Part 2 out of 4
Edinburgh Castle into the hands of the Confederates, but he also gave
them a little silver coffer of which the cipher, an "F" crowned,
showed that it had belonged to Francis II; and in fact it was a gift
from her first husband, which the queen had presented to Bothwell.
Balfour stated that this coffer contained precious papers, which in
the present circumstances might be of great use to Mary's enemies.
The Confederate lords opened it, and found inside the three genuine
or spurious letters that we have quoted, the marriage contract of
Mary and Bothwell, and twelve poems in the queen's handwriting. As
Balfour had said, therein lay, for her enemies, a rich and precious
find, which was worth more than a victory; for a victory would yield
them only the queen's life, while Balfour's treachery yielded them
Meanwhile Bothwell had levied some troops, and thought himself in a
position to hold the country: accordingly, he set out with his army,
without even waiting for the Hamiltons, who were assembling their
vassals, and June 15th, 1567, the two opposed forces were face to
face. Mary, who desired to try to avoid bloodshed, immediately sent
the French ambassador to the Confederate lords to exhort them to lay
aside their arms; but they replied "that the queen deceived herself
in taking them for rebels; that they were marching not against her,
but against Bothwell." Then the king's friends did what they could
to break off the negotiations and give battle: it was already too
late; the soldiers knew that they were defending the cause of one
man, and that they were going to fight for a woman's caprice, and not
for the good of the country: they cried aloud, then, that "since
Bothwell alone was aimed at, it was for Bothwell to defend his
cause". And he, vain and blustering as usual, gave out that he was
ready to prove his innocence in person against whomsoever would dare
to maintain that he was guilty. Immediately everyone with any claim
to nobility in the rival camp accepted the challenge; and as the
honour was given to the bravest, Kirkcaldy of Grange, Murray of
Tullibardine, and Lord Lindsay of Byres defied him successively.
But, be it that courage failed him, be it that in the moment of
danger he did not himself believe in the justice of his cause, he,
to escape the combat, sought such strange pretexts that the queen
herself was ashamed; and his most devoted friends murmured.
Then Mary, perceiving the fatal humour of men's minds, decided not to
run the risk of a battle. She sent a herald to Kirkcaldy of Grange,
who was commanding an outpost, and as he was advancing without
distrust to converse with the queen, Bothwell, enraged at his own
cowardice, ordered a soldier to fire upon him; but this time Mary
herself interposed, forbidding him under pain of death to offer the
least violence. In the meanwhile, as the imprudent order given by
Bothwell spread through the army, such murmurs burst forth that he
clearly saw that his cause was for ever lost.
That is what the queen thought also; for the result of her conference
with Lord Kirkcaldy was that she should abandon Bothwell's cause, and
pass over into the camp of the Confederates, on condition that they
would lay down their arms before her and bring her as queen to
Edinburgh. Kirkcaldy left her to take these conditions to the
nobles, and promised to return next day with a satisfactory answer.
But at the moment of leaving Bothwell, Mary was seized again with
that fatal love for him that she was never able to surmount, and felt
herself overcome with such weakness, that, weeping bitterly, and
before everyone, she wanted Kirkcaldy to be told that she broke off
all negotiations; however, as Bothwell had understood that he was no
longer safe in camp, it was he who insisted that things should remain
as they were; and, leaving Mary in tears, he mounted, and setting off
at full speed, he did not stop till he reached Dunbar.
Next day, at the time appointed, the arrival of Lord Kirkcaldy of
Grange was announced by the trumpeters preceding him. Mary mounted
directly and went to meet him; them, as he alighted to greet her, "My
lord;" said she, "I surrender to you, on the conditions that you have
proposed to me on the part of the nobles, and here is my hand as a
sign of entire confidence". Kirkcaldy then knelt down, kissed, the
queen's hand respectfully; and, rising, he took her horse by the
bridle and led it towards the Confederates' camp.
Everyone of any rank in the army received her with such marks of
respect as entirely to satisfy her; but it was not so at all with the
soldiers and common people. Hardly had the queen reached the second
line, formed by them, than great murmurs arose, and several voices
cried, "To the stake, the adulteress! To the stake, the parricide!"
However, Mary bore these outrages stoically enough but a more
terrible trial yet was in store for her. Suddenly she saw rise
before her a banner, on which was depicted on one side the king dead
and stretched out in the fatal garden, and on the other the young
prince kneeling, his hands joined and his eyes raised to heaven, with
this inscription, "O Lord! judge and revenge my cause!" Mary reined
in her horse abruptly at this sight, and wanted to turn back; but she
had scarcely moved a few paces when the accusing banner again blocked
her passage. Wherever she went, she met this dreadful apparition.
For two hours she had incessantly under her eyes the king's corpse
asking vengeance, and the young prince her son praying God to punish
the murderers. At last she could endure it no longer, and, crying
out, she threw herself back, having completely lost consciousness,
and would have fallen, if someone had not caught hold of her.
In the evening she entered Edinburgh, always preceded by the cruel
banner, and she already had rather the air of a prisoner than of a
queen; for, not having had a moment during the day to attend to her
toilet, her hair was falling in disorder about her shoulders, her
face was pale and showed traces of tears; and finally, her clothes
were covered with dust and mud. As she proceeded through the town,
the hootings of the people and the curses of the crowd followed her.
At last, half dead with fatigue, worn out with grief, bowed down with
shame, she reached the house of the Lord Provost; but scarcely had
she got there when the entire population of Edinburgh crowded into
the square, with cries that from time to time assumed a tone of
terrifying menace. Several times, then, Mary wished to go to the
window, hoping that the sight of her, of which she had so often
proved the influence, would disarm this multitude; but each time she
saw this banner unfurling itself like a bloody curtain between
herself and the people--a terrible rendering of their feelings.
However, all this hatred was meant still more for Bothwell than for
her: they were pursuing Bothwell in Darnley's widow. The curses were
for Bothwell: Bothwell was the adulterer, Bothwell was the murderer,
Bothwell was the coward; while Mary was the weak, fascinated woman,
who, that same evening, gave afresh proof of her folly.
In fact, directly the falling night had scattered the crowd and a
little quiet was regained, Mary, ceasing to be uneasy on her own
account, turned immediately to Bothwell, whom she had been obliged to
abandon, and who was now proscribed and fleeing; while she, as she
believed, was about to reassume her title and station of queen. With
that eternal confidence of the woman in her own love, by which she
invariably measures the love of another, she thought that Bothwell's
greatest distress was to have lost, not wealth and power, but to have
lost herself. So she wrote him a long letter, in which, forgetful of
herself, she promised him with the most tender expressions of love
never to desert him, and to recall him to her directly the breaking
up of the Confederate lords should give her power to do so; then,
this letter written, she called a soldier, gave him a purse of gold,
and charged him to take this letter to Dunbar, where Bothwell ought
to be, and if he were already gone, to follow him until he came up
Then she went to bed and slept more calmly; for, unhappy as she was,
she believed she had just sweetened misfortunes still greater than
Next day the queen was awakened by the step of an armed man who
entered her room. Both astonished and frightened at this neglect of
propriety, which could augur nothing good, Mary sat up in bed, and
parting the curtains, saw standing before her Lord Lindsay of Byres:
she knew he was one of her oldest friends, so she asked him in a
voice which she vainly tried to make confident, what he wanted of her
at such a time.
"Do you know this writing, madam?" Lord Lindsay asked in a rough
voice, presenting to the queen the letter she had written to Bothwell
at night, which the soldier had carried to the Confederate lords,
instead of taking to its address.
"Yes, doubtless, my lord," the queen answered; "but am I already a
prisoner, then, that my correspondence is intercepted? or is it no
longer allowed to a wife to write to her husband?"
"When the husband is a traitor," replied Lindsay, "no, madam, it is
no longer allowed to a wife to write to her husband--at least,
however, if this wife have a part in his treason; which seems to me,
besides, quite proved by the promise you make to this wretch to
recall him to you."
"My lord," cried Mary, interrupting Lindsay, "do you forget that you
are speaking to your queen."
"There was a time, madam," Lindsay replied, "when I should have
spoken to you in a more gentle voice, and bending the knee, although
it is not in the nature of us old Scotch to model ourselves on your
French courtiers; but for some time, thanks to your changing loves,
you have kept us so often in the field, in harness, that our voices
are hoarse from the cold night air, and our stiff knees can no longer
bend in our armour: you must then take me just as I am, madam; since
to-day, for the welfare of Scotland, you are no longer at liberty to
choose your favourites."
Mary grew frightfully pale at this want of respect, to which she was
not yet accustomed; but quickly containing her anger, as far as
"But still, my lord," said she, "however disposed I may be to take
you as you are, I must at least know by what right you come here.
That letter which you are holding in your hand would lead me to think
it is as a spy, if the ease with which you enter my room without
being asked did not make me believe it is as a gaoler. Have the
goodness, then, to inform me by which of these two names I must call
"Neither by one nor the other, madam; for I am simply your fellow-
traveller, chef of the escort which is to take you to Lochleven
Castle, your future residence. And yet, scarcely have I arrived
there than I shall be obliged to leave you to go and assist the
Confederate lords choose a regent for the kingdom."
"So," said Mary, "it was as prisoner and not as queen that I
surrendered to Lord Kirkcaldy. It seems to me that things were
agreed upon otherwise; but I am glad to see how much time Scotch
noblemen need to betray their sworn undertakings".
"Your Grace forgets that these engagements were made on one
condition," Lindsay answered.
"On which?" Mary asked.
"That you should separate for ever from your husband's murderer; and
there is the proof," he added, showing the letter, "that you had
forgotten your promise before we thought of revoking ours."
"And at what o'clock is my departure fixed?" said Mary, whom this
discussion was beginning to fatigue.
"At eleven o'clock, madam."
"It is well, my lord; as I have no desire to make your lordship wait,
you will have the goodness, in withdrawing, to send me someone to
help me dress, unless I am reduced to wait upon myself."
And, in pronouncing these words, Mary made a gesture so imperious,
that whatever may have been Lindsay's wish to reply, he bowed and
went out. Behind him entered Mary Seyton.
At the time appointed the queen was ready: she had suffered so much
at Edinburgh that she left it without any regret. Besides, whether
to spare her the humiliations of the day before, or to conceal her
departure from any partisans who might remain to her, a litter had
been made ready. Mary got into it without any resistance, and after
two hours' journey she reached Duddington; there a little vessel was
waiting for her, which set sail directly she was on board, and next
day at dawn she disembarked on the other side of the Firth of Forth
in the county of Fife.
Mary halted at Rosythe Castle only just long enough to breakfast, and
immediately recommenced her journey; for Lord Lindsay had declared
that he wished to reach his destination that same evening. Indeed,
as the sun was setting, Mary perceived gilded with his last rays the
high towers of Lochleven Castle, situated on an islet in the midst of
the lake of the same name.
