網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

for mark me! the first among you who counsels, or even hints at submission, shall be shot, though that shot were the last in the garrison! We have met here to defend, and not to betray our trust! and, while two stones hold together, let no one talk of yielding!'-Struck by these remarks, and by the manner in which they were spoken, every one remained silent; for each had, in his own mind, come there for no other purpose than to form some plan for the preservation of their lives, and if no other could be found to agree to the terms for capitulation, should the Castle be again attacked, as it was utterly impossible to defend it longer, and madness to attempt any resistance farther than was necessary, in order to obtain from the victor as favourable terms as possible. The passionate Beauford, as the silence still continued, turned to those around him, and knitting his eye-brows, until his countenance appeared to put on the look of a dæmon, giving vent to his rage, exclaimed aloud,-" Was I summoned here to be made a fool of, or, cowards as you are, think you that like yours, my heart harbours thoughts which my tongue dares not express. Begone, I s I say, to your posts, and leave the care of providing for the Castle's safety to me, since you appear to have forgotten the respect which you owe to your governor, as well as your duty to your King! Begone, I say, begone!" Stung by such unmerited reproaches, a young, but intrepid looking cavalier instantly started from his seat, "A truce to your reproaches, Sir John. That they are unjust, the wounds and scars we bear will testify, and vindicate our honour from the false charge of cowardice. We have neither forgotten our duty to our King, nor to our Governor; but when the latter so far forgets himself, as to accuse those falsely who have cheerfully shed their best blood, at his bidding, and neglects to provide for their safety in the hour of danger, it is time they look to themselves. Hear me then, I care not for the effects of your threatened vengeance. I have hitherto fought as becomes a loyal subject of King Charles, but will fight no longer, unless the terms of a surrender be first agreed on, in case the rebels

venture to renew the attack to-morrow. Agree to this, and my sword is again at your service, else never. These are my thoughts, nor do I fear to utter them; now do your worst!" Beauford, who had with great difficulty retained possession of his seat, till the speaker had concluded, no sooner perceived he had done, than he drew his sword, and rushing forwards, proceeded to put his threat into immediate execution; and most likely Walter Sele would have paid the forfeit of his life for his temerity, had not those around wrested the weapon of death from the hands of the Governor; who, enraged at being thus thwarted, darted from the chamber, swearing he would have every soul of them shot for rebels.

At this time, when the enemy from without, and faction from within, threatened the Castle with certain destruction, there were, besides the military who composed the garrison, within its walls, several ladies, whose friends or relatives, anxious for their safety, had placed them there as beyond the reach of danger, upon the approach of the rebel army. Among these was Deva Milton, the orphan daughter of an old Cavalier. No more is known of the maid, than that she was fair, whether in the opinion of the world or not, it matters little, it is enough that she was so in the eyes of Walter Sele. To him she was "the fairest of the fair." He loved her, and would like every true lover, have risked his life to serve her. To her little chamber it was he repaired, when released from the duties of the day, and in her company he was glad to forget, for awhile, the dangers which surrounded him. Here, therefore, it was that he hastened upon his escape from the council-room; and here he determined to remain patiently, until informed that the savage rage of the Governor was cooled, and time, by replacing reason upon her throne, should have made him sensible of the error which he had committed. A time, alas! that Walter was not fated to behold.

It appears, however, that he was not the only person among the besieged, who was sensible of the charms of the fair Deva. The commandant himself, who, to his unshaken loyalty, (almost

bis only virtue,) added all that licentiousness and profligacy which characterised in a greater or less degree, the reign of every monarch of the Stuart line; had also beheld and admired her charms, but alas! beheld, and admired them with the most dishonourable feelings; and he seized what appeared to him a favourable moment, when the officers were engaged in more important matters, to gratify his lust; glorying in the idea that he should, at the same time, by this means, inflict the most cruel of all punishments upon the unfortunate being, who had offended him; and blast for ever his brightest hopes, by ruining her who was far dearer to him than his own life.

