and without a murmur: indeed all the servants in the castle would have gone through fire and water to have served their lady; all but one: and that one, alas! was now left alone in attendance upon her. Lady Walladmor, who was all consideration for every body about her, and just such another angel upon earth as Miss Walladmor at present, had dismissed her own maid and the upper nurse--to refresh themselves in any way they thought fit from the fatigues of their long day's attendance; for they had been called up at two o'clock in the morning. One of the under nurses was engaged in the laundry. And thus it happened that the duty of attending the two children, who were both asleep in the adjoining room, devolved on that serpent--Winifred Griffiths."
"Winifred Griffiths?" exclaimed Bertram in a tone of consternation.
"Yes; Winifred Griffiths:" and at the same time Mr. Williams looked at him keenly; "have you ever met with a person of that name?"
"I do not know that I have," replied Bertram: "but I remember reading many books in my youth that bore that name in the blank leaves. One of these I left at Machynleth; and I will show it you to-morrow. Meantime pray go on."
Mr. Williams mused a little, and then proceeded. "Griffiths, as she was generally called in the castle, to distinguish her from another Winifred upon the establishment, had a style of person and countenance much like those of her aunt, Mrs. Godber; but she was still handsomer, and (if possible) prouder. Many people wondered that lady Walladmor could like her; but she was a girl of superior understanding, very well-mannered, and subtle as the fiend; so that she masqued her demoniacal purposes before lady Walladmor with a cloak of insinuating softness far too thick for that good creature to penetrate. She had besides many accomplishments, which she had learned from the young ladies of an elegant Irish family by whom she had been educated: and amongst these was the art of reading, which she had undoubtedly in great perfection. This, and the elegance of her manners, recommended her especially to lady Walladmor. And on the present occasion, as the other women were leaving the room, lady Walladmor bade them tell Griffiths to stay in the adjoining one; meaning, in case she found herself unable to sleep, to go and sit by the side of her children, whilst Griffiths read to her. Hoping however that she might be able to sleep, they were directed not to return until Griffiths or her ladyship should ring.
"Unhappy mother! that was thus unconsciously preparing all things for the snake that even now--'her crest brightening with hope' was couchant by her children's cradle. Unhappy children! that on this quiet summer-night were to be driven out upon the main sea of a stormy and wicked world from the quiet haven of their father's castle, and had already on this earth parted for ever from their angelic mother!----
"Lady Walladmor fell asleep: and, when she next awoke, the room was gloomy with dusk: indeed it was all but dark; for it must have been nearly ten o'clock. She rang the bell: and the housekeeper, who happened to be passing the door, answered it.
"'Oh, is that you, Mrs. Howel?' said her ladyship: 'send candles; and tell lady Charlotte that she may come up, if she is not gone to bed.'
"Lady Charlotte Vaughan was a little girl of seven years old, a daughter of the Earl of Kilgarran, who married lady Walladmor's sister, and had been for some months on a visit to her aunt. In a transport of pleasure on receiving this permission, the child ran up before the candles; and, on kissing her, it seemed that lady Walladmor had asked playfully what they would say at Kilgarran if they knew of her keeping such late hours.
"Upon this the child had answered gaily that her little cousins were not yet gone to bed; and that at least she must stay up till after them.
"'Your cousins, my love, I am sorry to say, sleep less in the night than the day. However, they have been in bed for hours.'
"'Oh, no! they were gone out into the park.'
"Lady Walladmor must have thought the child dreaming: she questioned her; and no doubt heard the same account from her which she afterwards repeated to us all;--how far she was impressed by it, cannot be known: but possibly, at this moment, the silence of the adjoining room struck her as remarkable; at any rate, as the ready means of putting an end to all doubts, she went thither--called probably--receiving no answer, felt about in the darkness for her children's cradles; found them; they were empty--they were cold! And instantly, with feelings no doubt such as could not have been remembered if she had ever had it in her power to speak of that moment, lady Walladmor uttered a piercing shriek and fell to the ground.
"Lady Charlotte ran to alarm the family: the servant, whom she met on the stairs with the candles, sent her on to summon assistance, whilst she herself pressed forwards: in half a minute all lady Walladmor's women were about her: there was no need to make inquiries: the empty cradles told the miserable tale: and circumstances of confirmation came out at every moment.
"Just at this time Sir Morgan arrived from Dolgelly, where he had been attending a public meeting. With the rapidity of a train of gunpowder the whole course of the transaction, and its devilish purpose, came out: lady Charlotte had met Griffiths in a passage which you have perhaps observed to connect the green-house with what was then lady Walladmor's suite of apartments; in this passage there was a private door into the park, of which the key hung in the very room where the poor mother was sleeping. As she passed, Griffiths said nothing: but, as she came near, one of the children cried; and Griffiths endeavoured to stifle the cry by drawing her cloak closer; in doing which, a sudden motion of her arm caused the cloak to open; and lady Charlotte had distinctly seen both her little cousins. By crossing one corner of the park, which is there sheltered from view of the windows by the battlements, there was a near road to a sort of woodland horse track, not much frequented, which led down to the sea-shore. Here she had been seen hurrying along by a woodman, who observed her from a distance, and described her dress accurately. This was about eight o'clock. Ten minutes later she had been seen in company with another woman traversing the sea-shore. Then all at once it came out in the general confusion that Griffiths was the niece of Gillie Godber. Sir Morgan had himself, about nine o'clock, in coming over the hills from Dolgelly, observed the smuggling ship under sail. The lover of Griffiths was known to be one of the smugglers: all of them, it is certain, would abet any plan of vengeance upon Sir Morgan Walladmor: and, in less time than I have taken to relate it, the whole devilish plot--mode, purpose, and too probable success,--became apparent to every body in the castle.
"Cases, in which hope and fear are brought into fierce struggle with each other, are those which are the worst to support and which bear heavily on the fortitude even of strongest minds. This was shown in Sir Morgan: there was still a chance that the smuggler might be intercepted: and that chance might be defeated in a thousand ways. Hence it was perhaps that then first during my whole knowledge of him, and then last, I saw Sir Morgan Walladmor lose his self-possession. Now was Gillie Godber avenged: even in his own hall--that hall which had echoed to her maternal groans and rung with the agony of her fruitless supplications, even there--on the very spot where her curse was muttered--had it taken effect: where it was breathed, there had it caught him: just where she stood--he stood: where she was shaken as by fierce convulsions--there was he shaken: where she raved--he raved: and under the very light of that same lamp, which lighted up the ghastly despair of the wretched mother as she heard the decree which sealed for ever the fate of her blooming boy, did I read in Sir Morgan's features too surely a revelation of his foreboding soul, that one night had stripped him bare of comfort and left him a poor forlorn man to a life of self-reproach--of shipwrecked hopes--and blasted affections.
"What was to be done? All were eager to be in motion; all fretting, I may say, to follow and avenge; but how, or with what hope? One bold fellow offered to man Sir Morgan's pinnace, barge, and all the other small craft he could collect, with sailors and others from the neighbourhood--to pursue the smuggler--and to carry her, if possible, by boarding. But this, considering the strength of the smuggler, was too hopeless an attempt to be countenanced. There were however king's ships cruising or in port all the way between Barmouth and Parkgate: the nearest of these, a sloop called the Falcon, was said to be lying at anchor off Aber, between Bangor and Conway: and in that direction expresses were sent off one upon the heels of the other; some having orders to go on to Parkgate and Liverpool. A favourite groom of Sir Morgan's, on this occasion, rode a thoroughbred horse in two hours and a quarter to Bangor Ferry: between Beddgelart and Carnarvon he had learned that the sloop was anchored off Beaumaris: he turned aside therefore from the Bangor road to the Ferry. There he jumped into a six-oared boat, and made for Beaumaris. Faithfully he did his duty: as you will suppose when I tell you that the castle clock had struck ten when he mounted, and a little after one we that stood on the summits of Arthur's chair--the high peak to the northward--heard a sullen report in the direction of Carnarvon: we all knew that this must be a signal to us from the Falcon--giving notice of her approach. She was now standing through the Menai strait. Twenty minutes after this a second gun was fired; and the prodigious roar of echoes, which it awoke in the mountains, proclaimed that she had passed Carnarvon. At two the flashes of her guns became visible, and showed that she had uncovered the point of Llandovery. At a quarter past two there was light enough to make her out distinctly; she carried a press of sail; and a few minutes after that we discovered the smuggler in the offing, about three miles to leeward of the Falcon.
"The same high gale which had carried the Falcon so rapidly through the Menai, had baffled the smuggler in her attempt to go to the northward; for that was obviously her intention; and she still continued to tack in that direction. We expected that, as soon as she descried the Falcon, she would wear and run: but, greatly to our surprize, she took no notice of her--but continued standing on her tack in the evident design of running to the outside of the isle of Anglesea.
"The Falcon, seeing her purpose, fired a shot to bring her to. This the smuggler paid no sort of regard to: and we all began to suspect some mistake: as the light increased, and we could use our glasses with effect, we found too certainly that there was. The smuggler was painted so as to resemble the Viper; and Sir Morgan had taken her for that vessel on the night before: but we now suspected (and the event proved) that she was her partner, the Rattlesnake--a ship of much greater force with a piratical crew from the South Seas, and strengthened by some of the picked hands from the Viper. She had come round expressly on this service from the West coast of Ireland, where she had been hovering for some time back. The officer, who commanded the Falcon, had no doubt found his mistake before we did: but it seemed that, both for the honor of his flag and on account of the affecting occasion, he resolved to fight her under any odds. The wind moderated at this time: but he kept on his course, and neared her fast.
"At three o'clock the Falcon ranged up within pistol shot. At this moment the Rattlesnake showed her colors--black, striped with horizontal crimson bars, the well-known flag of a rover that had of late years fixed his nest in the Gallapagos, and thence infested the South Seas. Not a shot had yet been exchanged: and just before the action commenced we could distinguish Griffiths making her way across the decks from the cabin to the cock-pit. Oh! what a moment of suspense for us!--Oh! for some arm from heaven to strengthen the righteous cause! Some angel to intercept the oppressor's triumph; or some darkness to hide it from the oppressed!
"Never again may the innocent light of early dawn, when visiting our quiet seas, and these peaceful valleys of Merionethshire, ascend upon such a spectacle of human crime and woe as lay before me at that moment of that sweet summer morning. There in front, upon the tranquil sea, began the bloody strife--the thunder and the carnage:----On my right hand stood the unhappy father, praying for some merciful shot to dismiss his children from the evil to come:----In a gloomy fir-grove on my left hand stood the guilty, but most miserable, mother--Gillie Godber, spectatress of Sir Morgan's agonies, writhing with exultation that her vengeance had reached his heart, and laughing like a fell hyæna as she surveyed her work upon the sea.
"But why should I dwell upon these hideous remembrances? Let a few words tell the issue: the Rattlesnake was greatly superior to her antagonist in number of men, and those picked men, three parts of them English and Irish: consequently there was no chance of boarding with success. She had also the advantage in number of guns, but much more advantage in weight of metal. Hence, and from the fatal effect of one broadside upon the rudder and rigging of the Falcon--within half an hour from the commencement of the action, and just as the sun rose--the Rattlesnake beheld her enemy lying unmanageable on the water, and unable to bring a gun to bear. In this condition the Falcon would have lain at the pirate's mercy, but for the appearance of two sail which now hove in sight from the southward: the wind had shifted two or three points and was freshening; the Rattlesnake crowded sail; was out of sight before the strangers came up; and the end of that scene was, that our brave champion was towed into Carnarvon--crippled, helpless, dismantled, all but a wreck, and with the third part of her crew slaughtered.