No doubt the royal prisoner was already expected at Lochleven Castle,
for, on reaching the lake side, Lord Lindsay's equerry unfurled his
banner, which till then had remained in its case, and waved it from
right to left, while his master blew a little hunting bugle which he
wore hanging from his neck. A boat immediately put off from the
island and came towards the arrivals, set in motion by four vigorous
oarsmen, who had soon propelled it across the space which separated
it from the bank. Mary silently got into it, and sat down at the
stern, while Lord Lindsay and his equerry stood up before her; and as
her guide did not seem any more inclined to speak than she was
herself to respond, she had plenty of time to examine her future
The castle, or rather the fortress of Lochleven, already somewhat
gloomy in its situation and architecture, borrowed fresh mournfulness
still from the hour at which it appeared to the queen's gaze. It
was, so far as she could judge amid the mists rising from the lake,
one of those massive structures of the twelfth century which seem, so
fast shut up are they, the stone armour of a giant. As she drew
near, Mary began to make out the contours of two great round towers,
which flanked the corners and gave it the severe character of a state
prison. A clump of ancient trees enclosed by a high wall, or rather
by a rampart, rose at its north front, and seemed vegetation in
stone, and completed the general effect of this gloomy abode, while,
on the contrary, the eye wandering from it and passing from islands
to islands, lost itself in the west, in the north, and in the south,
in the vast plain of Kinross, or stopped southwards at the jagged
summits of Ben Lomond, whose farthest slopes died down on the shores
of the lake.
Three persons awaited Mary at the castle door: Lady Douglas, William
Douglas her son, and a child of twelve who was called Little Douglas,
and who was neither a son nor a brother of the inhabitants of the
castle, but merely a distant relative. As one can imagine, there
were few compliments between Mary and her hosts; and the queen,
conducted to her apartment, which was on the first floor, and of
which the windows overlooked the lake, was soon left with Mary
Seyton, the only one of the four Marys who had been allowed to
However, rapid as the interview had been, and short and measured the
words exchanged between the prisoner and her gaolers, Mary had had
time, together with what she knew of them beforehand, to construct
for herself a fairly accurate idea of the new personages who had just
mingled in her history.
Lady Lochleven, wife of Lord William Douglas, of whom we have already
said a few words at the beginning of this history, was a woman of
from fifty-five to sixty years of age, who had been handsome enough
in her youth to fix upon herself the glances of King James V, and who
had had a son by him, who was this same Murray whom we have already
seen figuring so often in Mary's history, and who, although his birth
was illegitimate, had always been treated as a brother by the queen.
Lady Lochleven had had a momentary hope, so great was the king's love
for her, of becoming his wife, which upon the whole was possible, the
family of Mar, from which she was descended, being the equal of the
most ancient and the noblest families in Scotland. But, unluckily,
perhaps slanderously, certain talk which was circulating among the
young noblemen of the time came to James's ears; it was said that
together with her royal lover the beautiful favourite had another,
whom she had chosen, no doubt from curiosity, from the very lowest
class. It was added that this Porterfeld, or Porterfield, was the
real father of the child who had already received the name of James
Stuart, and whom the king was educating as his son at the monastery
of St. Andrews. These rumours, well founded or not, had therefore
stopped James V at the moment when, in gratitude to her who had given
him a son, he was on the point of raising her to the rank of queen;
so that, instead of marrying her himself, he had invited her to
choose among the nobles at court; and as she was very handsome, and
the king's favour went with the marriage, this choice, which fell on
Lord William Douglas of Lochleven, did not meet with any resistance
on his part. However, in spite of this direct protection, that James
V preserved for her all his life, Lady Douglas could never forget
that she had fingered higher fortune; moreover, she had a hatred for
the one who, according to herself, had usurped her place, and poor
Mary had naturally inherited the profound animosity that Lady Douglas
bore to her mother, which had already come to light in the few words
that the two women had exchanged. Besides, in ageing, whether from
repentance for her errors or from hypocrisy, Lady Douglas had become
a prude and a puritan; so that at this time she united with the
natural acrimony of her character all the stiffness of the new
religion she had adopted.
William Douglas, who was the eldest son of Lord Lochleven, on his
mother's side half-brother of Murray, was a man of from thirty-five
to thirty-six years of age, athletic, with hard and strongly
pronounced features, red-haired like all the younger branch, and who
had inherited that paternal hatred that for a century the Douglases
cherished against the Stuarts, and which was shown by so many plots,
rebellions, and assassinations. According as fortune had favoured or
deserted Murray, William Douglas had seen the rays of the fraternal
star draw near or away from him; he had then felt that he was living
in another's life, and was devoted, body and soul, to him who was his
cause of greatness or of abasement. Mary's fall, which must
necessarily raise Murray, was thus a source of joy for him, and the
Confederate lords could not have chosen better than in confiding the
safe-keeping of their prisoner to the instinctive spite of Lady
Douglas and to the intelligent hatred of her son.
As to Little Douglas, he was, as we have said, a child of twelve, for
some months an orphan, whom the Lochlevens had taken charge of, and
whom they made buy the bread they gave him by all sorts of harshness.
The result was that the child, proud and spiteful as a Douglas, and
knowing, although his fortune was inferior, that his birth was equal
to his proud relatives, had little by little changed his early
gratitude into lasting and profound hatred: for one used to say that
among the Douglases there was an age for loving, but that there was
none for hating. It results that, feeling his weakness and
isolation, the child was self-contained with strength beyond his
years, and, humble and submissive in appearance, only awaited the
moment when, a grown-up young man, he could leave Lochleven, and
perhaps avenge himself for the proud protection of those who dwelt
there. But the feelings that we have just expressed did not extend
to all the members of the family: as much as from the bottom of his
heart the little Douglas detested William and his mother, so much he
loved George, the second of Lady Lochleven's sons, of whom we have
not yet spoken, because, being away from the castle when the queen
arrived, we have not yet found an opportunity to present him to our
George, who at this time might have been about twenty-five or twenty-
six years old, was the second son of Lord Lochleven; but by a
singular chance, that his mother's adventurous youth had caused Sir
William to interpret amiss, this second son had none of the
characteristic features of the Douglases' full cheeks, high colour,
large ears, and red hair. The result was that poor George, who, on
the contrary, had been given by nature pale cheeks, dark blue eyes,
and black hair, had been since coming into the world an object of
indifference to his father and of dislike to his elder brother. As
to his mother, whether she were indeed in good faith surprised like
Lord Douglas at this difference in race, whether she knew the cause
and inwardly reproached herself, George had never been, ostensibly at
least, the object of a very lively maternal affection; so the young
man, followed from his childhood by a fatality that he could not
explain, had sprung up like a wild shrub, full of sap and strength,
but uncultivated and solitary. Besides, from the time when he was
fifteen, one was accustomed to his motiveless absences, which the
indifference that everyone bore him made moreover perfectly
explicable; from time to time, however, he was seen to reappear at
the castle, like those migratory birds which always return to the
same place but only stay a moment, then take their way again without
one's knowing towards what spot in the world they are directing their
An instinct of misfortune in common had drawn Little Douglas to
George. George, seeing the child ill-treated by everyone, had
conceived an affection for him, and Little Douglas, feeling himself
loved amid the atmosphere of indifference around him, turned with
open arms and heart to George: it resulted from this mutual liking
that one day, when the child had committed I do not know what fault,
and that William Douglas raised the whip he beat his dogs with to
strike him, that George, who was sitting on a stone, sad and
thoughtful, had immediately sprung up, snatched the whip from his
brother's hands and had thrown it far from him. At this insult
William had drawn his sword, and George his, so that these two
brothers, who had hated one another for twenty years like two
enemies, were going to cut one another's throats, when Little
Douglas, who had picked up the whip, coming back and kneeling before
William, offered him the ignominious weapon, saying
"Strike, cousin; I have deserved it."
This behaviour of the child had caused some minutes' reflection to
the two young men, who, terrified at the crime they were about to
commit, had returned their swords to their scabbards and had each
gone away in silence. Since this incident the friendship of George
and Little Douglas had acquired new strength, and on the child's side
it had become veneration.
We dwell upon all these details somewhat at length, perhaps, but no
doubt our readers will pardon us when they see the use to be made of
This is the family, less George, who, as we have said, was absent at
the time of her arrival, into the midst of which the queen had
fallen, passing in a moment from the summit of power to the position
of a prisoner; for from the day following her arrival Mary saw that
it was by such a title she was an inmate of Lochleven Castle. In
fact, Lady Douglas presented herself before her as soon as it was
morning, and with an embarrassment and dislike ill disguised beneath
an appearance of respectful indifference, invited Mary to follow her
and take stock of the several parts of the fortress which had been
chosen beforehand for her private use. She then made her go through
three rooms, of which one was to serve as her bedroom, the second as
sitting-room, and the third as ante-chamber; afterwards, leading the
way down a spiral staircase, which looked into the great hall of the
castle, its only outlet, she had crossed this hall, and had taken
Mary into the garden whose trees the queen had seen topping the high
walls on her arrival: it was a little square of ground, forming a
flower-bed in the midst of which was an artificial fountain. It was
entered by a very low door, repeated in the opposite wall; this
second door looked on to the lake and, like all the castle doors,
whose keys, however, never left the belt or the pillow of William
Douglas, it was guarded night and day by a sentinel. This was now
the whole domain of her who had possessed the palaces, the plains,
and the mountains of an entire kingdom.
Mary, on returning to her room, found breakfast ready, and William
Douglas standing near the table he was going to fulfil about the
queen the duties of carver and taster.
In spite of their hatred for Mary, the Douglases would have
considered it an eternal blemish on their honour if any accident
should have befallen the queen while she was dwelling in their
castle; and it was in order that the queen herself should not
entertain any fear in this respect that William Douglas, in his
quality of lord of the manor, had not only desired to carve before
the queen, but even to taste first in her presence, all the dishes
served to her, as well as the water and the several wines to be
brought her. This precaution saddened Mary more than it reassured
her; for she understood that, while she stayed in the castle, this
ceremony would prevent any intimacy at table. However, it proceeded
from too noble an intention for her to impute it as a crime to her
hosts: she resigned herself, then, to this company, insupportable as
it was to her; only, from that day forward, she so cut short her
meals that all the time she was at Lochleven her longest dinners
barely lasted more than a quarter of an hour.
