INSCRIBED TO HIS GRACE THE
DUKE OF BUCCLEUGH.
BY ANNA MARIA JOHNSON,
AUTHOR OF CALISTA, A NOVEL, &c.
Mark but my fall, and that which ruin’d me.
——————————Fling away ambition;
By that sin fell the angels: how can man, then,
(The poor weak image of his Maker) hope
To win by it. SHAKSPEARE.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
PRINTED FOR W. LANE, LEADENHALL STREET.
DURING this diabolical act the goaler was employed in fomenting a disturbance among the common people, who waited only the permission of their magistrates to fall upon the remorseless villain, and by the time KIRK had returned to the prison with MARGARET, they were assembled in considerable numbers, waiting at the door for his coming out; but the bustle which ensued between them and his soldiers raising his suspicions of a tumult, he drew his sword, ran backwards, and opening a small door that led into the keeper’s garden, and which unluckily was left unguarded, he safely escaped a rage that would soon have avenged the ill-fated MARGARET’S wrongs.
RIVERS, whose respect for her sorrows wounded his worthy soul, in the gentlest terms entreated she would leave that horrible scene, and permit him to convey her to the Duchess, assuring her they were free from every restraint—for that, in pity to their uncommon sufferings, they were permitted to leave the town unmolested.—"And who," said she, in a low mournful tone, "who shall make amends to a daughter for such a loss as this?—See, RIVERS, this manly face—all pale, and gashed with their bloody swords. Must the grave hide an object thus calculated to enflame every honest heart with fury?—Ah! BRUCE, is it thus thy noble deeds are to be rewarded?—O that my tears could wash away these sanguine marks of cruelty!—O that my sighs could breathe a balm so efficacious as to heal these gaping tokens of tyrannical power!"—She then sunk again upon the corse, and it was with the utmost reluctance she quitted the remains of a tenderly beloved parent.
THE aged participator of her woes, and the only protector of a deserted orphan, finding a charge so important was wholly devolved upon him—determined to supply, as far as possible, the want of those relatives she had so recently lost—and humbly insinuated his wishes for her removal from this sad theatre of her father’s exit. The Duchess joined her entreaties to leave a place so detestable, and mixing her tears with those of her drooping friend, soothed the misery she could not lessen. "Come," she cried, "we will go, dearest MARGARET, and seek the tender gallant MONMOUTH—KIRK will undoubtedly, if he escape his pursuers, be sent upon an expedition against my noble hero—whose heart will burn with revenge against the base assassin—then will my sweet companion feel the most exquisite delight to behold that murderer bleeding at her feet. HOWARD, too—all by whom we have suffered, shall meet with the punishment due to their infernal deeds."—MARGARET answered only by a look of anguish, which displayed unspeakable affliction, and received additional expression from her pale face, swelled eyes, and despairing manner. Nothing now interfered to prevent their departure, except the obsequies of BRUCE, which were performed with every martial honour, and was attended in the most solemn manner by ANTHONY, who shed unfeigned tears over the grave of his revered master.—They then continued a journey which had met with such a tragical interruption.
AFTER a long, tedious, and melancholy time had elapsed, they found themselves upon the entrance of a metropolis which now exhibited scenes of the most terrible confusion. The vehicle that contained the ladies, was hardly suffered to pass;—ANTHONY, and another attendant, fearful of a discovery, informed the different enquirers, they were two foreigners travelling through England, to take advantage of a climate milder than their own.—They soon quitted London, and were rejoiced to find themselves upon the western road, and out of danger of a pursuit, though they could not help trembling, when met or overtaken by the various regiments marching to the relief of people besieged, or flying from the enemy against whom they could not contend.
THE camp near Sedgmoor now appeared in view—already they could distinguish the colours flying near the General’s tent, and, as they approached, perceived two armies encamped at no great distance from each other.—They proceeded with caution, and passed a centinel, without daring to enquire which army was commanded by MONMOUTH.—The Duchess entreated RIVERS to advance no farther till he had informed himself of the above particular.—A small party, headed by a corporal, who had been sent out to reconnoitre, that instant appearing from behind some bushes, induced RIVERS to apply to him for the information he was fearful of seeking in an open manner;—the corporal, alarmed at the ambiguous terms in which he spoke, ordered his men to surround the unfortunate travellers—telling them, their ignorance of the pass-word denoted their disaffection to King JAMES—therefore they must be contented to appear before his general, the Earl of FEVERSHAM, who was commander in chief of his Majesty’s forces.—"Ah me," said the Duchess, sinking back upon her feat, "then we are again betrayed, captured almost in sight of my faithful MONMOUTH." MARGARET heard the news with very little emotion, nor felt but for her friend, as her hope was only in death; and all her wishes directed to the object of her unceasing grief, whom she sought only in the silent grave. Remonstrance or entreaty were equally useless, as the corporal expected a considerable promotion for this piece of service, and conducted them to the edge of the lines, where they were met by the General, who was walking, accompanied by several officers, and had been a distant witness of the whole scene.
HE ordered the prisoners to be conveyed to his marquee, whither he soon followed them.—The ladies were requested with the utmost politeness to take their seats in the apartment set apart for visitors; the beauty of their persons—the dignity of their carriage—and the deep and solemn dejection which marked every feature, highly interested Lord FEVERSHAM in their story, and he was curious to know what had thrown such distinguished loveliness within his power. Lady MONMOUTH, whose expectation of embracing her beloved husband had been raised to a heighth proportioned to the anguish she now endured, was not equal to this capricious revolution of her fate—she sighed—she wept—and remained silent from excess of sorrow.—The Earl observing her distress, would not interrupt the first expression of her grief—but when he found his respectful behaviour had so far gained their confidence as to induce the poor captives to notice his presence, he ventured to address the Duchess with that insinuating softness, so happily calculated to remove those fears delicacy might suggest, respecting her situation.—"I would hope, Madam," he said, "you have not taken up an opinion to FEVERSHAM’S dishonour, because fortune has conducted you to the tent of an enemy—as the servant of my King, I must necessarily discharge the duties of loyalty;—but as the protector of your sex—as the friend of oppressed innocence, you may command me in any service competent to my ability.—Tell me then, dear lady, whose heart I shall gladden in MONMOUTH’S camp, by the information of your arrival, for well I am assured, that though in such disagreeable circumstances, the knowledge of your safety must give pleasure to all concerned in it."—This gentle application to the feelings of Lady MONMOUTH, gave birth to a faint hope of gaining him to her interest, and though she knew the unconditional liberation of a prisoner was incompatible to his Lordship’s professions of his attachments to JAMES—yet that latent desire of struggling against repeated miseries—which, though depressed beyond every expectation of relief—will rise upon the smallest encouragement, once more animated her with a resolution of giving him the real truth of her condition—and, with a dignity which gave a grace to all she said, though in hesitating accents, she explained the nature of those calamities which had thrown them into his power—the treachery of HOWARD, the villainy of KIRK.
HERE she was interrupted by MARGARET, whose soul shuddered at his name,—"Ah!" she cried, lifting up her hands—"where shall a wretched orphan seek the peace that monster has murdered? Not on earth, no, not on earth;—disgraced as it is by the residence of such an infernal.
"HOWARD and KIRK, ye destroyers of my sacred progenitors—I call upon ye to answer the charge given by a poor sufferer—My Lord, are they in your camp? Is it cursed with their baneful presence? If it be—no victory can follow your battles—they are as the blasting mildew, or the pernicious locusts—poisoning every blossom of liberty, destroying the sweet influence of mercy, under the diabolical excuse of sacrificing to justice." "No more, my dear afflicted friend," said the Duchess, "in this noble Lord we will hope for pity and redress.—Yes, Lord FEVERSHAM—you are here, doubtless, to oppose the pretensions of my husband, but though political enemies, let me venture to pronounce—the same benevolent principles actuate ye as men.—Change then for a moment your place for MONMOUTH’S, see him mourning the captivity of his wife.
"Suppose to your sympathizing heart, the agony that must fill his—when viewing the distant tents—he shall point out that which contains his ANNA:—Let us depart then—let us seek—and indeed gladden the heart of a tender faithful lover. Think not such an act of humanity can disgrace the cause in which ye are embarked, no—it shall ennoble your character. The contemplation of it shall sooth your melancholy moments—It shall be a proof of that virtue that can distinguish the man from the fault.
"Come, my Lord, remember I am a daughter of the house of Buccleugh, and am unused to sue for favour—you continue silent—perhaps you wait deeper tokens of my humiliation. MARGARET, join with me in supplicating for freedom. O let not Lord FEVERSHAM boast that he has seen the Duchess of MONMOUTH in this abject posture."—Fearful was the interruption to this application.—Several officers entered at the moment when the General was ready to emancipate his gentle captives. They came forward—a cry of terror broke from MARGARET, she seized Lord FEVERSHAM’S arm—exclaiming—"My father’s murderer!—see you not death glaring in those relentless eyes?—Ah, his hands are yet bloody. O, and another daemon presents himself. Madam, does not your soul shrink from such a pair as these?"—"Gentlemen," said the General, "I must request your absence—you have injured these ladies, and, as a man of humanity, I shall think myself amenable for their peace and safety." The authority and dignity of this nobleman prevented the ferocious reply KIRK would have made, and a certain parasitical smoothness kept HOWARD silent; but as they were quitting the tent, the renegado took occasion to observe, that "the quality of his Lordship’s prisoners were well known, therefore he supposed, as their ransom would be exorbitant, the importance of their detention would be understood." "Begone, Sir," said the General, "are you yet to be taught your duty to your superiors?"—Pride flashed a haughty defiance in KIRK’S eyes—but it confined itself to them and his rancorous heart—and he withdrew in a full resolution of revenge.
"YOU see, Lady MONMOUTH," said FEVERSHAM, "your power over me, I am about to do an action for which my head may be the forfeit;—but it shall never be said I would stab my enemy with a concealed weapon. Should the Duke and I meet in yonder field, he shall own his obligation for my care of his charming ANNA—and though we contend for glory, our cause shall be loaded with no domestic injury."—"Godlike benevolence," cried the Duchess, "never may it endanger a life so precious—rather detain us in your camp, than prove your generosity by a step so dangerous."—"No, Madam," and he took her hand with a respectful air—"You are free.—I will send a guard proper to conduct you to the enemy’s lines. Your servants too shall go with you. Should we meet again, it may be upon happier terms. Tell the Duke I am only a foe to his principles; could we meet to effect a pacific negociation, I would joyfully embrace a man so formed to be esteemed. Tell him, likewise, that in delaying an engagement he only enhances the difficulties of his situation."—What pity, thought the lady—that such a man cannot be MONMOUTH’S friend.
THE arrangements for their departure were speedily made, and Lord FEVERSHAM saw them safe beyond his lines—while HOWARD and KIRK beheld, with a rancorous envy, the operation of that humanity their sordid souls attributed to a blameable principle.
THOUGH now within sight of the tent, which was distinguished by MONMOUTH’S colours—the Duchess could scarcely trust her heart with the idea of speedily meeting him—whom so many perplexing circumstances had hitherto disappointed—and when RIVERS approached the carriage to announce her arrival, she could not support the conflict of her soul, but shook with an excess of doubtful joy, which enfeebled her beyond the power of expression.—The Duke—who had for some time encouraged the most shocking suspicions from ARTHUR’S silence, and tedious absence, was sitting in his tent a prey to every gloomy idea. Despair had blackened with its colourless tints every chearful expectation. The soft and lively hues with which fancy paints a well-founded hope faded before him—and he saw in the view a sad imagination presented—nothing of all his brighter prospects—but death and ruin sat heavy on his heart—keeping down, by the cruellest oppression, even the contemplation of those happier hours a retrospective mind will sometimes bring forward.—Thus conquered by his own comfortless reflections sat the hero, in whose cause contending nations were in arms—and while the banners of his friends glittered before a refulgent sun—while the drums of the enemy sounded a distant defiance—they awakened not in him even the desire of conquest.
RIVERS, who knew the information he was about to convey, would excuse the most abrupt intrusion, ventured into his presence—and, respectfully bowing before him, begged his Grace’s attention to the commission he had to deliver.—MONMOUTH waved his hand and bid him retire—but struck by his venerable appearance, felt an inclination to demand his name.—"I am, my Lord," said he, "that ANTHONY RIVERS, who once"—"RIVERS," interrupted the Duke—"then you are come with intelligence from Scotland. Where is my Duchess? Where is BRUCE? Speak ANTHONY, tell me—shall I owe the recovery of my wife again to thee?" "She is here, my gracious Lord," said the good old man, who that instant turning round, beheld her supported by MARGARET at the door of the tent, where her feeble conductor had with difficulty placed her.