"But from this scene Sir Morgan was now summoned hastily away to another which, too ruefully he augured, must await him. A second lesson he was now to have upon the sanctity of human affections. For I will maintain, Mr. Bertram,--that however the poor may, upon matters of taste, delicacy, or refinement, seem coarser in their feelings, and less sensitive than the rich (from which aspect it is that many people take their estimate of poor people's sensibilities),--yet in all that regards the primary affections I will maintain, I say, that the distinctions of rich and poor--high and low--are lighter than dew or the dust which is in the balance. The ties, which cement the great elementary relations of human life, are equally strong in every rank; alike sacred in the eyes of God; and in the lowest as in the highest, the anguish of their dissolution as perfect. Now did Sir Morgan learn what that anguish was: the next half hour taught him to estimate the torments of a final parting from the being in whom the whole heart's love lies treasured.--Lady Walladmor had passed the night in convulsions, falling out of one fit into another with intervals of only a few moments. Towards sun-rise the intervals grew longer, but she was evidently sinking fast; she was sensible; and, as she recovered the use of speech, she asked for Sir Morgan.
"I entered the room with Sir Morgan: lady Walladmor was sitting on a sopha propped up by cushions and surrounded by her women. All of us staid in the room; for some could not be spared; and the presence of strangers is distressing only when they are neutral spectators and not participators in the emotion witnessed--as we were in the very deepest degree, and by an interest which far transcended the possibility of any vulgar interest of curiosity.--There is no doubt that lady Walladmor had recollected some circumstance in the application made to her on behalf of Winifred Griffiths--not understood or suspected at that time--but suddenly interpreted to her by the event of the preceding night and too sadly interpreting that event. This was plain: for she asked no information from us: she saw by our countenances that we had none to give her which could shed a comfort on her dying moments: and even to turn her thoughts that way was too terrific a trial for her exhausted nature. She moved her head mournfully with a world of sad meaning: twice she raised and dropped her hand, as if in supplication or internal prayer: a third time she raised it, and the hand fell into that of Sir Morgan's: her lips moved; and at last she said--and the solemnity of her utterance for a moment checked our tears--'That for her sake, and as he hoped for comfort to visit him in his afflictions, she made it her last request that, if ever' (even then she was too tender to say 'ever' again) 'if ever any poor suffering human creature, sinking under trials too great for human fortitude, should lay down the burthen of wretchedness at his feet, he would not close his heart or turn away his ear from the petition.' Saying this, she hid her face in Sir Morgan's arms; strong convulsions again came on: and, before the morning dew was exhaled, she was once more at peace;
'And Nature rested from her work in death.'
"Thus did one night wither Sir Morgan's 'palmy state' of prosperity: thus were his children torn away: thus died lady Walladmor: and with her died all Sir Morgan's happiness, and upon this earth all his prospects of consolation. He was now left with no companion; none to comfort him, or support him. After this, for some years he shut up himself from all society, except upon public occasions where he appeared but as an official or ceremonial person: but gradually the intreaties of his friends, and the claims of his rank, drew him back into the world: and then came his lovely niece, Miss Walladmor; and with her again came something like joy to Walladmor; though but for a season; for that joy also was overcast."
"But did Sir Morgan," asked Bertram, "never recover any traces of the pirates or his lost children?"
"There again his unhappy fate denied him the last medicine to his grief. Next to the joy of recapturing his children, would have been the consolation of knowing that they had perished. But, though that was probable, it could never finally be ascertained. The express, sent on to Liverpool, found a frigate of 36 guns--the Nemesis--lying in Hoylake. The Nemesis slipped her cables, and went after the enemy. Her hope was to intercept him before he reached the Isle of Man: but the Rattlesnake was an excellent sailer, and had the lead. However on the second evening, off the Cumberland coast, between Ravenglass and Whitehaven, the Nemesis got a sight of her about two leagues ahead. A chace of two hours more would have put her into the possession of the frigate: but within that time came on the great storm of June 13th, which strewed the whole channel with wrecks. The Nemesis was herself obliged to run into Maryport: and, as nothing more was ever heard of the Rattlesnake, it was presumed that she had foundered in that memorable storm which was fatal to so many ships better acquainted with those seas. This was a point which Sir Morgan would have given a king's ransom to establish. But unfortunately it was never put beyond doubt: there was still a possibility that she might have executed her intention of going north about. There was once a rumor afloat that she had got into the Baltic: you may be sure that every means, which Sir Morgan's vast wealth and influence could command, was put in motion to trace her in that region: but all to no purpose: and perhaps Sir Morgan would have been satisfied (as others were) that the rumor had no foundation, but for the hints and ambiguous expressions dropped at times by Gillie Godber."
"You remind me seasonably," said Bertram, "of a question which I had nearly overlooked: why was not this fiendish woman apprehended, and brought to trial?"
"Of what service would that have been? Suppose that she had been convicted, and transported--that would only have removed her from the knowledge of all who were on the watch to take advantage of any discoveries she might make from carelessness or craziness, or which she yet may make from repentance on her death-bed."
"But at least she might have been threatened with trial?"
"She was: twice she was committed to custody and underwent rigorous examinations before a whole board of magistrates: but to what end? She was as wild as the sea, as intractable as the wind. What threats, indeed, what voice, what sound--except it were the sound of the last trumpet wakening her from the grave--shall ever again alarm her? What cares she for judge or jury? The last sentence, that she could fear, rang in her ears long years ago at Walladmor. That dreadful voice, as it sounded in the great hall of Walladmor Castle when it gave up her blooming boy to the scaffold, still sounds in her adder's ear; and it< is deaf to all sounds beside."
"Yet surely Sir Morgan must be distressed at seeing her: and yesterday----"
"I know what you would say, Mr. Bertram: yesterday you saw her walking freely about the castle. True. But, for the purposes I have already explained, it is necessary to give her free access to the castle; and she comes so seldom that she is now a privileged person with licence to range where she will. Nay, Sir Morgan would court her hither with gifts--and rain bounties upon her, if she would accept them. This desire of having her before his eyes, Mr. Bertram, is a fantastic and wayward expression of misery--one of those tricks of sorrow--most apt to haunt the noblest minds. Some have worn about their persons the symbols, the instruments, or the mementos of their guilt: and in Mrs. Godber Sir Morgan sees a living memorial of what he now deems his crime and of its punishment; a record (as he says himself) of his own unpitying heart--and of the bitter judgment that recalled him to more merciful thoughts.
"I think him right:--in the Greek tragedians, who sometimes teach us Christians better morality than (I am sorry to say) we teach ourselves, there is a sentiment often repeated--which I dare say, Mr. Bertram, you remember: it is to this effect,--That it is ominous of evil to come--for any man to express, by his words or acts, that he glories in his own prosperity as though it were of his own creation, or held by the tenure of his own merits. Now this is in effect the very crime of him that, being born of woman, yet hardens his heart against the prostrate supplications of a human brother or sister. For how would he refuse to show mercy, that did not think himself raised above the possibility of needing it?
"Yes, Sir Morgan is right; his own sad recollections tell him that he is; and often have I heard him say--That, from that memorable moment when, looking back as he ascended the great stair-case, he beheld in the centre of his hall the unhappy mother prostrate and writhing upon the ground--read the pangs that were in her face--and the curse that was in her eye, from that moment he turned away like one already reached by her vengeance; and never again had thought--moved--talked-- slept--or dreamed--as they think--move--talk--sleep and dream that have the blessedness of an untroubled conscience, and against whom no record is filed in the courts of heaven on which are written the tears of the afflicted or the crimes of the despairing."
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XVIII.":
 Modesty forbids us to say which: but a truth is a truth: and his favorite volume, we understand, was in "post 8vo."
 Winter's Tale.
Penthea. First his heart
Shall fall in cinders, scorch'd by your disdain,
Ere he will dare, poor man, to ope an eye
On these divine looks, but with low-bent thoughts
Accusing such presumption: as for words,
He dares not utter any but of service.
Yet this lost creature loves ye!
FORD. The Broken Heart--Act 3.
At this moment the bugle of the cavalry called the attention of Mr. Williams and Bertram: they were mounting in some hurry, and leaving the castle upon private intelligence just received by Sir Charles Davenant. All that could be learned of the occasion which summoned them on duty was--that some attack, supposed to be headed by Captain Nicholas, was this evening meditated on a depot of horses designed for remounting one troop of the dragoons: this depot had been recently formed in the neighbourhood of Walladmor for the purpose of receiving horses purchased at different fairs on the borders. But with what design could Captain Nicholas attack it? No doubt to mount a party from some one or more of the various smuggling vessels on the coast. "But with what further end?" asked Bertram: "or why, being under so serious a charge--and a high reward offered for his apprehension, does he still linger in this neighbourhood?"
"I imagine," said Mr. Williams, "that the ordinary motives on which men are careful of their lives are wanting to Captain Nicholas, and have been for some time: and just at this moment his old feelings of jealousy, or rather of anxiety and irritation, are perhaps revived by the presence of Sir Charles Davenant.--You are aware probably that Sir Charles was formerly a suitor of Miss Walladmor's, and rejected only through the firmness of that lady; for his pretensions had the countenance and support of all her friends. Apart from Sir Charles's great expectations, which entitled him to look as high, he was encouraged by some members of the family, not so much on his own account as with a view of extinguishing the hopes of Captain Nicholas; of whose long devotion to Miss Walladmor I presume that you must by this time have heard."
"Some little I have heard," replied Bertram; "and some little I have collected from my own observations and the benefit of accident. Under what circumstances however this attachment commenced, or of its history, I know absolutely nothing. I do not even know who Captain Nicholas is: nor can I form any reasonable conjecture in what way or upon what pretensions a person, connected with smugglers and people of that class, could ever be led to aspire to the favor of the heiress of Walladmor."
"Who Captain Nicholas is--you will not find any body able to tell you: his origin is a mystery to all people, and himself amongst the number. But, as to his connection with smugglers, that is but an accident in his early life which he now renews for temporary purposes, as he has done once or twice before. I acknowledge that I take a good deal of interest in Captain Nicholas: and Sir Morgan feels upon that subject as I do. Many circumstances of great generosity in his conduct have at times came to our knowledge: deep and persevering love is itself a proof of some nobility in a man's nature; more especially when it is nearly hopeless; and where it is certain that a man has refused all dishonourable means for aiding his own success. Many times Captain Nicholas has had it in his power to carry off Miss Walladmor to sea, and at one time without any risk of discovery. And, if that was not the way to win the favor of a noble-minded woman, still that a man so wildly educated should feel that it was not--and that a despairing man should resist all temptations which deep love and opportunity combined to offer, implies an elevation of mind which alone would have attracted some degree of regard to Captain Nicholas: independently of which he is a man of various accomplishments, great address, intrepidity, dignified manners, and---as I have heard--an excellent officer both in the sea and land services."
"But how came he first connected with smugglers; and what introduced him to the notice of Miss Walladmor?"
"All, that I know of his history, is this: About eight years ago, when he was little more than fifteen years old, he first appeared on this coast in character of son, or more properly (I believe) adopted son, of Captain Donneraile who commanded a large Dutch vessel of suspicious character, which had long resorted to these seas. She gave herself out for a regular merchantman, but was pretty well understood to be a smuggler as opportunities offered. Edward Nicholas, as I have said, passed for the Captain's son: and in that character, as well as for his personal qualities, was much looked up to by the crew. Such indeed was the hardihood and romantic spirit of enterprise with which he conducted the difficult affairs sometimes confided to him--that Captain Donneraile, who was old and indolent, gradually allowed the command of the ship to devolve on him; and at the age of sixteen he was much more the commander of the vessel than the nominal captain. This habit of early command over a large and warlike crew, tempered by good nature and great generosity of disposition, gave to his manners a tincture of dignity much beyond his situation. These manners and this disposition, united with his fine person and countenance, conciliated the kind feelings of all about him; and he was a great favorite with the ship's company as well as with the country people on shore. Many of his boyish exploits are current at this day amongst them,--and his affrays with the revenue officers, or hair-breadth escapes from them, are still narrated with interest. In all these however he seemed rather to be amusing himself, than like one who considered them as his regular occupation. In the same spirit he attached himself for a time to a company of strolling players. And that this was the just construction of his temper and purposes--is evident from the sequel. When he was about eighteen, old Captain Donneraile died, and left a considerable legacy together with the ship of which he was sole owner to Edward Nicholas. This ship, and such of the crew as would follow him to those climates, he carried to South America,--and entered into the patriotic service of one of the new republics in that quarter of the world. There he rose to considerable distinction, and at one time commanded a frigate. Afterwards, under some adverse circumstances attending the naval administration, he transferred himself to the land service; and served with high reputation first as a partizan officer in the guerrilla warfare, afterwards in the regular cavalry. Some change of circumstances made it advisable to restore the naval force; and with the view of manning a small flotilla with a proportion of picked British seamen, he returned to the old haunts of his youth in this country--hoping to find it still the rendezvous of smugglers. This happened just four years and a half ago; and then it was that his connexion commenced with Miss Walladmor--a connexion which has since determined the whole course of his life.
