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THE DYING MONARCH. of the atmosphere, a breaking of the
solid clouds, which walled the firmament “An omen, say'st thou?"
about in dark monotony ; but, after “Of portentous ill !- every effort of the shrouded sun to'shake Woe to the wailing wretch that's born away the veil from his diminishing gloto-day
ries, a deeper hue of brown had fallen Born in the midst of death and deeper on the scenery, and the volumed vapours woe
rolled up thicker and more thick, as if To miserable Scotland !”
in very mockery of his fruitless struggles.
Anon the fleecy mass was shaken, and a It was a dark December's day, gloomy, cold breath came forth, raw, damp, and and chill, and silent. The earth had gusty—then, one by one, the broad flakes been, for weeks, encrusted with a snowy Hoated through the heavy air, sailing at covering, white and inviolate ; the brawl. the first to and fro, as doubtful whether ing streams, with all their glassy ripples, to soar or fall, but fast increasing in all their thundering linns, ice-bound and their number and velocity, till they drove voiceless—the tall forest trees, cased, down in long, straight lines, rendering from their wind-rocked summits down indistinct, if not invisible, the largest to their very roots, in silvery frostwork, objects, even at a few paces distant. that would have sparkled diamond-like Such was the state of things without to the faintest sunbeam, had the great the castle walls ; nor was the scene light-giver vouchsafed to cheer the me- changed for the better to him who con. lancholy landscape with one, the dimmest, templated from within the vaulted halls of his radiant smiles. But it seemed and darksome cloisters of the royal rethat nothing gay or lightsome was to sidence. In the huge guard-room, clusshed its influence that day on the sad tered around a central fire of logs, towers of Falkland, the last abode of smouldering and hissing on the hearth, Caledonia's dying monarch. At times, as the fire gradually gained ground upon indeed, there had appeared a lightening the moist, unseasoned wood-with the
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thin acrid smoke surging upwards, cur. ing riot, and unbridled insolence. Death taining the stone-arched roof, and black. was the spell that had overmastered the ening the quaint devices of the oaken high spirits-death, dealing with the rafters, till it found a vent at some ill- mightiest. fastened casement or yawning door-way Far, in a low and many-angled cham
—there sat a group of weary-looking ber—with lofty oriels looking out upon menials-warders in plate and mail, and a fair expanse of lawn, and shrubbery, servitors in gilded liveries, with here and and forest, bright waters glancing in the there a forester, green-frocked, and foreground, blue mountains bounding gauntleted, with falcon on his wrist, the misty distance, all viewless now and cursing the cheerless season that de- hidden by the thick-driving stormbarred him from the practice of his gentle tossing his fevered limbs upon a couch, science! A dozen slow-hounds, “ crook- luxuriously dressed out with all the rich kneed and dew-lapped, like Thessalian appliances of downy cushions, velvet bulls," with as many greyhounds, of the coverlets, and draperies of blazoned tall, gaunt, wire-haired Scottish breed, damask, lay the frail mortal, bearing, basked on the hearth, stretching their alas ! how vainly, the proud title and unnerved limbs, and yawning with an the sumptuous style of king. His limbs expression of weary listlessness almost that erst had borne the weight of the human on their shaggy features ; while linked mail and ponderous casque, two dogged sentinels stalked to and fro through many a summer's noon, and before the barred and bolted entrance many a wintry storm-now languished, their clanging steps and jingling harness overloaded, even to fainting, by the alone waking the echoes of that long texture of the thinnest linen! his hands corridor. What little converse passed, -on which the muscles that had couched, was in low whispers-brief question and and that no long time since, the knightly unwilling answer—as though each one lance, or hurled the massive axe, stood had rather commune with his own dull up like corded ivy clasping the withered thoughts, than rouse himself, by aught limbs of some strong oak-were stretched of mental energy, to mingle with his abroad, clutching the tapestries of the fellows in social and unbended inter- bed, with feeble but convulsive efforts ! course; the very tankard, mantling with His eye-formerly as bright in battle as mighty ale, passed slowly round and the beacon's light amid the raging of sullenly, the deep potations from its the tempest-now peered out dimly brim not ministering anything to break from its sunken orbits, rayless, and glazthe spell which evidently weighed on ing fast with the damp mists of death! those bold spirits.