THE Duke, rushing forward, caught her as she was sinking from the arms of her friend.—"Once again do I see thee," he cried, while the tears flowed over his burning cheek—"Once again do I embrace my long lost love!—It is my ANNA—but ah, how altered—pale, weak, and emaciated—yet is her heart the same, still glows it with fervent affection?—look up my adored wife—look up my worshipped ANNA.—Within these arms is safety;—let JAMES collect all the powers of the land—let him oppose millions to my little band—and, thus fortified, I shall perform wonders. Sweet MARGARET, gentle participator of our sufferings, dost thou too condescend to visit the seat of war—because friendship calls thee?—Come, dearest creatures, and divide the attention of the grateful MONMOUTH—and this worthy soul who has braved all dangers for us—let him with us partake the blessings of such a meeting."—Overcome with the exquisite happiness that poured upon her senses, the Duchess could only press to her heart a partner worthy of its tenderest emotions, but MARGARET, whose sorrows admitted no alleviation, felt her anguish renewed in its greatest poignancy, when she addressed MONMOUTH in these feeling terms:—"O," she cried, "know you not the barbarian KIRK? Know you not the midnight murderer, who could steal upon the peaceful moments of a hero, and pierce a bosom fraught with every noble sentiment?—Alas! let me retire from scenes like these—sad, desolate, and unhappy, let me not poison your innocent enjoyments by the contemplation of my miseries; but, if you wish to see a gleam of joy mount from this withered heart to my grief-worn countenance, promise, my Lord, that a severe vengeance shall follow my father’s death—Promise that you will exterminate from earth the destroyers of my gallant race—that only can give me consolation—I will then submit with patience to every calamity my adverse fate may yet devise to overcome a wearied soul."
"Yes," said the Duchess, "even I, though just restored to the presence of a beloved husband, even I will join in a request so important.—Who can behold this lovely woman’s affliction, by me precipitated, and not wish to lighten them?—Ah! MONMOUTH, through me the blow was given which deprived her of her noble grandfather.—By me the couch of her honoured parent was steeped in gore—and shall we not revenge the destruction of such a family?—Yes, dearest MARGARET, MONMOUTH will seek the wretched pair; he will mark them as objects devoted to his wrath."—"Soon," said the Duke, "shall my ANNA’S prophecy be justified—I have received notice yesterday, that Lord FEVERSHAM intends to give me battle next Friday—then will I seek your enemies, as they are both in JAMES’S camp. A message from FEVERSHAM confirming his intention of venturing an engagement, clouded the bright moment which had united souls so exquisitely alive to happiness.—"Only two days," said Lady MONMOUTH, sighing, "and perhaps a painful expectation shall be lost in horrid certainty:—Ah, do I not in idea behold my gallant husband surrounded by his enemies, each of whom seek with sanguine cruelty his destruction.—Oh! that the intervening hours may be all that remain of a miserable life, if my foreboding fears should be realized."—"Rather," answered MARGARET, her eyes emitting a momentary lustre, supplied by resentful hatred—"rather perish the wretched objects of my never-ceasing rage by any hand but MONMOUTH’S.—O, that this feeble frame had strength to execute the wish of an impatient soul!—O that I could hurl misery and ruin on the heads of those authors of my lasting sorrow."—"Forgive me, sweet injured sufferer,"—said the Duchess, "for a complaint in which friendship had no share.—How could I forget the claim—so recently allowed—so sincerely urged?—No—self shall no more intrude to contradict your just desires." The Duke beheld the different effects of the passions of these lovely creatures with encreasing love—added esteem—and a veneration amounting almost to enthusiasm.
THE hurry and confusion which FEVERSHAM’S intimation had created throughout the camp, rendered it a scene of disorder, extremely ill calculated for the languid state of the tender itinerants—and MONMOUTH, who felt himself in some degree restrained from active operation by their presence, ventured to propose their safe conduct to Bridgewater, where his friends would guard them at the hazard of their lives.—"Yes, we will go my MARGARET—we will not, helpless as we are, impede the designs we would further—nor check that heroism, by womanish complaints and fears, which now needs every supply, every assistance love and friendship would wish it.—Come, then, MONMOUTH, let our fortitude nerve your arm—but," and she hesitated, "expose not that sacred person to needless danger. Remember ah remember—on thee, on thy life, hang ANNA’S hopes of future bliss."—"Generous woman"—he returned—"think not thy JAMES will disregard advice so precious—every hour, while messengers can be dispatched, you shall be informed of our manoeuvres; but if, in the heat of battle, even MONMOUTH’S affection should be insufficient to send the intelligence your heart may pant for—be not discouraged, nor appropriate to my death a neglect which circumstances may naturally occasion."—"Your death!" said MARGARET, and she threw her hands towards Heaven—"think you Omniscience will permit a sacrifice so precious—and yet has it not already wounded my heart by sacrifices equally valuable!"—She stopped—her anguish had nearly induced a confession hitherto made to none but herself—yet, when she considered that he too might fall by the hands of HOWARD or KIRK, she deprecated the rage which had urged her to claim his active vengeance against them—and felt how inefficacious were the troubles she had endured, to conquer and totally suppress the emotions his first visit at Bruce Castle had created.
THE carriage that had conveyed the ladies to the camp, was now ready to take them to Bridgewater, and accompanied by the Duke, who had ordered out a strong detachment to guard them, they safely reached the town, and were received with the loudest acclamations. The Mayor immediately offered his house for their reception, highly pleased that he should have it in his power to gratify a Prince he loved, by a sincere tender of his best services to the Duchess—and not at all displeased at the prospect of being securely defended by those soldiers appointed to attend the ladies.
THE fortitude which Lady MONMOUTH had resumed, began to ebb apace when night approached.—She fixed her eyes upon the Duke, with looks so mournfully expressive, as required the courage of a hero to meet them unappalled.—He arose to go—sat down again.—It was late—a message arrived importing the necessity of his return to camp.—He arose once more—stood irresolute—viewing in silent sorrow the conflict which struggled in the sweet features of his love. She cast up her eyes to his manly face, and beheld it suffused with tears.—It was a sight which recalled her sinking spirits.—"MONMOUTH," she cried, "this must not be; let not the presence of thy wife enervate a soul which now should burn for glory.—You have often witnessed in my tenderness a pusilanimity disgraceful to the name I bear—but no more shall you have reason to blush for a weakness incompatible with your pretensions.—Go, my Lord, enter the field of battle without one thought of her who wishes but to fight by your side.—I feel the enthusiasm of BUCCLEUGH glow in my heart!—O, to-morrow, how impatiently should I expect thee, if, permitted to shield my love from danger, I could, in the likeness of an angel, hover about him and protect him from every blow. God of battles—and she fell upon her knees—behold a hero whom courage, and a sense of injury, impels to seek his enemies; behold him, with fortitude of thy inspiring, ready to contend for victory in the bosom of destruction—arrest in its passage the ball which wings its way towards him—blunt, or turn aside, every weapon aimed at his precious life; and, O, send him crowned with success from the arduous trial. Now, then, MONMOUTH, retire—fear not for me—Heaven will not desert your wife."—"Glorious creature," said MONMOUTH, "I feel the effect of thy matchless heroism; it swells my bosom almost to bursting—one sweet embrace then"—and he inclined towards her—"No, my Lord, I will not allow even that; let me, in this instance, be the guardian of your honour, it shall not suffer by me. The softer endearments of connubial affection suit not a moment pregnant with the future fate of MONMOUTH, nor will I hazard the diminution of feelings so high set. Go then, my love, my Lord, my husband; and may I, in future, add,
"COME, MARGARET, dear companion and sharer of my wayward destiny, join with me in holy oraisons to Heaven for victory." She took her speechless friend by the hand, and leading her to the door—once more cast a fond look at her husband—"When next we meet, my Lord"—She could not proceed, but lifting her hand to her eyes, to hide a burst of anguish, left the room.
"SHE’S gone, then," said MONMOUTH, "O, my soul, perhaps—a fearful perhaps—cut short what I would say.—She’s gone, then, and leaves me to profit by her charming fortitude.—Sweet angelic ANNA, adieu!—O, who knows but it may be adieu for ever."
WITH slow reluctant steps he left a house in which was contained a deposit so sacred—he left it, with numberless charges to the mayor to guard, respect, and serve his Duchess; and then heavily pursued his way to the camp, which already was in a kind of orderly hurry.—Nothing could be better calculated to call the Duke’s spirits into their usual channel, than a scene so different to that he had just been engaged in.—The lights which were seen moving about in the enemy’s quarters, declared also their preparations for the ensuing business.—"See, my Lord," said GREY—who commanded a strong party of horse, and was highly in his general’s confidence—"See—we are not too early in our arrangements.—Lord FEVERSHAM means no boys play.—If I guess aright, to-morrow will prove a bloody day to many a gallant fellow."—"If every man in my little army," returned MONMOUTH, "possessed Lord GREY’S intrepidity, the cause would soon be determined:—but come, my friend, and view the plan of operations I yesterday sketched.—We have no time to lose.—The East begins to assume a ruddy appearance.—and," he cast a conscious look towards Bridgewater—"yonder town contains many a brilliant, though sleepless, eye—wakeful it may be upon our accounts—eyes that are eagerly, perhaps, watching the most important dawn, to me at least, that ever broke." "I understand your Grace."—"Yes, GREY; and, since we are upon this subject, let me—should Heaven design my fall—let me recommend the lovely Duchess and her unfortunate friend to your care. They are safely lodged with the Mayor. I, therefore, solemnly conjure you, if the above supposed case be realized, to fly from the field of battle, and snatch them from danger."—"Heaven avert a prophecy so fatal to your friends, my gracious Lord.—A thousand hearts are now beating with the hope of saluting you—as King—before the succeeding evening. Not more determined were the brave veterans at the memorable contest at Agincourt, than are your loyal servants.—Death or victory! is the general cry."—"Ay, GREY; one spirit equally informs us all.—Death, then, or victory!—And now come on."
EVERY necessary business arranged respecting the intended manoeuvres—MONMOUTH, whose soul was too much agitated to permit an hour’s repose, went among his little army, which was already marshalled in the most exact order.—He was received with grateful joy by all who were near enough to testify their obedience.—The sun was just emerging from the horizon—the fog melted from before his beams, which enlightened the wide extended prospect, and cast an air of chearfulness over the face of nature, while they played upon the bright arms of FEVERSHAM’S troops.—Humanity, which is ever the concomitant of true courage, forced a sigh from the Duke’s bosom, when he threw a pitying eye over the unconscious numbers, who before night would most probably find their toils and faithful zeal rewarded by the mortal stab, or death-dealing ball.—But the fire of enthusiastic loyalty, which seemed to receive strength from his appearance, and kindled from rank to rank, soon banished every idea but of conquest; and he mounted a small eminence, from whence his voice might be heard to some distance, while every eye was bent upon him, and every ear prepared to catch a sound so dear.
"YONDER army, my fellow soldiers," said he, "can boast no other advantage over us than the superiority of its strength.—Its cause is futile—its commander, though valiant, feels not that ardour a well grounded hope of success would inspire.—What is the sword of an enemy, if not sharpened by justifiable patriotism?—And what is the power of the destructive ball, if not winged by an Almighty Hand?—Upon the event of this day hang the peace—the safety—the religious rights of thousands.—Remember for whom you fight!—for what you are assembled here!—Is it not to secure the lives and properties of your innocent families?—Should JAMES prevail, what have ye to dread?—Imprisonment—trials—executions—JEFFRIES—who, like a rapacious vulture, waits but the issue of this undertaking to seize all whom death may spare, and gratify his barbarous soul, by condemning them to a more protracted though not less certain fate.
"KIRK, whose massacres have filled many trembling hearts with sorrow—is now in yonder camp preparing for a feast of blood. Wives—children—estates—are all by him appropriated to destruction.—Papistical tyranny looks to our downfall as the foundation of a sanguine hope.—Does not the remembrance of MARY’S reign yet live in the bosoms of those, whose progenitors sealed at the stake their attachment to the Protestant religion?—And do they not execrate the idea of again beholding the fire of persecution lighted up to consume the contemners of Rome’s inconsistent fopperies?—Now, then, my gallant friends, you have a glorious chance for liberty.—A few hours will possibly decide my pretensions to a hard-earned crown, or destroy them for ever.—Forget not, then, the precipice on which we stand.—To retreat would be cowardly and dangerous.—The way lies before ye:—it leads to glory.—Fear not to tread a path, whose very difficulties enhance the merit of those who bravely attempt to oppose them.—And see—yon army is in motion—it approaches.—Now, then, my faithful countrymen,—prove your birthright—claim your title to sacred freedom.—Be cautious, but resolute; and look to your reward.—The love of your King—the thanks of an injured nation—and the felicitations of that offspring ye have preserved from slavery, will heal the smart of your honourable wounds, and make the battle of Sedgmoor remembered as the criterion by which your courage was tried, and your safety ascertained."—He stopt. It was a pause on which his soul hung with rapture. The loudest acclamations on every side testified the reception his harangue met with.—"Lead on—lead on"—was the general cry.—"Yes—my generous fellows—I will not curb a valour so seasonable.—I can already distinguish the warlike FEVERSHAM.—He heads the main body.—Bring me my horse.—And now to the charge."
THE sun, which, upon its rising, darted a soft effulgence through the window, at which Lady MONMOUTH had passed a sleepless night—could not dispel, though it alleviated the horrors darkness is ever supposed to encrease.—"Ah," she thought, "perhaps that great luminary, which lights so many warriors to their destiny, shall set in blood—and blush to behold a dying hero, extended on the fatal field.—False ambition! misled by thee, how many have precipitated their own destruction; aiming to reach the heighth of glory, they see not the precipices which intervene between them and their wishes—but—straining with eager eyes—attend not to those heedless steps which lead them into unfathomable depths, and they sink beyond the power of assistance. Happy ploughman!" casting her eyes upon a man who was working in the field, "the event of this sad contest affects thee but little.—With nothing to lose—thou canst only feel thy humanity interested in the fate of those who must fall this day.—Sweet country maid! thy innocent countenance exhibits fear and terror—as the sound of distant drums and trumpets affright the lowing herd that will not obey thy gentle call—and see—she listens to the cheerful song of her companion, who leaves his plough to give the assistance her timorous feelings make necessary—But, hark!—the contest is begun.
