Part 1 out of 10
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[Illustration: ROLAND GRAEME AND CATHERINE SETON BEFORE QUEEN MARY.]
BEING THE SEQUEL TO THE MONASTERY.
By Sir Walter Scott
* * * * *
From what is said in the Introduction to the Monastery, it must
necessarily be inferred, that the Author considered that romance as
something very like a failure. It is true, the booksellers did not
complain of the sale, because, unless on very felicitous occasions, or
on those which are equally the reverse, literary popularity is not
gained or lost by a single publication. Leisure must be allowed for
the tide both to flow and ebb. But I was conscious that, in my
situation, not to advance was in some Degree to recede, and being
naturally unwilling to think that the principle of decay lay in
myself, I was at least desirous to know of a certainty, whether the
degree of discountenance which I had incurred, was now owing to an
ill-managed story, or an ill-chosen subject.
I was never, I confess, one of those who are willing to suppose the
brains of an author to be a kind of milk, which will not stand above a
single creaming, and who are eternally harping to young authors to
husband their efforts, and to be chary of their reputation, lest it
grow hackneyed in the eyes of men. Perhaps I was, and have always
been, the more indifferent to the degree of estimation in which I
might be held as an author, because I did not put so high a value as
many others upon what is termed literary reputation in the abstract,
or at least upon the species of popularity which had fallen to my
share; for though it were worse than affectation to deny that my
vanity was satisfied at my success in the department in which chance
had in some measure enlisted me, I was, nevertheless, far from
thinking that the novelist or romance-writer stands high in the ranks
of literature. But I spare the reader farther egotism on this subject,
as I have expressed my opinion very fully in the Introductory Epistle
to the Fortunes of Nigel, first edition; and, although it be composed
in an imaginary character, it is as sincere and candid as if it had
been written "without my gown and band."
In a word, when I considered myself as having been unsuccessful in the
Monastery, I was tempted to try whether I could not restore, even at
the risk of totally losing, my so-called reputation, by a new
hazard--I looked round my library, and could not but observe, that,
from the time of Chaucer to that of Byron, the most popular authors
had been the most prolific. Even the aristarch Johnson allowed that
the quality of readiness and profusion had a merit in itself,
independent of the intrinsic value of the composition. Talking of
Churchill, I believe, who had little merit in his prejudiced eyes, he
allowed him that of fertility, with some such qualification as this,
"A Crab-apple can bear but crabs after all; but there is a great
difference in favour of that which bears a large quantity of fruit,
however indifferent, and that which produces only a few."
Looking more attentively at the patriarchs of literature, whose earner
was as long as it was brilliant, I thought I perceived that in the
busy and prolonged course of exertion, there were no doubt occasional
failures, but that still those who were favourites of their age
triumphed over these miscarriages. By the new efforts which they
made, their errors were obliterated, they became identified with the
literature of their country, and after having long received law from
the critics, came in some degree to impose it. And when such a writer
was at length called from the scene, his death first made the public
sensible what a large share he had occupied in their attention. I
recollected a passage in Grimm's Correspondence, that while the
unexhausted Voltaire sent forth tract after tract to the very close of
a long life, the first impression made by each as it appeared, was,
that it was inferior to its predecessors; an opinion adopted from the
general idea that the Patriarch of Ferney must at last find the point
from which he was to decline. But the opinion of the public finally
ranked in succession the last of Voltaire's Essays on the same footing
with those which had formerly charmed the French nation. The inference
from this and similar facts seemed to me to be, that new works were
often judged of by the public, not so much from their own intrinsic
merit, as from extrinsic ideas which readers had previously formed
with regard to them, and over which a writer might hope to triumph by
patience and by exertion. There is risk in the attempt;
"If he fall in, good night, or sink or swim."
But this is a chance incident to every literary attempt, and by which
men of a sanguine temper are little moved.
I may illustrate what I mean, by the feelings of most men in
travelling. If we have found any stage particularly tedious, or in an
especial degree interesting, particularly short, or much longer than
we expected, our imaginations are so apt to exaggerate the original
impression, that, on repeating the journey, we usually find that we
have considerably over-rated the predominating quality, and the road
appears to be duller or more pleasant, shorter or more tedious, than
what we expected, and, consequently, than what is actually the case.
It requires a third or fourth journey to enable us to form an accurate
judgment of its beauty, its length, or its other attributes.
In the same manner, the public, judging of a new work, which it
receives perhaps with little expectation, if surprised into applause,
becomes very often ecstatic, gives a great deal more approbation than
is due, and elevates the child of its immediate favour to a rank
which, as it affects the author, it is equally difficult to keep, and
painful to lose. If, on this occasion, the author trembles at the
height to which he is raised, and becomes afraid of the shadow of his
own renown, he may indeed retire from the lottery with the prize which
he has drawn, but, in future ages, his honour will be only in
proportion to his labours. If, on the contrary, he rushes again into
the lists, he is sure to be judged with severity proportioned to the
former favour of the public. If he be daunted by a bad reception on
this second occasion, he may again become a stranger to the arena. If,
on the contrary, he can keep his ground, and stand the shuttlecock's
fate, of being struck up and down, he will probably, at length, hold
with some certainty the level in public opinion which he may be found
to deserve; and he may perhaps boast of arresting the general
attention, in the same manner as the Bachelor Samson Carrasco, of
fixing the weathercock La Giralda of Seville for weeks, months, or
years, that is, for as long as the wind shall uniformly blow from one
quarter. To this degree of popularity the author had the hardihood to
aspire, while, in order to attain it, he assumed the daring resolution
to keep himself in the view of the public by frequent appearances
It must be added, that the author's incognito gave him greater courage
to renew his attempts to please the public, and an advantage similar
to that which Jack the Giant-killer received from his coat of
darkness. In sending the Abbot forth so soon after the Monastery, he
had used the well-known practice recommended by Bassanio:--
"In my school days, when I had lost one shaft,
I shot another of the self-same flight,
The self-same way, with more advised watch,
To find the other forth."
And, to continue the simile, his shafts, like those of the lesser
Ajax, were discharged more readily that the archer was as inaccessible
to criticism, personally speaking, as the Grecian archer under his
brother's sevenfold shield.
Should the reader desire to know upon what principles the Abbot was
expected to amend the fortune of the Monastery, I have first to
request his attention to the Introductory Epistle addressed to the
imaginary Captain Clutterbuck; a mode by which, like his predecessors
in this walk of fiction, the real author makes one of his _dramatis
personae_ the means of communicating his own sentiments to the
public, somewhat more artificially than by a direct address to the
readers. A pleasing French writer of fairy tales, Monsieur Pajon,
author of the History of Prince Soly, has set a diverting example of
the same machinery, where he introduces the presiding Genius of the
land of Romance conversing with one of the personages of the tale.
In this Introductory Epistle, the author communicates, in confidence,
to Captain Clutterbuck, his sense that the White Lady had not met the
taste of the times, and his reason for withdrawing her from the scene.
The author did not deem it equally necessary to be candid respecting
another alteration. The Monastery was designed, at first, to have
contained some supernatural agency, arising out of the fact, that
Melrose had been the place of deposit of the great Robert Bruce's
heart. The writer shrunk, however, from filling up, in this
particular, the sketch as it was originally traced; nor did he venture
to resume, in continuation, the subject which he had left unattempted
in the original work. Thus, the incident of the discovery of the
heart, which occupies the greater part of the Introduction to the
Monastery, is a mystery unnecessarily introduced, and which remains at
last very imperfectly explained. In this particular, I was happy to
shroud myself by the example of the author of "Caleb Williams," who
never condescends to inform us of the actual contents of that Iron
Chest which makes such a figure in his interesting work, and gives the
name to Mr. Colman's drama.
The public had some claim to inquire into this matter, but it seemed
indifferent policy in the author to give the explanation. For,
whatever praise may be due to the ingenuity which brings to a general
combination all the loose threads of a narrative, like the knitter at
the finishing of her stocking, I am greatly deceived if in many cases
a superior advantage is not attained, by the air of reality which the
deficiency of explanation attaches to a work written on a different
system. In life itself, many things befall every mortal, of which the
individual never knows the real cause or origin; and were we to point
out the most marked distinction between a real and a fictitious
narrative, we would say, that the former in reference to the remote
causes of the events it relates, is obscure, doubtful, and mysterious;
whereas, in the latter case, it is a part of the author's duty to
afford satisfactory details upon the causes of the separate events he
has recorded, and, in a word, to account for every thing. The reader,
like Mungo in the Padlock, will not be satisfied with hearing what he
is not made fully to comprehend.
I omitted, therefore, in the Introduction to the Abbot, any attempt to
explain the previous story, or to apologize for unintelligibility.
