The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne
THE Earl, after being loaded with fetters, was conducted to the chief prison of the
castle, and left alone to the bitter reflections of defeat and uncertain destiny; but
misfortune, though it might shake, could not overcome his firmness; and hope
had not yet entirely forsaken him. It is the peculiar attribute of great minds, to
bear up with increasing force against the shock of misfortune; with them the
nerves of resistance strengthen with attack; and they may be said to subdue
adversity with her own weapons.
Reflection, at length, afforded him time to examine his prison: it was a square
room, which formed the summit of a tower built on the east side of the castle,
round which the bleak winds howled mournfully; the inside of the apartment was
old and falling to decay: a small mattrass, which lay in one corner of the room, a
broken matted chair, and a tottering table, composed its furniture; two small and
strongly grated windows, which admitted a sufficient degree of light and air,
afforded him on one side a view into an inner court, and on the other a dreary
prospect of the wild and barren Highlands.
Alleyn was conveyed through dark and winding passages to a distant part of
the castle, where at length a small door, barred with iron, opened, and disclosed
to him an abode, whence light and hope were equally excluded. He shuddered
as he entered, and the door was closed upon him.
The mind of the Baron, in the mean time, was agitated with all the direful
passions of hate, revenge, and exulting pride. He racked imagination for the
invention of tortures equal to the force of his feelings; and he at length
discovered that the sufferings of suspense are superior to those of the most
terrible evils, when once ascertained, of which the contemplation gradually
affords to strong minds the means of endurance. He determined, therefore, that
the Earl should remain confined in the tower, ignorant of his future destiny; and in
the mean while should be allowed food only sufficient to keep him sensible of his
Osbert was immersed in thought, when he heard the door of his prison
unbarred, and the Baron Malcolm stood before him. The heart of Osbert swelled
high with indignation, and defiance flashed in his eyes. "I am come," said the
insulting victor, "to welcome the Earl of Athlin to my castle; and to shew that I can
receive my friends with the hospitality they deserve; but I am yet undetermined
what kind of festival I shall bestow on his arrival."
"Weak tyrant," returned Osbert, his countenance impressed with the firm
dignity of virtue, "to insult the vanquished, is congenial with the cruel meanness
of the murderer; nor do I expect, that the man who slew the father, will spare the
son; but know, that son is nerved against your wrath, and welcomes all that your
fears or your cruelty can impose."
"Rash youth," replied the Baron; "your words are air; they fade from sense,
and soon your boasted strength shall sink beneath my power. I go to meditate
your destiny." With these words he quitted the prison, enraged at the unbending
virtue of the Earl.