Two days after her arrival, Mary, on sitting down to table for
breakfast, found on her plate a letter addressed to her which had
been put there by William Douglas. Mary recognised Murray's
handwriting, and her first feeling was one of joy; for if a ray of
hope remained to her, it came from her brother, to whom she had
always been perfectly kind, whom from Prior of St. Andrew's she had
made an earl in bestowing on him the splendid estates which formed
part of the old earldom of Murray, and to whom, which was of more
importance, she had since pardoned, or pretended to pardon, the part
he had taken in Rizzio's assassination.
Her astonishment was great, then, when, having opened the letter, she
found in it bitter reproaches for her conduct, an exhortation to do
penance, and an assurance several times repeated that she should
never leave her prison. He ended his letter in announcing to her
that, in spite of his distaste for public affairs, he had been
obliged to accept the regency, which he had done less for his country
than for his sister, seeing that it was the sole means he had of
standing in the way of the ignominious trial to which the nobles
wished to bring her, as author, or at least as chief accomplice, of
Darnley's death. This imprisonment was then clearly a great good
fortune for her, and she ought to thank Heaven for it, as an
alleviation of the fate awaiting her if he had not interceded for
This letter was a lightning stroke for Mary: only, as she did not
wish to give her enemies the delight of seeing her suffer, she
contained her grief, and, turning to William Douglas--
"My lord," said she, "this letter contains news that you doubtless
know already, for although we are not children by the same mother, he
who writes to me is related to us in the same degree, and will not
have desired to write to his sister without writing to his brother at
the same time; besides, as a good son, he will have desired to
acquaint his mother with the unlooked-for greatness that has befallen
"Yes, madam," replied William, "we know since yesterday that, for the
welfare of Scotland, my brother has been named regent; and as he is a
son as respectful to his mother as he is devoted to his country, we
hope that he will repair the evil that for five years favourites of
every sort and kind have done to both."
"It is like a good son, and at the same time like a courteous host,
to go back no farther into the history of Scotland," replied Mary
Stuart," and not to make the daughter blush for the father's errors;
for I have heard say that the evil which your lordship laments was
prior to the time to which you assign it, and that King James V also
had formerly favourites, both male and female. It is true that they
add that the ones as ill rewarded his friendship as the others his
love. In this, if you are ignorant of it, my lord, you can be
instructed, if he is still living, by a certain. Porterfeld or
Porterfield, I don't know which, understanding these names of the
lower classes too ill to retain and pronounce them, but about which,
in my stead, your noble mother could give you information."
With these words, Mary Stuart rose, and, leaving William Douglas
crimson with rage, she returned into her bedroom, and bolted the door
All that day Mary did not come down, remaining at her window, from
which she at least enjoyed a splendid view over the plains and
village of Kinross; but this vast extent only contracted her heart
the more, when, bringing her gaze back from the horizon to the
castle, she beheld its walls surrounded on all sides by the deep
waters of the lake, on whose wide surface a single boat, where Little
Douglas was fishing, was rocking like a speck. For some moments
Mary's eyes mechanically rested on this child, whom she had already
seen upon her arrival, when suddenly a horn sounded from the Kinross
side. At the same moment Little Douglas threw away his line, and
began to row towards the shore whence the signal had come with skill
and strength beyond his years. Mary, who had let her gaze rest on
him absently, continued to follow him with her eyes, and saw him make
for a spot on the shore so distant that the boat seemed to her at
length but an imperceptible speck; but soon it reappeared, growing
larger as it approached, and Mary could then observe that it was
bringing back to the castle a new passenger, who, having in his turn
taken the oars, made the little skiff fly over the tranquil water of
the lake, where it left a furrow gleaming in the last rays of the
sun. Very soon, flying on with the swiftness of a bird, it was near
enough for Mary to see that the skilful and vigorous oarsman was a
young man from twenty-five to twenty-six years of age, with long
black hair, clad in a close coat of green cloth, and wearing a
Highlander's cap, adorned with an eagle's feather; then, as with his
back turned to the window he drew nearer, Little Douglas, who was
leaning on his shoulder, said a few words which made him turn round
towards the queen: immediately Mary, with an instinctive movement
rather than with the dread of being an object of idle curiosity, drew
back, but not so quickly, however, but that she had been able to see
the handsome pale face of the unknown, who, when she returned to the
window, had disappeared behind one of the corners of the castle.
Everything is a cause of conjecture to a prisoner: it seemed to Mary
that this young man's face was not unknown to her, and that he had
seen her already; but though great the care with which she questioned
her memory, she could not recall any distinct remembrance, so much so
that the queen ended in thinking it the play of her imagination, or
that some vague and distinct resemblance had deceived her.
However, in spite of Mary, this idea had taken an important place in
her mind: she incessantly saw this little boat skimming the water,
and the young man and the child who were in it drawing near her, as
if to bring her help. It followed that, although there had been
nothing real in all these captive's dreams, she slept that night a
calmer sleep than she had yet done since she had been in Lochleven
Next day, on rising, Mary ran to her window: the weather was fine,
and everything seemed to smile on her, the water, the heavens and the
earth. But, without being able to account for the restraining
motive, she did not want to go down into the ga den before breakfast.
When the door opened, 'she turned quickly round: it was, as on the
day before, William Douglas, who came to fulfil his duty as taster.
The breakfast was a short and silent one; then, as soon as Douglas
had withdrawn, Mary descended in her turn: in crossing the courtyard
she saw two horses ready saddled, which pointed to the near departure
of a master and a squire. Was it the young man with the black hair
already setting out again? This is what Mary did not dare or did not
wish to ask. She consequently went her way, and entered the garden:
at the first glance she took it in in its full extent; it was
Mary walked there a moment; then, soon tiring of the promenade, she
went up again to her room: in passing back through the courtyard she
had noticed that the horses were no longer there. Directly she
returned into her apartment, she went then to the window to see if
she could discover anything upon the lake to guide her in her
conjectures: a boat was in fact receding, and in this boat were the
two horses and the two horsemen; one was William Douglas, the other a
simple squire from the house.
Mary continued watching the boat until it had touched the shore.
Arrived there, the two horsemen got out, disembarked their horses,
and went away at full gallop, taking the same road by which the queen
had come; so that, as the horses were prepared for a long journey,
Mary thought that William Douglas was going to Edinburgh. As to the
boat, scarcely had it landed its two passengers on the opposite shore
than it returned towards the castle.
At that moment Mary Seyton announced to the queen that Lady Douglas
was asking permission to visit her.
It was the second time, after long hatred on Lady Douglas's part and
contemptuous indifference on the queen's, that the two women were
face to face; therefore the queen, with that instinctive impulse of
coquetry which urges women, in whatever situation they find
themselves, to desire to be beautiful, above all for women, made a
sign to Mary Seyton, and, going to a little mirror fastened to the
wall in a heavy Gothic frame, she arranged her curls, and readjusted
the lace of her collar; then; having seated herself in the pose most
favourable to her, in a great arm-chair, the only one in her sitting-
room, she said smilingly to Mary Seyton that she might admit Lady
Douglas, who was immediately introduced.
Mary's expectation was not disappointed: Lady Douglas, in spite of
her hatred for James Vs daughter, and mistress of herself as she
thought she as, could not prevent herself from showing by a movement
of surprise the impression that this marvelous beauty was making on
her: she thought she should find Mary crushed by her unhappiness,
pallid from her fatigues, humbled by captivity, and she saw hers
calm, lovely, and haughty as usual. Mary perceived the effect that
she was producing, and addressing herself with an ironical smile
partly to Mary Seyton, who was leaning on the back of her chair, and
partly to her who was paying her this unforeseen visit
"We are fortunate to-day," said she, "for we are going as it seems to
enjoy the society of our good hostess, whom we thank besides for
having kindly maintained with us the empty ceremony of announcing
herself--a ceremony with which, having the keys of our apartment, she
could have dispensed."
"If my presence is inconvenient to your grace," replied Lady
Lochleven, "I am all the more sorry for it, as circumstances will
oblige me to impose it twice daily, at least during the absence of my
son, who is summoned to Edinburgh by the regent; this is of what I
came to inform your grace, not with the empty ceremonial of the
court, but with the consideration which Lady Lochleven owes to
everyone who has received hospitality in her castle."
"Our good hostess mistakes our intention," Mary answered, with
affected good-nature; "and the regent himself can bear witness to the
pleasure we have always had in bringing nearer to us the persons who
can recall to us, even indirectly, our well-beloved father, James V.
It will be therefore unjustly that Lady Douglas will interpret in a
manner disagreeable to herself our surprise at seeing her; and the
hospitality that she offers us so obligingly does not promise us, in
spite of her goodwill, sufficient distractions that we should deprive
ourselves of those that her visits cannot fail to procure us."
"Unfortunately, madam," replied Lady Lochleven, whom Mary was keeping
standing before her, "whatever pleasure I myself derive from these
visits, I shall be obliged to deprive myself of, except at the times
I have mentioned. I am now too old to bear fatigue, and I have,
always been too proud to endure sarcasms."
"Really, Seyton," cried Mary, seeming to recollect herself, "we had
not dreamed that Lady Lochleven, having won her right to a stool at
the court of the king my father, would have need to preserve it in
the prison of the queen his daughter. Bring forward a seat, Seyton,
that we be not deprived so soon, and by a failure of memory on our
part, of our gracious hostess's company; or even," went on Mary,
rising and pointing out her own seat to Lady Lochleven, who was
making a motion to withdraw, "if a stool does not suit you, my lady,
take this easy-chair: you will not be the first member of your family
to sit in my place."
At this last allusion, which recalled to her Murray's usurpation,
Lady Lochleven was no doubt about to make some exceedingly bitter
reply, when the young man with the dark hair appeared on the
threshold, without being announced, and, advancing towards Lady
Lochleven, without saluting Mary--
"Madam," said he, bowing to the former, "the boat which took my
brother has just returned, and one of the men in it is charged with a
pressing charge that Lord William forgot to make to you himself."
Then, saluting the old lady with the same respect, he immediately
went out of the room, without even glancing at the queen, who, hurt
by this impertinence, turned round to Mary Seyton, and, with her
"What have they told us, Seyton, of injurious rumours which were
spread about our worthy hostess apropos of a child with a pale face
and dark hair? If this child, as I have every reason to believe, has
become the young man who just went out of the room, I am ready to
affirm to all the incredulous that he is a true Douglas, if not for
courage, of which we cannot judge, then for insolence, of which he
has just given us proofs. Let us return, darling," continued the
queen, leaning on Mary Seyton's arm;" for our good hostess, out of
courtesy, might think herself obliged to keep us company longer,
while we know that she is impatiently awaited elsewhere."
With these words, Mary went into her bedroom; while the old lady,
still quite stunned with the shower of sarcasms that the queen had
rained on her, withdrew, murmuring, "Yes, yes, he is a Douglas, and
with God's help he will prove it, I hope."