Neither would it have been prudent to have endeavoured to proclaim, in
the Introduction to the Abbot, the real spring, by which I hoped it
might attract a greater degree of interest than its immediate
predecessor. A taking title, or the announcement of a popular subject,
is a recipe for success much in favour with booksellers, but which
authors will not always find efficacious. The cause is worth a
There occur in every country some peculiar historical characters,
which are, like a spell or charm, sovereign to excite curiosity and
attract attention, since every one in the slightest degree interested
in the land which they belong to, has heard much of them, and longs to
hear more. A tale turning on the fortunes of Alfred or Elizabeth in
England, or of Wallace or Bruce in Scotland, is sure by the very
announcement to excite public curiosity to a considerable degree, and
ensure the publisher's being relieved of the greater part of an
impression, even before the contents of the work are known. This is of
the last importance to the bookseller, who is at once, to use a
technical phrase, "brought home," all his outlay being repaid. But it
is a different case with the author, since it cannot be denied that we
are apt to feel least satisfied with the works of which we have been
induced, by titles and laudatory advertisements, to entertain
exaggerated expectations. The intention of the work has been
anticipated, and misconceived or misrepresented, and although the
difficulty of executing the work again reminds us of Hotspur's task of
"o'er-walking a current roaring loud," yet the adventurer must look
for more ridicule if he fails, than applause if he executes, his
Notwithstanding a risk, which should make authors pause ere they adopt
a theme which, exciting general interest and curiosity, is often the
preparative for disappointment, yet it would be an injudicious
regulation which should deter the poet or painter from attempting to
introduce historical portraits, merely from the difficulty of
executing the task in a satisfactory manner. Something must be trusted
to the generous impulse, which often thrusts an artist upon feats of
which he knows the difficulty, while he trusts courage and exertion
may afford the means of surmounting it.
It is especially when he is sensible of losing ground with the public,
that an author may be justified in using with address, such selection
of subject or title as is most likely to procure a rehearing. It was
with these feelings of hope and apprehension, that I venture to
awaken, in a work of fiction, the memory of Queen Mary, so interesting
by her wit, her beauty, her misfortunes, and the mystery which still
does, and probably always will, overhang her history. In doing so, I
was aware that failure would be a conclusive disaster, so that my task
was something like that of an enchanter who raises a spirit over whom
he is uncertain of possessing an effectual control; and I naturally
paid attention to such principles of composition, as I conceived were
best suited to the historical novel.
Enough has been already said to explain the purpose of composing the
Abbot. The historical references are, as usual, explained in the
notes. That which relates to Queen Mary's escape from Lochleven
Castle, is a more minute account of that romantic adventure, than is
to be found in the histories of the period.
1_st January_, 1831.
* * * * *
FROM THE AUTHOR OF "WAVERLEY," TO CAPTAIN CLUTTERBUCK, LATE OF HIS
MAJESTY'S ---- REGIMENT OF INFANTRY.
I am sorry to observe, by your last favour, that you disapprove of the
numerous retrenchments and alterations which I have been under the
necessity of making on the Manuscript of your friend, the Benedictine,
and I willingly make you the medium of apology to many, who have
honoured me more than I deserve.
I admit that my retrenchments have been numerous, and leave gaps in
the story, which, in your original manuscript, would have run
well-nigh to a fourth volume, as my printer assures me. I am sensible,
besides, that, in consequence of the liberty of curtailment you have
allowed me, some parts of the story have been huddled up without the
necessary details. But, after all, it is better that the travellers
should have to step over a ditch, than to wade through a morass--that
the reader should have to suppose what may easily be inferred, than be
obliged to creep through pages of dull explanation. I have struck out,
for example, the whole machinery of the White Lady, and the poetry by
which it is so ably supported, in the original manuscript. But you
must allow that the public taste gives little encouragement to those
legendary superstitions, which formed alternately the delight and the
terror of our predecessors. In like manner, much is omitted
illustrative of the impulse of enthusiasm in favour of the ancient
religion in Mother Magdalen and the Abbot. But we do not feel deep
sympathy at this period with what was once the most powerful and
animating principle in Europe, with the exception of that of the
Reformation, by which it was successfully opposed.
You rightly observe, that these retrenchments have rendered the title
no longer applicable to the subject, and that some other would have
been more suitable to the Work, in its present state, than that of THE
ABBOT, who made so much greater figure in the original, and for whom
your friend, the Benedictine, seems to have inspired you with a
sympathetic respect. I must plead guilty to this accusation,
observing, at the same time, in manner of extenuation, that though the
objection might have been easily removed, by giving a new title to the
Work, yet, in doing so, I should have destroyed the necessary cohesion
between the present history, and its predecessor THE MONASTERY, which
I was unwilling to do, as the period, and several of the personages,
were the same.
After all, my good friend, it is of little consequence what the work
is called, or on what interest it turns, provided it catches the
public attention; for the quality of the wine (could we but insure it)
may, according to the old proverb, render the bush unnecessary, or of
I congratulate you upon your having found it consistent with prudence
to establish your Tilbury, and approve of the colour, and of your
boy's livery, (subdued green and pink.)--As you talk of completing
your descriptive poem on the "Ruins of Kennaquhair, with notes by an
Antiquary," I hope you have procured a steady horse.--I remain, with
compliments to all friends, dear Captain, very much
Yours, &c. &c. &c.
THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Chapter the First.
_Domum mansit--lanam fecit._
Ancient Roman Epitaph.
She keepit close the hous, and birlit at the quhele.
The time which passes over our heads so imperceptibly, makes the same
gradual change in habits, manners, and character, as in personal
appearance. At the revolution of every five years we find ourselves
another, and yet the same--there is a change of views, and no less of
the light in which we regard them; a change of motives as well as of
actions. Nearly twice that space had glided away over the head of
Halbert Glendinning and his lady, betwixt the period of our former
narrative, in which they played a distinguished part, and the date at
which our present tale commences.
Two circumstances only had imbittered their union, which was otherwise
as happy as mutual affection could render it. The first of these was
indeed the common calamity of Scotland, being the distracted state of
that unhappy country, where every man's sword was directed against his
neighbour's bosom. Glendinning had proved what Murray expected of him,
a steady friend, strong in battle, and wise in counsel, adhering to
him, from motives of gratitude, in situations where by his own
unbiassed will he would either have stood neuter, or have joined the
opposite party. Hence, when danger was near--and it was seldom far
distant--Sir Halbert Glendinning, for he now bore the rank of
knighthood, was perpetually summoned to attend his patron on distant
expeditions, or on perilous enterprises, or to assist him with his
counsel in the doubtful intrigues of a half-barbarous court. He was
thus frequently, and for a long space, absent from his castle and from
his lady; and to this ground of regret we must add, that their union
had not been blessed with children, to occupy the attention of the
Lady of Avenel, while she was thus deprived of her husband's domestic
On such occasions she lived almost entirely secluded from the world,
within the walls of her paternal mansion. Visiting amongst neighbors
was a matter entirely out of the question, unless on occasions of
solemn festival, and then it was chiefly confined to near kindred. Of
these the Lady of Avenel had none who survived, and the dames of the
neighbouring barons affected to regard her less as the heiress of the
house of Avenel than as the wife of a peasant, the son of a
church-vassal, raised up to mushroom eminence by the capricious favour
The pride of ancestry, which rankled in the bosom of the ancient
gentry, was more openly expressed by their ladies, and was, moreover,
imbittered not a little by the political feuds of the time, for most
of the Southern chiefs were friends to the authority of the Queen, and
very jealous of the power of Murray. The Castle of Avenel was,
therefore, on all these accounts, as melancholy and solitary a
residence for its lady as could well be imagined. Still it had the
essential recommendation of great security. The reader is already
aware that the fortress was built upon an islet on a small lake, and
was only accessible by a causeway, intersected by a double ditch,
defended by two draw-bridges, so that without artillery, it might in
those days be considered as impregnable. It was only necessary,
therefore, to secure against surprise, and the service of six able men
within the castle was sufficient for that purpose. If more serious
danger threatened, an ample garrison was supplied by the male
inhabitants of a little hamlet, which, under the auspices of Halbert
Glendinning, had arisen on a small piece of level ground, betwixt the
lake and the hill, nearly adjoining to the spot where the causeway
joined the mainland. The Lord of Avenel had found it an easy matter
to procure inhabitants, as he was not only a kind and beneficent
overlord, but well qualified, both by his experience in arms, his high
character for wisdom and integrity, and his favour with the powerful
Earl of Murray, to protect and defend those who dwelt under his
banner. In leaving his castle for any length of time, he had,
therefore, the consolation to reflect, that this village afforded, on
the slightest notice, a band of thirty stout men, which was more than
sufficient for its defence; while the families of the villagers, as
was usual on such occasions, fled to the recesses of the mountains,
drove their cattle to the same places of shelter, and left the enemy
to work their will on their miserable cottages.