"Miss Walladmor was at that time not more than sixteen years old: she was exquisitely beautiful; and, though prematurely womanly in the developement of her person, had yet an expression of almost childlike innocence in her style of countenance which made it peculiarly charming. Edward Nicholas first saw her in the woods of Tre Mawr from a situation where he was himself unseen; and so powerfully was he fascinated that from that hour he abandoned all his schemes in South America. Morning, noon, and night, he spent in devising some means of introducing himself to her notice: but love, where it is deep and pure, is also timid--delicate--and reverential. Captain Nicholas, moreover, was aware of Miss Walladmor's rank and expectations: these, on many accounts, as they tended to misinterpret his motives, made him shy of intruding himself upon her notice. But at length chance did for him what he could never have done for himself. In the woods of Tre Mawr ridings are cut in all directions, and for many miles: these, being on the Walladmor domain and so near to the park, are considered part of the grounds; and Miss Walladmor was accustomed to ride here almost daily without attendants. This was soon discovered by Captain Nicholas, and he lay concealed here whole days together with the mere hope of seeing her for a moment. On one of these occasions her horse stumbled over the root of a tree, and on recovering himself ran away: he was rapidly carrying her into a situation of extreme peril amongst the precipices of Ap Gauvon, when Captain Nicholas, who was lurking about on his usual errand, and saw the whole from a distance, stept out from a thicket as the horse approached--crossed him--seized the rein--and saved her. This was the best possible introduction: and all the rest followed naturally. Miss Walladmor had every excuse: she was a mere child, and quite inexperienced: Captain Nicholas--who had from his youth been placed in stations of command, and had just come from a service in which as an Englishman he had been greatly respected and admitted to intimacy with the staff of the patriot army,--was distinguished by a remarkable dignity of manners and deportment: the style of his sentiments, naturally lofty, was now exalted by love: and finally he had in all probability saved Miss Walladmor's life. These were strong appeals to a young heart: doubtless it did not weaken them that the noble expression of his countenance was then embellished by the graces of early youth (for he was not twenty), and yet unsaddened by internal suffering--which has since given him the look of a person older than he really is. Above all perhaps there pleaded for him in Miss Walladmor's heart--that which must always plead powerfully with a woman of virtuous sensibilities--the display which every look, word, and gesture, made of his profound and passionate devotion. 'Never' indeed (to quote our great poet, Mr. Bertram)--
"----never did young man fancy
With so eternal and so fix'd a soul:"
"He hallowed the very air she breathed; doated on the very hem of her garments; worshipped the very ground she trod on. This child, this innocent child (for she was no more), guided the wild ungovernable creature as absolutely and as easily as a mother guides her infant: and, if Captain Nicholas had always been under such guidance, no tongue (as I will warrant) would ever have had any cause to make free with his name: there is no such a safeguard in this world to a young man under the temptations which life presents as deep love for a virtuous woman. The misery is--that for every thousand such women there is hardly one man capable of such a love. No: men in this respect are brutal creatures.
"But to return to Miss Walladmor: you will not wonder that, under the circumstances I have mentioned, she did not discontinue her rides in the woods of Tre Mawr: child as she was, her own heart told her that, from a man animated by love so tender and profound, she could no more have any thing to fear than she could from any third person whilst under his protection. Hence she did not refuse to meet him: and, for more than a year and a half, they carried on a clandestine correspondence. Clandestine I call it with regard to the mode in which it was conducted, and with regard to Sir Morgan Walladmor: for else it was known to all the country beside. How it was that nobody spoke of it to Sir Morgan, I cannot say: you will wonder that I did not. The truth is--that, when it came to my knowledge, it was too late (as I saw) to interfere without misery to both parties, and ruin to one. The chief objections to the connexion were of course the want of adequate rank and prospects on the part of Captain Nicholas, and the uncertainty of his birth. These, in any common case, were no doubt sufficient objections: still, as Captain Nicholas had raised himself at so very early an age to the rank of a gentleman, I did not see that they were insuperable: or, however valid against such an attachment in its first origin, were less entitled to attention when it had reached its present stage.
"Miss Walladmor was nearly eighteen, when Sir Morgan came to know of the affair. He was grieved, and seemed to view it as one of the judgments upon himself, but did not express any displeasure. Just about that time Sir Charles Davenant was introduced to Miss Walladmor in the character of suitor. From the first she declined his addresses with a firmness that should naturally have at once discouraged a man of his discernment. But he had encouragement from other quarters:--Sir Morgan gave him no encouragement; but others amongst Miss Walladmor's relatives did. Edward Nicholas was too noble to harbour so mean a passion as jealousy: still he trembled for the effect of a long persecution upon so gentle a nature as Miss Walladmor's: but in this he was wrong: for, though the gentlest of creatures, she is one of the firmest in any point which she conceives essential to her honor. And this he now found unhappily in a case too nearly affecting himself.
"All at once many stories of outrages, scandalous and even bloody acts, were revived against the company of smugglers with whom Captain Nicholas had passed his youth: and with these stories the name of Edward Nicholas, as the name of their leader, was studiously coupled. Both Miss Walladmor and her lover being generally favourites amongst the country people about Walladmor, it was a matter of some wonder to me whence such stories, which were clearly devised for their persecution, could arise; and at length I traced them to Gillie Godber. However they got into some circulation; and, now that the rank of Miss Walladmor and the universal interest in the romantic part of the story had drawn the attention of the county and the whole local gentry upon the character of Edward Nicholas, they could not but affect his pretensions very disadvantageously with all Miss Walladmor's connexions. With the sincerity of real love, Captain Nicholas had not concealed from Miss Walladmor the circumstances of his early education amongst smugglers and sea-rovers: but these she justly regarded as the palliations of any youthful levities he might have committed, and as his great misfortune, and not as any part of his offences. Neither had he concealed the obscurity of his birth; so that, with regard to that, she had nothing to learn. The worst part of the charges, as it soon came out, were easily repelled by the mere dates of the transactions to which they referred: of all the cruel and bloody part every man, who knew his nature, acquitted him; for, howsoever he may choose to talk ferociously since he has become desperate, he has nothing cruel in his disposition. But, when these were disposed of, there still remained many wild infractions of law which left a taint behind, such as ought not to attach to the name of him who was a candidate for Miss Walladmor's hand. If Miss Walladmor in the tenderness of her affection steadily refused to believe these stories, others (she saw) did not. Something was due to her family; and to Sir Morgan, the head of it, more especially, from the unlimited confidence he had reposed in her discretion. However it were palliated by his extreme youth and the connexions upon which his misfortunes had thrown him, still some part of what had been alleged against Captain Nicholas appeared to be true: for even, with such an interest at stake, the nobility of his mind would not stoop to the meanness of falsehood. Miss Walladmor was greatly shocked; suffered much in mind and in health; and discovered in her countenance the agitations to which she was now a prey. She knew, she could not but know, that she was consigning him to despair: her woman's heart relented again and again in behalf of the man who had loved her so long and so fervently: but at length she told him calmly and yet firmly that it was necessary they should part. Whatever she could do by tenderness of manner to mitigate the bitterness of this parting--she did; her affections, there was no need to tell him, were wholly his: and she assured him that, if he would in any way efface the stains upon his name, her heart should remember only his misfortunes.
"But in what way was he to do this? He was a friendless man for any views of advancement in England; any thing he might do in South America, would avail him little at home: and thus, being without hope, he became frantic--and began to tamper with criminal enterprizes.
"What follows is still more painful; nor am I accurately acquainted with the particulars. Political disturbances at that time prevailed in various parts of the country; amongst others, in this. These he fomented; and, according to the charges against him, committed some overt acts of treason. The best excuse for him, over and above that general excuse which applies to all that he has done since his parting with Miss Walladmor, namely, his state of utter distraction (some say positive aberration) of mind,--the best excuse for him, I say, in all his political conduct, is this; that, having lived so much of his life in foreign and convulsed states of society, where every body was engaged in active hostilities to some party or other that was--had been--or pretended to be the government, he had not been trained to look with much horror on a charge which he has heard so much tossed about as that of treason: in fact he thinks of it with more levity than you can imagine. I may add that, having seen so little comparatively of England, he is really under the greatest delusions as to our true political state--and does sincerely believe in the existence of oppressions which are altogether imaginary. This must be borne in mind in speaking of what remains. After the disturbances were quelled in this neighbourhood, he escaped; went to South America; served again in various quarters of that agitated continent; but was still pursued by his old distraction of mind in regard to Miss Walladmor; came back; connected himself, it is said, with some of those who were parties to the Cato-street conspiracy: I know not how, or with what result. He talks of himself as though he had shared in all their designs: but he often talks worse of himself than he deserves; and government have certainly abandoned the Cato-street charges against him: though, if he were taken, he would still be tried on those which arise out of his transactions in this county."
"But with what purpose," said Bertram, "can he linger in this neighbourhood, where his haunts and his person are so well known--that it is impossible he can long escape apprehension?"
"Still, no doubt, as heretofore, from the blindness and infirmity of his passion for Miss Walladmor: merely to see her--is perhaps some relief to his unhappy mind: that however is a gratification he can seldom have; for she now rarely stirs out of the castle. His old anxieties too may be again awakened by the re-appearance of Sir Charles Davenant at Walladmor. Then, as to the intimacy of his connexions with this neighbourhood, you must remember that, if that exposes him to some risque, he is also indebted to it for much kindness and assistance. Just now indeed, when the smugglers are returned to this coast, what with the open assistance he receives from them, and the underhand support and connivance he meets with from the country people, he contrives effectually to baffle the pursuit of the police."
At this moment a sound swelled upon the wind: Bertram and Mr. Williams were looking down from the battlements upon the park: and in a few seconds a herd of deer rushed past with the noise of thunder; and shortly after the heavy gallop of two bodies of horse, one in pursuit of the other, advanced in the direction of the castle. It was bright moonlight. About two hundred yards from the walls, some smart skirmishing took place: random discharges of pistols and carbines succeeded at intervals; the broad swords of the cavalry, and the cutlasses of sailors, could be distinguished gleaming in the moonlight: and it became evident that the party under Captain Nicholas had fallen in with Sir Charles Davenant somewhere in the neighbourhood, and were now retreating before him. The smugglers, it was pretty clear, had been taken at great disadvantage; for they were in extreme disorder when they first appeared--being wholly unfitted by the state of their equipments and horses for meeting a body of dragoons so superbly mounted and appointed. Their horses, though of the hardy mountain breed, wanted weight and bulk to oppose any sort of resistance to the momentum of the heavy dragoon horses--and were utterly untrained to any combined movement. It was obviously on this consideration that Edward Nicholas, whose voice was now heard continually giving words of command, had drawn his party to this point where the broken ground neutralized in a great measure the advantages of the dragoons. He was now upon ground every inch of which he knew; in which respect he had greatly the advantage of Sir Charles Davenant; and he availed himself of it so as to draw off his own party, and to distress the cavalry. From the point at which they had just been skirmishing, a long range of rocky and sylvan scenery commenced which traversed the park for miles; and upon this Captain Nicholas now began to wheel in tolerably good order, showing at times a bold front to his enemy. This movement drew them away from the castle: but the character of the retreat continued to be apparent for some time. At intervals the two parties were entangled in rocks and bushy coverts. On ground of this character, the dragoons were much distressed by their horses falling, and were thus checked and crippled in their movements; whilst the sure-footed mountaineers of the smugglers advanced with freedom. Suddenly the whole body, pursuers and pursued, would be swallowed up by a gloomy grove of pines; suddenly again all emerged with gleaming arms upon little island spots of lawny areas, where the moonlight fell bright and free. Whenever a favourable interspace of this character occurred, the dragoons endeavoured to form and use the advantage it presented for effecting a charge. But the address of Edward Nicholas, who was an excellent cavalry officer, and far more experienced in this kind of guerrilla warfare than his antagonist,--together with the short intervals during which the ground continued favourable for charges, and his minute knowledge of its local details,--uniformly defeated the efforts of the dragoons, and protected the retreat of his own party until they were gradually lost in the distance and the shades of those great sylvan recesses, which ran up far into the hilly tract upon which their movement had been continually directed.