"MARGARET," she cried, "awake, my love, from the short respite misery allows; awake, and speak to me before that dreadful tumult freezes every power—and renders me insensible to the shock of this awful moment.—Again the horrible artillery pours forth its tremendous thunder. So—all is silent.—Past eight o’clock—MARGARET!—Ah Heaven—she does not speak—how wild she gazes—and now the sinking eyelid shuts, perhaps for ever, upon the once brilliant orb.—She sighs—she grasps my hand.—But, O, my God, what a relaxation of the nerves!—Death, canst thou in such a moment as this add thy terrors to those which shake my feeble frame?—Where am I?—Where is MONMOUTH to support his wretched wife?—Dear sufferer, has thy fortitude at last forsaken thee?—Now, when my soul is convulsed with prognosticating fears—dost thou desert thy friend—and leave her to pour out her sorrows to the unconscious air?"—The entrance of those attendants appropriated to her service, interrupted her affecting exclamations—and they immediately applied every volatile to the fainted MARGARET—but in vain.—Death indeed suddenly, and without warning, chilled a heart that once had glowed with every virtuous sensation.
THE late horrid transactions had struck too powerfully at duty, love, and friendship, to be longer repelled, and nature at once gave way to the shock. With a mind strong enough to bear the heaviest sorrows, she possessed not a correspondent bodily vigour, which was now entirely overcome by fatigue—abstinence—and mental torture.—Had those sufferings acted only upon the nobler principles, she might have yet existed a breathing memento of cruel oppression; but, happily for the pure and delicate soul, it suddenly escaped its prison, at a moment pregnant with further evils.—To all the pangs which had lacerated her tender heart, were added the most agonizing apprehensions respecting MONMOUTH’S safety, and a few minutes decided the fate of beauty, elegance, and dignity.
THE day was now nearly elapsed, when a messenger from the Duke roused his unhappy Lady to a sense of those accumulated misfortunes which, in MARGARET’S death, seemed to have attained their climax—but his countenance foreboded the most triumphal intelligence, and he entered the chamber of death with an abruptness, nothing but an honest desire to communicate pleasure could excuse.
"MY gracious master, Madam," said he, "is safe.—He sends word by me, that victory attends his footsteps.—The enemy runs, and my Lord is in hot pursuit—you may soon expect to hear the enemy is totally dispersed." "Alas!" thought the Duchess, "how necessary is this charming information to counterpoise the loss of my lovely friend."—She then, with a pious exaltation of hands and eyes, adored that Providence, who, in drawing a cloud over one part of her felicity, graciously set another blessing to view—and conjured the courier to hasten back for a further confirmation of this pleasing hope. She now expressed a desire to be placed at that window where she had listened to the terrifying explosions, wishing to gratify her impatient eye with a distant view of that field where she exultingly supposed her husband was earning the brightest laurels. Her request was immediately obeyed, and she beheld the clouds of dust raised by the pursuers, and the pursued, with a rapturous expectation of seeing her hero return a glorious conqueror.
THE shades of evening already began to render the fading scenery confused and indistinct. The tumultuous discord of guns, drums, and trumpets, no longer loaded the air; and she could with difficulty distinguish the sudden shouts which echoed round the distant hills.—Still the noises grew fainter, and were renewed at longer periods.
THE lights were nearly vanished, and she could barely discern a warrior galloping over the plain, which extended to the left, beyond the limits of sight. Her women congratulated her on the supposition that the contest was decided, the royalists defeated, and the Duke, eager to make her a sharer in his happiness, had sent another messenger with the news of his success.
"AH," she said, with a sigh, "there is one sweet addition yet wanting to my felicity—the breast which once responded to every sigh calamity forced from my bosom no longer beats in unison to my feelings. That lovely countenance, once irradiated with the richest tints of nature, no more glows with modesty, nor, impressed by various ideas, exhibits the soft retiring blush, now vanishing from the lovely cheek, and now deepning into the richest bloom. Rest then, thou sainted innocence—pure representation of the marble that soon must hide these delicate relicts of virgin excellence—rest free from further trials—thou last and loveliest of thy martyred family.
"HOW little does my royal MONMOUTH suspect this sad and sudden mischief.—Grief for such a loss will dim the brightest gems of England’s crown. To thee he owed a powerful protection when, in the almost desolate and ruined habitation, he found the truest hospitality, the highest natural politeness, and all the elegant refinements of higher life."
THE entrance of the warrior, whose approach she had watched, now claimed her eager attention.—He advanced, she started up—a transient blush visiting the hollow cheek, and immediately vanished as an unwelcome stranger, while her feet were bearing her to the door.—"Ah, it is MONMOUTH," she cried, "he comes alone.—Where is the pomp that should attend a fortunate warrior?" He entered the room. She beheld a stranger of a martial mien; his cloaths covered with dust and gore, his features distorted, his face pale and ghastly.—She shrunk from his offered hand. "Where," she cried, "say, gallant Sir, where is my husband? What do I see?—Tears—Oh, what a prelude are those symptoms of grief to some shocking catastrophe.—But come, Sir, fear not to speak the worst; and O may that worst break the strings of a heart which has long been tortured by every sorrow misfortune could produce. Come, then, tell me that KIRK or HOWARD has pierced the noblest heart that ever beat."
"PEACE, gracious Lady—the Duke yet lives—but his army is dispersed, and himself—" "a prisoner; say, is it not so?"—interrupted the Duchess.—"No, Madam, he has escaped, and commissions me to convey you with all speed to Scotland, whither he will, if possible, follow, when the heat of pursuit is over."—"And who," she said, turning towards the bed—"who will see the last rights of friendship performed for that sad object?—See, Sir, how cold and insensible now lies the sweetest flower that ever was nipped by the storms of affliction."—Then kneeling, she kissed her pallid lips—exclaiming—"O, wouldst thou have left the remains of thy ANNA to the careless hand of indifference!—No, lovely creature, my wayward fate thou hast followed to the loss of every tender tie—torn, mangled, and defaced by repeated wounds, thy delicate feelings have at last destroyed a beauteous form."—"Forgive my forward zeal," said the stranger, respectfully raising her, "but danger attends every moment’s delay. Leave this affecting object, nor doubt but she will receive honourable interment." "Yes, I must leave her; but ah, my love, receive this burst of anguish as the last sacrifice to pity: MONMOUTH’S misfortunes must claim every tear in future. But say, Sir, to whom am I to be indebted for a protection my husband is unable to offer?"—"My name is GREY, Madam; I commanded the forces under your royal husband—and pledged my sacred faith to him for your safe conduct to Scotland.—When you are in a place of security, I will speak of the sad events which has this day deprived my Prince of every chance of redeeming his power in England."—"Well, my Lord, I will obey the Duke, I have heard him speak of Lord GREY with respect."—A sudden exclamation of grief and terror from below stopped the Duchess.—"Fly, Madam," said GREY, "mischief has already reached us, it comes in the form of JEFFRIES.—All who are suspected of disaffection to JAMES, are devoted to destruction by that execrable monster.—Should he know you are here, we are inevitably lost."—The hand she would not at first accept was now eagerly caught, and GREY supported her down a back pair of stairs which led to the garden; but with infinite sorrow they beheld every avenue to their escape strongly guarded—nor was the smallest chance remaining of their shunning a vigilance that defied even caution itself.
THE torches gleaming dreadfully on faces stained with human gore—the glittering spears and swords prepared to oppose all who should attempt resistance—the exclamations and cries of the Mayor’s family, who already smarted under the fell tyrant’s gripe, and was leading away to prison, gave the last touches of horror to a seene calculated to freeze a masculine courage.—The Duchess represented the pale statue of Despair.—GREY, unable to defend, yet shuddering to give her up—attempted to console her with the vain hope of eluding their enemies. She shook her head, folded her helpless hands, and cast such a look towards Heaven as comprized every pang misery could give. The garden was now surrounded, and by the light of the torches they beheld an elderly person advance, followed by several soldiers, to whom Lord GREY gave the horrible appellation of JEFFRIES. The Duchess faintly screamed, while her protector instantly conceiving the whole of their horrid situation, waited in silent despair the event of it. JEFFRIES, with the sagacity of a blood-hound, soon discovered the miserable fugitives—and giving a signal to his men, they immediately seized Lord GREY, who entreated their pity for his companion, as fear and feebleness shook her frame to a degree scarcely supportable. "Take him hence," said the surly Judge, "nor listen to the petition of a rebel."—GREY looked back as they were forcing him along, and beheld the almost lifeless lady in the hands of the savage, who was rudely attempting to lead, or rather pull her towards the house. Forgetful at the moment of every thing but the indignity offered to his adored master’s wife—he exclaimed, "Monster, pollute not with thy unhallowed hands that delicate form, not even the usurping king dare commit a sacrilege so vile."—He could say no more.—A violent blow from one of his conductors levelled him to the ground, and he was carried to prison insensible of his fate.—Silent, weak, and without spirit to oppose her cruel persecutor, the Duchess was conveyed to the room she had just left, without any company, but a strong guard, and the corpse of her lamented friend.—"O," said she, when she entered,—"that I too could sleep in peace, that I too had weathered the storms of sorrow which has laid waste my hope of happiness, and safely reached that port from whence I might behold the surges roar without danger of a future shipwreck. How she smiles! sweet MARGARET! by thy side I would slumber away the hours of this painful existence."—She then lay down exhausted, and resigned to her sad destiny.—But not long was this victim to misfortune permitted the sad indulgence of her grief uninterrupted; JEFFRIES, flushed with wine, and the scent of future carnage, had been informed of his prisoner’s consequence—and would not delay one moment an explanation which he thought might either feed his avarice, or gratify his thirst for revenge.—That MONMOUTH had escaped he knew; and that it was possible he might elude all pursuit, was a feasible circumstance;—but was there not a possibility, he thought, of making the capture of the Duchess a means of entrapping him—and would not the Duke, when informed his wife’s safety depended upon his own surrender, immediately return?—It was worth the trial, however, and he entered the chamber in full expectation of terrifying the unfortunate sufferer into a compliance with his designs; for he doubted not but she was perfectly acquainted with her husband’s plan of operations, at least so far as circumstances or change of situation might justify—and advancing to the bed, spoke in a tone which was calculated to terrify rather than persuade.—She arose with difficulty, and regarding him with a look composed of anguish, fear, and hatred, listened in silence to a speech she could neither comprehend nor answer. As this was attributed by JEFFRIES to obstinacy or cunning, he was determined to counteract her design, by pretending the Duke was in his power; and, with a malicious smile, complimented her upon her patience and resignation to the fate of her Lord.—Still she spoke not:—"You seem, Madam," he said, "to be possessed of an apathy rather uncommon in a mind apparently so delicate; or have you made a resolution to submit, with masculine fortitude, to the eternal separation which must soon take place? for I imagine the Duke’s cause will be first decided."—"And who," said she, with a trembling voice, "is to decide it but Omnipotence?"—"Those whom he has so grossly offended; an insulted King, and an injured country.—The laws he has defied.—The judges who dispense them, will in a very few days call upon him to answer a charge already preparing. "Stay, Sir," she said, in a more haughty manner, "till his presence shall confirm your premature threats."—"What, then, you know not he is taken?"—"Ha, taken! how? where? by whom?"—"No matter, Madam, you will find that to me is delegated the important office of trying a rebel." "What, then, is he indeed taken, and the last sad suffering moment approaches?—But it cannot be; he is far from his enemies.—MONMOUTH was not doomed to fall by the hands of an executioner."—"You are too sanguine," said the crafty judge, "and will soon be convinced of your error."—"What, then, he must die?"—She paused—and then resuming—"Sir, if he must fall, let not the scaffold be graced by such a sacrifice—in the field, upon heaps slain by his own hand, should JAMES of MONMOUTH make his altar—and in the presence of his wife breathe out his heroic soul."—She stopt, a soldier entered, and addressing JEFFRIES, greeted him with the welcome intelligence his soul panted for; that KIRK had pursued MONMOUTH after the battle, and there was no doubt but he would soon be taken, as he was obliged to leave the field upon a horse already wearied with the fatigue of the day.
DELIGHTED with the hope of a bloody termination of this tragical business—JEFFRIES no longer attempted to throw the unhappy Duchess off her guard—but left her to the wretched indulgence of her sorrows, though hope, not totally extinct, lessened their poignancy in the idea that her husband might yet elude the sagacity of his pursuers. A dead solitude followed the preceding tumults, and, for several days, the impenetrable silence of the only attendant permitted to administer to her convenience, furnished fresh trials for her patience; nor were her tender feelings less wounded, when the corpse of her sweet friend was removed.—She saw, with a wild enthusiasm of grief, the people appointed to execute the sacred office depart, and would have prevented them, had her strength equalled her wishes; but, convinced of her inability to contend, she submitted, sullen and exhausted, to a decree she could not impugn, resuming the sad employment she had recently taken up, of extinguishing hope by the revival of despair; and while shut up from the world, and a knowledge of what passed within it, fresh torments were preparing to pierce her wearied soul.
THE unfortunate Duke, whose sanguine expectations had received additional strength from the apparent advantage he had gained in the early part of the battle, and whose eager courage prompted him to hazard all, by penetrating too far into the enemy’s main body, found, too late, the fatal consequences of his mistake—and, after performing wonders, in endeavouring to extricate himself—could only, with his friend, escape a protracted evil, flying into Dorsetshire by the most unfrequented roads, after giving a hasty intimation to GREY to seek his lady, and protect her from the malice of his foes.