One guest only resided generally, if not constantly, at the Castle of
Avenel. This was Henry Warden, who now felt himself less able for the
stormy task imposed on the reforming clergy; and having by his zeal
given personal offence to many of the leading nobles and chiefs, did
not consider himself as perfectly safe, unless when within the walls
of the strong mansion of some assured friend. He ceased not, however,
to serve his cause as eagerly with his pen, as he had formerly done
with his tongue, and had engaged in a furious and acrimonious contest,
concerning the sacrifice of the mass, as it was termed, with the Abbot
Eustatius, formerly the Sub-Prior of Kennaquhair. Answers, replies,
duplies, triplies, quadruplies, followed thick upon each other, and
displayed, as is not unusual in controversy, fully as much zeal as
Christian charity. The disputation very soon became as celebrated as
that of John Knox and the Abbot of Crosraguel, raged nearly as
fiercely, and, for aught I know, the publications to which it gave
rise may be as precious in the eyes of bibliographers. [Footnote: The
tracts which appeared in the Disputation between the Scottish Reformer
and Quentin Kennedy, Abbot of Crosraguel, are among the scarcest in
Scottish Bibliography. See M'Crie's _Life of Knox_, p. 258.] But
the engrossing nature of his occupation rendered the theologian not
the most interesting companion for a solitary female; and his grave,
stern, and absorbed deportment, which seldom showed any interest,
except in that which concerned his religious profession, made his
presence rather add to than diminish the gloom which hung over the
Castle of Avenel. To superintend the tasks of numerous female
domestics, was the principal part of the Lady's daily employment; her
spindle and distaff, her Bible, and a solitary walk upon the
battlements of the castle, or upon the causeway, or occasionally, but
more seldom, upon the banks of the little lake, consumed the rest of
the day. But so great was the insecurity of the period, that when she
ventured to extend her walk beyond the hamlet, the warder on the
watch-tower was directed to keep a sharp look-out in every direction,
and four or five men held themselves in readiness to mount and sally
forth from the castle on the slightest appearance of alarm.
Thus stood affairs at the castle, when, after an absence of several
weeks, the Knight of Avenel, which was now the title most frequently
given to Sir Halbert Glendinning, was daily expected to return home.
Day after day, however, passed away, and he returned not. Letters in
those days were rarely written, and the Knight must have resorted to a
secretary to express his intentions in that manner; besides,
intercourse of all kinds was precarious and unsafe, and no man cared
to give any public intimation of the time and direction of a journey,
since, if his route were publicly known, it was always likely he might
in that case meet with more enemies than friends upon the road. The
precise day, therefore, of Sir Halbert's return, was not fixed, but
that which his lady's fond expectation had calculated upon in her own
mind had long since passed, and hope delayed began to make the heart
It was upon the evening of a sultry summer's day, when the sun was
half-sunk behind the distant western mountains of Liddesdale, that the
Lady took her solitary walk on the battlements of a range of
buildings, which formed the front of the castle, where a flat roof of
flag-stones presented a broad and convenient promenade. The level
surface of the lake, undisturbed except by the occasional dipping of a
teal-duck, or coot, was gilded with the beams of the setting luminary,
and reflected, as if in a golden mirror, the hills amongst which it
lay embossed. The scene, otherwise so lonely, was occasionally
enlivened by the voices of the children in the village, which,
softened by distance, reached the ear of the Lady, in her solitary
walk, or by the distant call of the herdsman, as he guided his cattle
from the glen in which they had pastured all day, to place them in
greater security for the night, in the immediate vicinity of the
village. The deep lowing of the cows seemed to demand the attendance
of the milk-maidens, who, singing shrilly and merrily, strolled forth,
each with her pail on her head, to attend to the duty of the evening.
The Lady of Avenel looked and listened; the sounds which she heard
reminded her of former days, when her most important employment, as
well as her greatest delight, was to assist Dame Glendinning and Tibb
Tackett in milking the cows at Glendearg. The thought was fraught
"Why was I not," she said, "the peasant girl which in all men's eyes I
seemed to be? Halbert and I had then spent our life peacefully in his
native glen, undisturbed by the phantoms either of fear or of
ambition. His greatest pride had then been to show the fairest herd in
the Halidome; his greatest danger to repel some pilfering snatcher
from the Border; and the utmost distance which would have divided us,
would have been the chase of some outlying deer. But, alas! what
avails the blood which Halbert has shed, and the dangers which he
encounters, to support a name and rank, dear to him because he has it
from me, but which we shall never transmit to our posterity! with me
the name of Avenel must expire."
She sighed as the reflections arose, and, looking towards the shore of
the lake, her eye was attracted by a group of children of various
ages, assembled to see a little ship, constructed by some village
artist, perform its first voyage on the water. It was launched amid
the shouts of tiny voices and the clapping of little hands, and shot
bravely forth on its voyage with a favouring wind, which promised to
carry it to the other side of the lake. Some of the bigger boys ran
round to receive and secure it on the farther shore, trying their
speed against each other as they sprang like young fawns along the
shingly verge of the lake. The rest, for whom such a journey seemed
too arduous, remained watching the motions of the fairy vessel from
the spot where it had been launched. The sight of their sports pressed
on the mind of the childless Lady of Avenel.
"Why are none of these prattlers mine?" she continued, pursuing the
tenor of her melancholy reflections. "Their parents can scarce find
them the coarsest food--and I, who could nurse them in plenty, I am
doomed never to hear a child call me mother!"
The thought sunk on her heart with a bitterness which resembled envy,
so deeply is the desire of offspring implanted in the female breast.
She pressed her hands together as if she were wringing them in the
extremity of her desolate feeling, as one whom Heaven had written
childless. A large stag-hound of the greyhound species approached at
this moment, and attracted perhaps by the gesture, licked her hands
and pressed his large head against them. He obtained the desired
caresses in return, but still the sad impression remained.
"Wolf," she said, as if the animal could have understood her
complaints, "thou art a noble and beautiful animal; but, alas! the
love and affection that I long to bestow, is of a quality higher than
can fall to thy share, though I love thee much."
And, as if she were apologizing to Wolf for withholding from him any
part of her regard, she caressed his proud head and crest, while,
looking in her eyes, he seemed to ask her what she wanted, or what he
could do to show his attachment. At this moment a shriek of distress
was heard on the shore, from the playful group which had been lately
so jovial. The Lady looked, and saw the cause with great agony.
The little ship, the object of the children's delighted attention, had
stuck among some tufts of the plant which bears the water-lily, that
marked a shoal in the lake about an arrow-flight from the shore. A
hardy little boy, who had taken the lead in the race round the margin
of the lake, did not hesitate a moment to strip off his
_wylie-coat_, plunge into the water, and swim towards the object
of their common solicitude. The first movement of the Lady was to call
for help; but she observed that the boy swam strongly and fearlessly,
and as she saw that one or two villagers, who were distant spectators
of the incident, seemed to give themselves no uneasiness on his
account, she supposed that he was accustomed to the exercise, and that
there was no danger. But whether, in swimming, the boy had struck his
breast against a sunken rock, or whether he was suddenly taken with
cramp, or whether he had over-calculated his own strength, it so
happened, that when he had disembarrassed the little plaything from
the flags in which it was entangled, and sent it forward on its
course, he had scarce swam a few yards in his way to the shore, than
he raised himself suddenly from the water, and screamed aloud,
clapping his hands at the same time with an expression of fear and
The Lady of Avenel, instantly taking the alarm, called hastily to the
attendants to get the boat ready. But this was an affair of some time.
The only boat permitted to be used on the lake, was moored within the
second cut which intersected the canal, and it was several minutes ere
it could be unmoored and got under way. Meantime, the Lady of Avenel,
with agonizing anxiety, saw that the efforts that the poor boy made to
keep himself afloat, were now exchanged for a faint struggling, which
would soon have been over, but for aid equally prompt and unhoped-for.
Wolf, who, like some of that large species of greyhound, was a
practised water-dog, had marked the object of her anxiety, and,
quitting his mistress's side, had sought the nearest point from which
he could with safety plunge into the lake. With the wonderful instinct
which these noble animals have so often displayed in the like
circumstances, he swam straight to the spot where his assistance was
so much wanted, and seizing the child's under-dress in his mouth, he
not only kept him afloat, but towed him towards the causeway. The
boat having put off with a couple of men, met the dog half-way, and
relieved him of his burden. They landed on the causeway, close by the
gates of the castle, with their yet lifeless charge, and were there
met by the Lady of Avenel, attended by one or two of her maidens,
eagerly waiting to administer assistance to the sufferer.
He was borne into the castle, deposited upon a bed, and every mode of
recovery resorted to, which the knowledge of the times, and the skill
of Henry Warden, who professed some medical science, could dictate.
For some time it was all in vain, and the Lady watched, with
unspeakable earnestness, the pallid countenance of the beautiful
child. He seemed about ten years old. His dress was of the meanest
sort, but his long curled hair, and the noble cast of his features,
partook not of that poverty of appearance. The proudest noble in
Scotland might have been yet prouder could he have called that child
his heir. While, with breathless anxiety, the Lady of Avenel gazed on
his well-formed and expressive features, a slight shade of colour
returned gradually to the cheek; suspended animation became restored
by degrees, the child sighed deeply, opened his eyes, which to the
human countenance produces the effect of light upon the natural
landscape, stretched his arms towards the Lady, and muttered the word
"Mother," that epithet, of all others, which is dearest to the female
"God, madam," said the preacher, "has restored the child to your
wishes; it must be yours so to bring him up, that he may not one day
wish that he had perished in his innocence."
"It shall be my charge," said the Lady; and again throwing her arms
around the boy, she overwhelmed him with kisses and caresses, so much
was she agitated by the terror arising from the danger in which he had
been just placed, and by joy at his unexpected deliverance.
"But you are not my mother," said the boy, recovering his
recollection, and endeavouring, though faintly, to escape from the
caresses of the Lady of Avenel; "you are not my mother,--alas! I have
no mother--only I have dreamt that I had one."
