« ПредишнаНапред »
soon found their disorderly career interrupted by the impracticable character of the ground. Some stuck fast in the morass as they attempted to struggle through, some recoiled from the attempt and remained on the brink, others dispersed to seek a more favourable place to pass the swamp. In the midst of this confusion, the first line of the enemy, of which the foremost rank knelt, the second stooped, and the third stood upright, poured in a close and destructive fire that emptied at least a score of saddles, and increased tenfold the disorder into which the horsemen had fallen. Lord Evandale, in the mean time, at the head of a very few well-mounted men, had been able to clear the ditch, but was no sooner across than he was charged by the left body of the enemy's cavalry, who, encouraged by the small number of opponents that had made their way through the broken ground, set upon them with the utmost fury, crying, “ Woe, woe to the uncircumcised Philistines ! down with Dagon and all his adherents !"
The young nobleman fought like a lion ; but most of bis followers were killed, and he himself could not have escaped the same fate but for a heavy fire of carabines, which Claverhouse,who had now advanced with the second line near to the ditch, poured so effectually upon the enemy, that both horse and foot for a moment began to shrink, and Lord Evandale, disengaged from his unequal combat, and finding himself nearly alone, took the opportunity to effect his retreat through the morass. But notwithstanding the loss they had sustained by Claverhouse's first fire, the insurgents became soon aware that the advantage of numbers and of position were so decidedly theirs, that, if they could but persist in making a brief but resolute defence, the Life-Guards must necessarily be defeated. Their leaders flew through their ranks, exhorting them to stand firm, and pointing out how efficacious their fire must be where both men and horse were exposed to it ; for the troopers, according to custom, fired without having dismounted. Claverhouse, * 3* VOL. II.
Dis o por las
more than once, when he perceived his best men dropping by a fire which they could not effectually return, made desperate efforts to pass the bog at various points, and renew the battle on firm ground and fiercer terms. But the close fire of the insurgents, joined to the natural difficulties of the pass, foiled his attempts in every point.
• We must retreat,” he said to Evandale,“unless Bothwell can effect a diversion in our favour. In the mean time, draw the men out of fire, and leave skirmishers behind these patches of alder-bushes to keep the enemy in check."
These directions being accomplished, the appearance of Bothwell with his party was earnestly expected. But Bothwell had his own disadvantages to struggle witb. His detour to the right had not escaped the penetrating observation of Burley, who made a corresponding movement with the left wing of the mounted insurgents, so that when Bothwell, after riding a considerable way up the valley, found a place at which the bog could be passed, though with some difficulty, he perceived he was still in front of a superior enemy. His daring character was in no degree checked by this unexpected opposition.
“ Follow me, my lads," he called to his men; “never let it be said that we turned our backs before these canting roundheads !"
With that, as if inspired by the spirit of his ancestors, he shouted, “ Bothwell! Bothwell !” and throwing himself into the morass, he struggled through it at the head of his party, and attacked that of Burley with such fury, that he drove them back above a pistol-shot, killing three men with his own hand. Burley, perceiving the consequences of a defeat on this point, and that his men, though more numerous, were unequal to the regulars in using their arms and managing their horses, threw himself across Bothwell's way, and attacked him hand to hand. Each of the combatants was considered as the champion of bis respective party, and a result ensued more usual in romance than in real story. Their followers, on either side, instantly paused, and looked on as if the fate of the
day were to be decided by the event of the combat between these two redoubted swordsmen. The combatants themselves seemed of the same opinion ; for, after two or three eager cuts and pushes had been exchanged, they paused, as if by joint consent, to recover the breath which preceding exertions had exhausted, and to prepare for a duel in which each seemed conscious he had met his match.
“ You are the murdering villain, Burley,” said Bothwell, griping his sword firmly, and setting his teeth close ~" you escaped me once, but”—(he swore an oath too tremendous to be written down)“ thy head is worth its weight of silver, and it shall go home at my saddle-bow, or my saddle shall go home empty for me.”
“ Yes,” replied Burley, with stern and gloomy deliberation, “ I am that John Balfour, who promised to lay thy head where thou should'st never lift it again ; and God do so unto me, and more also, if I do not redeem my word !”
66 Then a bed of heather, or a thousand merks !” said Bothwell, striking at Burley with his full force.
“ The sword of the Lord and of Gideon !" answered Balfour, as he parried and returned the blow.