Late in the evening the dragoons returned to the castle: they had suffered a good deal on the difficult ground to which they had allowed themselves to be attracted by Captain Nicholas; fifteen being reported as wounded severely, and several horses shot. They had however defeated the object of Captain Nicholas, which was (agreeably to the secret information) to possess himself of the horses in the depôt; with what ultimate view, they were still left to conjecture.
That this was simply some final effort of desperation, it was easy to judge from what followed. A little before midnight on this same evening Captain Nicholas appeared at the castle-gate, and surrendered himself prisoner to the soldiers on guard; at the same time desiring one of them to carry a note to Sir Morgan Walladmor. In this note he requested an interview with Sir Morgan for a few moments, which was immediately granted: Captain Nicholas was conducted to the library; and the guard, who attended him, directed to wait on the outside.
Edward Nicholas began by adverting rapidly to his own former connexion with Miss Walladmor. This had been broken up: he blamed nobody for that: it was but one part of the general misfortune which had clouded his life. Now however, on returning to Merionethshire after a long absence, and with the constant prospect of being soon consigned to a prison, he had been particularly anxious for an opportunity of meeting and speaking to Miss Walladmor: he had accordingly written to her repeatedly, but had received no answer. This silence on the part of Miss Walladmor, so little in harmony with her general goodness, happening to coincide with the visit of Sir Charles Davenant to Walladmor, had raised suspicions in his mind that it was to some influence of his that he must ascribe the continued neglect of his applications to Miss Walladmor. He feared that Sir Charles was renewing his pretensions to Miss Walladmor's hand. Hence he had taken his resolution, as he would frankly avow, to force his way into the castle--and supplicate Miss Walladmor to grant him an opportunity of speaking to her in private before it was too late for him to hope it. Such a plan obliged him, as his first step, to attack the dragoons. To do this with effect he wanted horses; and he had therefore arranged a plan for possessing himself of the horses at the depôt: in what way this plan had become known to Sir Charles Davenant, he could not guess. Having however been thus prematurely discovered, it was now finally defeated. Hence, as a man now careless of life, and without hope, he wished to surrender himself to government on the charges of high treason alleged against him. He had abundant means of escape, or of indefinitely delaying this surrender: but to what purpose? To stay here was of necessity to fall into the hands of government. To escape was to be self-banished from the neighbourhood of Miss Walladmor, and all chance of ever seeing her; without which fe had long ceased to be of any value to him.--He concluded by assuring Sir Morgan that to confine him in any other place than Walladmor Castle would be to expose him to certain rescue; and at the same time to cause needless bloodshed, if it was attempted to strengthen any of the weak prisons in the neighbourhood by a guard of soldiers.
Sir Morgan Walladmor could not but accept his surrender, as it was thus deliberately tendered. And, until the pleasure of government were known, he ordered the rooms of the Falcon Tower to be prepared with every accommodation for Captain Nicholas.--At the same time Sir Morgan's countenance testified the pity and concern which he felt for the prisoner: for to a man of his discerning sensibility it was evident that it was the last infirmity of love, and the mere craziness of a doating heart, that had driven him to surrender himself. If in no other way he could reach Miss Walladmor's neighbourhood, it seemed that he was determined to reach it in the character of prisoner. To every door that he passed on his road to the Falcon Tower he looked with a wild keenness of eye, in the hope that he might obtain some glimpse of her. And, fantastic as such comfort seemed, the unhappy prisoner felt a deep joy even in his solitary prison on feeling that for the first time in his life he was passing the night under the same roof with Miss Walladmor.
FOOTNOTE TO "CHAPTER XIX.":
 Troilus and Cressida.
The wheel is come full circle!--King Lear, Act. V.
At length the time is arrived when Edward Nicholas is to be tried for his life on the charge of high treason. Within a fortnight after his surrender, a Special Commission was sent down to try him; and the trial is to take place at the county town of Dolgelly. At an early hour, Bertram, who had slept in Dolgelly, presented himself at the door of the court-house: early as it was, however, he found the entrance already thronged by a crowd unusually numerous for so unpopulous a neighbourhood. Amongst them were many women, grieving by anticipation that the
cruel thunders of the law should descend, for charges so frivolous as high treason, upon this young and accomplished soldier--whose fine person, winning manners, and chivalrous protection of women in many desperate affrays of the smugglers, had gained him all female hearts far and near in Merionethshire. There were also some fierce faces in the crowd--of smugglers and freebooters: amongst these Bertram recognized several of his friends from the Fleurs-de-lys; and at their head stood Captain le Harnois, who appeared to have recovered surprizingly from his 'consomption,' and was at this moment surrounded by several of his own 'mourners.' Bertram moved as near as he could to the captain, whom he perceived to be in conversation with some person immediately in advance, and lurking from general view under the overshadowing bulk of the noble captain's massy figure.
"What's your name, do you say?" asked the captain, lowering his ear, "Bilberry?"
"Dulberry, I say," replied the other angrily: "Samuel Dulberry, late twist manufacturer in Manchester."
"Dulberry is it? Why, Dulberry, then: what, man! I'll not rob you of it. Now, Dulberry, I'll tell you what: you're in luck; you've not got such a d---d hulk of a body to take care of as I have. You'll do all the better for a gimblet. So mind now, Dulberry: as soon as the door opens, take your head in your hands and begin to bore with it. You shall be the wedge: I'll be the mallet. Never you look behind: I'll take care of all that. Mind your own duty; once bore a hole for me, and my name's not le Harnois if I don't send you 'home.'"
Though Mr. Dulberry could not perhaps wholly approve of the captain's rather authoritative tone, nor of the captain's figures of speech, which, to a man who had read Blackstone, seemed a little too much to confound the distinctions of 'things' and 'persons'--yet, as he saw the benefits of such an arrangement, he made no objection, but submitted to act in the humble relation of screw to a screw-driver--or, to keep to the captain's image, submitted to be "driven home" as a nail by the great hammer of Captain le Harnois.
He began immediately by breaking a weak phalanx of women, who sought to re-unite in his rear; but they found that they must first of all circumnavigate the great rock of Captain le Harnois; and, long before that could be effected, so many of the Fleurs-de-lys' people pressed after in the captain's wake that this confluence of the female bisections never took place. In a moment after the doors of the court opened; a rush took place; Bertram was carried in by the torrent; and in half a minute found himself comfortably lodged in an elevated corner. From this he overlooked the court, and he could perceive that the captain had well performed his promise of driving Mr. Dulberry home: the reformer was advanced to the very utmost verge of the privileged space, and obliged to support himself against the pressure behind by clasping a pillar: as the captain in turn clasped Mr. Dulberry, and enfolded him, as one box in a 'nest' of boxes is made to inclose another, the poor reformer's station was an unhappy one: and, though he had quietly submitted to the captain so long as their joint interests were concerned in supporting him, it was clear to Bertram from the fierce looks of the reformer, as he kept turning round his head, that this 'nestling' of Captain le Harnois was now taking his revenge, by reading to that arbitrary person a most rigorous lecture on the bill of rights. It was equally clear that the captain was in rueful perplexity as to Mr. Dulberry's meaning; not knowing whether to understand his jargon, so wholly new to himself, as bearing a warlike or an amorous character--those being the two sole categories or classifications of the noble captain's whole stock of ideas. Luckily, to prevent any quarrel between parties so interested in maintaining a good understanding as the screw and the screw-driver, betting commenced at this time in very loud terms on various contingencies of the approaching trial. Ten guineas to ten were offered freely that the prisoner was acquitted, but found few takers. Mr. Dulberry said that he would have taken it if the jury had not been packed. Three to four that the trial was over before twelve o'clock;--this was taken cautiously. Ten to seven that Mr. Justice ---- did not yawn six times before the peroration of Mr. ---- (who led for the crown); this was taken pretty freely. A thousand to one that the prisoner did not show the white feather; in spite of the immense odds, this was not listened to; so generally was the prisoner's character established for imperturbable firmness.
At this moment a general buz announced the commencement of some profounder interest: a trampling of horses outside announced the arrival of Captain Nicholas with his escort from Walladmor. Bertram closed his eyes from the shock which he anticipated at the sight of the prisoner; and, when he next opened them, the court was set, the prisoner was placed at the bar, and his arraignment opened in the customary form for levying war against our sovereign lord the king.
All present were interested more or less by the striking appearance and serene deportment of the prisoner. His face appeared to Bertram somewhat more faded and care-worn than when he had last seen him: but on the whole it bore the marks of fine animal health and spirits, struggling severely with some internal suffering of mind.
The trial proceeded in the usual manner, but with unusual rapidity, as the prisoner challenged none of the jury, nor called any witnesses. The crown lawyers painted the prisoner's guilt in the most alarming colours; insisting much on his extraordinary talents both military and civil as a leader in popular tumults. The witnesses deposed with tolerable consistency to his having tampered with them for purposes connected with some design upon Harlech castle. The capture of one outwork of Harlech was established. And at length the prisoner was called on for his defence.
With his usual self-possession, and with an air of extreme good humour except when he had occasion to speak of the counsel who opened the case, Captain Nicholas spoke as follows:
"My lord, and gentlemen of the jury,--I should be sorry to treat with levity any charge which I see that you treat with solemnity. The charge of treason is here, I find, a very grave one: though elsewhere I have known it as common and as trivial as assault and battery. However, be that as it may, I trust there can be no offence in my noticing without much gravity the attempt of the learned gentleman who opened the case for the crown to aggravate the matter against me by representing that I had engaged in an enterprize which had shaken the king of England on his throne.
"Shake the king of England upon his throne I gentlemen, I have not that vanity: and you must excuse my laughing a little. I am well assured that it was never in my power nor that of much more potent persons to alarm so great a prince. We all know that, if the kings of this earth were to assemble in council, they would find it hard to devise that message which could make a king of England turn pale. As to Harlech, you gentlemen of the jury well know what Harlech is. A bathing place on the coast, not far from Harlech, I mean Barmouth, is said to have a little resemblance to Gibraltar; a very little, I think: but, as to Harlech, I can assure you that it has none at all: it is as unlike Gibraltar as it is possible for any castle to be--whether as to fortifications or garrison. The fortifications run more hazard every month from treasonable west winds than ever they did from me; and, as to the garrison, it musters (I think) or did muster at that time sixteen invalids. I will not say that the west wind is as full of peril to them, for I think it will take an east wind to affect them seriously: but this I venture to affirm, that, with five such English seamen as I once seduced from his Britannic majesty's ship Bellerophon, for a certain patriot service in South America, I would undertake to make myself master of Harlech castle in ten minutes; and yet, gentlemen, I doubt not but the king of England could have found five other men in his service that would have singed our beards and perhaps retaken it in twenty minutes.
"My lord, I see that you disapprove of this style in a prisoner on his defence. Let me say then at once--that, though I pay every respect to the king of so great a nation, and would have been proud to have held a commission under his majesty, yet, as I do not hold one, nor ever did, I think it can scarcely be said that I owe him any duty, or can have committed any treason against him. It is my vanity to call myself an Englishman; and I sometimes believe that I am one. But I am sure that is more of my free love to England, than of any claim which England can show to my services. For I have lived, from the earliest time I can remember, chiefly upon the sea; possibly was born there: and that I speak English as my native language cannot prove me an Englishman; for I speak Spanish and Portuguese as fluently. So far from having received any favours from England, or the king of England--I protest that his Britannic majesty is almost the only great potentate in the Christian world to whom at one time or other I have not sworn allegiance. For so young a man this may seem a bold assertion: but the truth is--I have borne arms from my childish days; have seen a good deal of land service: and, as to naval service, my unhappy lot having thrown me so early upon the society of sea-rovers, I have positively sailed under the flag of every maritime state in Christendom. I cannot see, therefore, how I can be viewed as an English subject: and if I were to allow myself the magnificent language adopted by my learned enemy who opened the case for the crown, I might rather claim to be considered as a foreign power making unsuccessful war upon the king of England in his castle of Harlech, and now taken prisoner in my final invasion of his territories. In that case, the learned gentleman will recollect that--if I should escape from this court by the verdict of the jury, I shall have a right to consider him as an ally of that great prince, and to treat him accordingly by land or sea.