THE first night of his flight proving excessively dark and stormy, and his horse from extreme weariness being scarcely able to lift up his feet, stumbled against a stone throwing the Duke with considerable violence from his seat—and, to his inexpressible pain, he found the poor animal deprived of every power to pursue his journey. Ferdinand the German Count, who had accompanied him, would readily have accommodated his distressed friend with that on which he rode—but found, upon trial, he was equally useless. Quitting there, therefore, the creatures whose services were now ineffectual, they wandered till day-break among the wild woods, eagerly pulling the berries nature had prepared for the innocent inhabitants of the forest, who fled affrighted at so strange an innovation of their rights.—The danger of discovery added to MONMOUTH’S affliction, as it precluded them from the advantage of seeking assistance from human aid—but, upon the evening of the fourth day, a distant cottage held forth charms too attractive to be withstood by the famished wanderers, who could no longer endure the cravings of an unsatisfied appetite—proving, that high courage and masculine resolution afforded no defence against the attacks of hunger and thirst.—Their meagre aspects, trembling limbs, and torn and bloody apparel, shocked the friendly inhabitant of the little mansion, who immediately produced bread, cheese, new milk, and butter.—MONMOUTH’S spirits, entirely overcome by misfortune and want, could not support this happy reverse: Plenty, recommended by innocence and moderation, courted his notice, and with grateful tears he accepted the bounty.—Before they had finished their antediluvian meal, the sound of a distant drum called back those acute sensations the present indulgence had stifled.—MONMOUTH started up, and with a look of phrenzy, clasping his hands together, exclaimed—"My hour is come, the last moment of liberty approaches—leave me, my friend, nor involve your fate with one predestined to misery." His ancient host, who partly suspected the quality of his guest—with an honest, yet respectable freedom, took his folded hands between his own, while the reverend cheek was bedewed with drops of anguish, saying—"Take courage, gracious Sir, I am a poor old man, but if you will condescend to listen to me, I have a heart to serve you."—"No, my good creature," said the Duke, "it is all over with JAMES of MONMOUTH, my sun of glory is forever set: do you not hear the bloodhounds in chace of royalty?—O they are sagaciously keen."—"But here they shall not enter," said the aged shepherd, "or, if they do, shall be disappointed.—Come, my honoured Lord, take off that suspicious garb, my humble apparel may secure you from discovery. Give me your cloaths, and hasten to the bottom of my little garden, where you will find two paths, be sure to keep that on the right hand, it will bring you to a cavern, where you may be safely sheltered till your pursuers have left this part of the country."
THE Duke could only lift his eyes in speechless thankfulness for this benevolent offer, and immediately took advice so salutary: as soon as he was equipped, he endeavoured to find the path his friendly guide had pointed out, who returning to the Count, conveyed him to the same place. The business was hardly arranged, when a troop of soldiers, headed by HOWARD and KIRK, entered the hospitable cot; but, seeing only one small room, were about to retire, when the poor shepherd, in his borrowed array, exciting their attention, one of the soldiers seized him as the identical object of their pursuit. The glaring mistake he had made would have created much ridicule, had not the novelty of the shepherd’s appearance convinced them of an implied mystery. To HOWARD’S interrogatories the old man opposed an inflexible silence, nor could KIRK’S threats produce any satisfaction, though he vowed the demolition of his neat little dwelling. The poor creature sighed, looked round with an affectionate attachment to the various simple utensils to which time had given a value equal to their use.—"Come," said the barbarian, "my lads, here will be some fun for you; the old rogue is sulky, we will soon bring him to the use of his tongue, or burn him in the midst of his possessions, unless he confesses where the rebellious MONMOUTH is concealed."—He then proceeded to rougher means with the trusty soul, but in vain were blows, execrations, or persuasions, till KIRK, no longer able to suppress his furious passion, drew his sword, and was about to plunge it in the injured sufferer’s heart; when, finding his arm held back, he turned about to know the cause of his restraint.—The cause was—MONMOUTH, who not sufficiently attending the direction respecting the path he should follow, unhappily for himself, took that which brought him round to the front of the house, at the very moment that seemed pregnant with his ancient landlord’s destruction. There was no time for consideration. It was KIRK, the inhuman savage, who had murdered his friend, who had imprisoned his Duchess, whose life was a catalogue of vice, a legend of iniquity, and who was then in the practice of diabolical cruelty.—"Turn, villain!" he exclaimed, "and defend yourself against the injured MONMOUTH."—MONMOUTH arrived in the instant when KIRK despaired of finding him; this was success indeed. The soldiers, true to their infamous leader, were about to seize the noble hero; but, with an agility rage only could supply, he flew upon the renegade, struck him to the earth, and catching at the sword, intended for the shepherd’s extinction, plunged it up to the hilt in the villain’s body. "Now," said he, "reluctance and resistance are no more. Here, take the weapon," speaking to the surrounding soldiers, "I go to my death with pleasure; and should with still greater transport, had you," looking sternly at HOWARD, "yes, monster, had you fallen a victim to my injuries. Why do ye stand amazed? Why do ye gaze in stupid astonishment? Come, gratify your tyrant with the sight of this mortal enemy. Lead me to him you call your King—The usurper of my rights—the instrument of Almighty vengeance—the scourge of an enslaved nation: but the time is not far off when he shall ask the pity no one can grant, when the spirit of a warlike people shall revolt, and he shall in foreign climates incur that contempt his conduct so well deserves."
THE guards, who stood almost petrified at the sudden fall of their leader, no longer listened patiently to the effusions of resentment, but roughly dragging him from the cottage, placed him upon a horse before one of their comrades, after securing him beyond the possibility of resistance; and then lifting up the corpse, which had just before in horrid blasphemy breathed out its wretched soul, carried it off with them, leaving the poor shepherd to lament with FERDINAND (who had been overlooked in the confusion) the useless caution they had taken to ensure MONMOUTH’S safety.
THE news of KIRK’S death, with the manner of it, and MONMOUTH’S capture, reached not the Court of JAMES till the annunciation of HOWARD’S arrival, as his eagerness to receive the reward due to his important services induced his utmost expedition—and, on the evening of the second day, he saw his prisoner safely lodged in the Tower—who was received with the accustomed forms. The solemnity of his reception—the gloomy aspect of his keeper—the rugged walls—vast portcullis—massy gates—dark grated windows—and, above all, the idea of that separation he so much dreaded from his lovely Duchess—completely conquered a spirit which had so long held out against his various sufferings.—In vain he strove to assume a masculine fortitude—in vain attempted to suppress those tears his melancholy situation extorted—and, when he passed the chapel, he trembled with the foreboding idea, that it would be his last resting place.
THE dark night approached.—He was left in solitude.—The lamps gleamed against the black forbidding casements.—He sunk into a chair—wept—groaned—and gave himself up to the deepest dejection. Morning appeared—the pale dawn broke upon his apartment—he arose, looked into the yard—the centinels were going off duty—he saw the gates opened—they retired with evident cheerfulness—the yeomen entered—every feature, animated by liberty, unfettered by restraint, unincumbered by forebodings of future evil, they performed their usual business with alacrity.—"Happy men," said the reflecting Duke, "how do I envy your comparatively enviable state; unclouded by dreadful expectation, your countenances preserve that vacant cheerfulness so descriptive of independant freedom.—You dread not the impending axe—you feel not the torture arising from the disappointment of high-raised hopes.—The morning which soon may witness my dissolution, shall pass undistinguished in the rolling æra of your time, nor shall the tolling bell awaken even a sigh for the fate of MONMOUTH."
THE entrance of the Lieutenant of the Tower—whose humanity and respect induced an early visit, agreeably surprized the Duke, as he had not seen him the evening before, owing to his absence, till it was too late to intrude.—The polite tenderness which influenced this gentleman’s behaviour, created an inclination in the Duke to solicit his advice in his present sad situation. The Lieutenant frankly urged the necessity of an address to the King, as a scheme well worth trying, where life and death were the only alternatives.—MONMOUTH paused.—An address argued submission, and submission denoted guilt—there was meanness in a concession extorted only by compulsion.—Had he been free, would he have retracted his designs?—Was JAMES the less a tyrant for being a conqueror—had victory given a legality to the title which before was disputable—and must he give up a lawful claim, because in no situation properly to defend it?—He raised his eyes to the strong double-barred windows.—There was conviction in their silent rhetoric.—"Well, Sir," said he, "I will write; but with what reluctance a mortified spirit only can declare."—The Lieutenant immediately retired, to give his prisoner an opportunity to put his advice in execution; a task so cruel, so opposite to the Duke’s noble principles, that he trembled with indignation against the man whose pity and pardon he was about to conciliate, and several times dashed the pen from him that was to evidence his disgrace; at length, after various attempts he produced the following composition:
"MAY IT PLEASE THE KING,
"THE claim which I derive from my late honoured parent, naturally inducing me to strengthen it by every assistance I could procure, has been, I grieve to say, productive of the most dreadful consequences, among which, the loss of many gallant friends are to be reckoned the chiefest, whose only fault was their attachment to an unhappy Prince.—My own confinement, and the captivity of a lovely wife, are also to be included in the sad list of misfortunes—which has bowed a spirit once untameably determined.—Will you then, dread Sir, condescend to listen to the entreaties of a nephew, whose importance you once tacitly allowed?—Will you pardon an offender, whose fault originates from mistake, and whose actions have been stimulated by what he thought a laudable ambition.—If I sought to be established upon a footing equal to yourself, it was upon the supposition, that, in waving my own right till your decease, I was practising the noblest self-denial.—The testimony of a faultless mother, the indulgence of a father who loved me, corroborated the belief I had taken up of my legitimacy.—Was your servant then to blame in the assertion of his claim?—Consider, I beseech you, Sire, if I have militated against reason, judgement, or understanding, and graciously extend your clemency to the suffering
WHEN this laconic epistle was read to JAMES, he frowned, bit his lips, and shewed many marks of impatience while listening to his Secretary; and when he had concluded—"Where," said he haughtily, "are the expressions of contrition—the humiliating confession of a mischievous rebel?—These lines are only characteristic of an ill-concealed resentment, a forced acknowledgement of injuries he wants only power to renew;—but we will see the traitor—to-morrow we will give him audience—and then shall judge of his specious penitence."
THE grand Council-Chamber was appointed for an interview so solemn.—The Queen requested permission to be present, as she felt a strong desire to view the man whose claims superceded those of her future offspring—and threatened to strike at the root of her beloved religion.—MONMOUTH entered with that air of grandeur, so properly calculated to terrify mean souls.
HE was attended by the Lieutenant and a strong guard, who respectfully stopped at the entrance, while he advanced to the presence, with a dignity that disconcerted the royal pair.—The King turned pale when MONMOUTH bent one knee before him, his arms folded upon his bosom—his eyes fixed upon the ground—his whole deportment manly and collected.—JAMES even shuddered, as if about to incur the sentence he intended to pronounce—nor could for some minutes articulate a word, while the illustrious witnesses of this awful scene felt every emotion pity and admiration could suggest for the fate of the fallen hero.
AT length, recovering from his confusion, JAMES, without commanding his nephew to rise, interrogated him with much severity upon the meaning of his culpable conduct; and told him there was no other chance for his life, than an ample confession of his treason—the discovery of all concerned in it—and his subscription of a paper, declaring his father had owned he was the illegitimate son of LUCY WALTERS.
MONMOUTH rose, fixed his eyes upon the King—his whole countenance taking the cast of indignant disdain, while inward rage prevented a prompt reply. His lips quivering—his bosom heaving—his cheeks now flushed with crimson, now assuming a pallid hue:—at length—"Are these," he asked, "the terms on which I am to purchase the remnant of a short inglorious life?"—"They are the only ones that can procure you the remission of a just sentence," answered the King, in a cold and surly tone.—"O thou angelic woman," exclaimed the Duke, in a passionate accent—"Must I, from the birth to the tomb, reflect in-may upon thee?—Shall the ashes of a saint, at this distant period, be disturbed by dishonourable suggestions?"—He was going on, when a bustle at the door contracted the King’s brow, as the reverence due to majesty permitted not an interruption so unusual—and he waved his hand for silence;—but in vain—the whispers were renewed, and a female form advancing, changed his Majesty’s displeasure to perplexing wonder.—Her motion was rapid—interrupted—and confused.—Her hair hung in wild disorder, over a face so touchingly melancholy as to produce, even in JAMES’S bosom, a sensation of pity.—Her garments were soiled, torn, and flowed loosely upon the floor—one hand employed in gathering them about her—the other extended towards MONMOUTH, who seemed the sole end of her pursuit.
REGARDLESS of the royal presence, of his own situation, of the danger his rashness might precipitate, MONMOUTH flew to the affecting object of his attention, caught the hand she held out to him, and falling upon his knees before the King,—"Ah!" he cried, "dread Sir, know you not the heiress of BUCCLEUGH?—Know you not the wife of MONMOUTH?" "Yes," she interrupted meekly, prostrating herself, "I am his wife—and have escaped my gaoler, to share his fate:—sweetly we have lived together—and O—in peace let us die.—Weep not my Lord, I have no more tears to shed—the sources are dried up—my brain can no longer supply them—it burns with a flame too fierce to be so easily quenched.—Come, then, great King—pronounce my doom; for in my husband’s fate his ANNA’S is determined."