There have seldom met two combatants more equally matched in strength of body, skill in the management of their weapons and horses, determined courage, and unrelenting hostility. After exchanging many desperate blows, each receiving and inflicting several wounds, though of no great consequence, they grappled together as if with the desperate impatience of mortal hate, and Bothwell, seizing his enemy by the shoulder-belt, while the grasp of Balfour was upon his own collar, they came headlong to the ground. The companions of Burley hastened to his assistance, but were repelled by the dragoons, and the battle became again general. But nothing could withdraw the attention of the combatants from each other, or induce them to unclose the deadly clasp in which they rolled together on the ground, tearing, struggling, and foaming with the inveteracy of thorough-bred bull-dogs.
Several horses passed over them in the melee without their quitting hold of each other, until the sword-arm of Bothwell was broken by the kick of a charger. He then relinquished his grasp with a deep and suppressed groan, and both combatants started to their feet. Bothwell's right hand dropped helpless by his side, but his left griped to the place where his dagger hung; it had escaped from the sheath in the struggle,-and, with a look of mingled rage and despair, he stood totally defenceless, as Balfour with a laugh of savage joy, Aourished his sword aloft, and then passed it through his adversary's body. Bothwell received the thrust without falling-it had only grazed on his ribs. He attempted no farther defence, but looking at Burley with a grin of deadly hatred, exclaimed,“Base peasant churl, thou hast spilt the blood of a line of kings !" .6 Die, wretch !-die” said Balfour, redoubling the thrust with better aim; and, setting his foot on Bothwell's body as he fell, he a third time transfixed him with his sword.—Die, blood-thirsty dog! die, as thou hast lived !
-die, like the beasts that perish-hoping nothing-belicving nothing" —
" And FEARING nothing !" said Bothwell, collecting the last effort of respiration to utter these desperate words, and expiring as soon as they were spoken."
To catch a stray horse by the bridle, throw himself upon it, and rush to the assistance of his followers, was, with Burley, the affair of a moment. And as the fall of Bothwell had given to the insurgents all the courage of which it had deprived his comrades, the issue of this partial contest did not remain long undecided. Several soldiers were slain, the rest driven back over the morass and dispersed, and the victorious Burley, with his party, crossed it in their turn, to direct against Claverhouse the very manæuvre which he had instructed Bothwell to execute. He now put his troop in order, with the view of attacking the right wing of the royalists; and, sending news of his success to the main body, exhorted them, in the name of Heaven, to cross the marsh, and work out the glorious work of the Lord by a general attack upon the enemy.
*** Meanwhile, Claverhouse, who had in some degree rem
edied the confusion occasioned by the first irregular and · unsuccessful attack, and reduced the combat in front to a
distant skirmish with fire-arms, chiefly maintained by some dismounted troopers, whom he had posted behind the cover of the shrubby copses of alders, which, in some places, covered the edge of the morass, and whose close, cool, and well-aimed fire greatly annoyed the enemy, and concealed their own deficiency of numbers,-Claverhouse, while he maintained the contest in this manner, still expecting that a diversion by Bothwell and his party might facilitate a general attack, was accosted by one of the dragoons, whose bloody face and jaded horse bore witness he was come from hard service. ** " What is the matter, Halliday ?” said Claverhouse, for he knew every man in his regiment by name—“ Where is Bothwell ?"
66 Bothwell is down,” replied Halliday," and many a pretty fellow with him.” , *. Then the King,” said Claverhouse, with his usual · composure, “ has lost a stout soldier. The enemy have passed the marsh, I suppose ?”
6 With a strong body of horse, commanded by the devil incarnate that killed Bothwell,” answered the terrified soldier..
“ Hush ! Hush !” said Claverhouse, putting his finger on his lips ; “ not a word to any one but me.-Lord Evandale, we must retreat. The fates will have it so. Draw together the men that are dispersed in the skirmishing work. Let Allan form the regiment, and do you two retreat up the hill in two bodies, each halting alternately as the other falls back. I'll keep the rogues in check with the rear-guard, making a stand and facing from time to time. They will be over the ditch presently, for I see their whole line in motion, and preparing to cross; therefore lose no time.
« Where is Bothwell with his party ?" said Lord Evandale, astonished at the coolness of his commander.