"But I am slipping back into that style by which I was sorry to perceive that I gave offence before. I must apologize by charging it upon the example set me by the learned counsel, who should better understand the proper style for a court of justice than I can be supposed to do. I was endeavouring to show that I am not properly a subject of his Britannic majesty's; or, if I am, it is more than either he or I can be sure of. To this I shall add two remarks: first, that I was bred up among pirates--and not trained to any respect for the institutions or law of civil societies: a circumstance which I would wish to have its weight--not, gentlemen, in your verdict, but in the judgments which charitable men shall hereafter pronounce upon my character. Secondly, whereas the learned gentleman in the silk gown insinuated that I was familiar with murderers, and that I looked with indifference upon shedding human blood--this insinuation, gentlemen of the jury, I am sure you will not regard; for nothing has appeared this day in evidence to support any charge of that kind--which, as a soldier of an honourable republic, I repel with indignation. Except in battle, or in self-defence, I have never shed any human blood. And, if I did not fear to be misinterpreted in one quarter where I would blush to speak of any thing I had done (though it had been a thousand times more) as pretending to the value of a service--I might produce cases even in this country where I have saved the lives of others at some hazard to my own. But I forbear; and leave this to be of service to my memory rather than to my cause in this court.
"With that view it is that I have made these two last statements: I press them upon your attention by no means as a prisoner at the bar, but as a man who is not insensible, both on his own account and for their sakes who have honoured him with some portion of their regard, to the opinion which may be hereafter formed of his character. The first is a consideration which certainly will have its weight with all the candid: the second is at least as valid as the insinuation to which it applies: it is the only sort of defence which it is possible for me to make to a calumny so general and uncircumstantial.
"Now, gentlemen, let me say in conclusion why I do not urge any thing to influence your verdict. In point of law, so far as I have collected it from the speeches of the learned counsel, it would be impossible to say any thing to the purpose. The question you have to decide upon, I understand to be this; whether I did or did not levy war upon his Majesty's garrison of sixteen firelocks and his castle of Harlech. Since the date of the Harlech war I have been present in South America in so many enterprises, even more desperate, that I cannot pretend to recal every circumstance: I am apt to confound them with one another. But the general fact of this expedition against Harlech I think the witnesses for the crown have established tolerably well. Some of them indeed gave their evidence in rather unmilitary language, and seemed to be unduely impressed with the magnitude of that war: but their meaning was good! and their dates, I dare say, all perfectly correct. I am sure I have no witnesses to call on my part that could shake either their history, their chronology, their geography, or in fact any one thing that is theirs--excepting always their martial tactics, which certainly are susceptible of improvement. As to cross-examining them, or any thing of that sort,--I am sure they all want to dine: and I would be sorry to leave an uncharitable impression of myself amongst so many respectable yeomen, by detaining them under such circumstances. And, gentlemen of the jury, if you will excuse me as a soldier for jesting with you at parting, I am sure that you also wish to be out hunting on such a fine day as this. And I will acknowledge that I should myself be disposed to view a prisoner's case as very atrocious who kept me needlessly in court in such weather as this. As to the learned counsel, their hunt is in the court: and undoubtedly, by making so few doubles, I have afforded them but poor sport. I shall not even take exception to the name by which I am indicted. But the lawyers (though I feel for them also) are the minority in this court. And besides they have as little power to save me, as the learned gentleman in the silk gown apparently has the will. You it is, gentlemen of the jury, that are the arbiters of my fate: and, if I wished to gain a favourable verdict from you, I conceive (as I said before) that in so hopeless a case as mine I could take no more rational course towards that end than by giving you as little trouble as possible.
"But, gentlemen, in conclusion I will tell you that I do not wish for a favourable verdict; and, if I did, I should not be here: for I have had it in my power to escape a hundred times over. The truth is--lest any man should misunderstand me as though it were an evil conscience or vicious habits that had made me weary of life at so early an age,--the truth is briefly this: and let it be the apology, my lord and gentlemen of the jury, for any tone of occasional carelessness or (as you may think) levity in what I have said--I have embarked my whole heart on one single interest: from the unhappy circumstances which beset me, I have in that quarter no hope: and, without hope there, life is to me of no value. And you cannot take from me any thing that I shall more willingly part with."
The judge briefly summed up by telling the jury that their duty was plain: yet, as three points had arisen which might perplex their views of the case, he would first dispose of these. The prisoner had intimated that he was indicted by a false name. But, as it had sufficiently appeared in evidence that he was generally known by this name, that was no matter for their inquiry. He had also alleged that he owed no allegiance to the crown of England: if so, the onus of proof lay upon the prisoner, who had adduced none whatever. Neither could such proof avail him: for, to justify his attack upon Harlech Castle, he must show a positive commission from some power at war with this country. But that was impossible, for the time of the attack was one of profound peace. Finally, it had been alleged, in the course of the trial, that the prisoner was insane. Now, although it had sufficiently appeared from the evidence given that he was a man of extraordinary and various talents, still that was not impossible; and, upon the whole, had some countenance from the style of his address--for defence he would not call it. However as no direct evidence had been called to that point, the jury would do well to leave it wholly out of their consideration; they might be assured it would obtain whatever attention was due to it in another quarter.--Some indulgence was also due to the prisoner on the ground of his unhappy training in early life, though he had himself refused to urge it with that view. This also might be considered elsewhere, but was not to influence their verdict. The sole question for them was, as to the overt acts of war. Two witnesses had prevaricated about the date of a particular incident: if they thought that of importance, they would give the prisoner the full benefit of their doubts. The prisoner had in fact admitted the main fact himself: and had said nothing tending to change the natural construction of it. He had simply endeavoured to underrate the importance of Harlech Castle, but that was of no consequence: a place, weak in itself, may be reputed strong; and, by encouraging people to rise in a period of general political ferment, may do all the mischief that could attach to the seizure of a much stronger place. However, in any case, that made no difference. They had to consider the single question he had mentioned: if they thought that of no importance, they would find the prisoner guilty on all the counts in the indictment.
* * * * * *
Meantime, as it was beginning to grow dusk, Sir Morgan Walladmor was sitting in his library, and reviewing the case of Captain Nicholas. Many noble traits of character, which had come to Sir Morgan's knowledge in past years,--his talents,--and his youth,--all pleaded for him powerfully: the benignant old man felt concerned that he should in any way have been made instrumental to his condemnation: for of that he had not much doubt; and he was considering through what channel he could best exert his influence in obtaining some mitigation of his sentence; when a door opened; a person, moving with a noiseless and stealthy foot, entered; and, on raising his head. Sir Morgan saw before him Mrs. Gillie Godber. As a person privileged to go whithersoever she would, Sir Morgan would not have felt much surprise at seeing her at this time or in this place: but there was something unusual in her appearance which excited his attention. Her eyes were fierce and glittering; but her manner was unnaturally soft and specious: and she seemed bent on some mission of peculiar malignity. Sir Morgan motioned to her to take a chair: but she was always rigidly punctilious in accepting no favor or attention in Walladmor Castle; and at present she seemed not to observe his courtesy, but leaned forward with her hands against the back of a chair.
"Well, Sir Morgan Walladmor! so, then, Edward Nicholas is gone to his trial?"
"He is; God send him a good deliverance!"
"So, so?" said she laughing, "times are changed at Walladmor. A good deliverance, eh? What, good deliverance to a smuggler?"
"Yes, Mrs. Godber,--even to a smuggler who happens to need it; but Captain Nicholas is not a smuggler."
"No, but he is worse: he has been a captain of smugglers, and he is a traitor."
"Whether he is a traitor, we do not yet know, Mrs. Godber. As a leader of smugglers he has at least the excuse of his unfortunate situation and his youth."
"Those were no excuses, Sir Morgan, twenty-four years ago."
"Woe is me, Mrs. Godber, that they were not!"
"So, so, so?" said she, chuckling with stifled laughter: "is it come to that? so then a worm may turn again, a poor worm may turn again--when it is trod upon. And the worm may be a snake. God sends snakes for those that need them." Then, pointing to the armorial bearings of the house of Walladmor emblazoned on the antique chairs, she said--"The snake, Sir Morgan, my snake. Sir Morgan Walladmor, my pretty snake--she stung your Falcon; your Falcon, and--your Doves!"
"She did indeed!" and Sir Morgan groaned with the remembrance.
"Aye, aye. That summer night she stung--she stung! Oh! sweet--sweet--sweet is revenge, Sir Morgan. Is it not, Sir Morgan?"
"God forbid!--God forbid!--Yet, if that be sweet, you have had it."
"Aye, but not all. We are not yet come to our death-beds: and, before then, the snake may sting again. All is not finished yet:--what think you, Sir Morgan, will be the end? what should be the end?"
"If you speak of our death-beds, Mrs. Godber,--peace, as I humbly presume to hope, the peace of christian charity and mutual forgiveness. Frail creatures that we are! the best will need forgiveness; the guiltiest, I trust, who brings a contrite heart, will not ask it in vain." Then, after a pause, he added solemnly--"You also, Mrs. Godber, will need forgiveness."
She fixed her eyes intently upon him, at the same time slowly drawing from her pocket two parcels. One was a packet of letters. She laid them upon the library table; and, striking her hand upon them with emphasis, she said--"Read those, when you will: they are letters from Captain Donneraile and Winifred Griffiths."
Sir Morgan trembled and would have taken the letters: but at this moment the trampling of horses was heard in the great court, upon which the library windows looked out: it was now growing dark; and the torches of the horsemen suddenly irradiated the room, and flashed upon the eyes of Mrs. Godber. Sir Morgan shuddered at their expression.
She opened the other parcel; and said, with something of a commanding tone, "Come here! come here!"
Mechanically almost he followed her to the window: she opened and displayed a baby's frock: the light of the torches fell strong upon it, and Sir Morgan recognized it well; for it bore in embroidered colours the bloody hand and the antient crest of Walladmor--by which marks it had been advertized through Europe.
"Where had you this, Mrs. Godber?" said he commanding his emotions: but at that instant Sir Charles Davenant entered the room; and he turned to him with a convulsive eagerness.--
"The verdict. Sir Charles? What is the verdict?"
"Guilty: judgment has passed: the prisoner is to be executed on Wednesday next."
Sir Morgan still controled himself:---he turned back to Mrs. Godber; and, taking both her withered hands into his, he said in the fervent accents of one who supplicates for liberation from torment, but in whispering tones that were audible to none but her--
"Mrs. Godber, as you hope hereafter to rejoin your own boy, tell me--where is that unhappy child of mine that once wore this dress?"
Slowly she released her hands: slowly her face relaxed into a smile: she looked down into the court: the escort of dragoons had formed in two ranks, leaving a lane to the door of the Falcon tower: the sheriff's carriage had drawn up: the prisoner was descending: the torch-light glared upon him. She drew in her breath with a hissing sound; pressed her hands together; and then, with an energy that seemed to crowd the whole luxury of her long vengeance into that single action and that single word, she threw out both arms at once, pointed to Edward Nicholas, and, with a yell, she ejaculated--"There!"
Sir Morgan fell to the ground like one smitten by lightning; and long weeks of unconsciousness gave to him the balm of oblivion.
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XX.":
 Harlech, if we remember, is the true county-town of Merionethshire: but, Dolgelly being the larger and more central place, if a man has any county business (for example, if he wants hanging or so) he goes to Dolgelly.