"I will read the dream for you, my love," answered the Lady of Avenel;
"and I will be myself your mother. Surely God has heard my wishes,
and, in his own marvellous manner, hath sent me an object on which my
affections may expand themselves." She looked towards Warden as she
spoke. The preacher hesitated what he should reply to a burst of
passionate feeling, which, perhaps, seemed to him more enthusiastic
than the occasion demanded. In the meanwhile, the large stag-hound,
Wolf, which, dripping wet as he was, had followed his mistress into
the apartment, and had sat by the bedside, a patient and quiet
spectator of all the means used for resuscitation of the being whom he
had preserved, now became impatient of remaining any longer unnoticed,
and began to whine and fawn upon the Lady with his great rough paws.
"Yes," she said, "good Wolf, and you shall be remembered also for your
day's work; and I will think the more of you for having preserved the
life of a creature so beautiful."
But Wolf was not quite satisfied with the share of attention which he
thus attracted; he persisted in whining and pawing upon his mistress,
his caresses rendered still more troublesome by his long shaggy hair
being so much and thoroughly wetted, till she desired one of the
domestics, with whom he was familiar, to call the animal out of the
apartment. Wolf resisted every invitation to this purpose, until his
mistress positively commanded him to be gone, in an angry tone; when,
turning towards the bed on which the body still lay, half awake to
sensation, half drowned in the meanders of fluctuating delirium, he
uttered a deep and savage growl, curled up his nose and lips, showing
his full range of white and sharpened teeth, which might have matched
those of an actual wolf, and then, turning round, sullenly followed
the domestic out of the apartment.
"It is singular," said the Lady, addressing Warden; "the animal is not
only so good-natured to all, but so particularly fond of children.
What can ail him at the little fellow whose life he has saved?"
"Dogs," replied the preacher, "are but too like the human race in
their foibles, though their instinct be less erring than the reason of
poor mortal man when relying upon his own unassisted powers. Jealousy,
my good lady, is a passion not unknown to them, and they often evince
it, not only with respect to the preferences which they see given by
their masters to individuals of their own species, but even when their
rivals are children. You have caressed that child much and eagerly,
and the dog considers himself as a discarded favourite."
"It is a strange instinct," said the Lady; "and from the gravity with
which you mention it, my reverend friend, I would almost say that you
supposed this singular jealousy of my favourite Wolf, was not only
well founded, but justifiable. But perhaps you speak in jest?"
"I seldom jest," answered the preacher; "life was not lent to us to be
expended in that idle mirth which resembles the crackling of thorns
under the pot. I would only have you derive, if it so please you, this
lesson from what I have said, that the best of our feelings, when
indulged to excess, may give pain to others. There is but one in which
we may indulge to the utmost limit of vehemence of which our bosom is
capable, secure that excess cannot exist in the greatest intensity to
which it can be excited--I mean the love of our Maker."
"Surely," said the Lady of Avenel, "we are commanded by the same
authority to love our neighbour?"
"Ay, madam," said Warden, "but our love to God is to be unbounded--we
are to love him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole
strength. The love which the precept commands us to bear to our
neighbour, has affixed to it a direct limit and qualification--we are
to love our neighbour as ourself; as it is elsewhere explained by the
great commandment, that we must do unto him as we would that he should
do unto us. Here there is a limit, and a bound, even to the most
praiseworthy of our affections, so far as they are turned upon
sublunary and terrestrial objects. We are to render to our neighbour,
whatever be his rank or degree, that corresponding portion of
affection with which we could rationally expect we should ourselves be
regarded by those standing in the same relation to us. Hence, neither
husband nor wife, neither son nor daughter, neither friend nor
relation, are lawfully to be made the objects of our idolatry. The
Lord our God is a jealous God, and will not endure that we bestow on
the creature that extremity of devotion which He who made us demands
as his own share. I say to you, Lady, that even in the fairest, and
purest, and most honourable feelings of our nature, there is that
original taint of sin which ought to make us pause and hesitate, ere
we indulge them to excess."
"I understand not this, reverend sir," said the Lady; "nor do I guess
what I can have now said or done, to draw down on me an admonition
which has something a taste of reproof."
"Lady," said Warden, "I crave your pardon, if I have urged aught
beyond the limits of my duty. But consider, whether in the sacred
promise to be not only a protectress, but a mother, to this poor
child, your purpose may meet the wishes of the noble knight your
husband. The fondness which you have lavished on the unfortunate, and,
I own, most lovely child, has met something like a reproof in the
bearing of your household dog.--Displease not your noble husband. Men,
as well as animals, are jealous of the affections of those they love."
"This is too much, reverend sir," said the Lady of Avenel, greatly
offended. "You have been long our guest, and have received from the
Knight of Avenel and myself that honour and regard which your
character and profession so justly demand. But I am yet to learn that
we have at any time authorized your interference in our family
arrangements, or placed you as a judge of our conduct towards each
other. I pray this may be forborne in future."
"Lady," replied the preacher, with the boldness peculiar to the clergy
of his persuasion at that time, "when you weary of my admonitions--
when I see that my services are no longer acceptable to you, and the
noble knight your husband, I shall know that my Master wills me no
longer to abide here; and, praying for a continuance of his best
blessings on your family I will then, were the season the depth of
winter, and the hour midnight, walk out on yonder waste, and travel
forth through these wild mountains, as lonely and unaided, though far
more helpless, than when I first met your husband in the valley of
Glendearg. But while I remain here, I will not see you err from the
true path, no, not a hair's-breadth, without making the old man's
voice and remonstrance heard."
"Nay, but," said the Lady, who both loved and respected the good man,
though sometimes a little offended at what she conceived to be an
exuberant degree of zeal, "we will not part this way, my good friend.
Women are quick and hasty in their feelings; but, believe me, my
wishes and my purposes towards this child are such as both my husband
and you will approve of." The clergyman bowed, and retreated to his
Chapter the Second.
How steadfastly he fix'd his eyes on me--
His dark eyes shining through forgotten tears--
Then stretch'd his little arms, and call'd me mother!
What could I do? I took the bantling home--
I could not tell the imp he had no mother.
When Warden had left the apartment, the Lady of Avenel gave way to the
feelings of tenderness which the sight of the boy, his sudden danger,
and his recent escape, had inspired; and no longer awed by the
sternness, as she deemed it, of the preacher, heaped with caresses the
lovely and interesting child. He was now, in some measure, recovered
from the consequences of his accident, and received passively, though
not without wonder, the tokens of kindness with which he was thus
loaded. The face of the lady was strange to him, and her dress
different and far more sumptuous than any he remembered. But the boy
was naturally of an undaunted temper; and indeed children are
generally acute physiognomists, and not only pleased by that which is
beautiful in itself, but peculiarly quick in distinguishing and
replying to the attentions of those who really love them. If they see
a person in company, though a perfect stranger, who is by nature fond
of children, the little imps seem to discover it by a sort of
free-masonry, while the awkward attempts of those who make advances to
them for the purpose of recommending themselves to the parents,
usually fail in attracting their reciprocal attention. The little boy,
therefore, appeared in some degree sensible of the lady's caresses,
and it was with difficulty she withdrew herself from his pillow, to
afford him leisure for necessary repose.
"To whom belongs our little rescued varlet?" was the first question
which the Lady of Avenel put to her handmaiden Lilias, when they had
retired to the hall.
"To an old woman in the hamlet," said Lilias, "who is even now come so
far as the porter's lodge to inquire concerning his safety. Is it your
pleasure that she be admitted?"
"Is it my pleasure?" said the Lady of Avenel, echoing the question
with a strong accent of displeasure and surprise; "can you make any
doubt of it? What woman but must pity the agony of the mother, whose
heart is throbbing for the safety of a child so lovely!"
"Nay, but, madam," said Lilias, "this woman is too old to be the
mother of the child; I rather think she must be his grandmother, or
some more distant relation."
"Be she who she will, Lilias," replied the Lady, "she must have an
aching heart while the safety of a creature so lovely is uncertain. Go
instantly and bring her hither. Besides, I would willingly learn
something concerning his birth."
Lilias left the hall, and presently afterwards returned, ushering in a
tall female very poorly dressed, yet with more pretension to decency
and cleanliness than was usually combined with such coarse garments.
The Lady of Avenel knew her figure the instant she presented herself.
It was the fashion of the family, that upon every Sabbath, and on two
evenings in the week besides, Henry Warden preached or lectured in the
chapel at the castle. The extension of the Protestant faith was, upon
principle, as well as in good policy, a primary object with the Knight
of Avenel. The inhabitants of the village were therefore invited to
attend upon the instructions of Henry Warden, and many of them were
speedily won to the doctrine which their master and protector
approved. These sermons, homilies, and lectures, had made a great
impression on the mind of the Abbot Eustace, or Eustatius, and were a
sufficient spur to the severity and sharpness of his controversy with
his old fellow-collegiate; and, ere Queen Mary was dethroned, and
while the Catholics still had considerable authority in the Border
provinces, he more than once threatened to levy his vassals, and
assail and level with the earth that stronghold of heresy the Castle
of Avenel. But notwithstanding the Abbot's impotent resentment, and
notwithstanding also the disinclination of the country to favour the
new religion, Henry Warden proceeded without remission in his labours,
and made weekly converts from the faith of Rome to that of the
reformed church. Amongst those who gave most earnest and constant
attendance on his ministry, was the aged woman, whose form, tall, and
otherwise too remarkable to be forgotten, the Lady had of late
observed frequently as being conspicuous among the little audience.