"Are you sensible, Madam, of the heinousness of that conduct which has struck at the peace of a nation, and the rights of Majesty?"—"O torture not her gentle soul with useless interrogatories," said the Duke, "but tell me how I may purchase that grace, for which this lovely creature has dared your resentment."—"By acceding to the terms proposed," answered JAMES, recovering his former haughtiness.—MONMOUTH turned his eye upon the Duchess, and in her disordered countenance beheld a trace of reviving hope illumine every feature.—She clasped her hands together in wild transport—"O," said she, "are there indeed any terms to be complied with, that can redeem a life so precious?—Am I to be included in the treaty?—Can I make a sacrifice propitiatory for so great a blessing? Here I stand," and she arose with an air of resigned dignity—"Here I stand ready to purchase his liberty by any price you can name.—Let seas divide the fondest affection—Let prisons, chains and fetters be my lot, so MONMOUTH is free.—Send me to the most desolate island, ingenious cruelty can find; nay, let this emaciated form be made the prey of savage beasts, or, in the deepest dungeon, let me breathe out an innocent soul in prayers for his safety, whose happiness I would insure."—She then fell again upon her knees.—"Come, great Sire, say, what is to be my lot?—Madam," turning to the Queen, who listened to this affecting address, without the smallest touch of pity—"Let the claims of connubial tenderness affect your noble heart:—possessed of royalty—secure in the love of a princely consort—established upon the throne of Britain, and in the safe enjoyments of your religious principles—you can have no plea for the refusal of that mercy we ask.—No danger can arise to you from such an indulgence.—Speak for me, MONMOUTH, I cannot bear this uncertainty, and if no other alternative be admited—here, take my life—with joy would I resign it upon the scaffold if that may suffice."
"GLORIOUS creature," interrupted the Duke—"angelic softness, cease these painful entreaties.—Bring me the papers, Sir, bring me the price of my honour—quickly—let me not reflect.—ANNA, can you receive your husband with patience, when divested of every title to a crown—and the heir by his own confession of infamy?" "O, how low am I fallen—and all for thee, my love!"—"Ah! what papers?" she cried, catching his arm as he was signing the important one respecting his illegitimacy. "No matter, it is done, and now misery is my portion.—The other was tendered, he ran it slightly over, started—"What," said he, "my friends, are they included in the dreadful submission?—never—never"—and he tore it to atoms.
"THE shame I have brought on myself shall not extend so far.—What have they done for me?—O wretched MONMOUTH! Have they not forfeited every dear, every sacred privilege, and is this to be their reward?—I have given up the fair fame of a mother—I have, with one stroke of the pen, signed away the inheritance of my heir—looking tenderly at the Duchess, whose situation was visible—but here the evil stops.—If your Majesty will graciously accord your clemency, I shall receive it with thanks; but I can go no farther. "Then you have done nothing," answered JAMES.—"And you, my liege," retorted the Queen, "have done too much—you have been infinitely too mild—too condescending in your proposals.—What can be expected from such restless ambition, when unrestrained by the pure precepts of our most holy religion, but a renewal of the national feuds which owe their rise and support to him; besides, casting a malignant look at the Duke—is there any dependance upon a man, who, moved by the exclamations of a weak woman, can give up the character of his mother, bastardize himself, and consign his whole race to infamy?" She stopped, looking round in all the pride of arbitrary power. The Duchess raised her eyes with the air of one who is stunned by a sudden stroke of electrical fire, gazing in fearful expectation, as it were, of a second, and more fatal blow.—MONMOUTH, who had given way to the tenderness of his nature, and had signed the paper against his own judgement, merely to secure the tranquillity of his suffering lady, felt in this cruel remonstrance the inefficacy of what he had done, and found himself betrayed to a more complete destruction; for well he knew his uncle wanted no stimulative to encrease his hatred.—He likewise felt a degree of resentment against the humiliation he had practised, and blushed for the unfeminine behaviour of her who had awakened him to a sense of the glory he had forfeited:—all the spirit of royalty swelled in his glowing bosom—all the dignity of suppressed greatness agitated every throbbing vein—and all the sweet sad emotions of pitying affection, trembled in his faithful heart.
THE look he threw upon the Queen, more than revenged the unnatural language she had given.—The charming softness which filled that he cast upon his lady, was a rich reward for her sorrows.—It recalled her scattered senses—it thrilled her whole soul with sensations worthy of the cause.
THE King, with an impatient air, demanded of MONMOUTH his decisive resolution.—"It is given,"—said the Duke, and he turned to leave the presence.—"Stop, Sir," exclaimed the Queen, "that disdainful expression suits not an intercessor for mercy."—"But," replied the Duchess, "it becomes the lawful heir of England’s crown.—You have seen me, Madam, an humble supplicant for my husband’s life—you have heard me, in the wild agonizing tone of destruction, plead for his liberty—but—at the price you offer, he will not purchase it.—I know his days are numbered—I know his doom is written in the black calendar of massacres and bloodshed—yet—and her eyes sparkled with conscious worthiness—yet he will do nothing to sully his legal pretensions. The paper you have treacherously induced him to sign cannot destroy the reality of his claim, though it may shake the faith of his adherents. Suffer us then to enjoy the few remaining hours allotted him, in disposing our souls to a meek resignation to the destiny an uncle has precipitated."—Tears, composed of love and rapture—fell from MONMOUTH’S cheek upon the hand of his wife as he pressed it to his bosom.—"Now, then," he cried, "I can meet my death with pleasure.—What exquisite sensations pour in upon my throbbing heart? What is the felicity of Kings and Queens? What are their possessions to that I now enjoy? Look, O JAMES, through the vast whole which lies within your ambitious grasp—bring forth your rarest treasures, and find one gem that can vie with that I boast.—See, Madam, in this lovely female, the glory and ornament of your sex!—Who would not die to be thus distinguished?—Ah! where is fear, despondency, or care! Let them assault my soul, here is a cure for all—" and he tenderly clasped his exalted Duchess.—"It is true, we have been both to blame—but the evil destroyed itself—you cannot now make us miserable."—"It is well, mighty Sir," said the Queen; "if thus we are to be insulted, poor is the prerogative of princes—go then, and when justice shall have sharpened its weapons to a sufficient edge, go, and upon the scaffold proclaim your vaunted happiness;—but think not there to play the part of injured heroism—think not to raise the passions of a giddy populace—in acting over the fine-spun scene you have chosen us to witness—since such is your fortitude—here it shall be tried—and now attend to the will of those whose power you defy—I have your permission, my liege, to act in this business."—And she turned to his Majesty. "Undoubtedly, Madam, your pleasure shall be ours."
THE King would then have retired, but Lady MONMOUTH, seizing his garment—"Not yet—O leave us not to the merciless decrees—I read it in those enraged features—disappoint not the hope which supports my fluttering soul. Let us not be separated.—Let one prison contain us both, and I will bless the bolts and bars that shut us from a world like this."—"You anticipate your fate," said the cruel Queen—"where is now the spirited language of indignant greatness?—"Come, you can be conquered, I see; but plead no more—and," speaking to the guard, "take back this pretender to a kingdom—and since he boasts such inward consolation, it may be of use in a solitary prison."—"No, not solitary," said the Duchess and she quitted the King, who seemed glad to escape her affecting entreaties—"send him not alone.—Since such power is vested in your Majesty—be not inflexible—I ask only to gild his latter hours with the sweet beams of a faithful love—I ask only to soften the melancholy moments of expectation by a fond and commiserating attention.—Madam," and she clasped the Queen’s knees—"behold a wretched woman on the point of being torn from a dying husband—a dying husband, Lady—think of that.—What, shall those eyes be for ever closed, nor fix their parting glances upon me?—Shall I not join my prayers with his, for a glorious reception in the world of bliss?—Shall the tedious day, and long dark night, be lamented by him in solitude?—While this lacerated heart pants but to sooth his sorrows, and vibrate to the fond expressions of tender affection.—See, Madam—they are tearing him from the presence!—Tyger-hearted woman—" and her voice assumed the fierce tones of frantic despair—"shall I see him no more?—Great God! in pity to my torture, extinguish all sense of feeling in this bursting bosom—my brain too—it cannot—will not bear it."
THE Duke’s struggles to free himself were perfectly ineffectual, and he could only exclaim, with a violence that destroyed intelligible, articulation against the barbarity of their persecutors.
MADDENING with anguish to see him thus dragged from her, the Duchess’s shrieks pierced every heart but her’s who could have silenced them.—"Bring him back," she cried, "or let me share his sufferings.—Let him return but one—one blessed moment.—Deny me not a last embrace.—Let him this once, only this once, fill these extended arms.—Alas! they close, but upon the empty air."
THE Queen, who had not courage to see the conclusion of a distress she had occasioned—arose, and left the Council Chamber, as she could only give such reasons for her conduct as could not exculpate her from blame: for MONMOUTH’S defiance had particularly irritated a haughty and unfeeling disposition—nor did worldly prudence receive a slighter shock, in the idea that the perpetuity of his race must shake that throne she hoped her future offspring to enjoy; and therefore, as she knew his Lady’s situation, exulted in the expectation, that the agony she endured would destroy her fears of a consequence, so fatal to the security of a crown to her heirs.
LADY MONMOUTH beheld her departure with encreasing agitation.—She flew to the door, it closed too suddenly for the resolution she had taken of following the Queen with her affecting petition—and she was not permitted to follow her.—"What," she said, "is it thus my prayers are answered, mocked, insulted, neglected?"—and then looking round upon the ladies, who would have rendered her every service her shocking circumstances could admit—"Go, I have no need of your kindness; ye cannot liberate the prisoner—ye cannot restore the dead—for ah, he is dead to me.—But you weep, the example of your mistress is not contagious.—Go, then, with those marks of feminine tenderness in your eyes—go and shame her into a sense of pity—reproach her cruelty by the mute expression of tears—tell her, they are the sweet sacrifice of feeling hearts, and while, like the rich dew of Heaven, they meliorate the tortures of this bleeding bosom—they shall be, to her, as the noxious vapour, blighting the blossoms of her ambitious hope with their chilling influence.—Yes, in them she shall read the condemnation of her barbarity—in them she shall feel the reproach of the innocent."—Her melancholy complaints were now interrupted by strong convulsions, and she was carried to an apartment of the palace perfectly insensible of her wrongs.
TO the kindness of the man appointed to attend Lord GREY at Bridgewater, was this unhappy lady indebted for an interview so sudden, so sad—and to MONMOUTH so unexpected.—The news of his being taken had reached that nobleman, through the medium of his keeper, who felt himself warmly attached by his Lordship’s liberality, which in this man found, what is seldom seen in very low life—namely, a propensity to gratitude for the advantage it bestowed—and a wish to oblige the dispenser of such bounty.—To him then GREY proposed the liberation of the Duchess, on whose tender and prevailing pleas, for her husband’s pardon, was fixed the only foundation on which he could build a hope of success.—The task was no ways difficult.
THE keeper, eager to shew his sense of his prisoner’s benevolence, added another and equally desireable clause to the scheme proposed.—His Lordship was almost overcome with delight, when he found his own escape was to be included with Lady MONMOUTH’S—the plan to effect which was as follows:—An order from JEFFRIES, importing his wish to send the Duchess to town, was easily counterfeited.—Lord GREY, in cloaths of his valuable friend’s procuring, was to deliver it, and, by the Judge’s command, accompany that lady in her journey.—It was a fortunate circumstance for them, that JEFFRIES had only the evening before set out on his circuit, to finish a tragedy which inflamed his blood-thirsty soul with sanguinary transport.—Exeter—Taunton—and Dorchester—felt the dreadful effects of his brutal decrees; above five hundred unhappy people falling a sacrifice to his pretensions to exemplary justice.
WHEN GREY, by virtue of his supposed authority, was introduced to her Grace, she would not lift her eye towards him;—but when, in consequence of her attendant’s departure, he opened his commission, she was almost wild with a mixture of grief—love—hope—and despair. "Delay not," she cried, "my blessed friend—delay not one moment to execute a plot so important to the fate of my husband:—weak and faint as you see me, Heaven will not, I trust, desert me in this hour of trial.—The sweet idea that my entreaties may gain upon the King to spare his nephew, will supply this emaciated frame with strength—and my soul with fortitude.—Come, then, let us depart."—The entrance of her sullen companion stopped this torrent of rapture—and, with a well-feigned reluctance, she acceded to the pretended commands of the judge.—They had scarcely left the town when GREY, looking behind, perceived a man riding swiftly after them—and, before he could communicate his suspicions to the trembling partner of his flight, discovered in their pursuer, the features of their deliverer. "Fly," said the honest man, "or we shall be ruined.—The deceit is found out.—I dare not return.—The town is in commotion, we must take the most unfrequented paths, or we are lost."
THE Duchess heard all, without power or time to articulate her distress at this terrible intelligence, and redoubled her pace almost without expectation of accomplishing her wishes.
IT was thought absolutely necessary, by Lord GREY, that they should quit the path in which they travelled, for one less liable to interruption.—The poor Lady silently assented to her companions reasons for his conduct, and, with a speed terror only could support, followed the sympathizing nobleman.
