A scene taken from the final chapters of MY TRUTH LIES IN THE RUINS, the true story of William le Hardi, Lord Douglas...a bold and honest knight who lived by a code of honor; his core values an enduring legacy of truth.
It was Thursday and Ellie woke at three in the morning, unable to sleep. The dreadful day she feared most had finally arrived and it was raining hard. She was trying to eat something to break her fast when Father John knocked at the door. “I will go ahead Lady Eleanora and meet you there. I want to see Sir William first alone.” Ellie turned her eyes away. “Thank you Father John, you always know what is appropriate,” she replied. It was only then that she realized how truly numb if not oblivious she was to the present. “I will meet you there at eight,” she told him. Ana was waving goodbye. “To be there at the Nones,” she said.
Eleanora met the guard and Father John at the main gate near the portcullis of the Tower. They proceeded up the same small steps, as they had done the three days before, only today the priest from the WhiteTower was joining them in the prison chamber. The churchman gave William the last rites, the sacraments; taking confession from the Crusader for the final time. Then Father John performed a quiet blessing as Eleanora and William renewed their vows of marriage. Father John turned to leave. “This priest will come for you Lady Douglas when it is time,” he said quietly.
William returned Ellie’s letters, all tied up neatly in the silk ribbons, just the same as they first arrived. “I read them all, over and over again, to cheer me through these last nights. They truly helped me pass the hours so,” he said. “This is for you Ellie, and I would like to read it to you:
For Ellie- Remember me Lady El, keep me alive in you always, as I will wait for your return home to God’s Heaven. I will be there to hold and caress you, to walk in Paradise with you until the ends of time and existence, for I am yours and only God in his infinite wisdom loves you more.”
William then motioned for her to come and sit in his lap as he continued telling her the many things that were on his mind. “I always thought Edward could be thus be contented and leave us to our lives; for I knew that I led a good life, following a faithful course. I loved my time with you; the children and our Douglasdale most as well. Then Edward entered Scotland with his army and our fair existence was forever changed. I underestimated Edward’s anger and capacity for cruelty; believing he would not repeat the carnage of Nazareth with another slaughter of innocents at Berwick. His repugnant enterprise against our neighbors and friends was too great a shock to comprehend,” he said passionately. “And when I surrendered at Irvine, I knew it was the last time I could come to his peace without a battle first to fight. Then to arrive at this sad end? I blame myself each day for dismissing your good counsel; I should not have trusted de Percy with our lives and fate. My foolishness to thus believe my honest words would clear my name; free me from their false accusations,” he said as if speaking his own eulogy.
Ellie just looked at him and allowed his words to flow, sensing he had more to share with her. She felt mesmerized by his impassioned voice. Gilley was grateful to continue. “Finding myself once more a prisoner at Edinburgh, then to be returned to Berwick I thus reacted savagely to my imprisonment. The collusion of your father and de Percy only amplified the desperate deeds of Edward. This English prince so damaged by his selfish glory that he allowed his vassals to falsify my honor for their vengeance. So troubling to me,” William said as he paused again. He prayed silently that he might have the resolve to proceed. As tears filled his eyes, his voice cracked now and then but on he went, recounting everything for Ellie, scanning his life, trying to make things right in her mind and in his. William’s words filled their remaining hours as Eleanora listened, hanging on every syllable before she finally spoke. “With your words this lass does feel your presence here, deep within my soul. You are my one and only love,” she said.
Father John returned to the prison cell much too soon it seemed to Ellie and Gilley. Then the others joined them for the final walk. One more embrace and William was leaving, taken from her again, for the final time. His last act was to hand her the small box with his spectacles and a tiny parchment scroll. “Read this later Ellie,” he said. Then he was gone down the long corridor to his fate. Father John led her to a small room on the other side of the WhiteTower where she noticed the coffin for the first time, then William’s small wooden chest that contained the rest of his clothes and the small possessions he had kept in the tower cell. Lady Douglas sat alone and untied the little scroll; reading aloud the last verses of a poem written in Lallans:
To know you is to adore you
To Worship at your feet
To kneel in quiet supplication
In the knowledge of your love
And I will wait at Heaven’s gate
For the sound of your voice
To comfort me again
Goodbye for now my love
Ellie bowed her head in prayer. She knew he would be hanged, Hanged Cruelly but not allowed to die, before he was racked.