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Wreathed in its dark-brown rings, her hair
All lowered around the lovely maid,
To darken her dejection's shade.'-p. 158-160.
But whence arose the passion which thus saddens her, and why is the image of this stranger Redmond, the chief object of Matilda's visions? The poet has interrupted his narrative for the purpose of answering this question.
It is well known that the O'Neales disputed with the warlike Elizabeth, the sovereignty of a great part of Ireland; that they foiled some of the ablest English Generals; and that they totally
defeated, in 1599, a royal army commanded by Sir Henry Bagnal at the battle of Black-water. Amongst the prisoners on that fatal day, were Rokeby and Mortham, then in their early youths, who were rescued from the general slaughter by Turlough O'Neale, the tanist, or heir apparent of Tyrone, treated with the utmost kindness, and finally dismissed without ransom. From that time Rokeby remained at his family mansion; and, whilst Mortham was carrying arms in South America, occupied himself in the less dangerous pursuits of the chase, and in the exercise of a liberal hospitality. At one of his festive meetings, and at a late hour of the night, a man, whose language and appearance were equally uncouth, being suddenly introduced into the hall, staggered up to the fire, and unfolding his mantle, which was stained with blood, and stiff with ice, cautiously drew from under it, and deposited on the hearth, a little boy of exquisite beauty; whom he declared to be the grandson of Turlough O'Neale, entrusted to his charge by that chieftain, for the purpose of being placed under the protection of Mortham, or of Rokeby Having concluded his message, and with eager and savage eloquence adjured the knight to cherish the orphan of a friend and benefactor, now weakened by age, and crushed by oppression; he declared that he should at length die contented, and instantly dropped. He had received a mortal wound; and expired, after sobbing out a prayer to his tutelary saint, and his last blessing on the child; from whose incoherent exclamations it was discovered that this trusty adherent was his foster-father, who had been furnished with various letters, and credentials, as well as with presents of different kinds, but had been assaulted by ruffians in the adjoining forest; and after being plundered had, with difficulty, crawled to the castle gate.
The tear, down childhood's cheek that flows,
When next the summer breeze comes by
The orphan soon recovered his gaiety; accepted and returned the caresses of his adopted father; became the happy playmate of the still younger Matilda, and though he continued to cherish the recollection of the country in which he had passed his infancy, insensibly began to find that recollection unmixed with regret. The intimacy of childhood between Redmond and Matilda, confirmed by habit, unbroken by separation, undissipated by the intervention of any other objects, imperceptibly grew into a mutual attachment, which was cherished by both without scruple or alarm, till the solicitations of Oswald in favour of Wilfrid, awakened them to the pangs of jealousy and of suspense. Rokeby, indeed, a zealous royalist, had sworn that a rebel's son should never become the husband
VOL. VIII. NO. XVI.
husband of his daughter: he loved Redmond; had confided to him the guard of his standard; had often witnessed, with exultation, the valour which it excited in him; and had twice, during the battle of Marston, owed his life to the efforts of his heroic pupil. But Rokeby was now a prisoner, and a prisoner in the power of the treacherous Oswald. Redmond, therefore, prepared for the interview with his mistress, in a state of mind scarcely more sanguine than that of the ever-desponding Wilfrid.