The queen had had strength as long as she was sustained by her
enemy's presence, but scarcely was she alone than she sank into a
chair, and no longer having any witness of her weakness than Mary
Seyton, burst into tears. Indeed, she had just been cruelly wounded:
till then no man had come near her who had not paid homage either to
the majesty of her rank or to the beauty of her countenance. But
precisely he, on whom she had reckoned, without knowing why, with
instinctive hopes, insulted her at one and the same time in her
double pride of queen and woman: thus she remained shut up till
At dinner-time, just as Lady Lochleven had informed Mary, she
ascended to the queen's apartment, in her dress of honour, and
preceding four servants who were carrying the several dishes
composing the prisoner's repast, and who, in their turn, were
followed by the old castle steward, having, as on days of great
ceremony, his gold chain round his neck and his ivory stick in his
hand. The servants' placed the dishes on the table, and waited in
silence for the moment when it should please the queen to come out of
her room; but at this moment the door opened, and in place of the
queen Mary Seyton appeared.
"Madam," said she on entering, "her grace was indisposed during the
day, and will take nothing this evening; it will be useless, then,
for you to wait longer."
"Permit me to hope," replied Lady Lochleven, "that she will change
her decision; in any case, see me perform my office."
At these words, a servant handed Lady Lochleven bread and salt on a
silver salver, while the old steward, who, in the absence of William
Douglas, fulfilled the duties of carver, served to her on a plate of
the same metal a morsel from each of the dishes that had been
brought; then, this transaction ended
"So the queen will not appear to-day?" Lady Lochleven inquired.
"It is her Majesty's resolve," replied Mary Seyton.
"Our presence is then needless," said the old lady; "but in any case
the table is served, and if her grace should have need of anything
else, she would have but to name it."
With these words, Lady Lochleven, with the same stiffness and the
same dignity with which she had come, withdrew, followed by her four
servants and her steward.
As Lady Lochleven had foreseen, the queen, yielding to the entreaties
of Mary Seyton, came out of her room at last, towards eight o'clock
in the evening, sat down to table, and, served by the only maid of
honour left her, ate a little; then, getting up, she went to the
It was one of those magnificent summer evenings on which the whole of
nature seems making holiday: the sky was studded with stars, which
were reflected in the lake, and in their midst, like a more fiery
star, the flame of the chafing-dish shone, burning at the stern of a
little boat: the queen, by the gleam of the light it shed, perceived
George Douglas and Little Douglas, who were fishing. However great
her wish to profit by this fine evening to breathe the pure night
air, the sight of this young man who had so grossly insulted her this
very day made such a keen impression on her that she shut her window
directly, and, retiring into her room, went to bed, and made her
companion in captivity read several prayers aloud; then, not being
able to sleep, so greatly was she agitated, she rose, and throwing on
a mantle went again to the window the boat had disappeared.
Mary spent part of the night gazing into the immensity of the
heavens, or into the depths of the lake; but in spite of the nature
of the thoughts agitating her, she none the less found very great
physical alleviation in contact with this pure air and in
contemplation of this peaceful and silent night: thus she awoke next
day calmer and more resigned. Unfortunately, the sight of Lady
Lochleven, who presented herself at breakfast-time, to fulfil her
duties as taster, brought back her irritability. Perhaps, however,
things would have gone on smoothly if Lady Lochleven, instead of
remaining standing by the sideboard, had withdrawn after having
tasted the various dishes of the courses; but this insisting on
remaining throughout the meal, which was at bottom a mark of respect,
seemed to the queen unbearable tyranny.
"Darling," said she, speaking to Mary Seyton, "have you already
forgotten that our good hostess complained yesterday of the fatigue
she felt inn standing? Bring her, then, one of the two stools
which compose our royal furniture, and take care that it is not the
one with the leg broken". "If the furniture of Lochleven Castle is
in such bad condition, madam," the old lady replied, "it is the fault
of the kings of Scotland: the poor Douglases for nearly a century
have had such a small part of their sovereigns' favour, that they
have not been able to keep up the splendour of their ancestors to the
level of that of private individuals, and because there was in
Scotland a certain musician, as I am informed, who spent their income
for a whole year in one month."
"Those who know how to take so well, my lady," the queen answered,
"have no need of being given to: it seems to me the Douglases have
lost nothing by waiting, and there is not a younger son of this noble
family who might not aspire to the highest alliances; it is truly
vexatious that our sister the queen of England has taken a vow of
virginity; as is stated."
"Or rather," interrupted Lady Lochleven, "that the Queen of Scotland
is not a widow by her third husband. But," continued the old lady,
pretending to recollect herself, "I do not say that to reproach your
grace. Catholics look upon marriage as a sacrament, and on this head
receive it as often as they can."
"This, then," returned Mary, "is the difference between them and the
Huguenots; for they, not having the same respect for it, think it is
allowed them to dispense with it in certain circumstances."
At this terrible sarcasm Lady Lochleven took a step towards Mary
Stuart, holding in her hand the knife which she had just been using
to cut off a piece of meat brought her to taste; but the queen rose
up with so great a calm and with such majesty, that either from
involuntary respect or shame of her first impulse, she let fall the
weapon she was holding, and not finding anything sufficiently strong
in reply to express her feelings, she signed to the servants to
follow her, and went out of the apartment with all the dignity that
anger permitted her to summon to her aid.
Scarcely had Lady Lochleven left the room than the queen sat down
again, joyful and triumphant at the victory she had just gained, and
ate with a better appetite than she had yet done since she was a
prisoner, while Mary Seyton deplored in a low tone and with all
possible respect this fatal gift of repartee that Mary had received,
and which, with her beauty, was one of the causes of all her
misfortunes; but the queen did nothing but laugh at all her
observations, saying she was curious to see the figure her good
hostess would cut at dinnertime.
After breakfast, the queen went down into the garden: her satisfied
pride had restored some of her cheerfulness, so much so that, seeing,
while crossing the hall, a mandolin lying forgotten on a chair, she
told Mary Seyton to take it, to see, she said, if she could recall
her old talent. In reality the queen was one of the best musicians
of the time, and played admirably, says Brantome, on the lute and
viol d'amour, an instrument much resembling the mandolin.
Mary Seyton obeyed.
Arrived in the garden, the queen sat down in the deepest shade, and
there, having tuned her instrument, she at first drew from it lively
and light tones, which soon darkened little by little, at the same
time that her countenance assumed a hue of deep melancholy. Mary
Seyton looked at her with uneasiness, although for a long time she
had been used to these sudden changes in her mistress's humour, and
she was about to ask the reason of this gloomy veil suddenly spread
over her face, when, regulating her harmonies, Mary began to sing in
a low voice, and as if for herself alone, the following verses:--
"Caverns, meadows, plains and mounts,
Lands of tree and stone,
Rivers, rivulets and founts,
By which I stray alone,
Bewailing as I go,
With tears that overflow,
Sing will I
The miserable woe
That bids me grieve and sigh.
Ay, but what is here to lend
Ear to my lament?
What is here can comprehend
My dull discontent?
Neither grass nor reed,
Nor the ripples heed,
While the stream with speed
Hastens from my eye.
Vainly does my wounded heart
Hope, alas, to heal;
Seeking, to allay its smart,
Things that cannot feel.
Better should my pain
To thee who dost constrain
My spirit to such ill.
Goddess, who shalt never die,
List to what I say;
Thou who makest me to lie
Weak beneath thy sway,
If my life must know
Ending at thy blow,
Own it perished so
But at thy behest.
Lo! my face may all men see
Slowly pine and fade,
E'en as ice doth melt and flee
Near a furnace laid.
Yet the burning ray
Wasting me away
Wakens no display
Of pity for my woe.
Yet does every neighbour tree,
Every rocky wall,
This my sorrow know and see;
So, in brief, doth all
Nature know aright
This my sorry plight;
Takest thy delight
To hear me cry and moan.
But if it be thy will,
To see tormented still
Then let my woful ill
This last verse died away as if the queen were exhausted, and at the
same time the mandolin slipped from her hands, and would have fallen
to the ground had not Mary Seyton thrown herself on her knees and
prevented it. The young girl remained thus at her mistress's feet
for some time, gazing at her silently, and as she saw that she was
losing herself more and more in gloomy reverie--
"Have those lines brought back to your Majesty some sad remembrance?"
she asked hesitatingly.
"Oh, yes," answered the queen; "they reminded me of the unfortunate
being who composed them."
"And may I, without indiscretion, inquire of your grace who is their
"Alas! he was a noble, brave, and handsome young man, with a faithful
heart and a hot head, who would defend me to-day, if I had defended
him then; but his boldness seemed to me rashness, and his fault a
crime. What was to be done? I did not love him. Poor Chatelard! I
was very cruel to him."
"But you did not prosecute him, it was your brother; you did not
condemn him, the judges did."
"Yes, yes; I know that he too was Murray's victim, and that is no
doubt the reason that I am calling him to mind just now. But I was
able to pardon him, Mary, and I was inflexible; I let ascend the
scaffold a man whose only crime was in loving me too well; and now I
am astonished and complain of being abandoned by everyone. Listen,
darling, there is one thing that terrifies me: it is, that when I
search within myself I find that I have not only deserved my fate,
but even that God did not punish me severely enough."
"What strange thoughts for your grace!" cried Mary; "and see where
those unlucky lines which returned to your mind have led you, the
very day when you were beginning to recover a little of your
"Alas!" replied the queen, shaking her head and uttering a deep sigh,
"for six years very few days have passed that I have not repeated
those lines to myself, although it may be for the first time to-day
that I repeat them aloud. He was a Frenchman too, Mary: they have
exiled from me, taken or killed all who came to me from France. Do
you remember that vessel which was swallowed up before our eyes when
we came out of Calais harbour? I exclaimed then that it was a sad
omen: you all wanted to reassure me. Well, who was right, now, you
The queen was in one of those fits of sadness for which tears are the
sole remedy; so Mary Seyton, perceiving that not only would every
consolation be vain, but also unreasonable, far from continuing to
react against her mistress's melancholy, fully agreed with her: it
followed that the queen, who was suffocating, began to weep, and that
her tears brought her comfort; then little by little she regained
self-control, and this crisis passed as usual, leaving her firmer and
more resolute than ever, so that when she went up to her room again
it was impossible to read the slightest alteration in her
The dinner-hour was approaching, and Mary, who in the morning was
looking forward impatiently to the enjoyment of her triumph over Lady
Lochleven, now saw her advance with uneasiness: the mere idea of
again facing this woman, whose pride one was always obliged to oppose
with insolence, was, after the moral fatigues of the day, a fresh
weariness. So she decided not to appear for dinner, as on the day
before: she was all the more glad she had taken this resolution, that
this time it was not Lady Lochleven who came to fulfil the duties
enjoined on a member of the family to make the queen easy, but George
Douglas, whom his mother in her displeasure at the morning scene sent
to replace her. Thus, when Mary Seyton told the queen that she saw
the young man with dark hair cross the courtyard on his way to her,
Mary still further congratulated herself on her decision; for this
young man's insolence had wounded her more deeply than all his
mother's haughty insults. The queen was not a little astonished,
then, when in a few minutes Mary Seyton returned and informed her
that George Douglas, having sent away the servants, desired the
honour of speaking to her on a matter of importance. At first the
queen refused; but Mary Seyton told her that the young man's air and
manner this time were so different from what she had seen two days
before, that she thought her mistress would be wrong to refuse his
The queen rose then, and with the pride and majesty habitual to her,
entered the adjoining room, and, having taken three steps, stopped
with a disdainful air, waiting for George to address her.