It was in vain the leech, who had On the broad stairway, leading from watched night and day beside his pillow, the guard-room and the offices below, bandaged his throbbing temples, or tenthrough many a lordly chamber and many dered soothing potions to his hot and a sculptured aisle, to the fair halls where blistered lips—it was in vain the cowled Scotland's monarchs held their state, and sandalled monks held up before his were mustered in half-armour---- with clouded gaze the blessed form of him halbert, and two-handed sword, and the who died to save, or chaunted words of uncouth, unmanageable fire-arms of the heavenly consolation-it was in vain the day-the members of the royal house- dauntless Thirlestane, sole baron who hold; while, in the passages above, had kept his fealty unstained towards pages and ushers, gorgeously attired in his monarch at his utmost need, spoke the black and scarlet colours of the cheerily of future fields whereon the Scottish crown, held ward with their treasured unicorn of Scotland should offensive weapons prompt for service. float triumphant, and the false Southron It could not fail to be perceived, even by rue the boast of Flodden. All was in the least observant, that some events vain. Since the fell news of Solway unusual and fearful were in progress- rout had reached his ears, the hapless the age was one of revelry and license- king, feeble before, and faint alike with the men--who moved with careful steps sickness and with sorrow, sank down at and whispered voices, suffering not a once into a state of hopeless stupor. door to echo as it closed, nor a weapon That sad intelligence had quenched the to clash against its fellow—were of a last spark of his lordly soul--and well class remarkable above all others for indeed it might. Treason in his own tamelessness of spirit, for uncompromis. people's ranks-cowardice among those who heretofore had led the van of battle attendants, he sat up, or stretched his -defeat, dishonour, and destruction! nerveless limbs at length; he ate, or A Scottish army of ten thousand veteran drank, or fasted, as he was commanded, warriors trampled into the very dust of reckless to all appearance, and deprived earth, scattered to the four winds of of common intellect. Yet was it evident heaven, by the marauding spears and to those who studied deeply his afflicting private enterprise of but two English case, that the mind was not extinguished, barons! If not such tidings, what should nor even wholly paralysed, as men had dethrone a monarch's spirit from its at first believed ; for they could see his confident and fearless height? If not pale lips move, from time to time, as if such tidings, what should bow the lofty articulating words, although their sound head, and break the gallant heart? Till was indistinct, or utterly inaudible; and then he had struggled, if in vain, still after long and deep investigation, they nobly—against the tide of fortune! Till could trace that constant motion, and then he had borne up against his malady, an occasional sound louder than common, as the pine-tree, strong and whole at into one ceaseless, iterated sentenceheart, bears up against the blasts that “alas ! alas ! my country!" Painful shake its head, but may not bend its it was, indeed, and piteous to witness stem! He heard--and as his ear drank such a wreck; a thousand times more in the misery, the ruin, the disgrace painful than to have beheld the mind his dark eye glazed, and his pale lip proudly triumphant above the agonies faltered forth the words—“To bed—to and dissolution of the frail shell which bed! never to rise again! No more of it inhabits for awhile ; and strenuous waving banners no more of levelled were the efforts made, and ingenious the lances! When all but life is lost, better experiments devised, “ to cleanse his to die than live !" He staggered, and bosom of that perilous stuff" which was would have fallen to the earth, had he evidently choking by degrees the waning not been caught in the arms of his asto- lamp of life. Men were brought, clashing nished chamberlain. To his bed he had in knightly harness, into his silent chamindeed been borne, and, as though his ber-messengers were ushered in, herald, words had been supplied to him by a and pursuivant, and king-at-arms, prospirit of prophecy, he had not risen claiming in loud voices, and with note of thence again. Leeches could find no triumph, glad tidings of recovered ho. ailment; but, although they spoke of nour and of glorious triumph-but still nerves enfeebled by the temporary shock, he lay in listless stupor; his eyelid did and promised quick relief; although they not wink, nor his pulse bound at the poured the opiate, in hope of bringing hearing of such tidings as, but a few on the soothing slumber; although they weeks before, would have sent the hot banished every cause that should produce current of his blood careering in ecstaexcitement ; although they strove to lull tic rapture through his remotest veins. him with rich perfumes and with gentle It might be, that the words themselves music-sleep came not near his eyes. pierced not his ears, or, if they did, He uttered no complaint, he murmured reached not the portals of his undernot of any pain, but he wasted day by standing; it might befor once a faint day; hourly his hollow cheek waxed and sickly smile was seen to cross his hollower; and his hair, which had, a pallid features--it might be, that, hearlittle week ago, been free from speck of ing the triumphant accents, and marking white as the wild raven's wing, was their high