Having gained admission into the apartment, he proceeded to flatter and menace by turns, but all in vain. Her virtue was alike proof against both; she upbraided him with his baseness and villany, and replied to his remarks, with taunts and reproaches. Enraged at her conduct, he seized her rudely, and was proceeding to gratify by force, both his revenge and his passion. His feeble victim shrieked aloud for assistance, but the echo of her voice was the only answer she received. Spite of the resistance which she made, one mibute more would have decided the struggle, and the fair Deva would have been-fair no longer. At this crisis the room-door yielded to the strong nerves of Sele, who snatching a pistol from his belt, rushed upon the villain, whom he saw before him, and presented it to his head; but even at this critical juncture he still retained presence of mind, sufficient not to discharge it, lest, by any accident, the contents should injure her to whose rescue he had thus opportunely arrived. Beauford, on feeling so rude a grasp, let go the hold of his intended victim, and turned round to oppose this sudden and unlooked for enemy. It was now no time for parley. In an instant the sword of each had left its scabbard. Coward and slave, by heaven you shall not again escape me!" "Neither slave nor coward," exclaimed the injured youth, as he recognised the wellknown sound of the governor's voice, * and that Beauford will soon discover

too." Flinging the pistol from his hand, he prepared instantly for the attack. The weapons met with the quickness of lightning, and though the event seemed to all appearance to depend more upon which was the strongest arm, yet the blows, however irregu lar and fierce, were frequently parried off with great skill, as each in turn became the assailant. The combat lasted but a few minutes; for the foot of Beauford striking against an iron-ring in the floor, he stumbled, when putting out his sword to prevent his falling it snapt, and of course occasioned that which it was intended to prevent. The issue of the strife seemed now determined; but it was not so: for on Sele's springing forward to disarm his adversary, he received the contents of a pistol in his left shoulder, and fell prostrate beside him. A party of the guard who had been alarmed by the noise which the combat had necessarily occasioned, now rushed into the apartment, when Beauford, springing up, commanded them to raise his wounded opponent, and to do as they were bid. He was instantly obeyed, and the soldiers, having bound him as well as they were able, at the moment, followed the steps of their governor, who led the way to the foot of the staircase; where, opening a low and narrow door, he descended a few steps, when a similar barrier opposed them, which was also, with some difficulty opened; and the interior of the castle keep presented itself to their view, darker, if possible, than the sepulchres of the dead. Here, just within the entrance, Beauford commanded the men to lay down their prisoner. They did so, and retreated. The door grating upon its rusty hinges, closed again; and the unfortunate Sele found himself in a dark, damp dungeon, far from the reach of any human being.

Not having been severely wounded, the coldness of dungeon soon brought the ill-fated youth to himself again, where seating, (for the place he was in, would not allow of his standing,) himself upon the step on which he had been left, he proceeded to bind up the wound, as well as he was able, with his handkerchief: after which he felt relieved. Perfectly aware from the

situation of his prison, that it would be in vain to attempt either by the loudness of his voice, or any other means now in his power, to make his friends acquainted with his fate, he made up his mind to bear manfully his present confinement; encouraged by the hope, that the garrison would soon be obliged to surrender, when, in all probability, he should regain his liberty. But the thought of his Deva being in the power of one whom he was now forced to rank as his bitterest enemy, rushed across his recollection, and almost drove him to distraction. The pain of his wound, and the dampness of his habitation, however, soon made him sensible of his utter inability to be of any service to her by his lamentation; and reason again assuming her dominion, he began to reflect upon the possibility of his being able to escape. At this instant, he fortunately thought of an old tale, which he had heard when a boy, respecting an outlawed chief, who, according to tradition, having been taken prisoner by the lord of Cardiff Castle, and confined in the cell he then inhabited, had effected his escape by means of a secret passage, which he had accidentally discovered. Walter Sele not being of a disposition to give way to despair, while the least glimmer of hope presented itself to his mind, seized eagerly upon this legendary account; and, though not very sanguine in his expectations, determined at all events to attempt the discovery of the reported outlet, well knowing that the strong holds of the feudal barons, frequently abounded with a multitude of secret posterns, and subterranean passages, for which any person except the original proprietor, would be puzzled to find an use. Groping therefore his way, as well as he was able, he proceeded slowly along, carefully examining with his hands the wall of the dungeon, which ere he had gone very far, became sensibly larger; and he was enabled to stand erect. Still keeping the wall for his guide, he had not proceeded much farther along his dark and dismal track, when he was agreeably surprised on finding himself come in contact with a strong current of air. He now became confident that

he could not be very distant from some opening, and the castle clock, which he distinctly heard striking the hour of ten, confirmed him in this opinion. Following the direction of the draft, he soon found that his course was considerably impeded by heaps of rubbish, and large fragments of stone, which had evidently been forced out of their proper place; and he rightly judged, from this circumstance, that here, at least, the enemy's artillery had accomplished their intended purpose. With a light heart, he cautiously removed the huge masses which obstructed his way, and in a short time had the happiness to find himself safe in the moat, on the north side of the castle.