Mary Seyton had spoken truly: George Douglas was now another man.
To-day he seemed to be as respectful and timid as the preceding day
he had seemed haughty and proud. He, in his turn, made a step
towards the queen; but seeing Mary Seyton standing behind her--
"Madam," said he, "I wished to speak with your Majesty alone: shall I
not obtain this favour?"
"Mary Seyton is not a stranger to me, Sir: she is my sister, my
friend; she is more than all that, she is my companion in captivity."
"And by all these claims, madam, I have the utmost veneration for
her; but what I have to tell you cannot be heard by other ears than
yours. Thus, madam, as the opportunity furnished now may perhaps
never present itself again, in the name of what is dearest to you,
grant me what I ask."
There was such a tone of respectful prayer in George's voice that
Mary turned to the young girl, and, making her a friendly sign with
"Go, then, darling," said she; "but be easy, you will lose nothing by
not hearing. Go."
Mary Seyton withdrew; the queen smilingly looked after her, till the
door was shut; then, turning to George--
"Now, sir," said she, "we are alone, speak."
But George, instead of replying, advanced to the queen, and, kneeling
on one knee, drew from his breast a paper which he presented to her.
Mary took it with amazement, unfolded it, glancing at Douglas, who
remained in the same posture, and read as follows:
We, earls, lords, and barons, in consideration that our queen is
detained at Lochleven, and that her faithful subjects cannot have
access to her person; seeing, on the other hand, that our duty
pledges us to provide for her safety, promise and swear to employ all
reasonable means which will depend on us to set her at liberty again
on conditions compatible with the honour of her Majesty, the welfare
of the kingdom, and even with the safety of those who keep her in
prison, provided that they consent to give her up; that if they
refuse, we declare that we are prepared to make use of ourselves, our
children, our friends, our servants, our vassals, our goods, our
persons, and our lives, to restore her to liberty, to procure the
safety of the prince, and to co-operate in punishing the late king's
murderers. If we are assailed for this intent, whether as a body or
in private, we promise to defend ourselves, and to aid one another,
under pain of infamy and perjury. So may God help us.
"Given with our own hands at Dumbarton,
"St. Andrews, Argyll, Huntly, Arbroath, Galloway, Ross, Fleming,
Herries, Stirling, Kilwinning, Hamilton, and Saint-Clair, Knight."
"And Seyton!" cried Mary, "among all these signatures, I do not see
that of my faithful Seyton."
Douglas, still kneeling, drew from his breast a second paper, and
presented it to the queen with the same marks of respect. It
contained only these few words:
"Trust George Douglas; for your Majesty has no more devoted friend in
the entire kingdom.
Mary lowered her eyes to Douglas with an expression which was hers
only; then, giving him her hand to raise him--
"Ah!" said she, with a sigh more of joy than of sadness, "now I see
that God, in spite of my faults, has not yet abandoned me. But how
is it, in this castle, that you, a Douglas.... oh! it is incredible!"
"Madam," replied George, "seven years have passed since I saw you in
France for the first time, and for seven years I have loved you".
Mary moved; but Douglas put forth his hand and shook his head with an
air of such profound sadness, that she understood that she might hear
what the young man had to say. He continued: "Reassure yourself,
madam; I should never have made this confession if, while explaining
my conduct to you, this confession would not have given you greater
confidence in me. Yes, for seven years I have loved you, but as one
loves a star that one can never reach, a madonna to whom one can only
pray; for seven years I have followed you everywhere without you ever
having paid attention to me, without my saying a word or making a
gesture to attract your notice. I was on the knight of Mevillon's
galley when you crossed to Scotland; I was among the regent's
soldiers when you beat Huntly; I was in the escort which accompanied
you when you went to see the sick king at Glasgow; I reached
Edinburgh an hour after you had left it for Lochleven; and then it
seemed to me that my mission was revealed to me for the first time,
and that this love for which till then, I had reproached myself as a
crime, was on the contrary a favour from God. I learned that the
lords were assembled at Dumbarton: I flew thither. I pledged my
name, I pledged my honour, I pledged my life; and I obtained from
them, thanks to the facility I had for coming into this fortress, the
happiness of bringing you the paper they have just signed. Now,
madam, forget all I have told you, except the assurance of my
devotion and respect: forget that I am near you; I am used to not
being seen: only, if you have need of my life, make a sign; for seven
years my life has been yours."
"Alas!" replied Mary, "I was complaining this morning of no longer
being loved, and I ought to complain, on the contrary, that I am
still loved; for the love that I inspire is fatal and mortal. Look
back, Douglas, and count the tombs that, young as I am, I have
already left on my path--Francis II, Chatelard, Rizzio, Darnley....
Oh to attach one's self to my fortunes more than love is needed now
heroism and devotion are requisite so much the more that, as you have
said, Douglas, it is love without any possible reward. Do you
"Oh, madam, madam," answered Douglas, "is it not reward beyond my
deserts to see you daily, to cherish the hope that liberty will be
restored to you through me, and to have at least, if I do not give it
you, the certainty of dying in your sight?"
"Poor young man!" murmured Mary, her eyes raised to heaven, as if she
were reading there beforehand the fate awaiting her new defender.
"Happy Douglas, on the contrary," cried George, seizing the queen's
hand and kissing it with perhaps still more respect than love, "happy
Douglas! for in obtaining a sigh from your Majesty he has already
obtained more than he hoped."
"And upon what have you decided with my friends?" said the queen,
raising Douglas, who till then had remained on his knees before her.
"Nothing yet," George replied; "for we scarcely had time to see one
another. Your escape, impossible without me, is difficult even with
me; and your Majesty has seen that I was obliged publicly to fail in
respect, to obtain from my mother the confidence which gives me the
good fortune of seeing you to-day: if this confidence on my mother's
or my brother's part ever extends to giving up to me the castle keys,
then you are saved! Let your Majesty not be surprised at anything,
then: in the presence of others, I shall ever be always a Douglas,
that is an enemy; and except your life be in danger, madam, I shall
not utter a word, I shall not make a gesture which might betray the
faith that I have sworn you; but, on your side, let your grace know
well, that present or absent, whether I am silent or speak, whether I
act or remain inert, all will be in appearance only, save my
devotion. Only," continued Douglas, approaching the window and
showing to the queen a little house on Kinross hill,--"only, look
every evening in that direction, madam, and so long as you see a
light shine there, your friends will be keeping watch for you, and
you need not lose hope."
"Thanks, Douglas, thanks," said the queen; "it does one good to meet
with a heart like yours from time to time--oh! thanks."
"And now, madam," replied the young man, "I must leave your Majesty;
to remain longer with you would be to raise suspicions, and a single
doubt of me, think of it well, madam, and that light which is your
sole beacon is extinguished, and all returns into night."
With these words, Douglas bowed more respectfully than he had yet
done, and withdrew, leaving Mary full of hope, and still more full of
pride; for this time the homage that she had just received was
certainly for the woman and not for the queen.
As the queen had told him, Mary Seyton was informed of everything,
even the love of Douglas, and, the two women impatiently awaited the
evening to see if the promised star would shine on the horizon.
Their hope was not in vain: at the appointed time the beacon was lit.
The queen trembled with joy, for it was the confirmation of her
hopes, and her companion could not tear her from the window, where
she remained with her gaze fastened on the little house in Kinross.
At last she yielded to Mary Seyton's prayers, and consented to go to
bed; but twice in the night she rose noiselessly to go to the window:
the light was always shining, and was not extinguished till dawn,
with its sisters the stars.
Next day, at breakfast, George announced to the queen the return of
his brother, William Douglas: he arrived the same evening; as to
himself, George, he had to leave Lochleven next morning, to confer
with the nobles who had signed the declaration, and who had
immediately separated to raise troops in their several counties. The
queen could not attempt to good purpose any escape but at a time when
she would be sure of gathering round her an army strong enough to
hold the country; as to him, Douglas, one was so used to his silent
disappearances and to his unexpected returns, that there was no
reason to fear that his departure would inspire any suspicion.
All passed as George had said: in the evening the sound of a bugle
announced the arrival of William Douglas; he had with him Lord
Ruthven, the son of him who had assassinated Rizzio, and who, exiled
with Morton after the murder, died in England of the sickness with
which he was already attacked the day of the terrible catastrophe in
which we have seen him take such a large share. He preceded by one
day Lord Lindsay of Byres and Sir Robert Melville, brother of Mary's
former ambassador to Elizabeth: all three were charged with a mission
from the regent to the queen.
On the following day everything fell back into the usual routine, and
William Douglas reassumed his duties as carver. Breakfast passed
without Mary's having learned anything of George's departure or
Ruthven's arrival. On rising from the table she went to her window:
scarcely was she there than she heard the sound of a horn echoing on
the shores of the lake, and saw a little troop of horsemen halt,
while waiting for the boat to came and take those who were going to
The distance was too great for Mary to recognise any of the visitors;
but it was clear, from the signs of intelligence exchanged between
the little troop and the inhabitants of the fortress, that the
newcomers were her enemies. This was a reason why the queen, in her
uneasiness, should not lose sight for a moment of the boat which was
going to fetch them. She saw only two men get into it; and
immediately it put off again for the castle.
As the boat drew nearer, Mary's presentiments changed to real fears,
for in one of the men coming towards her she thought she made out
Lord Lindsay of Byres, the same who, a week before, had brought her
to her prison. It was indeed he himself, as usual in a steel helmet
without a visor, which allowed one to see his coarse face designed to
express strong passions, and his long black beard with grey hairs
here and there, which covered his chest: his person was protected, as
if it were in time of war, with his faithful suit of armour, formerly
polished and well gilded, but which, exposed without ceasing to rain
and mist, was now eaten up with rust; he had slung on his back, much
as one slings a quiver, a broadsword, so heavy that it took two hands
to manage it, and so long that while the hilt reached the left
shoulder the point reached the right spur: in a word, he was still
the same soldier, brave to rashness but brutal to insolence,
recognising nothing but right and force, and always ready to use
force when he believed himself in the right.