import, he had retained, even veined by many a streak of wintry grey. in his fallen state, enough of judgment He spoke not often, nor did he pray at to perceive at once the fallacy and the all, though still in the adjoining oratory intention of these fictitious tidings. It the monks sang night and day masses might be, that his pride, still in this last for the soul of the dying, and hymns ordeal supporting him, led him to pass that his spirit might be moved to peni. as unregarded this sporting with his tence and faith. It was a deep and agony—as, if he understood, he must rooted sorrow, that was gnawing at his have deemed it-since he lacked the heart-strings; that had, as it were, pre- power to resent or to avenge it as would occupied his every thought and pre- become a monarch and a man. cluded the admission of all, or aught, At length a sound arose without; rebeside into his enfeebled understanding. mote, indeed, yet distinctly audible in Passive as an infant, in the arms of his every pause or lull of the wild tempest, that still wailed among the Gothic pin the crown itself, the treasured fleurs de nacles and towers, as if it mourned the lis, and the proud motto, boastful no sad condition of that unhappy prince more than true, “ Ready, ay ! ready,” who lay beneath, unconscious, as it stole with a noiseless step, and a deseemed, either of sympathy or sound. meanour how far different from the exIt was a burst of distant music! First ulting smile and stately port with which the shrill flourish of a trumpet might be he would have rushed to battle, from caught by practised ears; before the the apartment, to learn the import, and duller notes of the accompanying instru. to check the mirth of these ill-omened ments were audible amid the conflict of strains. the elements—then horn and cymbal, The music, however, was still heard and the deep clang of the kettle-drum, without, louder and louder as it drew awoke the echoes of the forest ; and, more nigh, till its sharp cadences rang over all, the heavy onward trampling of through the vaulted roofs so shrilly as a large force of horsemen was heard, almost to preclude the possibility of though deadened by the snow on which human conversation. One by one, the the steel-shod hoof fell with a sullen watchers of the dying bad left their sta. sound, far different from their ordinary tions by the couch, unconscious each, clang.
in this absorbed and agitated mood, of “What have we here, in the name of his fellow's absence ; till all the comheaven?” whispered the oldest of a pany, barons and chamberlains, monk, group of barons, war-worn and wrinkled mediciner, and page, were collected in men, though still erect and hardy, who an anxious knot about the casement, watched about the couch of their ex- watching, with eager expectation, to scan piring prince.
the coming band. It now was evident, “Pray heaven it be not the fause indeed, that the intentions of those ap. Southron," muttered another, griping to proaching could be nothing hostile--for his dagger's hilt, as he replied—“Look with the clangour of the trumpets were out there, Thirlestane-an' I deem not now mingled the noisy acclamations of a wrongly-yon casement will command joyous multitude ! They were even now their march. And thou, lord warden, almost beneath the castle walls, yet in to the battlements."'.
such dense and whirling gusts did the “Now shame on ye,” cried Thirle- snow-flakes drive against the casements, stane, in tones a little raised by the ex- that it was with difficulty that the gazers citement of the moment—"shame on ye might descry even the train of men and Scottishmen, that know not, and at this horses, which swept around the moat in brief interval, an English point of war slow and solemn cavalcade, strangely at from the Lord Lion's minstrelsy of Scot- variance with the peltings of the wintry land. When heard ye ever such a tone storm ; while they could not distinguish as that, so flourishing and prolonged, a aught of their apparel or demeanour. prelude to the volleys of the grey goose “I see no gleam of mail,'' whispered shafts, that-out upon them-have drank the aged man, who had first directed the up more of princely blood in Scotland, attention of his comrades to the ap. than all the spears that have been forged proaching sounds, “I see no gleam of on Southron stithies, from the days of mail, nor, methinks, are there any lances the wight Wallace downward ! But war clustered beneath yon banner !”. or peace, they must be stopped, those “Tush, man,' replied another, “ no trumpets! Hear ye not now they breathe human eye could mark the gleam of mail, a note of triumph-ay! by my halydom, nor note the difference between a herald's of wild exulting joy? See to the king, baton and a knight's weapon, athwart my lords ; I go to take some order with the lines of snow that drive so densely this herald scum! They dare not, I wot, earthward.” proclaim the king's successor, while yet “True, Lethington-well spoken,', he breathes the breath, even if they knew muttered a third, his hand still resting on to find one! But, alack! alack i Fail the pummel of his sword; “well spoken ! our fifth James to-day, where shall poor Friends would not, march so slowly Scotland go to seek a ruler ?"
through such pitiless storm ; nor would As he spoke, the noble-hearted soldier it be aught strange or new to meet with -so lately decorated by the monarch, treachery and war beneath the hollow whom he, and he alone, had served so guise of the fause Southron's amity. faithfully with the heraldic bearings of Better to arms! say I.”