Once more at liberty, he surveyed, as well as the darkness of the night would permit, those parts of the fortress which were near him. Burning with a desire of being revenged on the person who had so basely injured him, in an evil moment, he formed the fatal resolution of betraying the castle into the hands of the enemy; and this resolution was no sooner formed, than he proceeded to carry it into execution. The moat was soon cleared, and finding himself once more on terra firma, "It shall be so,” exclaimed he, "Yes, this very night is Cardiff Castle, Cromwell's. A few feet of earth removed, admits him to the postern aisle—and once in, Beauford shall then oppose in vain-Deva I yet may snatch thee from the tiger's jaws, and I will do so, though I die a traitor." Having with these words turned his back upon the walls, which but a few hours before he had gallantly defended, he sought with hasty strides the camp of Cromwell.

The distance being but short, he soon arrived at the enemy's picquets, by whom, as he did not endeavour to conceal himself, he was of course seized. Having designedly thrown himself within their power, he now merely demanded that he might be led into the presence of the general; with which demand the guards, after first blindfolding him, in order that he might not distinguish the disorder which prevailed around, proceeded instantly to comply.

When ushered into the tent, and permitted again to make use of his eyes,

he perceived the ambitious Cromwell seated at a small table, gazing intently upon some papers which lay thereon. On the entrance of the prisoner, however, he raised his head, and attentively surveyed his appearance; and having satisfied himself, in his usual harsh and abrupt manner, he addressed the following laconic question to him,-"How now, betinselled royalist! your business here ?”—“I come to act, and not to parley," replied the unintimidated Sele, to offer to a foe what he most wishes, possession of our castle. If he accept the offer, let him get ready in stantly, and trust to the guidance of one who is willing to be his friend tonight, even at the expense of honour!" Cromwell, who scarcely knew whether he ought not to look upon his prisoner as a madman, paused, ere he made any reply. However, as the chances, judging from the resistance which the garrison had already made, were so many against his being able to take the place by force of arms, he determined as a dernier resort, to embrace the opportunity which thus offered itself, be the consequences what they might. "Be it so," was the answer; "he whom you address is always ready, lead on then, but hearken, haughty cavalier, should you belie your promise, your life shall be the forfeit." "Had I been the subject of fear," replied Walter Sele, "I should not now be in the tent of Cromwell- -a truce then to your threatenings! nor think that I betray the royal cause thus basely. Hear then the terms; Nay, frown not! I'll not be frightened from my purpose by the frowns of any man; and unless my two conditions are agreed to, not all your threats shall make me even now turn traitor. My life is in your hands,

and you may take it now, at midnight," To Beauford and the King"-Sele's presence of mind thus extricated them from this danger, for the officer on hearing the pass-word, not doubting but they were sent there by the command of the governor, passed on his way, and left them to proceed with their undertaking, without any further interruption.

The soldiers after having effected an opening in the ground above, were enabled with very little trouble, by means

or to-morrow; but that is all you have within your power. Hear me thenI ask but for the life and freedom of the garrison, for every living soul, from the person of the governor, though he is now my foe, down to the meanest soldier that treads along the battlements. That the few females, one of whom is dearer to me than life, shall be secure from the gross insults of your

56 ATHENEUM VOL. 1. 2d series.

rebel troops. On these conditions only
I become your guide!" "Cromwell
will pledge his word," was the reply,
"that life and freedom shall be given
to all at present, within the castle walls;
and as for the women, the soldiers of
the Parliament, rebel or not, are not
the licentious cavaliers of Charles, who
need be under no anxiety for the safety
of their courtesans. We
We come to fight
with men, and not with women! now
are you satisfied ?" Sele replied in the
affirmative, observing, as he concluded,
that he "would trust for once to the
honour of a roundhead, if such a thing
existed." Cromwell scowled, as it
seemed as if his guide suspected his
intentions, but prudence bade him con-
ceal his rage, and he merely remarked,
as he took his pistols from the table,
that he might do so safely.