The queen was so much taken up with the sight of Lord Lindsay of
Byres, that it was only just as the boat reached the shore that she
glanced at his companion and recognised Robert Melville: this was
some consolation, for, whatever might happen, she knew that she
should find in him if not ostensible at least secret sympathy.
Besides, his dress, by which one could have judged him equally with
Lord Lindsay, was a perfect contrast to his companion's. It
consisted of a black velvet doublet, with a cap and a feather of the
same hue fastened to it with a gold clasp; his only weapon, offensive
or defensive, was a little sword, which he seemed to wear rather as a
sign of his rank than for attack or defence. As to his features and
his manners, they were in harmony with this peaceful appearance: his
pale countenance expressed both acuteness and intelligence; his quick
eye was mild, and his voice insinuating; his figure slight and a
little bent by habit rather than by years, since he was but forty-
five at this time, indicated an easy and conciliatory character.
However, the presence of this man of peace, who seemed entrusted with
watching over the demon of war, could not reassure the queen, and as
to get to the landing-place, in front of the great door of the
castle, the boat had just disappeared behind the corner of a tower,
she told Mary Seyton to go down that she might try to learn what
cause brought Lord Lindsay to Lochleven, well knowing that with the
force of character with which she was endowed, she need know this
cause but a few minutes beforehand, whatever it might be, to give her
countenance that calm and that majesty which she had always found to
influence her enemies.
Left alone, Mary let her glance stray back to the little house in
Kinross, her sole hope; but the distance was too great to distinguish
anything; besides, its shutters remained closed all day, and seemed
to open only in the evening, like the clouds, which, having covered
the sky for a whole morning, scatter at last to reveal to the lost
sailor a solitary star. She had remained no less motionless, her
gaze always fixed on the same object, when she was drawn from this
mute contemplation by the step of Mary Seyton.
"Well, darling?" asked the queen, turning round.
"Your Majesty is not mistaken," replied the messenger: "it really was
Sir Robert Melville and Lord Lindsay; but there came yesterday with
Sir William Douglas a third ambassador, whose name, I am afraid, will
be still more odious to your Majesty than either of the two I have
"You deceive yourself, Mary," the queen answered: "neither the name
of Melville nor that of Lindsay is odious to me. Melville's, on the
contrary, is, in my present circumstances, one of those which I have
most pleasure in hearing; as to Lord Lindsay's, it is doubtless not
agreeable to me, but it is none the less an honourable name, always
borne by men rough and wild, it is true, but incapable of treachery.
Tell me, then, what is this name, Mary; for you see I am calm and
"Alas! madam," returned Mary, "calm and prepared as you may be,
collect all your strength, not merely to hear this name uttered, but
also to receive in a few minutes the man who bears it; for this name
is that of Lord Ruthven."
Mary Seyton had spoken truly, and this name had a terrible influence
upon the queen; for scarcely had it escaped the young girl's lips
than Mary Stuart uttered a cry, and turning pale, as if she were
about to faint, caught hold of the window-ledge.
Mary Seyton, frightened at the effect produced by this fatal name,
immediately sprang to support the queen; but she, stretching one hand
towards her, while she laid the other on her heart
"It is nothing," said she; "I shall be better in a moment. Yes,
Mary, yes, as you said, it is a fatal name and mingled with one of my
most bloody memories. What such men are coming to ask of me must be
dreadful indeed. But no matter, I shall soon be ready to receive my
brother's ambassadors, for doubtless they are sent in his name. You,
darling, prevent their entering, for I must have some minutes to
myself: you know me; it will not take me long."
With these words the queen withdrew with a firm step to her
Mary Seyton was left alone, admiring that strength of character which
made of Mary Stuart, in all other respects so completely woman-like,
a man in the hour of danger. She immediately went to the door to
close it with the wooden bar that one passed between two iron rings,
but the bar had been taken away, so that there was no means of
fastening the door from within. In a moment she heard someone coming
up the stairs, and guessing from the heavy, echoing step that this
must be Lord Lindsay, she looked round her once again to see if she
could find something to replace the bar, and finding nothing within
reach, she passed her arm through the rings, resolved to let it be
broken rather than allow anyone to approach her mistress before it
suited her. Indeed, hardly had those who were coming up reached the
landing than someone knocked violently, and a harsh voice cried:
"Come, come, open the door; open directly."
"And by what right," said Mary Seyton, "am I ordered thus insolently
to open the Queen of Scotland's door?"
"By the right of the ambassador of the regent to enter everywhere in
his name. I am Lord Lindsay, and I am come to speak to Lady Mary
"To be an ambassador," answered Mary Seyton, "is not to be exempted
from having oneself announced in visiting a woman, and much more a
queen; and if this ambassador is, as he says, Lord Lindsay, he will
await his sovereign's leisure, as every Scottish noble would do in
"By St. Andrew!" cried Lord Lindsay, "open, or I will break in the
"Do nothing to it, my lord, I entreat you," said another voice, which
Mary recognised as Meville's. "Let us rather wait for Lord Ruthven,
who is not yet ready."
"Upon my soul," cried Lindsay, shaking the door, "I shall not wait a
second". Then, seeing that it resisted, "Why did you tell me, then,
you scamp," Lindsay went on, speaking to the steward, "that the bar
had been removed?
"It is true," replied he.
"Then," returned Lindsay, "with what is this silly wench securing the
"With my arm, my lord, which I have passed through the rings, as a
Douglas did for King James I, at a time when Douglases had dark hair
instead of red, and were faithful instead of being traitors."
"Since you know your history so well," replied Lindsay, in a rage,"
you should remember that that weak barrier did not hinder Graham,
that Catherine Douglas's arm was broken like a willow wand, and that
James I was killed like a dog."
"But you, my lord," responded the courageous young girl, "ought also
to know the ballad that is still sung in our time--
"'Now, on Robert Gra'am,
The king's destroyer, shame!
To Robert Graham cling
Shame, who destroyed our king.'"
"Mary," cried the queen, who had overheard this altercation from her
bedroom,--"Mary, I command you to open the door directly: do you
Mary obeyed, and Lord Lindsay entered, followed by Melville, who
walked behind him, with slow steps and bent head. Arrived in the
middle of the second room, Lord Lindsay stopped, and, looking round
"Well, where is she, then?" he asked; "and has she not already kept
us waiting long enough outside, without making us wait again inside?
Or does she imagine that, despite these walls and these bars, she is
"Patience, my lord," murmured Sir Robert: "you see that Lord Ruthven
has not come yet, and since we can do nothing without him, let us
"Let wait who will," replied Lindsay, inflamed with anger; "but it
will not be I, and wherever she may be, I shall go and seek her."
With these words, he made some steps towards Mary Stuart's bedroom;
but at the same moment the queen opened the door, without seeming
moved either at the visit or at the insolence of the visitors, and so
lovely and so full of majesty, that each, even Lindsay himself, was
silent at her appearance, and, as if in obedience to a higher power,
bowed respectfully before her.
"I fear I have kept you waiting, my lord," said the queen, without
replying to the ambassador's salutation otherwise than by a slight
inclination of the head; "but a woman does not like to receive even
enemies without having spent a few minutes over her toilet. It is
true that men are less tenacious of ceremony," added she, throwing a
significant glance at Lord Lindsay's rusty armour and soiled and
pierced doublet. "Good day, Melville," she continued, without paying
attention to some words of excuse stammered by Lindsay; "be welcome
in my prison, as you were in my palace; for I believe you as devoted
to the one as to the other".
Then, turning to Lindsay, who was looking interrogatively at the
door, impatient as he was for Ruthven to come--
"You have there, my lord," said she, pointing to the sword he carried
over his shoulder, "a faithful companion, though it is a little
heavy: did you expect, in coming here, to find enemies against whom
to employ it? In the contrary case, it is a strange ornament for a
lady's presence. But no matter, my lord, I, am too much of a Stuart
to fear the sight of a sword, even if it were naked, I warn you."
"It is not out of place here, madam," replied Lindsay, bringing it
forward and leaning his elbow on its cross hilt, "for it is an old
acquaintance of your family."
"Your ancestors, my lord, were brave and loyal enough for me not to
refuse to believe what you tell me. Besides, such a good blade must
have rendered them good service."
"Yes, madam, yes, surely it has done so, but that kind of service
that kings do not forgive. He for whom it was made was Archibald
Bell-the-Cat, and he girded himself with it the day when, to justify
his name, he went to seize in the very tent of King James III, your
grandfather, his un worthy favourites, Cochran, Hummel, Leonard, and
Torpichen, whom he hanged on Louder Bridge with the halters of his
soldiers' horses. It was also with this sword that he slew at one
blow, in the lists, Spens of Kilspindie, who had insulted him in the
presence of King James IV, counting on the protection his master
accorded him, and which did not guard him against it any more than
his shield, which it split in two. At his master's death, which took
place two years after the defeat of Flodden, on whose battlefield he
left his two sons and two hundred warriors of the name of Douglas, it
passed into the hands of the Earl of Angus, who drew it from the
scabbard when he drove the Hamiltons out of Edinburgh, and that so
quickly and completely that the affair was called the 'sweeping of
the streets.' Finally, your father James V saw it glisten in the
fight of the bridge over the Tweed, when Buccleuch, stirred up by
him, wanted to snatch him from the guardianship of the Douglases, and
when eighty warriors of the name of Scott remained on the
"But," said the queen, "how is it that this weapon, after such
exploits, has not remained as a trophy in the Douglas family? No
doubt the Earl of Angus required a great occasion to decide him to-
renounce in your favour this modern Excalibur". [History of Scotland,
by Sir Walter Scott.--"The Abbott": historical part.]
"Yes, no doubt, madam, it was upon a great occasion," replied
Lindsay, in spite of the imploring signs made by Melville, "and this
will have at least the advantage of the others, in being sufficiently
recent for you to remember. It was ten days ago, on the battlefield
of Carberry Hill, madam, when the infamous Bothwell had the audacity
to make a public challenge in which he defied to single combat
whomsoever would dare to maintain that he was not innocent of the
murder of the king your husband. I made him answer then, I the
third, that he was an assassin. And as he refused to fight with the
two others under the pretext that they were only barons, I presented
myself in my turn, I who am earl and lord. It was on that occasion
that the noble Earl of Morton gave me this good sword to fight him to
the death. So that, if he had been a little more presumptuous or a
little less cowardly, dogs and vultures would be eating at this
moment the pieces that, with the help of this good sword, I should
have carved for them from that traitor's carcass."