 This is a satiric hit of the German author at an English foible which cannot be denied: we wish no nation that we could mention had worse. That the satire in this case however is not carried beyond the limits of probability--is evident from the following paragraph which appeared in many of the morning papers during the third week of last October:
"It is scarcely credible, and yet we are positively assured of the fact, that bets to a large amount are depending upon the issue of Mr. Fauntleroy's trial; and that the books of some of the frequenters of Tattersall's and the One Tun, are not less occupied with wagers upon the fate of a fellow-creature than with those upon the Oaks, Derby, and St. Leger. To persons who are not aware of the brutalizing effect of gambling upon the mind, this circumstance will be a matter of astonishment; and even the more experienced can scarcely view with indifference so gross an outrage on common decency."
I draw the sword myself: take it; and hit
The innocent mansion of my love--my heart:
Fear not; 'tis empty of all things but grief.
Cymbeline, Act III.
Thus was Edward Walladmor, as we may now call him, restored to his father and the castle of his ancestors as a prisoner under sentence of death.--This however was known only to Tom Godber, who had learned it from an accidental oversight of his mother's during her frantic exultations when alone with himself. The same spirit of fiendish triumph had led her to make the discovery to the unhappy Sir Morgan prematurely, and when there was still some chance of defeating her final vengeance. But the public discovery she had prevailed on herself to delay until the day of execution.
This was now fast approaching; and no intentions had yet been manifested on the part of government for granting a pardon or mitigation of the sentence. Monday was now come; Wednesday was the day originally appointed for the execution; and as yet no orders had arrived to the contrary. Sir Morgan meanwhile was lying in a state of alternate delirium and unconsciousness from the effects of a brain fever which had seized him immediately after the dreadful revelation made to him by Gillie Godber. And Sir Morgan's friends, though all feeling great interest for the prisoner, and prepared to think it a case of extreme harshness on the part of government if the sentence should be enforced, were unacquainted with the dreadful secret of the prisoner's relation to Sir Morgan; and had thus no motive, beyond general pity, for showing any distrust of the royal mercy--by exerting any special interest in the prisoner's behalf.
Meantime there were hearts that beat in trembling hope for Edward Walladmor; hands were busy for him in silence; steps and whispering sounds were moving in the darkness on his behalf. There had been time for the news of his capture and too probable fate to reach the Netherlands; and a ship of doubtful character, with a captain and crew that had once served under Captain Walladmor, instantly left the port of Antwerp--and sailed, upon good information as to the place and circumstances of his confinement, to the coast of North Wales. On this Monday she had communicated with the shore; and soon after night-fall she stood in for the bay of Walladmor.
He however who was acquainted with the strength of the castle, and had witnessed the preparations of the sheriff, might reasonably despair of a liberation that was to be effected by force. The castle itself, strengthened by such a garrison as now occupied its defences, was capable of making some resistance: but the Falcon tower, with its succession of iron doors, its narrow and difficult approaches, and the aerial situation of its prison, might be considered absolutely impregnable to any thing short of an army with a regular train of storming artillery.
Confiding in this superabundant strength, the sheriff--to whom Sir Charles Davenant had resigned the disposal of the soldiers--had not thought it necessary to take any other precautions than that of locking all the doors in the tower, and placing a guard of five men in the little guard-room which opened upon the rocky gallery. There was no possibility of any attempt on the part of the prisoner to escape; nor of any sudden alarm in this quarter: the men were therefore allowed to sleep; with directions to admit nobody who did not produce an order bearing the seal of the sheriff or the lord lieutenant. One centinel was placed inside the great gate; and, in case of any alarm, he was to ring the great bell of the chapel.
It was now midnight: profound silence reigned in the castle: and the sheriff, finding that all was quiet on the outside, retired to rest.
Meantime in what state was the prisoner? He knew nothing of any designs to liberate him: but he was more cheerful notwithstanding than he had been for some time past. Compared with that in which he had surrendered himself, his present state of mind might be called a happy one. He had learned that Miss Walladmor had not disregarded his letters, still less rejected him, in the way he had been made to believe. His own letters to her had been duly delivered: but her replies, which (by his own desire) were entrusted to Mrs. Godber, had been intercepted by her: some communication between her son Tom and Grace Evans had raised a suspicion of that nature; Tom had made a search in a neighbouring cottage where his mother now resided; had found the letters; and had secretly conveyed them to Captain Walladmor. From these he had learned how much injustice he had done to Miss Walladmor in supposing her capable of withdrawing from him, under any cloud of calamity, an affection such as she had granted to him; and he was assured that one heart at least, and that the heart to which his own was linked by indissoluble bonds, would mourn for his fate. He had learned also from Tom Godber the secret of the filial relation in which he himself stood to Sir Morgan. Even this contributed to tranquillize him, by taking away all color of presumption from his own addresses to Miss Walladmor, and all color of degradation from her with which hereafter the censorious might else have reproached her. He felt also a secret joy, such as a lover's heart is apt to feel, in the circumstance of being Miss Walladmor's cousin--even in bearing the same name with her--as he would have done in any slighter bond that connected him (though it were but by a fanciful tie) with the woman whom he loved. And the chief bitterness of death to him was this--that, loving her so passionately, he should see her face no more.
That pang at least shall be spared to him. Edward Walladmor shall see Miss Walladmor again! once again shall kiss the tears from her face; and though they meet in sorrow, yet shall this meeting record the tenderness of her affection in terms much stronger and more solemn than happier hours could have furnished, and shall put the seal to the long fidelity of her heart. Now is Edward Walladmor to learn by a proof, sweet yet miserable to remember, that there is no such potent shield under calamity as a woman's love; and that, under circumstances of extremity which transcend all cases that human laws can be supposed to contemplate, nature will prompt a conduct which as far transcends the necessity of human sanction. Miss Walladmor had learned through Grace the discovery which Mrs. Godber had made of the prisoner's relation to Sir Morgan Walladmor. That gentleman was incapable of acting: and, apart from her own love to Edward Walladmor, she knew under these circumstances, how it became her to act as the person on whom the interests and power of the unhappy parent had devolved. She had taken her resolution at once: all preparations had long been made: all was ready: nothing remained but the last agitating step: and the heart, that hung upon the issue, had been waiting till now in trembling hope; but from this moment, when the castle clock struck one, in fear and dread suspense.
Two minutes after the clock had ceased, Captain Walladmor heard the sound of bars clanking at the guard-room door: a foot crossed the gallery: the bars of his own door were unfastened; the bolts were drawn; the key was turned in the lock: the door opened: a lamp streamed in a gleam of light, as the massy door slowly swung back on its hinges: and Tom Godber entered. How had he been allowed to pass? He carried an order in his hand which bore the lord lieutenant's signature. But how obtained or by whom forged? No matter!--a tear, which dropped from Captain Walladmor's eye upon the paper when Tom put it in his hand, showed that he at least knew what sweet hand it was that had forged it.
Tom closed the door cautiously, and rapidly made known his mission. Captain Walladmor wore no fetters: the keys were presented to him which would pass every door to the picture gallery, from one window of which depended a rope-ladder. A fleet horse was stationed in a grove near the castle: boat-men well armed were on the beach; and, in case of any sinister accident obliging him to proceed inland, relays of horses had been placed both on the southern road through Dolgelly, and on the north road to Bangor Ferry. The main danger, which awaited him, was in the little guardroom: that passed, it was not likely that any thing would occur to intercept him. The soldiers had necessarily been awakened by Tom's passing through: and Captain Walladmor would be detained some time by fastening and unfastening the two doors. However all the aid, which could be given, had been prepared. Captain Walladmor had dressed himself on the day of his trial in a hussar uniform of the patriot army in which he bore his last commission: this he still retained; and it was not so unlike the dragoon uniform of Tom, but that under a dim light it might well deceive the eye of a sleepy man, if any should chance to be awake. Not to rely too much on that however, Tom had wrapped himself up in his dark military cloak which he now flung over Captain Walladmor. This served also to conceal his face, as well as the sword and brace of pistols with which Tom now presented him. These arrangements made, Tom conjured him to lose no time--as there was some suspicion that the sheriff might make a circuit before two o'clock. But Edward Walladmor had yet one question to put; Where was Miss Walladmor? The countenance of Tom showed that he anticipated this question. But he had been instructed if possible to evade it. Miss Walladmor's heart had told her that Captain Walladmor would seek an interview with her: and Grace had made Tom understand that he was to pretend ignorance and fling all the difficulties he could in the way of it: for the peril of discovery became too much augmented by any delay. In case of necessity, however, Grace had acquainted Tom with the most private road to Miss Walladmor's suite of apartments. Unwilling as he was, Tom now found himself obliged to make this known: for Captain Walladmor, seeing that he knew, positively refused to move until he told him.
Now then all was ready: Tom took the prisoner's place; Captain Walladmor shook hands with him fervently; muffled himself up in his cloak; took the lamp and the keys; issued upon the gallery; closed and fastened the prison door; crossed to the door of the guard-room, and paused for one moment before he opened it. He, who so lately had been without hope, conceiving himself rejected by Miss Walladmor, had now a mighty interest at stake: if he passed this room, he might at the worst die like a soldier; and he should see Miss Walladmor! His firmness was now tried to the uttermost, and somewhat shaken: his heart palpitated a little; and he smiled to see that his hand trembled like the hand of a coward.
He passed in: the men were all stretched on the ground; but one at least was awake; for he d---d him for making a noise and breaking his sleep. However he did not raise his head: and Captain Walladmor passed on, stepping carefully over them, to the opposite door. Here it became necessary, from the complexity of the fastenings, to set down the lamp for a few moments; in doing which the cloak fell a little way from the face of Captain Walladmor, and unveiled a set of features too unlike Tom's to impose upon the dullest eyes, if any were fixed upon them. A little rustling was heard at this moment in one corner of the room: Captain Walladmor was all ear, and looked round. A dragoon was sitting up on his pallet; his wild black eyes were fixed keenly on Captain Walladmor; and a smile was upon his face of ambiguous character, which the Captain knew not how to interpret, but which sufficiently betrayed that the soldier knew him. The next moment the man sprang up to his feet, and Captain Walladmor hastily put his hand to his sword. He advanced; continued to smile; put his forefinger on his lips as a sign for the prisoner to make no noise; and, coming close up to him, whispered--"I know you, Captain! But all's right:" and then, nodding with a confidential air, he said--"Push on."
It was Kilmary, who had sometime back enlisted into the dragoons. Captain Walladmor opened the door; and passed out--closely followed by the dragoon. Then, reclosing the door, he descended safely with his companion, through all the numerous impediments of bolts and bars, to the picture-gallery. At the very first window that they came to, the ladder was fixed: this, by way of showing some confidence in him, he pointed out to Kilmary; and told him, if he wished to be of service to him, to descend--and prepare the boatmen on the shore. Then, rightly judging that the man had made himself a party to his escape for the sake of reaping a large reward, he put into his hand one of the rouleaus of gold which Miss Walladmor had sent by Tom, and enjoined him to be secret and vigilant. The man expressed his gratitude; disappeared through the window; and Captain Walladmor was left alone in the picture-gallery to trace out the road to his cousin's apartments.
His agitation had subsided: all was silent: and he now felt assured that nothing could defeat him of his interview with Miss Walladmor. As he moved down the gallery amongst the portraits of his ancestors, he paused for a moment before one which fronted him and struck him powerfully. It was the portrait of a lady, young and of pensive beauty: the costume was splendid and somewhat fanciful, so that it was not easy by candle-light to determine the generation to which she had belonged. But no doubt she had at some period been a member of his house: and Captain Walladmor was fascinated by the expression; for she seemed to look down upon him with pitying love.--The expression was not false. It was a face (but he knew it not) that had for one brief fortnight, some three-and-twenty years ago, looked down upon his with maternal love. Some wandering dream of such a possibility passed through his mind; he sighed; and moved on.
With a cautious step he threaded the labyrinth of passages till he came to the door which, by certain signs, he knew must be that which opened into Miss Walladmor's apartments. It stood ajar: he pushed it gently open: the room was empty: there was no noise; and a lamp was burning silently on the table. Through this anti-room he passed on to the next in the suite. This was not empty: and he paused at the door-way.