Matilda wished for the counsel and assistance of both in the execution of a sacred charge committed to her care. She observed that her uncle Mortham, whose gloomy demeanour and stern political principles ill-accorded with the cheerful temper, and courtly tenets of her father, but whose tenderness for her was uniform, had confided to her, together with his treasures, a letter, which though wild and unconnected, would explain to them the cause of his undeviating sadness, and of his apparently capricious conduct. It told that in his youth he had clandestinely married, in a foreign country, and secretly conveyed to Mortham, a lovely woman, whom, even after the birth of a son, he continued to conceal from every eye but that of a single friend in whom he placed the most entire, though the most unmerited confidence. The villain attempted to seduce her, and, when repulsed, contrived her destruction. One day, after rising from table, she was seen to walk with a hurried pace, and with an air of anxiety, towards a grove of yews in the park. Mortham, still at table, and somewhat heated with wine, remarked the singularity of her demeanour, and turning to his companion, whose eyes were also directed towards her, observed on his countenance a sarcastic smile, of which he instantly and angrily demanded the cause. He was answered, with feigned reluctance, that there was a gallant concealed in the wood; upon which, stung with jealousy, he seized a cross-bow, rushed out in pursuit of the fugitive, and saw her throw herself into the embrace of a stranger. His vengeance was instantaneous and fatal; the same arrow passed through the hearts of both victims; and on reaching the spot he discovered his Edith in the arms of her murdered brother who, having at last discovered the place of her retreat, had visited her to concert with him the means of appeasing her father's displeasure. The intolerable agonies of remorse which followed the discovery of his crime were only suspended by a temporary frenzy, during the continuance of which, his infant son was surprised and carried off by some unknown means, and the villain who had caused all his calamities, escaped, as was supposed, into some distant country. On the recovery of his senses, Mortham found that, although the circumstances of this frightful tragedy could not be wholly concealed, his faithful domestics had so mo
dified them as to prevent the knowledge of his guilt; but the hopes of satisfying his vengeance or of meeting death, drove him into exile. Hence his connection with the band of freebooters in America, and with Bertram whom he had brought home as the intended instrument of his farther designs. But the sober voice of religion had, at length, taught him humility and forbearance; he had seen the perfidious destroyer of his peace; had claimed from him his only child; had failed of obtaining his request; and had still refrained from dying his hands in blood.
Thus far had the narrative proceeded, when a sudden rustling was heard in the thicket. Redmond sprang up, and supposing that there was no cause of alarm, again resumed his seat; yet Guy Denzil recoiled in dismay. Bertrain then seized the carbine, and though more than once foiled by the accidental interposition of Matilda, had gained a steady aim and was on the point of drawing the trigger, when he was stopped and compelled to make a hasty retreat, by the sudden approach of an armed force. In the mean time, Matilda and her companions resumed the perusal of Mortham's letter, in which he announced his resolution of passing three years in quest of his son; for whose use, he requested Matilda to guard the treasure intrusted to her, and to employ it, after that period, in such charitable uses as she should think fit. For the better security of this treasure, Wilfrid proposed to remove it from Rokeby to Barnard Castle, by means of the troops which his father had placed under his orders; and was much surprised at finding himself surrounded, at the moment, by those very troops, and at hearing from the officer, that they had been sent in all haste for his protection. A stranger, it seems, had announced to them, whilst exercising on an adjoining plain, that their master and his companions were way-laid by a band of ruffians, and a short search in the thicket, proved the truth of the information, by the discovery of Denzil's carbine, which Bertram had thrown away, at the moment of his flight. It was, therefore, determined that Matilda should, for the present, be attended home by Redmond with a small guard, and that Wilfrid should join them in the evening with a force sufficient for the protection of herself and the treasure.
Canto V. Wilfrid, aware of his father's avarice, and therefore anxious to conceal from him his present purpose, gave orders that his guard should meet him at Rokeby at midnight, and delayed his own departure till the evening was far advanced. Matilda, on the eve of quitting her native mansion, and of sharing her father's imprisonment, had just completed her preparations, and Redmond, by her directions, was still occupied in arming and arraying the few domestics who were to accompany her march, when her friendly visitor was ushered by torch light, into the vast and antiquated
hall, once the habitual seat of festivity, but now dilapidated and desolate. The purpose of the interview, the time, and the place, had an immediate influence on the mind of the rivals, inducing them to suspend their opposite pretensions, and to unite their efforts in favour of the helpless object of their affection. Redmond frankly proffered his hand to Wilfrid, who accepted the friendly overture; and the applauding smiles of Matilda repaid both for this temporary sacrifice of their hostility. Thus satisfied with each other, and with themselves, the young friends were beginning to enjoy that cheerfulness with which youth is sure to light up every interval of calamity, when their attention was arrested by a knock at the outer gate, accompanied by the very melodious voice of a minstrel, who humbly entreated admission for a fatigued and benighted wanderer. During a long contest between the cautious and unmusical porter, and this importunate vagrant, Matilda extorts from Wilfrid, to whom she promises a wreath of hollies and lilies as a reward, the following elegant and pathetic lay.
"THE CYPRESS WREATH.
'O Lady, twine no wreath for me,
Let dimpled Mirth his temples twine
Let merry England proudly rear
With heath and hare-bell dipped in dew,
The flower she loves of emerald green-
Strike the wild harp, while maids prepare