At these words, Mary Seyton and Robert Melville looked at each other
in terror, for the events that they recalled were so recent that they
were, so to speak, still living in the queen's heart; but the queen,
with incredible impassibility and a smile of contempt on her lips--
"It is easy, my lord," said she, "to vanquish an enemy who does not
appear in the lists; however, believe me, if Mary had inherited the
Stuarts' sword as she has inherited their sceptre, your sword, long
as it is, would yet have seemed to you too short. But as you have
only to relate to us now, my lord, what you intended doing, and not
what you have done, think it fit that I bring you back to something
of more reality; for I do not suppose you have given yourself the
trouble to come here purely and simply to add a chapter to the little
treatise Des Rodomontades Espagnolles by M. de Brantome."
"You are right, madam," replied Lindsay, reddening with anger, "and
you would already know the object of our mission if Lord Ruthven did
not so ridiculously keep us waiting. But," added he, "have patience;
the matter will not be long now, for here he is."
Indeed, at that moment they heard steps mounting the staircase and
approaching the room, and at the sound of these steps, the queen, who
had borne with such firmness Lindsay's insults, grew so perceptibly
paler, that Melville, who did not take his eyes off her,--put out his
hand towards the arm-chair as if to push it towards her; but the
queen made a sign that she had no need of it, and gazed at the door
with apparent calm. Lord Ruthven appeared; it was the first time
that she had seen the son since Rizzio had been assassinated by the
Lord Ruthven was both a warrior and a statesman, and at this moment
his dress savoured of the two professions: it consisted of a close
coat of embroidered buff leather, elegant enough to be worn as a
court undress, and on which, if need were, one could buckle a
cuirass, for battle: like his father, he was pale; like his father,
he was to die young, and, even more than his father, his countenance
wore that ill-omened melancholy by which fortune-tellers recognise
those who are to die a violent death.
Lord Ruthven united in himself the polished dignity of a courtier and
the inflexible character of a minister; but quite resolved as he was
to obtain from Mary Stuart, even if it were by violence, what he had
come to demand in the regent's name, he none the less made her, on
entering, a cold but respectful greeting, to which the queen
responded with a courtesy; then the steward drew up to the empty arm-
chair a heavy table on which had been prepared everything necessary
for writing, and at a sign from the two lords he went out, leaving
the queen and her companion alone with the three ambassadors. Then
the queen, seeing that this table and this arm-chair were put ready
for her, sat down; and after a moment, herself breaking this silence
more gloomy than any word could have been
"My lords," said she, "you see that I wait: can it be that this
message which you have to communicate to me is so terrible that two
soldiers as renowned as Lord Lindsay and Lord Ruthven hesitate at the
moment of transmitting it?"
"Madam," answered Ruthven, "I am not of a family, as you know, which
ever hesitates to perform a duty, painful as it may be; besides, we
hope that your captivity has prepared you to hear what we have to
tell you on the part of the Secret Council."
"The Secret Council!" said the queen. "Instituted by me, by what
right does it act without me? No matter, I am waiting for this
message: I suppose it is a petition to implore my mercy for the men
who have dared to reach to a power that I hold only from God."
"Madam," replied Ruthven, who appeared to have undertaken the painful
role of spokesman, while Lindsay, mute and impatient, fidgeted with
the hilt of his long sword, "it is distressing to me to have to
undeceive you on this point: it is not your mercy that I come to ask;
it is, on the contrary, the pardon of the Secret Council that I come
to offer you."
"To me, my lord, to me!" cried Mary: "subjects offer pardon to their
queen! Oh! it is such a new and wonderful thing, that my amazement
outweighs my indignation, and that I beg you to continue, instead of
stopping you there, as perhaps I ought to do."
"And I obey you so much the more willingly, madam," went on Ruthven
imperturbably, "that this pardon is only granted on certain
conditions, stated in these documents, destined to re-establish the
tranquillity of the State, so cruelly compromised by the errors that
they are going to repair."
"And shall I be permitted, my lord, to read these documents, or must
I, allured by my confidence in those who present them to me, sign
them with my eyes shut?"
"No, madam," Ruthven returned; "the Secret Council desire, on the
contrary, that you acquaint yourself with them, for you must sign
"Read me these documents, my lord; for such a reading is, I think,
included in the strange duties you have accepted."
Lord Ruthven took one of the two papers that he had in his hand, and
read with the impassiveness of his usual voice the following:
"Summoned from my tenderest youth to the government of the kingdom
and to the crown of Scotland, I have carefully attended to the
administration; but I have experienced so much fatigue and trouble
that I no longer find my mind free enough nor my strength great
enough to support the burden of affairs of State: accordingly, and as
Divine favour has granted us a son whom we desire to see during our
lifetime bear the crown which he has acquired by right of birth, we
have resolved to abdicate, and we abdicate in his favour, by these
presents, freely and voluntarily, all our rights to the crown and to
the government of Scotland, desiring that he may immediately ascend
the throne, as if he were called to it by our natural death, and not
as the effect of our own will; and that our present abdication may
have a more complete and solemn effect, and that no one should put
forward the claim of ignorance, we give full powers to our trusty and
faithful cousins, the lords Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven, to
appear in our name before the nobility, the clergy, and the burgesses
of Scotland, of whom they will convoke an assembly at Stirling, and
to there renounce, publicly and solemnly, on our part, all our claims
to the crown and to the government of Scotland.
"Signed freely and as the testimony of one of our last royal wishes,
in our castle of Lochleven, the ___ June 1567". (The date was left
There was a moment's silence after this reading, then
"Did you hear, madam?" asked Ruthven.
"Yes," replied Mary Stuart,--" yes, I have heard rebellious words
that I have not understood, and I thought that my ears, that one has
tried to accustom for some time to a strange language, still deceived
me, and that I have thought for your honour, my lord William Ruthven,
and my lord Lindsay of Byres."
"Madam," answered Lindsay, out of patience at having kept silence so
long, "our honour has nothing to do with the opinion of a woman who
has so ill known how to watch over her own."
"My lord!" said Melville, risking a word.
"Let him speak, Robert," returned the queen. "We have in our
conscience armour as well tempered as that with which Lord Lindsay is
so prudently covered, although, to the shame of justice, we no longer
have a sword. Continue, my lord," the queen went on, turning to Lord
Ruthven: "is this all that my subjects require of me? A date and a
signature? Ah! doubtless it is too little; and this second paper,
which you have kept in order to proceed by degrees, probably contains
some demand more difficult to grant than that of yielding to a child
scarcely a year old a crown which belongs to me by birthright, and to
abandon my sceptre to take a distaff."
"This other paper," replied Ruthven, without letting himself be
intimidated by the tone of bitter irony adopted by the queen, "is the
deed by which your Grace confirms the decision of the Secret Council
which has named your beloved brother, the Earl of Murray, regent of
"Indeed!" said Mary. "The Secret Council thinks it needs my
confirmation to an act of such slight importance? And my beloved
brother, to bear it without remorse, needs that it should be I who
add a fresh title to those of Earl of Mar and of Murray that I have
already bestowed upon him? But one cannot desire anything more
respectful and touching than all this, and I should be very wrong to
complain. My lords," continued the queen, rising and changing her
tone, "return to those who have sent you, and tell them that to such
demands Mary Stuart has no answer to give."
"Take care, madam," responded Ruthven; "for I have told you it is
only on these conditions that your pardon can be granted you."
"And if I refuse this generous pardon," asked Mary, "what will
"I cannot pronounce beforehand, madam; but your Grace has enough
knowledge of the laws, and above all of the history of Scotland and
England, to know that murder and adultery are crimes for which more
than one queen has been punished with death."
"And upon what proofs could such a charge be founded, my lord?
Pardon my persistence, which takes up your precious time; but I am
sufficiently interested in the matter to be permitted such a
"The proof, madam?" returned Ruthven. "There is but one, I know; but
that one is unexceptionable: it is the precipitate marriage of the
widow of the assassinated with the chief assassin, and the letters
which have been handed over to us by James Balfour, which prove that
the guilty persons had united their adulterous hearts before it was
permitted them to unite their bloody hands."
"My lord," cried the queen, "do you forget a certain repast given in
an Edinburgh tavern, by this same Bothwell, to those same noblemen
who treat him to-day as an adulterer and a murderer; do you forget
that at the end of that meal, and on the same table at which it had
been given, a paper was signed to invite that same woman, to whom to-
day you make the haste of her new wedding a crime, to leave off a
widow's mourning to reassume a marriage robe? for if you have
forgotten it, my lords, which would do no more honour to your
sobriety than to your memory, I undertake to show it to you, I who
have preserved it; and perhaps if we search well we shall find among
the signatures the names of Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven.
O noble Lord Herries," cried Mary, "loyal James Melville, you alone
were right then, when you threw yourselves at my feet, entreating me
not to conclude this marriage, which, I see it clearly to-day, was
only a trap set for an ignorant woman by perfidious advisers or
"Madam," cried Ruthven, in spite of his cold impassivity beginning to
lose command of himself, while Lindsay was giving still more noisy
and less equivocal signs of impatience, "madam, all these discussions
are beside our aim: I beg you to return to it, then, and inform us
if, your life and honour guaranteed, you consent to abdicate the
crown of Scotland."
"And what safeguard should I have that the promises you here make me
will be kept?"
"Our word, madam," proudly replied Ruthven.
"Your word, my lord, is a very feeble pledge to offer, when one so
quickly forgets one's signature: have you not some trifle to add to
it, to make me a little easier than I should be with it alone?"
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," cried Lindsay. "Do you not see that for
an hour this woman answers our proposals only by insults?"
"Yes, let us go," said Ruthven; "and thank yourself only, madam, for
the day when the thread breaks which holds the sword suspended over
"My lords," cried Melville, "my lords, in Heaven's name, a little
patience, and forgive something to her who, accustomed to command, is
today forced to obey."
"Very well," said Lindsay, turning round, "stay with her, then, and
try to obtain by your smooth words what is refused to our frank and
loyal demand. In a quarter of an hour we shall return: let the
answer be ready in a quarter of an hour!"
With these words, the two noblemen went out, leaving Melville with
the queen; and one could count their footsteps, from the noise that
Lindsay's great sword made, in resounding on each step of the
Scarcely were they alone than Melville threw himself at the queen's
"Madam," said he," you remarked just now that Lord Herries and my
brother had given your Majesty advice that you repented not having
followed; well, madam, reflect on that I in my turn give you; for it
is more important than the other, for you will regret with still more
bitterness not having listened to it. Ah! you do not know what may
happen, you are ignorant of what your brother is capable."
"It seems to me, however," returned the queen, "that he has just
instructed me on that head: what more will he do than he has done
already? A public trial! Oh! it is all I ask: let me only plead my
cause, and we shall see what judges will dare to condemn me."