How often is the eye fixed unconsciously upon mute inanimate objects that, if they had a voice, could utter a tale of passionate remembrances--and to some eye perhaps do utter such a tale! This was the very room from which--about four-and-twenty years ago he, who now stood at the door, had been borne by the cruel nurse, who had entered for a moment whilst the unconscious mother slept. There stood the very sofa (but he knew it not) upon which the unhappy lady had reposed; and there had she breathed her last, just where the lady in black, not less unhappy, is seated at this moment. Who is she? Captain Walladmor's eye rested upon her with a mixed expression of rapture and of grief which betrays that it is Miss Walladmor.
But one minute before Miss Walladmor had been standing at the door, intent upon every sound that stirred. Excessive agitation had obliged her to retire to the sofa: she had seated herself: her beautiful arms were laid upon a table; her head rested sideways upon her arms; and for a few brief moments her fluttering and exhausted spirits had lulled her into slumber. Apparently she dreamed: for she murmured, at intervals,--"Hush! hush!--what noise was that?--Put out the lights! They are coming!--Draw the curtains; and tell nobody!--Oh! what a groan was that!"--Edward Walladmor gazed upon her in silence: her face was pale but flushed: her person, naturally full, was wasted and shrunken: her cheek seemed hollow: and a tear was upon his own as he stooped to kiss it. He sate down by her side, passed his arm tenderly around her waist: the action awoke her; and she started up in sudden alarm.
"Are you afraid of me, dearest Genevieve?" asked Edward Walladmor. "Oh no!" she murmured, when she saw that it was her cousin: "Oh no!" and through her fearful agitation she smiled upon him with tender confidence, and sate down again by his side.
* * * * * *
One hour they had sate, hand locked in hand, and had blended their tears--their hopes--and the trembling doubts of their youthful hearts. And Miss Walladmor was beginning to murmur something about the necessity of parting: when suddenly that summons was uttered by a more alarming sound. The sound of the castle bell rang out at this moment loud and fast. Voices were heard. And immediately after thundering and redoubling peals of blows against the great gate echoed through the castle-hall.
Captain Walladmor was silent and disturbed: for any sound, whether from friend or foe, was to them the signal of separation: but the effect on Miss Walladmor was terrific. She, innocent creature! started up like a guilty thing: for one moment her countenance flushed with fugitive colors, and then settled into a deathly paleness: she stood as if frozen: her hands were raised: her eyes were fixed on the door: and she looked like a statue of panic before a judgment seat listening for some irrevocable doom. A second time the hideous uproar was heard: and a crash, as of some mighty ruin. Captain Walladmor groaned as he gazed upon the beautiful figure and the sweet countenance before him, both petrified into marble, speechless, breathless, sightless,--giving no sign of life but by spasmodic startings, that shot momentarily over her bosom and lovely mouth: for his sake was she tortured thus--for his sake, that in a minute--oh! how brief a minute--must part from her, must see that form--that countenance no more! A third time the dreadful summons sounded: the hall of Walladmor rang with tempestuous voices: steps ran along the galleries: the clattering of heavy heels was heard on the great stair-case; the clashing of swords; tumult, and hurrying; curses, and pursuit: and suddenly from the upper galleries was heard a thundering discharge of carbines. That sound awoke Miss Walladmor from her trance: she kept her eyes on the door--she stretched out her hand, with the rapidity of flight and terror, to Captain Walladmor--and said, but with the stifled whisper of one in agony: "Oh!--come--come--come-- come--come!" He rose, and for one moment paused. A presentiment was at his heart that it were better he should go. Yet he had not the resolution to refuse that hand which was stretched out to save him, nor voluntarily to forego the sweet--sweet feeling that he was protected by Miss Walladmor. In such torments of farewell anguish, what a heaven to be shielded--if it were but for a moment--by the tenderness of Miss Walladmor's love! Passively as a child he yielded himself to her guidance as she led him into her dressing-room. Grace was sitting there weeping: and rose as they entered. "Run Grace," said Miss Walladmor rapidly--"Run to the outer door, lock it, lock it: open it for nobody." So much had sorrow for her mistress absorbed all feminine feelings, that the poor girl showed no terror--but hastened to obey: and Edward Walladmor took her hand as she passed, and pressed it to thank her for her sympathy.
Whence was the uproar? Some eye had detected the ladder: the alarm was given: at the very same moment the crew of the strange ship from Antwerp, half blacks and people of colour, remorseless and used to deeds of violence but devotedly attached to their former commander, had been met by Kilmary: the partial escape had been reported to them: but after waiting some time the delay alarmed them; they had pushed on beneath the walls of the castle; the removal of the ladder confirmed their fears: and, soon after the sheriff's discovery of the escape, the attack had been made on the gate: this had given way to the strength and impetuosity of the assailants: and the great hall with its flights of stair-case and ranges of galleries, rising tier above tier, was now filled with slaughter and confusion. The uproar and clamour increased: like death-notes every sound and every echo smote the heart of Edward Walladmor: every life, that was lost, was lost for him: and to linger any longer was to endanger his father's castle and all whom it contained.
Hastily the parting kiss was given: hastily the parting tears were shed: they parted as those part who part for ever: and with a shuddering gesture Edward Walladmor threw open the door which laid bare the bloody tragedy on the stairs. The hall, of immense altitude, was filled with surges of smoke: overhead it formed a thick canopy or awning, with pendent volumes, that here and there were broken and showed a stair-case slippery with blood and a chaos of black faces, mulattoes, dragoons, torches, gleaming arms, and accoutrements. Every gloomy corridor that issued upon the landings of the stair-case,--every dusky archway, some in utter darkness, some pierced with partial flashings of the flambeaux, were the scenes of mortal struggle, flight, or dying agony. Such a spectacle, by the demands which it made on his firmness and presence of mind, restored Captain Walladmor to the tranquil composure of the quarter-deck. Miss Walladmor followed him with her eyes, and stood, with uplifted hands, beneath the archway. He moved on with his usual self-possession and dignity: he called loudly in Spanish to his former crew: they knew the voice of their heroic commander; and sent up a loud huzza of welcome. That sound drew upon him the attention of the dragoons. One, who stood in an upper gallery, levelled his carbine and fired: a shot took effect in his left shoulder, and wounded him slightly: another shot was repelled by a brazen gird on the glazed cap which he wore; he was stunned however for the moment, and reeled against the wall. This man in the upper gallery had been hidden from Miss Walladmor by the moulded architrave of the door-way near which she stood: but, at this moment, in a lower gallery appeared the ominous face of Gillie Godber: behind her stood a dragoon. Once again her eyes glared, and her vindictive voice resounded, in Walladmor hall. "That's him," she shouted--eagerly laying one hand upon the arm of the soldier to guide him into the right direction, whilst with the other she pointed and followed her object as he moved: "that's the Captain, that's the traitor!" The man watched him calmly as he passed a range of pillars, and was emerging upon an open space of gallery. He levelled, and settled himself firmly for his aim:--Miss Walladmor heard the voice: she saw the action: through a cloud of smoke she caught the preparation: she shrieked; raised her hands; ran forwards; with a piercing cry she exclaimed--"Oh no, no, no, no!" and Captain Walladmor turned, and caught her on his left arm just as the fatal bullet fled across the hall and sank into her bosom.
The anguish of despair, and the frenzy of vengeance, as of one wounded where only he was vulnerable, chaced each other over Edward Walladmor's countenance: with the "inevitable eye" of vindictive wrath, he drew a pistol in tumultuous hurry from his belt; fired; and shot the man through the heart. Then, turning to Miss Walladmor, he gazed with distraction upon her pallid lips, and her black robe now crimsoned with blood. He seated himself, with his lovely burthen, upon the lower stair of a flight which led off at right angles from the landing on which he stood. Miss Walladmor's eyes were closed; and she was manifestly dying. Half unconsciously Edward Walladmor murmured disordered words of tenderness and distraction: some sounds fell upon her ear, and she raised her heavy eyelids. A glare of torches and black faces fell upon her eyes with the confusion of a dream: shrinkingly she averted them, and they rested upon what she sought; she saw the features of her cousin bending over her with the misery of love that feels its impotence to save. Life was now ebbing rapidly: a gleaming smile of tenderness fled across her face: she half raised her hands and moved her lips; Edward Walladmor bent downwards to meet the action: she put her arms feebly about his neck; whispered something to him; and then, as he kissed her lips in anguish, her arms parted from their languid grasp, and fell powerlessly on each side; she sighed deeply; her eyes closed; opened upon him once again; once again smiled her farewell love upon him; and, with that smile upon her face, rendered up her innocent spirit in the arms of him for whom she died.
All strife was hushed by this solemn scene: Sir Charles Davenant had now appeared; and called off the soldiers from a hopeless contest. The sailors gently released Miss Walladmor from the arms of her now insensible lover, and resigned her into the hands of her women. Captain Walladmor they bore off to their boat: three hours before day-light they were on board their ship and under weigh for the south: and, as no pursuit was attempted or indeed possible, the vessel was first heard of again from the coast of South America.
* * * * * *
Thus was the old rhyme fulfilled which Gillie Godber had so often chaunted, and in a comprehensive sense that perhaps she had not hoped. "Grief was over at Walladmor." Her own fate ratified the prophecy and sealed its truth. She also was among the killed: some merciful bullet had liberated her from the storm of guilt and sorrow which for more than twenty years had brooded over her brain, and ravaged her heart: and after so long a period of calamity, during which she had been rejected from human sympathy, she was again gathered within the fold of Christian fellowship in the pastoral churchyard of Utragan. On a grey and silent afternoon a funeral was beheld by those who stood upon the mountains above Utragan winding through the valleys to the quiet chapel at their foot. It stopped in a secluded angle of the churchyard at a spot known to all the country. The grave of the "blooming boy," whose filial prayer upon the scaffold for his mother's peace of mind had not been granted, was now opened to receive her; and the mother and the son, after their long separation, once more were reunited. This spectacle brought back forgiving thoughts: the pity, which had once been granted to her, was now restored: and the uncharitable thoughts, which had attended her when living, gave way before the affecting memorials of the open grave--suggesting the awful trial which had overthrown her reason before her conscience had finally given way.
After some weeks of illness Sir Morgan Walladmor was restored to a state of convalescence; and, by slow degrees and after many months, to his wonted firmness of mind. He was then able to bear the recital of all which had happened; and the news which had recently arrived of Captain Walladmor's death. Large funds had been sent out to him in South America by Sir Morgan's friends: with these he had raised a horse regiment: and at the head of this in the decisive engagement of Manchinilla he had found at last "the death that he was wooing!" With a miniature of Miss Walladmor pressed to his lips, he was discovered lying on the ground of the last decisive charge: and Sir M organ was satisfied to hear that his son had met the death of a soldier and in a cause which he approved.
That Bertram was twin brother to Edward Nicholas, the reader will long have suspected. By the letters of Captain Donneraile and the verbal communications of Bertram it appeared sufficiently that the wife of Captain Donneraile (at that time a mate on board the Rattle-snake) and Winifred Griffiths, being the only two women on board, had cast lots for the appropriation of the children. The happier lot had fallen upon Bertram: for, though it gave him up to the cruel spoiler that had pierced the hearts of his parents, yet had it thrown him upon a quiet life in a humble village of Germany where he was spared that spectacle of storm and guilt which had pursued the youthful steps of his unhappy twin brother. Prosperity had left to Winifred Griffiths for many years leisure for meditation upon the wrongs she had done to Sir Morgan. And when affliction visited her, it came in a shape that taught her to measure the strength of parental anguish: she lost her only child; and on her death-bed, being now left a widow, she had bequeathed to Bertram the whole sum of which she had robbed his father: upon which sum he had supported himself at the Saxon university of Halle, But the disclosure of his birth and connexions, which she had deferred until her latter moments, had been cut short by death. What she said however had been sufficient to direct the course of Bertram to his native country. The discovery, which she had left imperfect, was now completed by others: and it shed comfort upon the declining days of Sir Morgan--that, from the amiable disposition and good sense of the son who was thus restored to him, when matured by more intercourse with the world, he could venture to hope for increase of honour and generations of happier days to the ancient house of Walladmor.