"So said not I, nathless," answered wild clamour of the trumpets pierced the he, who had been addressed as Lething. shroud that had long involved his mind ton. “So said not I; nor see I aught, in dark oblivion. His eyes, though they that I should say so. No human eye, glared wildly to and fro, no longer lacked indeed, could mark the flash of mail or a spark of animation, which told that, the twinkling of lance-heads in such a for the first time now in many days, flurry as this present; but he were blind, they were taking note of surrounding indeed, who could not mark those ban. objects; and his attenuated frame shook ners. There be enough, I trow, among with a convulsive motion, evidently the that group-scarcely five score, me effect of some strong passion—whether thinks, of horsemen-to array a royal it were the eagerness of expectation host. Trust me, good friends, these the anguish of insulted pride-or the be but pursuivants and peaceful heralds heart-sickening consciousness that he -the train, I well believe, even as was thus neglected at his utmost need. Thirlestane told ye, of the Lord Lion H e had already risen from his bed of king."
sickness, and, standing erect, although Even as he spoke, a heavy grating with tottering limbs, had partially attired clash was heard below, followed by the himself. rattle of chains, and the creaking of heavy “My liege, for sake of heaven, my timbers.
gracious liege," exclaimed the chamber“ There-hear ye not,” continued the lain, rushing toward him, “ for sake of last speaker, “portcullis up! down heaven, compose you. There is no cause drawbridge! So deals not Thirlestane for fear." with suspected friends, or open foemen !" “ Fear-sirrah !" cried the haughty
And as he spoke, the voice of that monarch, his eyes lightening with indig. bold baron rose clear above the din and nation--" Fear-sirrah! What Stuart tumult.
hath ever known the word ? Summon mé " How now, my masters ?-peace ! Thirlestane hither no words I say, no peace with your senseless blasts, I say; words ! By him that made me, I will rise. else may ye lack the breath, ye so ex. It matters not, I say," he continued, pend, to cool your brose—fore heaven, turning sharply round on the physician, but ye shall find them hot enough, an' who was interposing with some words of ye but wind one other flourish! The soothing or entreaty—“It matters not king is ill at ease !!!
to parley - Die !-Think ye, I know What followed might not be noted, not even now that I am dying—and what where they stood at that high casement; availeth it to live? But ere I die, I will but the music sank at once, and they perform my duties to my people! Thirlemight see the train dismount and disap. stane I-Go call me Thirlestane !" pear, each after each, as they were swal. As he spoke, raising his feeble voice lowed up by the projecting vaults of to the highest pitch of his lungs, the barbican and ballium.
noble warrior, on whom he so fully and “ The king--mylords--the king ! Look so worthily relied, entered the chamber, to his highness ! shouted one who, less accompanied by the highest dignitary of absorbed than his fellows in admiring the the heraldic college—the Lion king-atentrance of the fair procession, had turn- arms, his quartered tabard glittering ed his head towards the couch of the with blazonry of every hue, so brilliant deserted monarch.
that it mocked the gazer's eye, and his Quick as thought, every eye glanced crown of honour sparkling with jewels, backward in dismay, as each became and surmounted by the rampant effigy of aware that not he only, but all his com- the monarch of the brute creation, whose rades, had, with a recklessness, which, name he bore. should the prince recover, might well be “Thirlestane, what tidings ?-speak ? construed into treason, departed from Say out, Lord Lion—what tidings from their posts like falseand faithless soldiers. our consort ?” he cried, almost before Nor was the sight that met them in the his eyes could have descried the characleast calculated to assuage their fears, or ters of those who stood beside him to diminish their sense of guilt and de- “ Palter not, nobles-seek not to deceive gradation.
me-I know ye are from Edinburgh–I The consciousness of intellect had, it know ye bear me tidings from my queen would seem, at once and thoroughly re- -I know I am a father!" turned to the unhappy prince, as the With a strange expression of astonish