TURNING the corner of a wall that surrounded an extensive park, they beheld a company of soldiers drawn up before a magnificent seat, which terminated a noble avenue of elms, that ran parallel with the road leading up to the house.—A sudden discharge of small arms, in the moment of their passing the gates, made GREY’S horse start with such violence, as to throw his rider, at the same time plunging to a most alarming degree. The shock of this untoward incident, at a period pregnant with many evils, carried the most foreboding fears to the Duchess’s bosom, which were encreased almost to desperation, when she perceived his Lordship unable to rise.—To go on without him was impossible.—To stay the event, argued probable destruction.—She gazed, transfixed with horror at the ineffectual attempts of their poor attendant to raise him from the ground, when several men, who had at some distance beheld the accident, hastily advanced to give the assistance, which, from the apparent lifeless appearance of the object of their attention, seemed to promise but little success.—The Duchess strove to renew her endeavours to escape, but her horse, with the instinctive affection so natural to that social animal, would not stir from his fellow travellers, and she was constrained to remain an object of perilous inquiry; but, to mitigate her sufferings, she was happy to see that a temporary insensibility, induced by the sudden shock of his fall, was the only cause of Lord GREY’S supineness, and, when raised from the earth, his recovery was quickly ascertained.—With the most condescending gratitude he expressed his thanks for the services he had received, and by a liberal donation convinced the men of what, perhaps, was dangerous to acknowledge—one of whom withdrew to impart his suspicions to the Colonel of the little army which were then marching down the avenue.
THE poor fugitives were now preparing to renew their journey—when a command, to stop those suspicious people, froze their blood—and the horses bridles were now seized by the very fellows who had advantageously profited by a mistaken bounty.
THE Duchess looked round, with a fearful and hopeless aspect, to discover from whence the countermand issued.—Hopeless, fearful, and helpless indeed—every sentiment was excited by the dread of future consequences.—Every sensation, the offspring of terror—and every idea condensed into that which, in all the distressful dilemmas of her painful life, had claimed the foremost place.—Ah! no wonder that speech, invention, memory, all should give way to the sudden shock, when she beheld—surrounded by soldiers, distinguished by a ferocity of countenance almost more than savage—the cruel wretch to whose absence she owed a momentary emancipation from confinement. The scourge of an unhappy nation, the destroyer of domestic peace—the false administrator of a pretended justice—the sanguine inflicter of a vengeance unprecedented and illegal—in the form of—JEFFRIES!—that monster, whose rage for blood induced him to imprison the unfortunate owner of the mansion before him, merely because he was a near relative to the noble RUSSEL, whose Lady, immersed in sorrow, had sought with her good old uncle a dreary solitude, for such might that well be called, where even the cheerful sun was excluded from her sight.—The apartments particularly appropriated to her use hung with black, and the light of day supplied by the dim uncertain winking of a feeble lamp—yet could not the sacred grief she cherished, the melancholy expression of her woes, soften the callosity of JEFFRIES’S heart. It was enough that, in the martyred RUSSELL’S conviction of rebellion, their whole family was amenable to suspicion.—It was enough that she was the widow of a man, whose attachment to MONMOUTH had been so fatally signalized—to render her and her’s obnoxious to this pretender to loyalty.—With a surly aspect, and conscience unappalled, he entered the awful retreat of connubial wretchedness—and rudely attacked the sad inhabitant of that gloomy abode, with a blunt accusation of secreting a rebel—for her venerable uncle had been slightly suspected of giving his suffrage in favour of MONMOUTH, (though he had never openly appeared in arms,) and scrupled not to force him from her presence, when, after an incoherent attempt to convince her of the power with which he was invested, he quitted the speechless Lady; whose surprise, at this indignant treatment, surmounted that dignity of spirit which had enabled her to part with a tenderly beloved husband without a tear—and he retired to the banqueting room, to revel with his hardened colleagues in the gratification of those luxuries congenial to his sordid appetites; to obtain which, he thought no act of oppression illegal. Intoxicated with success, and inflamed with the prospect of a full indulgence of his base disposition, which delighted in the contemplation of distress he had himself inflicted—he fiercely demanded their business in that unfrequented road—but who could answer a request enforced with swelling arrogance and inflated pride? Could GREY desert a cause which had endangered his safety, by a confession that must decide against his life?—Could the keeper own his part in the scheme that tended to weaken the Judge’s power of doing evil?—Could the Duchess betray her friends, and for ever blight the dearest purpose of her soul—so often struck at—so long, and now so hopelessly cherished by an acknowledgement of her situation? No, a deadly silence prevailed amongst them; a look of inexpressible anguish conveyed to GREY the feelings of Lady MONMOUTH’S soul, and when, by their persecutor’s orders, they were dismounted, she patiently and steadily followed her furious interceptor to the house, who conducted her through a long range of rooms, when opening a door at the further end of them, "I have brought," he cried, "a companion, who will, it is possible, indulge you in your foolish propensity, perhaps it may be some relief to your mighty griefs to have a partaker of them."—This unfeeling speech produced only a marked and contemptuous notice from the noble lady to whom they were addressed, and filled the Duchess with a yet greater abhorrence of that base heart which could dictate expressions so unnatural—while her whole soul was softened with the affecting appearance of a woman, whom she had long wished to embrace—and whose sorrows she considered as originating from the cause that had plunged herself into such variety of poignant distress.—The Majesty of Lady RUSSEL’S form—the sable weed she wore—the solemn cast of her fine, though emaciated countenance—kindled in the Duchess’s bosom that fervour of sentiment, known only to minds replete with delicate sensibility, and which excluded for a moment the idea of her own hapless situation.—She beheld, in that afflicted widow, the tender parent of six unprotected fatherless babes—she saw in her reception of the inhuman JEFFRIES, the remains of a dignity, almost conquered by various sufferings, and felt veneration, affection, respect, and pity, for one so severely tried;—but, if her own feelings were thus powerfully excited, what were Lady RUSSEL’S at the sudden appearance of a figure so fragile—so pale—so helplessly feminine, yet so lovely—nor was her surprise lessened, when this poor forlorn, bending with an air of solemn respect, addressed her as follows:—"Can you, Madam, behold and judge with patient candour, the woman to whose unfortunate husband is owing your vast afflictions, and who, even now, dares to claim from Lady RUSSEL the rights of friendship."—"I cannot," said her ladyship, "refuse any thing to such an appearance, but"—and the tears fell from her eyes—"you seem like me—a prisoner—and, alas, I cannot obtain your liberty, who have so recently lost my own—though indeed liberty to me is of little import."—"I am indeed a prisoner, Madam, but the inhuman tyrant knows not a secret which I shall not scruple to disclose to Lady RUSSEL.—I am the wife of MONMOUTH, who, in endeavouring to escape from a cruel confinement, have fallen into another snare."
STRUCK with a discovery so unexpected, and equally struck with a manner so distinguishedly noble—the amazed lady could only, by every attention in her power, endeavour to contribute to the Duchess’s ease and refreshment—protesting, though she had given up every hope of earthly consolation, she should feel a sublime satisfaction in the future contemplation of that relief she was proud to offer.—Gratitude was a reigning virtue in Lady MONMOUTH’S practice—it was the leading principle of her actions—it was the foundation on which was built the other laudable passions that occupied her soul.—What a subject then was this condescending hospitality for the exertion of that charming quality, and how soon did it lead her to explain the whole of her present hopeless state.—With the sigh, the tear of commiseration was her affecting tale received—but that sigh was tinctured by despair—that tear promised no assurance of help.
WHILE these injured innocents were generously attempting to lighten each other’s calamity, by suggesting an idea of deliverance, which neither expected to obtain—they were interrupted by JEFFRIES, whose death-dealing business would not permit him to stay long in one place, but yet was fearful to trust his prisoners without a guard on whom he could depend.—He was accompanied by a military gentleman, whose humane aspect seemed to contradict the wretch’s intentions of making him their goaler—"You see, captain," said he, "what confidence I repose in your fidelity—at the hazard of your life, suffer not these women to escape—affairs of consequence call me hence—I command you therefore to comply with my injunctions to the very letter of them."—"Tyrant," said Lady RUSSEL, her face covered with burning blushes—"you may fetter the body—but over a free and unconquered mind, you hold no lawless power." He smiled indignantly, but deigned not to answer this spirited apostrophe, only by redoubling his orders to the captain.
NO sooner was he withdrawn, than the polite officer respectfully quitted the room—leaving the most favourable impression upon the minds of the ladies, in favour of his gentleness. As his commission extended equally to the care of the other captives, who were confined in a distant part of the mansion, he thought it incumbent upon him, to administer such consolation to them as the nature of his commission would admit:—but what was his astonishment, when Lord GREY, seizing his hand, pronounced, with the most emphatic fervor—"Friend—companion—once the sharer of my dearest secrets—say—art thou not come to liberate thy GREY?—wilt thou not assist me in emancipating MONMOUTH’S Duchess?—Surely HUNTINGDON has not forgotten the friend of his youth."
WITH a manly gratitude the officer acknowledged his Lordship’s claim, and with the most unfeigned transport, he vowed to devote his life to the services of the captured ladies.—"O," said he, "had I known for what purpose JEFFRIES commanded me to separate from my regiment, with transport would I have acceded to what at the moment gave me infinite uneasiness—though such were the conflicts of my mind, respecting our destination, that while fluctuating between the rights of an injured heir to this kingdom, and the positive orders of the reigning Prince, I was one hour determined openly to quit the army employed against the noble MONMOUTH;—the next—sacrificed my private opinion to the dread of punishment.—But now I am fixed in the resolution of contriving your escape—therefore you must immediately follow me." Lord GREY, attended by his fellow-sufferer, accompanied the captain to the ladies room, who testified much surprize at an appearance somewhat abrupt—but the deep respect with which their guard approached them—the transport which flushed Lord GREY’S cheek—kindled a reviving hope in Lady MONMOUTH’S bosom, which received a joyful confirmation in the officer’s assurance that they were all free.—She turned an anxious eye upon the dejected widow—"You too, Madam—will not you go with us?" "If," said HUNTINGDON, "this lady chuses to leave the house, I imagine she will do it with her uncle, who is at present overwhelmed with distress at this sad revolution of his fate." "Alas," said Lady RUSSEL, "one prison is as well to me as another—could I be free from persecution this roof should shelter me while struggling through a miserable existence. But you—dear Madam—have a strong and prevailing reason for venturing a life so precious:—however, I will consult that beloved relative as to the methods he would wish me to pursue.—Adieu—lovely and unfortunate woman—may your troubles have a quick and speedy termination, and sometimes remember MARY RUSSEL." They then parted with the tenderest expressions of pity and condolance—while the Duchess, though once more alive to the sweet expectation of regaining her freedom, could not help shedding a profusion of tears for the fate of such an exalted character.
AND now the impatience of her soul, to seek her husband, was gratified by the friendly officer’s wishes to see them depart.—"Your way, My Lord," said he to GREY, "is open before you—I will act for the lady and her uncle with the same sincerity as for you. If the noble relict of that gallant martyr, RUSSEL, wishes to stay and abide the consequence of JEFFRIES’ return, I will take upon me to protect her so far as lies in my power."—He was going on—when Lady RUSSEL again entered, to inform them of her uncle’s resolution to depart for the continent, and that she would go with him, and visit her dear children, who were at Calais.—Once more Captain HUNTINGDON recommended their speedy departure—and once more the friends embraced—a sigh of sympathy, a tear of affection, distinguishing the separation of the ladies; while the two gentlemen with a manly firmness took a hasty leave.
AT the end of two days of fatigue, fear, and pain, they found themselves within ten miles of London.—It was thought necessary for them to separate, and the lady to proceed alone on foot.—The keeper took charge of her horse, which he turned loose upon a common—himself crossing the country, while GREY, in his humble habiliments, applied to a poor gardener for employment.—But when the poor wanderer left her kind friends—who had hazarded so much for her—the big tears dropped from her eyes upon the hands of each, as they respectfully took their leave. Even when the honest man, whose kindness had carried him such lengths, saw how much she was affected, he could not answer her tender thanks for his goodness to a poor forlorn stranger. GREY beheld her almost with veneration.—A delicate noble lady reduced to the deepest, the lowest distress—suffering hardships nearly incredible, under the hope of lightening a husband’s woes—was, in his eye, an object of sacred compassion—of the highest adoration.—He wept at her warm expressions of obligation—he looked upon her faded countenance with an affectionate pity—and considered her as the sweet uncomplaining sacrifice of disappointed ambition.—The approach of some passengers hastened her departure—and she took (by his Lordship’s direction) a path which led into a wood, on the left hand of the common, where they parted.
"NOW, then," said the hapless fair one, "I am indeed alone, none in the wide creation to whom I dare apply for relief—no kind female to administer the comfort my situation demands—no courageous friend of the other sex to defend me in this wild wood from insult.—Gracious Heaven, it is almost night, should I lose the path, where may my trembling feet wander.—Alas! I cannot reach the metropolis before dark—and, in this season of tumult, hurry, and discord, to what evils may I be subject.—What shall I do? here the path ends, and all before me is confusion.—Should I go back and trust to the high road—no—I must make my way through the brambles which intercept me in my weary walk."—She went on with difficulty; her tender arms were torn by the merciless briars; and often she stumbled over the roots of trees that lay above the earth, at some distance from their parent stem.