She had indeed more than once desired to know who that stately-looking
woman was, whose appearance was so much above the poverty of her
vestments. But the reply had always been, that she was an
Englishwoman, who was tarrying for a season at the hamlet, and that no
one knew more concerning her. She now asked her after her name and
"Magdalen Graeme is my name," said the woman; "I come of the Graemes
of Heathergill, in Nicol Forest, [Footnote: A district of Cumberland,
lying close to the Scottish border.] a people of ancient blood."
"And what make you," continued the Lady, "so far distant from your
"I have no home," said Magdalen Graeme, "it was burnt by your
Border-riders--my husband and my son were slain--there is not a drop's
blood left in the veins of any one which is of kin to mine."
"That is no uncommon fate in these wild times, and in this unsettled
land," said the Lady; "the English hands have been as deeply dyed in
our blood as ever those of Scotsmen have been in yours."
"You have right to say it, Lady," answered Magdalen Graeme; "for men
tell of a time when this castle was not strong enough to save your
father's life, or to afford your mother and her infant a place of
refuge. And why ask ye me, then, wherefore I dwell not in mine own
home, and with mine own people?"
"It was indeed an idle question," answered the Lady, "where misery so
often makes wanderers; but wherefore take refuge in a hostile
"My neighbours were Popish and mass-mongers," said the old woman; "it
has pleased Heaven to give me a clearer sight of the gospel, and I
have tarried here to enjoy the ministry of that worthy man Henry
Warden, who, to the praise and comfort of many, teacheth the Evangel
in truth and in sincerity."
"Are you poor?" again demanded the Lady of Avenel.
"You hear me ask alms of no one," answered the Englishwoman.
Here there was a pause. The manner of the woman was, if not
disrespectful, at least much less than gracious; and she appeared to
give no encouragement to farther communication. The Lady of Avenel
renewed the conversation on a different topic.
"You have heard of the danger in which your boy has been placed?"
"I have, Lady, and how by an especial providence he was rescued from
death. May Heaven make him thankful, and me!"
"What relation do you bear to him?"
"I am his grandmother, lady, if it so please you; the only relation he
hath left upon earth to take charge of him."
"The burden of his maintenance must necessarily be grievous to you in
your deserted situation?" pursued the Lady.
"I have complained of it to no one," said Magdalen Graeme, with the
same unmoved, dry, and unconcerned tone of voice, in which she had
answered all the former questions.
"If," said the Lady of Avenel, "your grandchild could be received into
a noble family, would it not advantage both him and you?"
"Received into a noble family!" said the old woman, drawing herself
up, and bending her brows until her forehead was wrinkled into a frown
of unusual severity; "and for what purpose, I pray you?--to be my
lady's page, or my lord's jackman, to eat broken victuals, and contend
with other menials for the remnants of the master's meal? Would you
have him to fan the flies from my lady's face while she sleeps, to
carry her train while she walks, to hand her trencher when she feeds,
to ride before her on horseback, to walk after her on foot, to sing
when she lists, and to be silent when she bids?--a very weathercock,
which, though furnished in appearance with wings and plumage, cannot
soar into the air--cannot fly from the spot where it is perched, but
receives all its impulse, and performs all its revolutions, obedient
to the changeful breath of a vain woman? When the eagle of Helvellyn
perches on the tower of Lanercost, and turns and changes his place to
show how the wind sits, Roland Graeme shall be what you would make
The woman spoke with a rapidity and vehemence which seemed to have in
it a touch of insanity; and a sudden sense of the danger to which the
child must necessarily be exposed in the charge of such a keeper,
increased the Lady's desire to keep him in the castle if possible.
"You mistake me, dame," she said, addressing the old woman in a
soothing manner; "I do not wish your boy to be in attendance on
myself, but upon the good knight my husband. Were he himself the son
of a belted earl, he could not better be trained to arms, and all that
befits a gentleman, than by the instructions and discipline of Sir
"Ay," answered the old woman, in the same style of bitter irony, "I
know the wages of that service;--a curse when the corslet is not
sufficiently brightened,--a blow when the girth is not tightly
drawn,--to be beaten because the hounds are at fault,--to be reviled
because the foray is unsuccessful,--to stain his hands for the
master's bidding in the blood alike of beast and of man,--to be a
butcher of harmless deer, a murderer and defacer of God's own image,
not at his own pleasure, but at that of his lord,--to live a brawling
ruffian, and a common stabber--exposed to heat, to cold, to want of
food, to all the privations of an anchoret, not for the love of God,
but for the service of Satan,--to die by the gibbet, or in some
obscure skirmish,--to sleep out his brief life in carnal security, and
to awake in the eternal fire, which is never quenched."
"Nay," said the Lady of Avenel, "but to such unhallowed course of life
your grandson will not be here exposed. My husband is just and kind to
those who live under his banner; and you yourself well know, that
youth have here a strict as well as a good preceptor in the person of
The old woman appeared to pause.
"You have named," she said, "the only circumstance which can move me.
I must soon onward, the vision has said it--I must not tarry in the
same spot--I must on,--I must on, it is my weird.--Swear, then, that
you will protect the boy as if he were your own, until I return hither
and claim him, and I will consent for a space to part with him. But
especially swear, he shall not lack the instruction of the godly man
who hath placed the gospel-truth high above those idolatrous
shavelings, the monks and friars."
"Be satisfied, dame," said the Lady of Avenel; "the boy shall have as
much care as if he were born of my own blood. Will you see him now?"
"No," answered the old woman sternly; "to part is enough. I go forth
on my own mission. I will not soften my heart by useless tears and
wailings, as one that is not called to a duty."
"Will you not accept of something to aid you in your pilgrimage?" said
the Lady of Avenel, putting into her hands two crowns of the sun. The
old woman flung them down on the table.
"Am I of the race of Cain," she said, "proud Lady, that you offer me
gold in exchange for my own flesh and blood?"
"I had no such meaning," said the Lady, gently; "nor am I the proud
woman you term me. Alas! my own fortunes might have taught me
humility, even had it not been born with me."
The old woman seemed somewhat to relax her tone of severity.
"You are of gentle blood," she said, "else we had not parleyed thus
long together.--You are of gentle blood, and to such," she added,
drawing up her tall form as she spoke, "pride is as graceful as is the
plume upon the bonnet. But for these pieces of gold, lady, you must
needs resume them. I need not money. I am well provided; and I may not
care for myself, nor think how, or by whom, I shall be sustained.
Farewell, and keep your word. Cause your gates to be opened, and your
bridges to be lowered. I will set forward this very night. When I
come again, I will demand from you a strict account, for I have left
with you the jewel of my life! Sleep will visit me but in snatches,
food will not refresh me, rest will not restore my strength, until I
see Roland Graeme. Once more, farewell."
"Make your obeisance, dame," said Lilias to Magdalen Graeme, as she
retired, "make your obeisance to her ladyship, and thank her for her
goodness, as is but fitting and right."
The old woman turned short around on the officious waiting-maid. "Let
her make her obeisance to me then, and I will return it. Why should I
bend to her?--is it because her kirtle is of silk, and mine of blue
lockeram?--Go to, my lady's waiting-woman. Know that the rank of the
man rates that of the wife, and that she who marries a churl's son,
were she a king's daughter, is but a peasant's bride."
Lilias was about to reply in great indignation, but her mistress
imposed silence on her, and commanded that the old woman should be
safely conducted to the mainland.
"Conduct her safe!" exclaimed the incensed waiting-woman, while
Magdalen Graeme left the apartment; "I say, duck her in the loch, and
then we will see whether she is witch or not, as every body in the
village of Lochside will say and swear. I marvel your ladyship could
bear so long with her insolence." But the commands of the Lady were
obeyed, and the old dame, dismissed from the castle, was committed to
her fortune. She kept her word, and did not long abide in that place,
leaving the hamlet on the very night succeeding the interview, and
wandering no one asked whither. The Lady of Avenel inquired under what
circumstances she had appeared among them, but could only learn that
she was believed to be the widow of some man of consequence among the
Graemes who then inhabited the Debateable Land, a name given to a
certain portion of territory which was the frequent subject of dispute
betwixt Scotland and England--that she had suffered great wrong in
some of the frequent forays by which that unfortunate district was
wasted, and had been driven from her dwelling-place. She had arrived
in the hamlet no one knew for what purpose, and was held by some to be
a witch, by others a zealous Protestant, and by others again a
Catholic devotee. Her language was mysterious, and her manners
repulsive; and all that could be collected from her conversation
seemed to imply that she was under the influence either of a spell or
of a vow,--there was no saying which, since she talked as one who
acted under a powerful and external agency.
