The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne HTML version

Chapter XII
MARY, in the mean time, suffered all the terror which her situation could excite.
On her way to Dunbayne, she had been overtaken by a party of armed men, who
seized her bridle, and after engaging her servants in a feigned resistance, carried
her off senseless. On recovering, she found herself travelling through a forest,
whose glooms were deepened by the shades of night. The moon, which was now
up, glancing through the trees, served to shew the dreary aspect of the place,
and the number of men who surrounded her; and she was seized with a terror
that almost deprived her of reason. They travelled all night, during which a
profound silence was observed. At the dawn of day she found herself on the
skirts of a heath, to whose wide desolation her eye could discover no limits.
Before they entered on the waste, they halted at the entrance of a cave, formed
in a rock, which was overhung with pine and fir; where, spreading their breakfast
on the grass, they offered refreshments to Mary, whose mind was too much
distracted to suffer her to partake of them. She implored them in the most moving
accents, to tell her from whom they came, and whither they were carrying her;
but they were insensible to her tears and her entreaties, and she was compelled
to await, in silent terror, the extremity of her fate. They pursued their journey over
the wilds, and towards the close of day approached the ruins of an abbey, whose
broken arches and lonely towers arose in gloomy grandeur through the obscurity
of evening. It stood the solitary inhabitant of the waste,–a monument of mortality
and of ancient superstition, and the frowning majesty of its aspect seemed to
command silence and veneration.
The chilly dews fell thick, and Mary, fatigued in body, and harassed in mind, lay
almost expiring on her horse, when they stopped under an arch of the ruin. She
was not so ill as to be insensible to the objects around her; the awful solitude of
the place. and the solemn aspect of the fabric, whose effect was heightened by
the falling glooms of evening, chilled her heart with horror; and when they took
her from the horse, she shrieked in the agonies of a last despair. They bore her
over loose stones to a part of the building, which had been formerly the cloisters
of the abbey, but which was now fallen to decay, and overgrown with ivy. There
was, however, at the extremity of these cloisters a nook, which had withstood
with hardier strength the ravages of time; the roof was here entire, and the
shattered stanchions of the casements still remained. Hither they carried Mary,
and laid her almost lifeless on the grassy pavement, while some of the ruffians
hastened to light a fire of the heath and sticks they could pick up. They took out
their provisions, and placed themselves round the fire, where they had not long
been seated, when the sound of distant thunder foretold an approaching storm. A
violent storm, accompanied with peals which shook the pile, came on. They were
sheltered from the heaviness of the rain; but the long and vivid flashes of
lightning which glanced through the casements, alarmed them all. The shrieks of
Mary were loud and continued; and the fears of the ruffians did not prevent their
uttering dreadful imprecations at her distress. One of them, in the fury of his
resentment, swore she should be gagged; and seizing her resistless hands to