AT last she came to a plat which had been cleared of those incumbrances—she looked round—but there was not light to discern her way beyond that spot—nor could the pain and fatigue she endured, permit her to go any farther.—Seating herself, therefore, under a large elm, she resolved to wait patiently till day-break. "I have this consolation," she softly cried, "that no wild beasts can render this place dangerous—Alas! are not the haunts of men still more terrible.—O, thou glorious Being, who, for the wisest ends, has thus corrected thy feeble servant—let not impatience encrease those errors for which thou dost so severely visit her.—Pardon the idolizing tenderness which induces her to consider the partner of her soul in a light, perhaps, too distinguishing for a Christian, who ought to sacrifice the feelings of nature to those of grace, and who comprizes every good, earth or heaven can offer, in the possession of a mortal creature.—Shield her this night from the fears of solitude—the midnight robber, or black assassin; and, O, whatever trials the succeeding day may produce—let them not overcome the sacred trust she would wish to repose on thee, and guard her beloved husband from the tyrant’s rage, the baleful executioner." Tears prevented the conclusion of oraisons so sincere—and, after venting the anguish of her heart, she gave up her whole thoughts to humble meditation.
THE rising dawn recalled her senses to the occasion which had brought her thither, and she arose to finish a peregrination so melancholy.—When she arrived at Whitehall, her ears were stunned with the news of MONMOUTH’S interview with the King—and, thoughtless of every thing but the importance of that intelligence, she made her way through the croud that attended in the streets to hear the decision of a cause so remarkable.—The guards, who were stationed at the gates, stopped her hasty progress, conceiving by her appearance, and wild extravagant manner, that she was a poor disordered maniac.—She looked at them with a dignity not to be resisted, and, when they would have repulsed her, she cried—"Know ye not MONMOUTH’S Duchess?" There was magic in her manner—persuasion in her voice—and conviction in the short sentence she articulated.—Drawing back, therefore, with the utmost respect, they gave way to the agility of her motion, and she soon found herself at the door of the Council Chamber, to which she was humanely directed.
THE shocking scene which followed her admission, shook every nerve; and to the insensibility that succeded might be attributed the protraction of a life distinguishable for its various and complicated miseries.—While the interval of her delirium lasted, every painful thought was suspended—her convulsions grew less violent and frequent—and the poignancy of reflection being blunted, it acted not with that force upon the body, which had hitherto undermined her constitution.—But, though she slumbered in a calm forgetfulness of care, MONMOUTH, whose stronger mind struggled against affliction, felt tortures inexpressible, the greater for the mortification his pride endured:—all company were irksome—all consolation denied, and he even experienced a gleam of pleasure in receiving the mandate which was to consign him to eternal peace. Not so the humane Lieutenant, who was ordered to be the bearer of it;—he had for several days attended, with equal patience, the wild ravings of passionate grief and the sullen silence of obstinate despair; but when the warrant for his prisoner’s execution was tendered him, he shuddered for the consequences of his delivery: but, fortunately, at the moment when he was about to enter MONMOUTH’S apartment, the excellent Bishop TILLOTSON, in all the warmth of primitive Christianity, intreated the Lieutenant to delegate the task to him.—His request was acceded to with much thankfulness, and his Lordship tenderly and politely accosted the Duke, who could not refuse access to a peer of his consequence.
THE deep melancholy which sat on MONMOUTH’S features—the close confinement he suffered—and the consideration of his misfortunes, now so near their climax, deeply affected the Bishop, and deprived him for a moment of that graceful eloquence, so natural to him.—"The honour your Lordship does a supposed criminal like me," said the Duke, "reflects the highest credit upon your principles, since even prisons are not exempt from such benevolent goodness.—It is true, feel solitude more congenial to my situation than company, but from you I expect the balm a wounded heart demands. Deprived of a tender consoling partner in these fleeting moments, is it to be wondered at if I possess an acrimonious spirit. To you, then, my Lord, I look for a remedy; from you I ask the best means of stilling passions, rendered irrascible by repeated injuries.—You are silent, my Lord, does my plainness offend, or have you brought that intelligence which limits the days of my existence?—If the latter, fear not my fortitude; if the former, accept my entreaties for pardon."—The gentle generous Bishop, still more affected by this address, seated himself, and taking the hand next him, begged the Duke’s patience, while he unfolded a commission he now repented the acceptance of. MONMOUTH smiled like one to whom the issues of life and death were equally desirable.—"You may deliver it, my revered friend," he cried; "be it what it will, I shall receive it with indifference, possibly with pleasure.—JAMES has no sharper arrow in store, than what has already pierced a susceptible, and almost broken heart!—he has practised every species of ingenious cruelty upon a faithful couple—deprived us of every consolation each other’s society could afford—and denied a privilege allowed to the meanest culprit.—O, my Lord, can you wonder at the indignation which enflames my burning heart, when you are told that a female—a Queen, as she is stiled—could witness that anguish, the most unhappy of her sex endured, without one conciliating word—could behold the wretched husband dragged from his frantic wife, without one pang of remorse. Let death come—let the axe separate this perishable body from the noble principle which animates it—it cannot strike so deep—it cannot effect a separation so terrible as that already compleated."—He was silent.—The benevolent TILLOTSON beheld with the most humane tenderness the conflicts of his soul, and shuddered when MONMOUTH continued, "Come, dearest friend, explain the cause of this visit; you think me too violent in my expressions; I see you do, for one on the brink of eternity—perhaps I think so myself, perhaps I wish from your heaven-directed language, the words of peace and comfort.—O, speak then to me of pardon from above—point out the path on which I may safely trace my footsteps to a blissful eternity—instruct me how to avoid the quicksands of despair, the rocks of impatience."—"But first release your gentle heart from the load which oppresses it." "That paper will explain all."—"True, my Lord, and may its contents assist me in the arduous task you have given me—may the corrosive that administers be counteracted by the glorious balsam I shall apply—may the means I shall point out, induce you to look upon death as rest to a weary traveller—as the finish of your sorrows—the happy entrance to immortality." The Bishop then, with a trembling hand, delivered the decisive mandate.—MONMOUTH opened it—started—the colour glowed in his cheeks—he read it, sat for some minutes absorbed in thought—at last, clasping the warrant between his hands, which were devoutly raised to Heaven.—"What," said he, in a solemn tone, "shall the decrees of man disturb a soul that now ought to fix its contemplation on higher objects?—Shall nature shudder at the reception of a passport to the mansions of peace? Nature, worn out with continual griefs, cares, and disappointments, can she tremble to take a step productive of her everlasting happiness?—No"—and he bent his knee to the earth—"with transport I resign myself to the will of Omnipotence." Then rising—"My Lord, will you extend your Christian charity still further?—Will you accompany me to the scaffold?—and will you bear my last blessing (enriching it with your own) to—O painful remembrance—to my wife?"
"I WILL perform every request you wish, dear MONMOUTH—and, believe me, your noble fortitude unmans, while it charms me."—The tear which followed these words, gave them a forcible eloquence.—"It is all," said the Duke, "from above!—But now, and I was all passionate vehemence till this awful warrant recalled me to reason—and made strange—I should rather say—blessed work in my bosom. Come, then, thou reverend prelate—I have no time to lose—twenty-four hours is but short notice—though long enough, I humbly trust, to gain the forgiveness I would ask.—Will you assist me in the important request? Will you condescend to pass the remaining day in a prison?"—"With unfeigned pleasure," said the Bishop, "not a prayer you can offer up to the Throne of Grace, but shall be accompanied by my most earnest supplication—and to the mercies of a suffering Saviour we will trust for their efficacy." The Amen, the Duke pronounced to this pious reference, convinced the prelate his work was half done—and they retired to a small closet within the apartment, in the full consciousness that their application would be accepted.
THE heavenly calm which a solemn discharge of the duties of prayer and praise had left upon the noble victim’s mind, was yet to receive a painful interruption.
With a slow and tardy pace, arose the glittering luminary of day, as if loth to behold the exit of an ill-fated hero.—Patient, steady, and resigned, he watched its tedious advances—and as its watery rays gleamed through the gothic casement—he fixed his eye upon them with a sigh of recollection for his ANNA—who, if restored to sense, must feel the most agonizing torments at the sight of that sun which was to light him to his doom:—but the entrance of his reverend friend changed the course of his ideas, and he welcomed him with a graceful humility.—"You are early, my Lord," said the Bishop, "I did not expect to find you so soon prepared."—"I have done," replied MONMOUTH, "with a treacherous world—I have not a wish for a moment’s delay—a very few hours—and its sorrows—its pains—and its disappointments will no longer agitate this bosom—already I feel a kind of impatient desire to complete my weary pilgrimage.
"THE pompous apparatus of death may cause a momentary terror, but it cannot rob me of those soaring hopes which seem already reduced to a certainty.—Come, let us go, my Lord.—It is past eight.—I have no doubt but all is ready."
THE prelate, with a respectful politeness, tendered his arm for the Duke’s acceptance—who, thus supported, exclaimed, "Ah, what is death—when a suffering Saviour offers the highest internal consolation—and his sacred delegate refuses not his protection in a season like this."—They then descended, and in a large lower room met the proper officers who were to conduct him from the Tower.
WITH a dignity untinctured by fear or apprehension, the Duke received the several expressions of obedience of those appointed to attend him—and with a condescending dignity, accepted their assistance in doing the necessary little offices, previous to his appearance on the scaffold.—He was now ready to depart, preceded by his guard and executioner, who walked next himself, with the edge of the uplifted axe nearly parallel to his face, and followed by the reverend prelates, for Bishop BURNET added his presence to the reverend TILLOTSON’S.—With a firm and manly step he followed his dismayed conductor, who was to decide his approaching fate, and had already reached the Tower gates, when the sight of the distant scaffold—the innumerable crouds pressing towards the solemn cavalcade—and pouring from every avenue—induced him to turn to the Archbishop, and, with a heavenly smile, he said, "Yonder scene," my Lord, "seems calculated to disturb, rather than soothe, the last moments of a man who once expected to mount a throne—but not a scaffold—and whose distinguished lot was, in the eye of fond credulity, to govern those who are now to witness his death;—but let me not complain, since thus affectionately attended. My royal grandfather suffered amidst the execrations of a cruel guard—he was reviled and disgraced by the barbarous insults of CROMWELL’S adherents—meekly he bowed his anointed head to the block, and placed to a proper account the soldiers tauntings."—He was going on, when a paper, thrown from a carriage which had with much difficulty reached the place where he had stopped for a moment, dropped at his feet, and the word pardon was shouted from all who were near enough to see this remarkable incident.—The Duke took up the paper, and, in the moment of his opening it, a faint scream from the carriage turned his attention to the cause of it.—The door flew open, when JANNET, the faithful JANNET (whose affection for her dear Lady MARGARET had drawn her from her native country, and would not permit her, after that Lady’s death, to desert the Duchess, but obliged her, as it were, to follow her to London)—jumped out and prostrated herself before MONMOUTH, pointing with speechless sorrow to the coach.—The Duke started, a blush suffused his cheeks, he trembled with foreboding apprehension.—Ah! well might a mystery so dreadful discompose his frame.—Well might agonizing terror shake his soul—when he beheld, weak, faint, and almost breathless, the form of his ANNA.—She threw herself into his extended arms—and in a low convulsive tone she articulated—"Read it, read that blessed paper—JAMES relents—see the conditions, stop the execution." Then looking towards the axe, she screamed—"Hide that horrid weapon—you shall not mangle my husband—the King forgives.—He will have mercy. Remorseless man, take that bloody signal of death from my sight."—With the countenance of a benevolent angel MONMOUTH hung over his distracted wife.—"Peace, sweet love," he said, "O, who could suffer such gentle tenderness to witness the death of one so much beloved."—The prelates, with tears of christian pity, begged the Duke to peruse the mandate, while his Lady was supported by him and her attendant.—He did—paused—read it again—and then fixing a look of inexpressible affection upon the Duchess—"Barbarous refinement in cruelty—it was not enough to drag me from her arms—it was not enough to buoy up her soul with the prospect of my release; but they must give her new themes for anguish, again re-act the torturing scene."—"O, my Lord," said JANNET, "suffer me to acquaint you, that as soon as my Lady was somewhat recovered, after you were taken from the Council Chamber, she commanded me to attend her to the levee: I did—and she repeated to the king her entreaties for your pardon.—He seemed displeased, but at last gave the Duchess that paper—with a promise, if you signed it, that your pardon was to follow.—She would have been with you last night, but a succession of fainting fits deprived her of power and sense to act for herself, and it is only within these two hours her disorder has remitted."—"And does she know the contents of this mandate?"—"I rather think not, my Lord, as her weak state would not permit the smallest attention to any thing, but the means of gaining your pardon."—"Convey her to the coach," said MONMOUTH, with a mournful sigh—"I thought to have yielded up a weary life with fortitude—but this cruel incident has awakened every pang—and called back my hopes, my wishes, to a sad and fruitless purpose."—In vain did they now strive to separate the unfortunate Lady from her husband, her hands were clasped about his neck, which could not be unloosed without the greatest violence. The Duke stamped with agony. The Lieutenant respectfully informed him time advanced, and it was necessary he should speak his determination upon a point of such importance; for if his Majesty had granted a conditional pardon, and he felt himself inclined to accept it, it would be proper to discharge the officers who now waited to conduct him to the scaffold.—"You are merciful," said MONMOUTH, "you wish my deliverance—these reverend bishops are my friends, and, I trust, would also gladly see me liberated—but upon these terms"—and he looked upon the paper which he yet held in his hand—"upon these terms I disdain all the King can offer. Why would he thus embitter the remnant of my existence? I sought it not.—Why must this angelic purity again experience the pangs of separation?—ANNA—my wife—my soul—my love—awake—detain not thy impatient husband—he cannot stay with thee—JAMES forbids it."—She raised her head faintly—and looking about, her heavy eyelids could not support the weight of grief which sunk them down, but suddenly loosing her hands again, dropped insensibly upon his bosom—while tears only explained the anguish of his soul.—They now gently, and without resistance, conveyed her to the coach, when the motion revived her sufficiently to take in the whole force of that miserable sight which appalled the surrounding gazers.