Such were the particulars which the Lady's inquiries were able to
collect concerning Magdalen Graeme, being far too meagre and
contradictory to authorize any satisfactory deduction. In truth, the
miseries of the time, and the various turns of fate incidental to a
frontier country, were perpetually chasing from their habitations
those who had not the means of defence or protection. These wanderers
in the land were too often seen, to excite much attention or sympathy.
They received the cold relief which was extorted by general feelings
of humanity; a little excited in some breasts, and perhaps rather
chilled in others, by the recollection that they who gave the charity
to-day might themselves want it to-morrow. Magdalen Graeme, therefore,
came and departed like a shadow from the neighbourhood of Avenel
The boy whom Providence, as she thought, had thus strangely placed
under her care, was at once established a favourite with the Lady of
the castle. How could it be otherwise? He became the object of those
affectionate feelings, which, finding formerly no object on which to
expand themselves, had increased the gloom of the castle, and
imbittered the solitude of its mistress. To teach him reading and
writing as far as her skill went, to attend to his childish comforts,
to watch his boyish sports, became the Lady's favourite amusement. In
her circumstances, where the ear only heard the lowing of the cattle
from the distant hills, or the heavy step of the warder as he walked
upon his post, or the half-envied laugh of her maiden as she turned
her wheel, the appearance of the blooming and beautiful boy gave an
interest which can hardly be conceived by those who live amid gayer
and busier scenes. Young Roland was to the Lady of Avenel what the
flower, which occupies the window of some solitary captive, is to the
poor wight by whom it is nursed and cultivated,--something which at
once excited and repaid her care; and in giving the boy her affection,
she felt, as it were, grateful to him for releasing her from the state
of dull apathy in which she had usually found herself during the
absence of Sir Halbert Glendinning.
But even the charms of this blooming favourite were unable to chase
the recurring apprehensions which arose from her husband's
procrastinated return. Soon after Roland Graeme became a resident at
the castle, a groom, despatched by Sir Halbert, brought tidings that
business still delayed the Knight at the Court of Holyrood. The more
distant period which the messenger had assigned for his master's
arrival at length glided away, summer melted into autumn, and autumn
was about to give place to winter, and yet he came not.
Chapter the Third.
The waning harvest-moon shone broad and bright,
The warder's horn was heard at dead of night,
And while the portals-wide were flung,
With trampling hoofs the rocky pavement rung.
"And you, too, would be a soldier, Roland?" said the Lady of Avenel to
her young charge, while, seated on a stone chair at one end of the
battlements, she saw the boy attempt, with a long stick, to mimic the
motions of the warder, as he alternately shouldered, or ported, or
"Yes, Lady," said the boy,--for he was now familiar, and replied to
her questions with readiness and alacrity,-"a soldier will I be; for
there ne'er was gentleman but who belted him with the brand."
"Thou a gentleman!" said Lilias, who, as usual, was in attendance;
"such a gentleman as I would make of a bean-cod with a rusty knife."
"Nay, chide him not, Lilias," said the Lady of Avenel, "for, beshrew
me, but I think he comes of gentle blood--see how it musters in his
face at your injurious reproof."
"Had I my will, madam," answered Lilias, "a good birchen wand should
make his colour muster to better purpose still."
"On my word, Lilias," said the Lady, "one would think you had received
harm from the poor boy--or is he so far on the frosty side of your
favour because he enjoys the sunny side of mine?"
"Over heavens forbode, my Lady!" answered Lilias; "I have lived too
long with gentles, I praise my stars for it, to fight with either
follies or fantasies, whether they relate to beast, bird, or boy."
Lilias was a favourite in her own class, a spoiled domestic, and often
accustomed to take more licence than her mistress was at all times
willing to encourage. But what did not please the Lady of Avenel, she
did not choose to hear, and thus it was on the present occasion. She
resolved to look more close and sharply after the boy, who had
hitherto been committed chiefly to the management of Lilias. He must,
she thought, be born of gentle blood; it were shame to think otherwise
of a form so noble, and features so fair;--the very wildness in which
he occasionally indulged, his contempt of danger, and impatience of
restraint, had in them something noble;--assuredly the child was born
of high rank. Such was her conclusion, and she acted upon it
accordingly. The domestics around her, less jealous, or less
scrupulous than Lilias, acted as servants usually do, following the
bias, and flattering, for their own purposes, the humour of the Lady;
and the boy soon took on him those airs of superiority, which the
sight of habitual deference seldom fails to inspire. It seemed, in
truth, as if to command were his natural sphere, so easily did he use
himself to exact and receive compliance with his humours. The
chaplain, indeed, might have interposed to check the air of assumption
which Roland Graeme so readily indulged, and most probably would have
willingly rendered him that favour; but the necessity of adjusting
with his brethren some disputed points of church discipline had
withdrawn him for some time from the castle, and detained him in a
distant part of the kingdom.
Matters stood thus in the castle of Avenel, when a winded bugle sent
its shrill and prolonged notes from the shore of the lake, and was
replied to cheerily by the signal of the warder. The Lady of Avenel
knew the sounds of her husband, and rushed to the window of the
apartment in which she was sitting. A band of about thirty spearmen,
with a pennon displayed before them, winded along the indented shores
of the lake, and approached the causeway. A single horseman rode at
the head of the party, his bright arms catching a glance of the
October sun as he moved steadily along. Even at that distance, the
Lady recognized the lofty plume, bearing the mingled colours of her
own liveries and those of Glendonwyne, blended with the holly-branch;
and the firm seat and dignified demeanour of the rider, joined to the
stately motion of the dark-brown steed, sufficiently announced Halbert
The Lady's first thought was that of rapturous joy at her husband's
return--her second was connected with a fear which had sometimes
intruded itself, that he might not altogether approve the peculiar
distinction with which she had treated her orphan ward. In this fear
there was implied a consciousness, that the favour she had shown him
was excessive; for Halbert Glendinning was at least as gentle and
indulgent, as he was firm and rational in the intercourse of his
household; and to her in particular, his conduct had ever been most
Yet she did fear, that, on the present occasion, her conduct might
incur Sir Halbert's censure; and hastily resolving that she would not
mention, the anecdote of the boy until the next day, she ordered him
to be withdrawn from the apartment by Lilias.
"I will not go with Lilias, madam," answered the spoiled child, who
had more than once carried his point by perseverance, and who, like
his betters, delighted in the exercise of such authority,--"I will not
go to Lilias's gousty room--I will stay and see that brave warrior who
comes riding so gallantly along the drawbridge."
"You must not stay, Roland," said the Lady, more positively than she
usually spoke to her little favourite.
"I will," reiterated the boy, who had already felt his consequence,
and the probable chance of success.
"You _will_, Roland!" answered the Lady, "what manner of word is
that? I tell you, you must go."
"_Will_," answered the forward boy, "is a word for a man, and
_must_ is no word for a lady."
"You are saucy, sirrah," said the Lady--"Lilias, take him with you
"I always thought," said Lilias, smiling, as she seized the reluctant
boy by the arm, "that my young master must give place to my old one."
"And you, too, are malapert, mistress!" said the Lady; "hath the moon
changed, that ye all of you thus forget yourselves?"
Lilias made no reply, but led off the boy, who, too proud to offer
unavailing resistance, darted at his benefactress a glance, which
intimated plainly, how willingly he would have defied her authority,
had he possessed the power to make good his point.
The Lady of Avenel was vexed to find how much this trifling
circumstance had discomposed her, at the moment when she ought
naturally to have been entirely engrossed by her husband's return. But
we do not recover composure by the mere feeling that agitation is
mistimed. The glow of displeasure had not left the Lady's cheek, her
ruffled deportment was not yet entirely composed, when her husband,
unhelmeted, but still wearing the rest of his arms, entered the
apartment. His appearance banished the thoughts of every thing else;
she rushed to him, clasped his iron-sheathed frame in her arms, and
kissed his martial and manly face with an affection which was at once
evident and sincere. The warrior returned her embrace and her caress
with the same fondness; for the time which had passed since their
union had diminished its romantic ardour, perhaps, but it had rather
increased its rational tenderness, and Sir Halbert Glendinning's long
and frequent absences from his castle had prevented affection from
degenerating by habit into indifference.
When the first eager greetings were paid and received, the Lady gazed
fondly on her husband's face as she remarked, "You are altered,
Halbert--you have ridden hard and far to-day, or you have been ill?"
"I have been well, Mary," answered the Knight, "passing well have I
been; and a long ride is to me, thou well knowest, but a thing of
constant custom. Those who are born noble may slumber out their lives
within the walls of their castles and manor-houses; but he who hath
achieved nobility by his own deeds must ever be in the saddle, to show
that he merits his advancement."