FOOTNOTES TO "CHAPTER XXI.":
 It is not well to move a sleeping lion. Yet, if either hereabouts or elsewhere in the novel, any disagreeable reader should find out something or other not quite in the spirit of our manners--or rather inartificial in the conduct of the story,--let him understand that it is due to the German author. But might it not have been altered and adapted to our notions? Let him be assured that all possible experiments in that way have been used in the treatment of Walladmor. It is always satisfactory to know that the patient has had every advantage which humanity guided by skill could suggest. No attention has been omitted even in this chapter which the nature of the case allowed. But there are incidents which cannot be altered; as they would draw after them other alterations; and compel the artist, who had simply undertaken to "clean the works" of the watch, absolutely to put in a new "mainspring."--English Translator.
 A sentiment which has been expressed by Mr. Foster in his ingenious essays; and most affectingly expressed by a great poet of this age in the "Excursion."
'E quovis ligno non fit Mercurius.' This Roman proverb, Courteous Reader! is adequately rendered by a homely one of our own--"You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Certainly it is difficult to do so; and none can speak to that more feelingly than myself; but not impossible, as I would hope that my Walladmor will show when compared with the original. In saying this I disclaim all vanity; for, waiving other and more positive services to the German Walladmor, I here found my claim to the production of a "silk purse" simply on the negative merits of omission and compression. This is a point which on another account demands a word or two of explanation; as the reader will else find it difficult to understand upon what principle of translation three 'thick set' German volumes can have shrunk into two English ones of somewhat meagre proportions.
The German hoaxer was aware that no book could have a chance of passing for Sir Walter Scott's which was not in three volumes octavo. A Scotch novel from Mr. Constable's press, and not in three volumes, would be as absurd as a novel from any man's press in folio--as ominous as 'double Thebes'---as perverse as drinking a man's health "with two times two" (which in fact would be an insult)--as fraudulent as a subscription of 99l. 19s. (where it would be clear that some man had pocketed a shilling)--and as contrary to all Natural History as that twenty-seven tailors should make either more men or fewer than the cube root of that number. What is the occult law of the Constable press, which compels it into these three-headed births, might be difficult to explain: Mr. Kant himself with all his subtlety could never make up his mind why no man thinks of presenting a lady with a service of 23 cups and saucers, though it is evident that she is just as likely to have a party of 23 people as 24: nay, if the reader himself were to make such a present to an English grand jury, where the party never could be more than 23, he would infallibly order a service of 24: though he must be certain that the 24th cup-and-saucer was a mere Irish bull--an empty piece of impertinence--a disgusting pleonasm--and a downright logical absurdity. For a 24th grand jury man is as much a metaphysical chimæra as an "abstract Lord Mayor," or a 30th of February. Not only, therefore, without reason, but even against reason, people have a superstitious regard to certain numbers: and Mr. Constable has a right to his superstition, which possibly may rest on this consideration--that 3 is the number of the Graces. But, let the rationale of the case be what it may, we all know that it is a fact; and a Constable novel in two volumes (being a mere ens rationis ratiocinantis) would have been detected as a hoax in limine by the very printer's devils in any printing-office in Europe.
So much was settled then: to hoax Germany, 'Walladmor' must be in three volumes. But what, if there were not time for the quickest hoaxer to compose three volumes before the Leipsic Fair? In that case, two men must do what one could not. But now, as the second man could not possibly know what his leader was talking about, he must be allowed to produce his under stratum of Walladmor, without the least earthly reference to the upper stratum: his thorough-bass must go on without any relation to the melodies in the treble. Yet this was awkward: and, when all was finished, the most skilful artist might have found it puzzling to harmonize the whole. To meet this dilemma therefore, it seems that the leader said to his second--'Write me a heap of long speeches upon astrology and Welch genealogy; write me another heap on English politics: I have some people in my novel (Sir Morgan and Dulberry) upon whom I can hang them: I shall take care to leave hooks in plenty, do you leave eyes; and with these hooks and eyes we can fasten your speeches on my men, when both are finished.' This I conceive to have been the pleasant arrangement upon which 'Walladmor' was worked so as to fetch up the ground before the fair began; and thus ingeniously were two men's labors dovetailed into one novel: "aliter non fit, Avite, liber." When the rest of the rigging was complete, the politics, genealogy, and astrology, were mounted as "royals" and "sky-scrapers;" and the ship weighed from Berlin for Leipsic under a press of sail.
Now, as to these long speeches and Welch conversations, I know not who is their author; but in conscience I cannot pay him a less compliment than this--that,
"From Cain the first man-child
To him that did but yesterday suspire,"
there has not been such another idiot. All attempt at mending them, or transfusing any sense into their dry bones, was hopeless: translated into English, bottled, and corked up, they would furnish virus enough, if distributed by inoculation amongst the next three thousand novels of the English press, to ruin the constitution of them all.
I know not whether, in thus accounting for my omissions, I shall be thought pleading for my defects, or proclaiming my deserts. In the German author it was a manifest act of pocket-picking to stuff his novel with such insufferable rubbish. And it seemed to me that, by translating it, I should make myself a party to his knavery as well as to his dulness. However, if any man complains of this omission, for an adequate "consideration" (as the lawyers say) I shall be happy to cart the whole of it upon his premises--deliver it in choice English--and shoot it into the coal-cellar or any more appropriate place.
Mean time for the public use I have thought it as well to leave it untranslated. And the reader now understands how the novel comes to be cut down from a three-decker to a two-decker; and upon what argument I pretend to have produced a 'silk purse.' For undoubtedly the difference between Walladmor with and without the rubbish--political, astrological, "and diabolical" (as Mrs. Malaprop says), is as the difference between a sow's ear (excuse the coarseness of the proverb) and a silk purse. And I shall think the better of the German author and myself, as long as I live; of him for the very ideal artist of sow's ears, and of myself as a most respectable manufacturer of silk purses.
Thus much to account for my omissions and compressions. I am afraid, however, there will be some readers who will be so far from asking any apology on those heads, that they will facetiously regard them as my only merits: and that would be as cruel as Lessing's suggestion to an author for his table of errata--"Apropos, of errata, suppose you were to put your whole book into the list of errata." More candid readers, I am inclined to hope, will blame me for not having made larger alterations in Walladmor: and that would be a flattering criticism, as it must suppose that I could have improved it: indeed, compliment never wears so delightful an aspect, as when it takes the shape of blame. The truth is--I have altered; and altered until I had not the face to alter any more. The ghost of Sir John Cutler's stockings began to appear to me; and elder ghosts than that--the ghost of Sir Francis Drake's ship, the ghost of Jason's ship, and other celebrated cases of the same perplexing question: metaphysical doubts fell upon me: and I began to fear that if, in addition to a new end, I were to put a new beginning and a new middle,--I should be accused of building a second English hoax upon the primitive German hoax. In general I have proceeded as one would in transplanting a foreign opera to our stage: where the author tells the story ill--take it out of his hands, and tell it better: retouch his recitative; bring out and develope his situations: in this place throw in a tender air, in that a passionate chorus. Pretty much in this spirit I have endeavoured to proceed. But it is a most delicate operation to take work out of another man's loom, and put work in: joinings and sutures will sometimes appear; colors will not always match. And, after all, it is impossible to alter every thing that one may think amiss. In general, I would request the reader to consider himself indebted to me for any thing he may find particularly good; and above all things to load my wretched 'Principal' with the blame of every thing that is wrong. If he comes to any passage which he is disposed to think superlatively bad, let him be assured that it is not mine. If he changes his opinion about it, I may be disposed to reconsider whether I had not some hand in it. This will be the more reasonable in him, as the critics will "feel it their duty" to take the very opposite course. However, if he reads German, he can judge for himself: and I can assure him my copy of the original Walladmor is quite at his service for "a term of years;" having read it myself as much as I ever mean to do in this life. As to all those who have not that means of settling the question, or do not think it worth so much pains, I beg them to rely on my word when I apply to the English Walladmor the spirit of the old bull--
"Had you seen but these roads before they were made, You would lift up your eyes, and bless Marshal Wade!"
* * * * * *
"A friend of mine" (as we all say, when we are looking out for a masque under which to praise ourselves or to abuse the verses of any 'dear' acquaintance)--"a friend of mine" has written a very long review (or analysis rather) of the German Walladmor in a literary journal of the metropolis. He concludes it with the following passage, which I choose to quote--partly on account of the graceful allusion which it contains, and partly because it gives me an opportunity of trying my hand at an allusion to the same beautiful and romantic legend:
"Now turning back from the hoaxer to the hoax, we shall conclude with this proposition.--All readers of Spenser must know that the true Florimel lost her girdle; which, they will remember, was found by Sir Satyrane--and was adjudged by a whole assemblage of knights to the false Florimel, although it did not quite fit her. She, viz. the snowy Florimel,
----exceedingly did fret;
And, snatching from her hand half angrily
The belt again, about her body gan it tie.
Yet nathemore would it her body fit:
Yet natheless to her, as her dew right,
It yielded was by them that judged it.
Faery Queene, B. IV. C 5.
"'By them that judged it!' and who are they? Spenser is here prophetic, and means the Reviewers. It has been generally whispered that the true Scotch Florimel has latterly lost her girdle of beauty. Let this German Sir Satyrane, then, indulgently be supposed to have found it: and, whilst the title to it is in abeyance, let it be adjudged to the false Florimel: and let her have a licence to wear it for a few months until the true Florimel comes forward in her original beauty, dissolves her snowy counterfeit, and reclaims her own 'golden cestus.'"
This was very well for "my friend" to wish at the time he did wish it: for that was more than two months ago. At present (December 11) matters are changed: the true Florimel is said to be just on the point of embarking at Leith in Mr. Constable's ship: and we must again consult Spenser to see what is likely to happen in this case to the false Florimel:
Then did he set her by that snowy one,
Like the true saint beside the image set.
Of both their beauties to make paragone
And triall--whether should the honor get.
Streightway, so soone as both together met,
Th' enchanted damzell vanisht into nought:
Her snowy substance melted as with heat;
Ne of that goodly hew remayned ought,
But th' emptie girdle which about her wast was wrought.
Faery Queene, B. V. C. 3.
Shocking! I abominate the omen; απεπτυσαa. What, my two volumes, post 8vo. "vanish into nought?" Delectable news this!--No, no: Spenser may be a pretty fair prophet as prophets went in Queen Elizabeth's days: about the reviewers I hope he is: but prophets, I trust, have their weak points as well as other people. The Sortes Spenserianæ are no Sortes Virgilianæ. And, if my prayers to Neptune are heard, the case will take a different turn. I wish for no ill luck to Mr. Constable--his ship--or her cargo. I wish him a safe voyage: but I hope it is no sin to wish him a long one. It could do no harm to him--his ship--ship's company--or Florimel, if Neptune would order a tumbling sea and a good stiff South-West wind to blow them safe and sound into some excellent harbour on the coast of Norway. In that harbour, good Neptune, keep Mr. Constable for a month. By that time I and my snowy Florimel shall have transacted all our business. The two Florimels will never meet; and the fatal results of 'melting,' and 'vanishing into nought,' will thus be obviated. That done, by all means I would have Neptune take off the embargo, and let Mr. Constable out. The German Florimel will have cleared the stage; and no one will witness with more pleasure than myself the spectacle of the true Scotch Florimel resuming the girdle which she can have dropped only from accident or venial negligence.
FOOTNOTES TO "POSTSCRIPT."
 In here speaking of Sir Walter Scott by name as the author of the Constable Scotch novels, the writer would be sorry to have it supposed that he was inattentive to the courtesies of literature. Whatever disguise an author chooses to assume, it is a point of good breeding to respect it in any case where there is not some higher reason for declining to do so. In this case there is. It is now become essential to Sir Walter Scott's honour no longer to speak of the author of the Scotch novels as 'unknown.' Sir Walter is not under any necessity of avowing himself the author: but no man who does not mean to insult him is now at liberty to doubt whether he is. For Sir W. S. cannot now be supposed ignorant that he has long and universally had the credit of being the author: and a man of honour would not, even by his silence, acquiesce in the public direction to himself of praise due to some other. Consequently it is not possible to make it a question whether Sir W. S. were the author, without at the same time making it a question whether he were a man of honour. This single consideration would have saved a world of literary gossip.
 See his Anthropologie.
 K. John.