With a chosen body of men, upon whose fidelity he could depend, the usurper committed himself to the guidance of Walter Sele, whom, however, he kept close beside during the march, which, without occupying much of their time, brought them unseen to the opening from which the betrayer had escaped. The men having entered the breach, and being provided with the necessary implements,immediately commenced removing the earth from the spot pointed out to them, while Cromwell and his guide kept watch without. With such secresy were their operations carried on, that no person within was in the least degree disturbed by them. Once only, (and, that by mere chance)^ had they any occasion to be alarmed. An officer, marching to relieve guard, perceiving from the rampart some persons in the moat below, hailed them in in the accustomed form-" Who goes there?"-"Friends"-" To whom?”-

[ocr errors]

*

* * * * *

of a temporary ladder, which was formed of the implements, to enter into the postern aisle, described to them by their guide. Here they had both time, to rest, and also room enough to prepare themselves for the attack, which it was to be expected they would still have to undertake. At the end of the passage in which they then were, a narrow door was now the only barrier to be removed, ere they effected the object they had so long wished for -an entrance into the heart of the fortress. From its situation, as they could not hope to penetrate this, however trifling it might appear, as silently as they had done the first, they proceeded by one sudden effort to force it open, and by the rapidity of their subsequent movements, to terrify the garrison from making any resistance. Nor were they disappointed, for the door yielding to the first assault, they found themselves in possession of the castle, before many of its inhabitants were even aware of their approach. When morning dawned, the royal standard of the unfortunate Charles, was not seen floating as heretofore above the lofty battlements of Cardiff Castle; and those who had defended it so stoutly, and so gallantly, had either fallen sword in hand, or had departed to seek for shelter in some other fortress, that was still enabled to keep on high a little longer the well known ensign of fast-falling royalty. One only of the former garrison remained, and he with beating heart and anxious look had twice already explored the intricacies of each apartment, which the castle contained, in search for the object of his every hope and fear, but all in vain. Still coping with the grim fiend despair, he was in the act of doing so for the third time, when summoned, and upon his refusing to obey, forced into the presence of the iron-hearted Cromwell. Forgetting for an instant his private griefs, he stood before the tyrant, with such a noble and majestic mien, as awed all those around; and even the mind of Cromwell seemed for an instant to be undecided. But that was not so in reality, his address to the person who stood before him plainly indicated. "Now,

then, proud cavalier," cried he, "has not the promise which I made been kept? Has either maid or courtesan, for whom you dared to insult the troops of Cromwell been violated? The life and freedom of the garrison was likewise promised, and has been granted. Remember when my word was pledged to this, thou wast not one among them, therefore I owe thee nothing, since it was to gratify thy own revenge, and not from love to me, that thou hast betrayed thy party. Had the service which thou hast done us, been done with other motives, I would have thanked thee for it; as it is, I love the treason, but I hate the traitor. Take then a traitor's just reward!" Quick as thought, the pistol of the tyrant left its belt,-flashed,-andWalter Sele lay weltering on the ground.

While the soldiers were in the act of interring, at the spot alluded to in the commencement of this narrative, all that now remained of the once brave, but ill-fated Sele, they were disturbed in their work, by the unlooked for appearance of Deva Milton, who rushing eagerly forward, flung herself upon the lifeless corpse as it lay, in the dress it wore while living, upon the green sward. In vain did one, more feeling than his companions, endeavour to soothe her afflictions. Deaf to his consolation, and regardless of all his entreaties, she still clung to the object of her affection with such vehemence, that the men had some difficulty to tear it from her grasp, and even then, two of them were obliged to force her from the spot, while they unfeelingly consigned it to its "mother earth." But immediately on the departure of the soldiers, after their having closed the earth, she returned again to search for her lover, exclaiming in a wild and incoherent manner, that she had “found her Walter," but alas! fair maid, she had lost her reason.

Poor Deva lived for many years,— lived to decorate the grave of him she loved, with the choicest shrubs and flowers which she could gather together. When the frosts of January threatened them with destruction, she would carefully cover them with straw, to be blown away perhaps by the next

« 上一頁繼續 »