While he spoke thus, the Lady gazed fondly on him, as if endeavouring
to read his inmost soul; for the tone in which he spoke was that of
Sir Halbert Glendinning was the same, yet a different person from what
he had appeared in his early years. The fiery freedom of the aspiring
youth had given place to the steady and stern composure of the
approved soldier and skilful politician. There were deep traces of
care on those noble features, over which each emotion used formerly to
pass, like light clouds across a summer sky. That sky was now, not
perhaps clouded, but still and grave, like that of the sober autumn
evening. The forehead was higher and more bare than in early youth,
and the locks which still clustered thick and dark on the warrior's
head, were worn away at the temples, not by age, but by the constant
pressure of the steel cap, or helmet. His beard, according to the
fashion of the time, grew short and thick, and was turned into
mustaches on the upper lip, and peaked at the extremity. The cheek,
weather-beaten and embrowned, had lost the glow of youth, but showed
the vigorous complexion of active and confirmed manhood. Halbert
Glendinning was, in a word, a knight to ride at a king's right hand,
to bear his banner in war, and to be his counsellor in time of peace;
for his looks expressed the considerate firmness which can resolve
wisely and dare boldly. Still, over these noble features, there now
spread an air of dejection, of which, perhaps, the owner was not
conscious, but which did not escape the observation of his anxious and
"Something has happened, or is about to happen," said the Lady of
Avenel; "this sadness sits not on your brow without cause--misfortune,
national or particular, must needs be at hand."
"There is nothing new that I wot of," said Halbert Glendinning; "but
there is little of evil which can befall a kingdom, that may not be
apprehended in this unhappy and divided realm."
"Nay, then," said the Lady, "I see there hath really been some fatal
work on foot. My Lord of Murray has not so long detained you at
Holyrood, save that he wanted your help in some weighty purpose."
"I have not been at Holyrood, Mary," answered the Knight; "I have been
several weeks abroad."
"Abroad! and sent me no word?" replied the Lady.
"What would the knowledge have availed, but to have rendered you
unhappy, my love?" replied the Knight; "your thoughts would have
converted the slightest breeze that curled your own lake, into a
tempest raging in the German ocean."
"And have you then really crossed the sea?" said the Lady, to whom the
very idea of an element which she had never seen conveyed notions of
terror and of wonder,--"really left your own native land, and trodden
distant shores, where the Scottish tongue is unheard and unknown?"
"Really, and really," said the Knight, taking her hand in affectionate
playfulness, "I have done this marvellous deed--have rolled on the
ocean for three days and three nights, with the deep green waves
dashing by the side of my pillow, and but a thin plank to divide me
"Indeed, my Halbert," said the Lady, "that was a tempting of Divine
Providence. I never bade you unbuckle the sword from your side, or lay
the lance from your hand--I never bade you sit still when your honour
called you to rise and ride; but are not blade and spear dangers
enough for one man's life, and why would you trust rough waves and
"We have in Germany, and in the Low Countries, as they are called,"
answered Glendinning, "men who are united with us in faith, and with
whom it is fitting we should unite in alliance. To some of these I was
despatched on business as important as it was secret. I went in
safety, and I returned in security; there is more danger to a man's
life betwixt this and Holyrood, than are in all the seas that wash the
lowlands of Holland."
"And the country, my Halbert, and the people," said the Lady, "are
they like our kindly Scots? or what bearing have they to strangers?"
"They are a people, Mary, strong in their wealth, which renders all
other nations weak, and weak in those arts of war by which other
nations are strong."
"I do not understand you," said the Lady.
"The Hollander and the Fleming, Mary, pour forth their spirit in
trade, and not in war; their wealth purchases them the arms of foreign
soldiers, by whose aid they defend it. They erect dikes on the
sea-shore to protect the land which they have won, and they levy
regiments of the stubborn Switzers and hardy Germans to protect the
treasures which they have amassed. And thus they are strong in their
weakness; for the very wealth which tempts their masters to despoil
them, arms strangers in their behalf."
"The slothful hinds!" exclaimed Mary, thinking and feeling like a
Scotswoman of the period; "have they hands, and fight not for the land
which bore them? They should be notched off at the elbow!"
"Nay, that were but hard justice," answered her husband; "for their
hands serve their country, though not in battle, like ours. Look at
these barren hills, Mary, and at that deep winding vale by which the
cattle are even now returning from their scanty browse. The hand of
the industrious Fleming would cover these mountains with wood, and
raise corn where we now see a starved and scanty sward of heath and
ling. It grieves me, Mary, when I look on that land, and think what
benefit it might receive from such men as I have lately seen--men who
seek not the idle fame derived from dead ancestors, or the bloody
renown won in modern broils, but tread along the land, as preservers
and improvers, not as tyrants and destroyers."
"These amendments would here be but a vain fancy, my Halbert,"
answered the Lady of Avenel; "the trees would be burned by the English
foemen, ere they ceased to be shrubs, and the grain that you raised
would be gathered in by the first neighbour that possessed more riders
than follow your train. Why should you repine at this? The fate that
made you Scotsman by birth, gave you head, and heart, and hand, to
uphold the name as it must needs be upheld."
"It gave _me_ no name to uphold," said Halbert, pacing the floor
slowly; "my arm has been foremost in every strife--my voice has been
heard in every council, nor have the wisest rebuked me. The crafty
Lethington, the deep and dark Morton, have held secret council with
me, and Grange and Lindsay have owned, that in the field I did the
devoir of a gallant knight--but let the emergence be passed when they
need my head and hand, and they only know me as son of the obscure
portioner of Glendearg."
This was a theme which the Lady always dreaded; for the rank conferred
on her husband, the favour in which he was held by the powerful Earl
of Murray, and the high talents by which he vindicated his right to
that rank and that favour, were qualities which rather increased than
diminished the envy which was harboured against Sir Halbert
Glendinning among a proud aristocracy, as a person originally of
inferior and obscure birth, who had risen to his present eminence
solely by his personal merit. The natural firmness of his mind did not
enable him to despise the ideal advantages of a higher pedigree, which
were held in such universal esteem by all with whom he conversed; and
so open are the noblest minds to jealous inconsistencies, that there
were moments in which he felt mortified that his lady should possess
those advantages of birth and high descent which he himself did not
enjoy, and regretted that his importance as the proprietor of Avenel
was qualified by his possessing it only as the husband of the heiress.
He was not so unjust as to permit any unworthy feelings to retain
permanent possession of his mind, but yet they recurred from time to
time, and did not escape his lady's anxious observation.
"Had we been blessed with children," she was wont on such occasions to
say to herself, "had our blood been united in a son who might have
joined my advantages of descent with my husband's personal worth,
these painful and irksome reflections had not disturbed our union even
for a moment. But the existence of such an heir, in whom our
affections, as well as our pretensions, might have centred, has been
denied to us."
With such mutual feelings, it cannot be wondered that it gave the Lady
pain to hear her husband verging towards this topic of mutual
discontent. On the present, as on other similar occasions, she
endeavoured to divert the knight's thoughts from this painful channel.
"How can you," she said, "suffer yourself to dwell upon things which
profit nothing? Have you indeed no name to uphold? You, the good and
the brave, the wise in council, and the strong in battle, have you not
to support the reputation your own deeds have won, a reputation more
honourable than mere ancestry can supply? Good men love and honour
you, the wicked fear, and the turbulent obey you; and is it not
necessary you should exert yourself to ensure the endurance of that
love, that honour, and wholesome fear, and that necessary obedience?"
As she thus spoke, the eye of her husband caught from hers courage and
comfort, and it lightened as he took her hand and replied, "It is most
true, my Mary, and I deserve thy rebuke, who forget what I am, in
repining because I am not what I cannot be. I am now what the most
famed ancestors of those I envy were, the mean man raised into
eminence by his own exertions; and sure it is a boast as honourable to
have those capacities which are necessary to the foundation of a
family, as to be descended from one who possessed them some centuries
before. The Hay of Loncarty, who bequeathed his bloody yoke to his
lineage,--the 'dark gray man,' who first founded the house of Douglas,
had yet less of ancestry to boast than I have. For thou knowest, Mary,
that my name derives itself from a line of ancient warriors, although
my immediate forefathers preferred the humble station in which thou
didst first find them; and war and counsel are not less proper to the
house of Glendonwyne, even, in its most remote descendants, than to
the proudest of their baronage." [Footnote: This was a house of
ancient descent and superior consequence, including persons who fought
at Bannockburn and Otterburn, and closely connected by alliance and
friendship with the great Earls of Douglas. The Knight in this story
argues as most Scotsmen would do in his situation, for all of the same
clan are popularly considered as descended from the same stock, and as
having a right to the ancestral honor of the chief branch. This
opinion, though sometimes ideal, is so strong even at this day of
innovation, that it may be observed as a national difference between
my countrymen and the English. If you ask an Englishman of good birth,
whether a person of the same name be connected with him, he answers
(if _in dubio._) "No--he is a mere namesake." Ask a similar
question of a Scot, (I mean a Scotsman,) he replies--"He is one of our
clan; I daresay there is a relationship, though I do not know how
distant." The Englishman thinks of discountenancing a species of
rivalry in society; the Scotsman's answer is grounded on the ancient
idea of strengthening the clan.]
He strode across the hall as he spoke; and the Lady smiled internally
to observe how much his mind dwelt upon the prerogatives of birth, and
endeavoured to establish his claims, however remote, to a share in
them, at the very moment when he affected to hold them in contempt. It
will easily be guessed, however, that she permitted no symptom to
escape her that could show she was sensible of the weakness of her
husband, a perspicacity which perhaps his proud spirit could not very
easily have brooked.