"But that is what they will take good care not to do, madam; for they
would be mad to do it when they keep you here in this isolated
castle, in the care of your enemies, having no witness but God, who
avenges crime, but who does not prevent it. Recollect, madam, what
Machiavelli has said, 'A king's tomb is never far from his prison.'
You come of a family in which one dies young, madam, and almost
always of a sudden death: two of your ancestors perished by steel,
and one by poison."
"Oh, if my death were sudden and easy," cried Mary, "yes, I should
accept it as an expiation for my faults; for if I am proud when I
compare myself with others, Melville, I am humble when I judge
myself. I am unjustly accused of being an accomplice of Darnley's
death, but I am justly condemned for having married Bothwell."
"Time presses, madam; time presses," cried Melville, looking at the
sand, which, placed on the table, was marking the time. "They are
coming back, they will be here in a minute; and this time you must
give them an answer. Listen, madam, and at least profit by your
situation as much as you can. You are alone here with one woman,
without friends, without protection, without power: an abdication
signed at such a juncture will never appear to your people to have
been freely given, but will always pass as having been torn from you
by force; and if need be, madam, if the day comes when such a solemn
declaration is worth something, well, then you will have two
witnesses of the violence done you: the one will be Mary Seyton, and
the other," he added in a low voice and looking uneasily about him,--
"the other will be Robert Melville."
Hardly had he finished speaking when the footsteps of the two nobles
were again heard on the staircase, returning even before the quarter
of an hour had elapsed; a moment afterwards the door opened, and
Ruthven appeared, while over his shoulder was seen Lindsay's head.
"Madam," said Ruthven, "we have returned. Has your Grace decided?
We come for your answer."
"Yes," said Lindsay, pushing aside Ruthven, who stood in his way, and
advancing to the table,--" yes, an answer, clear, precise, positive,
and without dissimulation."
"You are exacting, my lord," said the queen: "you would scarcely have
the right to expect that from me if I were in full liberty on the
other side of the lake and surrounded with a faithful escort; but
between these walls, behind these bars, in the depths of this
fortress, I shall not tell you that I sign voluntarily, lest you
should not believe it. But no matter, you want my signature; well, I
am going to give it to you. Melville, pass me the pen."
"But I hope," said Lord Ruthven, "that your Grace is not counting on
using your present position one day in argument to protest against
what you are going to do?"
The queen had already stooped to write, she had already set her hand
to the paper, when Ruthven spoke to her. But scarcely had he done
so, than she rose up proudly, and letting fall the pen, "My lord,"
said she, "what you asked of me just now was but an abdication pure
and simple, and I was going to sign it. But if to this abdication is
joined this marginal note, then I renounce of my own accord, and as
judging myself unworthy, the throne of Scotland. I would not do it
for the three united crowns that I have been robbed of in turn."
"Take care, madam," cried Lord Lindsay, seizing the queen's wrist
with his steel gauntlet and squeezing it with all his angry strength
--"take care, for our patience is at an end, and we could easily end
by breaking what would not bend."
The queen remained standing, and although a violent flush had passed
like a flame over her countenance, she did not utter a word, and did
not move: her eyes only were fixed with such a great expression of
contempt on those of the rough baron, that he, ashamed of the passion
that had carried him away, let go the hand he had seized and took a
step back. Then raising her sleeve and showing the violet marks made
on her arm by Lord Lindsay's steel gauntlet,
"This is what I expected, my lords," said she, "and nothing prevents
me any longer from signing; yes, I freely abdicate the throne and
crown of Scotland, and there is the proof that my will has not been
With these words, she took the pen and rapidly signed the two
documents, held them out to Lord Ruthven, and bowing with great
dignity, withdrew slowly into her room, accompanied by Mary Seyton.
Ruthven looked after her, and when she had disappeared, "It doesn't
matter," he said; "she has signed, and although the means you
employed, Lindsay, may be obsolete enough in diplomacy, it is not the
less efficacious, it seems."
"No joking, Ruthven," said Lindsay; "for she is a noble creature, and
if I had dared, I should have thrown myself at her feet to ask her
"There is still time," replied Ruthven, "and Mary, in her present
situation, will not be severe upon you: perhaps she has resolved to
appeal to the judgment of God to prove her innocence, and in that
case a champion such as you might well change the face of things."
"Do not joke, Ruthven," Lindsay answered a second time, with more
violence than the first; "for if I were as well convinced of her
innocence as I am of her crime, I tell you that no one should touch a
hair of her head, not even the regent."
"The devil! my lord," said Ruthven. "I did not know you were so
sensitive to a gentle voice and a tearful eye; you know the story of
Achilles' lance, which healed with its rust the wounds it made with
its edge: do likewise my lord, do likewise."
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," replied Lindsay; "you are like a corselet
of Milan steel, which is three times as bright as the steel armour of
Glasgow, but which is at the same time thrice as hard: we know one
another, Ruthven, so an end to railleries or threats; enough, believe
And after these words, Lord Lindsay went out first, followed by
Ruthven and Melville, the first with his head high and affecting an
air of insolent indifference, and the second, sad, his brow bent, and
not even trying to disguise the painful impression which this scene
had made on him.' ["History of Scotland, by Sir Walter Scott.--'The
Abbott": historical part.]
The queen came out of her room only in the evening, to take her place
at the window which looked over the lake: at the usual time she saw
the light which was henceforth her sole hope shine in the little
house in Kinross; for a whole long month she had no other consolation
than seeing it, every night, fixed and faithful.
At last, at the end of this time, and as she was beginning to despair
of seeing George Douglas again, one morning, on opening the window,
she uttered a cry. Mary Seyton ran to her, and the queen, without
having strength to speak, showed her in the middle of the lake the
tiny boat at anchor, and in the boat Little Douglas and George, who
were absorbed in fishing, their favourite amusement. The young man
had arrived the day before, and as everyone was accustomed to his
unexpected returns, the sentinel had not even blown the horn, and the
queen had not known that at last a friend had come.
However, she was three days yet without seeing this friend otherwise
than she had just done-that is, on the lake. It is true that from
morning till evening he did not leave that spot, from which he could
view the queen's windows and the queen herself, when, to gaze at a
wider horizon, she leaned her face against the bars. At last, on the
morning of the fourth day, the queen was awakened by a great noise of
dogs and horns: she immediately ran to the window, for to a prisoner
everything is an event, and she saw William Douglas, who was
embarking with a pack of hounds and some huntsmen. In fact, making a
truce, for a day, with his gaoler's duties, to enjoy a pleasure more
in harmony with his rank and birth, he was going to hunt in the woods
which cover the last ridge of Ben Lomond, and which, ever sinking,
die down on the banks of the lake.
The queen trembled with delight, for she hoped that Lady Lochleven
would maintain her ill-will, and that then George would replace his
brother: this hope was not disappointed. At the usual time the queen
heard the footsteps of those who were bringing her her breakfast; the
door opened, and she saw George Douglas enter, preceded by the
servants who were carrying the dishes. George barely bowed; but the
queen, warned by him not to be surprised at anything, returned him
his greeting with a disdainful air; then the servants performed their
task and went out, as they were accustomed.
"At last," said the queen, "you are back again, then."
George motioned with his finger, went to the door to listen if all
the servants had really gone away, and if no one had remained to spy.
Then, returning more at ease, and bowing respectfully--
"Yes, madam," returned he; "and, Heaven be thanked, I bring good
"Oh, tell me quickly!" cried the queen; "for staying in this castle
is hell. You knew that they came, did you not, and that they made me
sign an abdication?"
"Yes, madam," replied Douglas; "but we also knew that your signature
had been obtained from you by violence alone, and our devotion to
your Majesty is increased thereby, if possible."
"But, after all, what have you done?"
"The Seytons and the Hamiltons, who are, as your Majesty knows, your
most faithful servants,"--Mary turned round, smiling, and put out her
hand to Mary Seyton,--" have already," continued George, "assembled
their troops, who keep themselves in readiness for the first signal;
but as they alone would not be sufficiently numerous to hold the
country, we shall make our way directly to Dumbarton, whose governor
is ours, and which by its position and its strength can hold out long
enough against all the regent's troops to give to the faithful hearts
remaining to you time to come and join us."
"Yes, yes," said the queen; "I see clearly what we shall do once we
get out of this; but how are we to get out?"
"That is the occasion, madam," replied Douglas, "for which your
Majesty must call to your aid that courage of which you have given
such great proofs."
"If I have need only of courage and coolness," replied the queen, "be
easy; neither the one nor the other will fail me."
"Here is a file," said George, giving Mary Seyton that instrument
which he judged unworthy to touch the queen's hands, "and this
evening I shall bring your Majesty cords to construct a ladder. You
will cut through one of the bars of this window, it is only at a
height of twenty feet; I shall come up to you, as much to try it as
to support you; one of the garrison is in my pay, he will give us
passage by the door it is his duty to guard, and you will be free."
"And when will that be?" cried the queen.
"We must wait for two things, madam," replied Douglas: "the first, to
collect at Kinross an escort sufficient for your Majesty's safety;
the second, that the turn for night watch of Thomas Warden should
happen to be at an isolated door that we can reach without being
"And how will you know that? Do you stay at the castle, then?"
"Alas! no, madam," replied George; "at the castle I am a useless and
even a dangerous fried for you, while once beyond the lake I can
serve you in an effectual manner."
"And how will you know when Warden's turn to mount guard has come?"
"The weathercock in the north tower, instead of turning in the wind
with the others, will remain fixed against it."
"But I, how shall I be warned?"
"Everything is already provided for on that side: the light which
shines each night in the little house in Kinross incessantly tells
you that your friends keep watch for you; but when you would like to
know if the hour of your deliverance approaches or recedes, in your
turn place a light in this window. The other will immediately
disappear; then, placing your hand on your breast, count your
heartbeats: if you reach the number twenty without the light
reappearing, nothing is yet settled; if you only reach ten, the
moment approaches; if the light does not leave you time to count
beyond five, your escape is fixed for the following night; if it
reappears no more, it is fixed for the same evening; then the owl's
cry, repeated thrice in the courtyard, will be the signal; let down
the ladder when you hear it".
"Oh, Douglas," cried the queen, "you alone could foresee and
calculate everything thus. Thank you, thank you a hundred times!"
And she gave him her hand to kiss.
A vivid red flushed the young man's cheeks; but almost directly
mastering his emotion, he kneeled down, and, restraining the
expression of that love of which he had once spoken to the queen,
while promising her never more to speak of it, he took the hand that
Mary extended, and kissed it with such respect that no one could have
seen in this action anything but the homage of devotion and fidelity.
Then, having bowed to the queen, he went out, that a longer stay with
her should not give rise to any suspicions.
At the dinner-hour Douglas brought, as he had said, a parcel of cord.