WITH a wild aspect she looked after her MONMOUTH, as the vehicle drew off, her hands clasped, her eyes straining for a last—last look—nor did she take them from the dear sad object of all her sorrows, till a more shocking one presented itself.—As they were necessarily obliged to pass the scaffold, which was hung with black, surrounded by the guards, with their bayonets fixed, and every other awful apparatus—"See, JANNET," she cried, "on that altar—a pure and noble sacrifice is now about to be offered up.—"See," she added, in a tone of impatient despair—"there, on that accursed stage, MONMOUTH must bleed—he will die—I cannot save him."—The horses, now stopped by an increasing multitude, attempted in vain to advance—"Ah!" she cried, gasping as it were for utterance—"this is as it should be—perhaps these accumulated horrors may free my perturbed spirit, time enough to overtake my MONMOUTH’S, while yet on the wing for Heaven.—Blessed martyr! that I could but suffer death with thee."—At this cruel moment the procession arrived.
THE Duke, who (when his ANNA departed) saw nothing desirable in the surrounding spectators to excite his attention—rivetted his looks to the earth, nor knew, till he reached the fatal place, that she must encounter another shock so terrible; for she now beheld him again, saw him ascend the steps, viewed, with a stedfast countenance, the block, the axe, the executioner, and strove to articulate a last adieu;—but, instantly overcame by the pangs she had long struggled against, her senses once more gave way, her features were fixed and immoveable, her whole form, chilled and stiffened by grief, lost every symptom of animation, and, when the carriage moved on, she altered not her position, but with her fingers clasped within each other, her face turned towards the afflicted gazers, her eyes assuming a dim and sightless appearance—she was slowly conveyed from the tragical spot—utterly inattentive to the noise and tumult about her.
MONMOUTH followed with his eyes the insensible partner of his soul, till he could view her no longer; then turning to his friends—"Think you, my Lords," said he, "that JAMES has any superior torture in store to render my departing life still more wretched?—Gentle will be the pain that weapon can inflict, compared to the misery of these moments.—What are the contents of that paper, but a repetition of a proposal I had before rejected?—A proposal which, to accept, would overwhelm my character with shame and ignominy—and have given succeeding ages cause to execrate a name which yet, I trust, will hereafter be mentioned with esteem, pity—perhaps approbation:—certain I am my beloved ANNA would not have accepted her husband’s pardon upon such inglorious terms, had not distress enfeebled her faculties, and blunted that delicate sense of honour, which has, till now, rendered her afflictions light.—I must own," he added, in a melancholy tone—"I must acknowledge the frailty of mortality bears hard upon the firmer purposes of my soul—you, my Lords, perhaps, by your Christian council, can calm the agitation of an expiring creature; you will likewise pity, and allow for the strange contradictions of our nature—I did not imagine it was in the power of aught below to shake my resolution; but it shews the imbecility of our best and noblest intentions, and how unequal we are to the contest, when combating the storms of passion, however laudable at any other season the indulgence of Heaven-approving love may be. Had not my afflicted Duchess appeared at this awful period, not the force of death itself could have ruffled the surface of that ocean the hand of Omnipotence had stilled—but who now shall speak peace to this labouring heart?"—"Heaven," replied the excellent BURNET—"Heaven will answer your aspirations for peace."—With the most fervent devotion MONMOUTH, accompanied by his reverend comforters, knelt to deprecate the Almighty’s wrath.—Their ejaculations were breathed in the true spirit of Christian piety—all present upon the scaffold joined in the tribute of prayer; and, when the bishops had concluded, MONMOUTH arose—his eyes sparkled with renewed hope—his features assumed their former serenity—a beatified smile illumined his countenance, and he exclaimed in a tone of rapture—"It is over, my friends—our prayers are answered—and now let me prepare for the last act of a tragedy which I hope will conclude with my death. May JAMES be satisfied—his end is gained by my fall. May no more victims be offered up to the enthusiastic tenets of a persecuting religion."
NOTHING now remained but the last tremendous stroke which was to complete Lady MONMOUTH’S wretchedness—emancipate her husband from an unnatural uncle’s power—and gratify the resentment of a gloomy bigot.—Beloved almost to adoration—his dying moments were rendered glorious to him by the affecting respect which all ages—all ranks—sects—and even those who condemned his pretensions, paid to fallen merit. His appearance upon the scaffold was distinguished by an universal silence, interrupted only by the expression of grief too sincere to be stifled. His air—his attitude—his dress—his person—were all subjects of attention and admiration.
HIS venerable companions gave additional awfulness to the scene. The noble resignation which possessed his features—the calm dignity with which he regarded the surrounding multitude—the heroic or rather Christian stedfastness, that animated his countenance, while viewing the apparatus of death—while it heightened the affectionate notice of the croud—lessened the sorrow of those friends who pleaded a fond and faithful attachment to him:—but when he took off his hat with an outward token of respect to all around—when he prepared to address them in a solemn, yet undaunted tone—every head was uncovered—every eye fixed upon him—every ear attentive to the last words of the dying victim—while such as could not get near enough, endeavoured, by leaping upon the shoulders of those before them, to lessen the distance his words would be from their hearts.
"You see, my friends," said he, "the fate of one destined—by the encouragement of pretensions he was taught to adopt—to suffer the death of a traitor.—If I have wilfully erred in the means I took to establish my claim—this—" pointing to the axe— "shall punish my temerity: but if the blood of so many faithful adherents flowed only in consequence of my lawful endeavours—it will then be a quick and ready extermination of all my sorrows.—Yet let me confess, with humble regret, my sincere concern for the loss of those noble martyrs to friendship—whose families, connections, and favourers, will long mourn their fatal attachment to an unfortunate Prince—and, if my earnest prayers can prevail, the consolation of a heavenly Omnipotence shall supply losses so heavy.—Conscious that what I have done was in the full sense of what I owed my successors and my country, the present moment brings no terrors—all rage—all resentment is now subsided. That block is to me a pillow of everlasting repose—that man—but as the harmless executioner of a will superior to his own.—I exult in my defiance of death—since it is a natural consequence which sooner or later must be the portion of all the human race: your friendly attendance at this hour is highly grateful to my departing soul.—May peace rest upon your dying scene, and may ye feel the same happy prognostications as fill my bosom with well grounded hopes.
"TO the King, who thus provides for my speedy passage to eternity, I hold no enmity—may his reign be distinguished by no future calamity; but may he pass quietly, and under the sense of a proper conviction, from this world to a better. And now, O my friends, let me bespeak your prayers—let my soul quit this earthly tenement, under the idea that all present will join their humble petitions to mine for its future happiness. I said, death has no terrors—again I repeat—it has none respecting its power over the body—adieu, then, my dear friends—adieu, for ever!"
THE murmur that arose upon his silence, was composed of a mixture of sighs, groans, and sobs—but were immediately suspended, when he turned to the Reverend TILLOTSON—"You promised my Lord," said he, "to visit the Duchess in her trying affliction. Tell her"—he stopt—his voice faultered—his hands trembled as he wiped away a tear—when, throwing away the handkerchief,—"Be gone, he said, foolish testimony of a weakness inexcusable.—Be pleased, my Lord, to encourage the dear creature in the assurance that her MONMOUTH quitted life with an unabated affection for her worth.—Say, that when the lamp of life glimmered with an expiring faintness, that then he lifted up his heart to God in prayers for her—that he implores heaven to give her fortitude and resignation, to go through another scene not less trying—and that if Omniscience should calm her sorrows by the birth of an infant, it is his particular wish, it should be educated in perfect ignorance of that claim which has brought its father to the block, and stigmatized its noble grandmother with infamy."
THE bishops then once more, at his request, meekly kneeled on each side, and, with a pious effusion of affectionate tenderness, united with him in a reiterated and fervent address to the Deity. All who could get near enough the place of execution, to witness the religious sacrifice, added their petitions for his peaceful exit.
THIS duty so fully accomplished—MONMOUTH arose, turned to the decider of his fate, and taking the axe from his hand, felt the edge, saying, as he returned it—"I hope," my friend, "you do not mean to strike a second blow—upon your dexterity depends the acquisition of another present, equal to this—(giving him a purse)—My servant has been instructed, if you do your duty well, to perform what I have promised.—Remember the torture my noble friend RUSSEL endured, and be sure you give not these gentlemen the same reason to complain of you.—When I drop my handkerchief, strike home—do not delay.—One blow, remember.—One blow will be sufficient, if your weapon be sharp."
THE poor fellow trembled universally, while receiving the solemn charge, turned pale, hesitated his thanks for the gold—and his promise of obedience—and could scarcely hold the axe; while the Lieutenant, who had noticed his perturbation, whispered his injunctions to complete the business with resolution.
WHILE MONMOUTH, with calm indifference, was taking off his upper garment—a sudden and half-stifled groan from behind startled him;—he looked around, and perceived an ancient man advancing towards the block.—"Friend," said the Archbishop, "restrain all tumultuous expressions of sorrow—this is no time for noisy exclamation.—The tranquillity your mistaken fondness may interrupt, is of more importance than you can conceive."—"Alas! my Lord," said the weeping creature, "I would only kiss that revered hand; indeed I will not be troublesome." I should know that voice, said the Duke.—"O yes, my blessed master, I am your own true servant, ANTHONY RIVERS, be not angry.—O, this heart-breaking sight will soon finish my sad existence."—"Courage, ANTHONY," said the Duke, raising him from his knees, where he had fallen—"my fortitude shall support yours—your faithful attention cannot be rewarded by me; but we are both hastening to the termination of all our cares—be prudent then, and attend in silence."—The heart-grieved ANTHONY endeavoured to smother the sighs which heaved his breast, but could not stop the big tears that made a channel of every furrow—but when the Duke had fervently embraced his benevolent companions (looking with a heavenly compassion upon the drops of pity which bedewed their cheeks) and then condescendingly shook his lamenting servant’s hand, the wretched old man could no longer suppress his anguish, but again falling upon his knees, in a broken voice, execrated the barbarity of him who had condemned his brother’s child to death.—A look from the Lieutenant awed him—he quitted the place, and, retiring to the furthest part of the scaffold, indulged the sorrows of his soul.
MONMOUTH was now prepared—but lifting up his eyes to the populace, condescendingly bowed to all around—and then kneeling, cast such a piercing look upon the executioner as entirely overcame him—and, when the suffering Duke let go the signal, the man started back—but recovering himself, struck at random:—the blow was ineffectual—and, to his utter dismay, the tortured victim raised his head—he struck again, but to as little purpose—a third attempt only prolonged the misery of the mangled object, which yet retained a convulsive sense of pain. The terrified fellow, in an agony of fear, threw down the axe, saying it was not in his power to finish the murderous scene—but the sheriff furiously commanding him to resume it—he did—and with three more strokes compleated MONMOUTH’S tragedy.
A LONG and melancholy succession of mournful exclamations followed the dreadful denouement—the multitude wept as for a parent, a brother, or a son—and when the whole scene was closed, left the place in silent grief. The body was immediately reconveyed to the apartment MONMOUTH had that morning quitted—and received every respectful attention friendship, esteem, and affection could suggest. The reverend bishops, after a proper time had elapsed, performed the last offices for the deceased—accompanying the disconsolate follower of his hapless fortune to the chapel of the Tower, where, with unfeigned grief, RIVERS saw the sacred remains deposited in a vault beneath.
BISHOP TILLOTSON, mindful of the dying Duke’s request, hastened the next day to perform a task, so little according with the feelings of a suceptible soul. The unhappy Duchess—who had only that morning recovered sense enough to have a confused idea of her past sufferings—received the Bishop with an awful foreboding of his commission.—She was supported by her attendants when he entered—and the tears which preceeded his words, fully convinced her of all he strove to utter.—She sat silent some minutes, her eyes fixed with such an expression of woe upon her noble visitor, as made him utterly incapable of the task he had undertaken—at last—"You may speak, my Lord, you may tell me MONMOUTH is no more—I know it—I was told so in a dream.—You wonder at my calmness, but the worst is past—he is fainted, and shall I complain?—No, nothing now remains, but for me to prepare to join him." She stopped from feebleness—and the Archbishop, somewhat assured by the fortitude she expressed, proceeded in the gentlest manner to inform her of her husband’s dying request. When he had finished—she paused for a moment, and then casting up a look of resignation to Heaven, cried—"Yes—his dying commands shall, if I am doomed to live without him—be sacredly complied with.—In his offspring, should it survive—I will endeavour to supply a loss so exquisite."—She then fainted, and the Bishop retired full of pity for the hapless fate of so much excellence.
SOON as her feeble state permitted the exercise of a carriage, she was conveyed by easy journeys to Scotland, where, in melancholy solitude, she finished a life of sorrow, after giving birth to a male heir.
THE fall of her noble husband, added no lustre to the short inglorious reign it was meant to prolong—a quick succession of rebellion—civil wars, and consequent executions, rendered England a scene of calamity.—The arbitrary principles JAMES professed were strengthened by the despotic disposition of his Queen, and they soon experienced how inefficacious is that dependance a King holds without the concurrence of a free people—and how dangerous to obtrude the practice of enthusiastic tenets upon those who have been blessed with, and enjoy the pure light of the gospel, unfettered by Romish superstition; how inefficacious the attempt to force the practice of those opinions upon others which are unsupported by reason and pure revelation!
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