As he returned from the extremity of the hall, to which he had stalked
while in the act of vindicating the title of the house of Glendonwyne
in its most remote branches to the full privileges of aristocracy,
"Where," he said, "is Wolf? I have not seen him since my return, and
he was usually the first to welcome my home-coming."
"Wolf," said the Lady, with a slight degree of embarrassment, for
which perhaps, she would have found it difficult to assign any reason
even to herself, "Wolf is chained up for the present. He hath been
surly to my page."
"Wolf chained up--and Wolf surly to your page!" answered Sir Halbert
Glendinning; "Wolf never was surly to any one; and the chain will
either break his spirit or render him savage--So ho, there--set Wolf
He was obeyed; and the huge dog rushed into the hall, disturbing, by
his unwieldy and boisterous gambols, the whole economy of reels,
rocks, and distaffs, with which the maidens of the household were
employed when the arrival of their lord was a signal to them to
withdraw, and extracting from Lilias, who was summoned to put them
again in order, the natural observation, "That the Laird's pet was as
troublesome as the lady's page."
"And who is this page, Mary?" said the Knight, his attention again
called to the subject by the observation of the waiting-woman,--"Who
is this page, whom every one seems to weigh in the balance with my old
friend and favourite, Wolf?--When did you aspire to the dignity of
keeping a page, or who is the boy?"
"I trust, my Halbert," said the Lady, not without a blush, "you will
not think your wife entitled to less attendance than other ladies of
"Nay, Dame Mary," answered the Knight, "it is enough you desire such
an attendant.--Yet I have never loved to nurse such useless menials--a
lady's page--it may well suit the proud English dames to have a
slender youth to bear their trains from bower to hall, fan them when
they slumber, and touch the lute for them when they please to listen;
but our Scottish matrons were wont to be above such vanities, and our
Scottish youth ought to be bred to the spear and the stirrup."
"Nay, but, my husband," said the Lady, "I did but jest when I called
this boy my page; he is in sooth a little orphan whom we saved from
perishing in the lake, and whom I have since kept in the castle out of
charity.--Lilias, bring little Roland hither."
Roland entered accordingly, and, flying to the Lady's side, took hold
of the plaits of her gown, and then turned round, and gazed with an
attention not unmingled with fear, upon the stately form of the
Knight.--"Roland," said the Lady, "go kiss the hand of the noble
Knight, and ask him to be thy protector."--But Roland obeyed not, and,
keeping his station, continued to gaze fixedly and timidly on Sir
Halbert Glendinning.--"Go to the Knight, boy," said the Lady; "what
dost thou fear, child? Go, kiss Sir Halbert's hand."
"I will kiss no hand save yours, Lady," answered the boy.
"Nay, but do as you are commanded, child," replied the Lady.--"He is
dashed by your presence," she said, apologizing to her husband; "but
is he not a handsome boy?"
"And so is Wolf," said Sir Halbert, as he patted his huge four-footed
favourite, "a handsome dog; but he has this double advantage over your
new favourite, that he does what he is commanded, and hears not when
he is praised."
"Nay, now you are displeased with me," replied the Lady; "and yet why
should you be so? There is nothing wrong in relieving the distressed
orphan, or in loving that which is in itself lovely and deserving of
affection. But you have seen Mr. Warden at Edinburgh, and he has set
you against the poor boy."
"My dear Mary," answered her husband, "Mr. Warden better knows his
place than to presume to interfere either in your affairs or mine. I
neither blame your relieving this boy, nor your kindness for him. But,
I think, considering his birth and prospects, you ought not to treat
him with injudicious fondness, which can only end in rendering him
unfit for the humble situation to which Heaven has designed him."
"Nay, but, my Halbert, do but look at the boy," said the Lady, "and
see whether he has not the air of being intended by Heaven for
something nobler than a mere peasant. May he not be designed, as
others have been, to rise out of a humble situation into honour and
Thus far had she proceeded, when the consciousness that she was
treading upon delicate ground at once occurred to her, and induced her
to take the most natural, but the worst of all courses in such
occasions, whether in conversation or in an actual bog, namely, that
of stopping suddenly short in the illustration which she had
commenced. Her brow crimsoned, and that of Sir Halbert Glendinning was
slightly overcast. But it was only for an instant; for he was
incapable of mistaking his lady's meaning, or supposing that she meant
intentional disrespect to him.
"Be it as you please, my love," he replied; "I owe you too much to
contradict you in aught which may render your solitary mode of life
more endurable. Make of this youth what you will, and you have my full
authority for doing so. But remember he is your charge, not
mine--remember he hath limbs to do man's service, a soul and a tongue
to worship God; breed him, therefore, to be true to his country and to
Heaven; and for the rest, dispose of him as you list--it is, and shall
rest, your own matter."
This conversation decided the fate of Roland Graeme, who from
thence-forward was little noticed by the master of the mansion of
Avenel, but indulged and favoured by its mistress.
This situation led to many important consequences, and, in truth,
tended to bring forth the character of the youth in all its broad
lights and deep shadows. As the Knight himself seemed tacitly to
disclaim alike interest and control over the immediate favourite of
his lady, young Roland was, by circumstances, exempted from the strict
discipline to which, as the retainer of a Scottish man of rank, he
would otherwise have been subjected, according to all the rigour of
the age. But the steward, or master of the household--such was the
proud title assumed by the head domestic of each petty baron--deemed
it not advisable to interfere with the favourite of the Lady, and
especially since she had brought the estate into the present family.
Master Jasper Wingate was a man experienced, as he often boasted, in
the ways of great families, and knew how to keep the steerage even
when the wind and tide chanced to be in contradiction.
This prudent personage winked at much, and avoided giving opportunity
for farther offence, by requesting little of Roland Graeme beyond the
degree of attention which he was himself disposed to pay; rightly
conjecturing, that however lowly the place which the youth might hold
in the favour of the Knight of Avenel, still to make an evil report of
him would make an enemy of the Lady, without securing the favour of
her husband. With these prudential considerations, and doubtless not
without an eye to his own ease and convenience, he taught the boy as
much, and only as much, as he chose to learn, readily admitting
whatever apology it pleased his pupil to allege in excuse for idleness
or negligence. As the other persons in the castle, to whom such tasks
were delegated, readily imitated the prudential conduct of the
major-domo, there was little control used towards Roland Graeme, who,
of course, learned no more than what a very active mind, and a total
impatience of absolute idleness led him to acquire upon his own
account, and by dint of his own exertions. The latter were especially
earnest, when the Lady herself condescended to be his tutress, or to
examine his progress.
It followed also from his quality as my Lady's favourite, that Roland
was viewed with no peculiar good-will by the followers of the Knight,
many of whom, of the same age, and apparently similar origin, with the
fortunate page, were subjected to severe observance of the ancient and
rigorous discipline of a feudal retainer. To these, Roland Graeme was
of course an object of envy, and, in consequence, of dislike and
detraction; but the youth possessed qualities which it was impossible
to depreciate. Pride, and a sense of early ambition, did for him what
severity and constant instruction did for others. In truth, the
youthful Roland displayed that early flexibility both of body and
mind, which renders exercise, either mental or bodily, rather matter
of sport than of study; and it seemed as if he acquired accidentally,
and by starts, those accomplishments, which earnest and constant
instruction, enforced by frequent reproof and occasional chastisement,
had taught to others. Such military exercises, such lessons of the
period, as he found it agreeable or convenient to apply to, he learned
so perfectly, as to confound those who were ignorant how often the
want of constant application is compensated by vivacity of talent and
ardent enthusiasm. The lads, therefore, who were more regularly
trained to arms, to horsemanship, and to other necessary exercises of
the period, while they envied Roland Graeme the indulgence or
negligence with which he seemed to be treated, had little reason to
boast of their own superior acquirements; a few hours, with the
powerful exertion of a most energetic will, seemed to do for him more
than the regular instruction of weeks could accomplish for others.
Under these advantages, if, indeed, they were to be termed such, the
character of young Roland began to develope itself. It was bold,
peremptory, decisive, and overbearing; generous, if neither withstood
nor contradicted; vehement and passionate, if censured or opposed. He
seemed to consider himself as attached to no one, and responsible to
no one, except his mistress, and even over her mind he had gradually
acquired that species of ascendancy which indulgence is so apt to
occasion. And although the immediate followers and dependents of Sir
Halbert Glendinning saw his ascendancy with jealousy, and often took
occasion to mortify his vanity, there wanted not those who were
willing to acquire the favour of the Lady of Avenel by humouring and
taking part with the youth whom she protected; for although a
favourite, as the poet assures us, has no friend, he seldom fails to
have both followers and flatterers.
The partisans of Roland Graeme were chiefly to be found amongst the
inhabitants of the little hamlet on the shore of the lake. These
villagers, who were sometimes tempted to compare their own situation
with that of the immediate and constant followers of the Knight, who
attended him on his frequent journeys to Edinburgh and elsewhere,
delighted in considering and representing themselves as more properly
the subjects of the Lady of Avenel than of her husband. It is true,
her wisdom and affection on all occasions discountenanced the
distinction which was here implied; but the villagers persisted in
thinking it must be agreeable to her to enjoy their peculiar and
undivided homage, or at least in acting as if they thought so; and one
chief mode by which they evinced their sentiments, was by the respect
they paid to young Roland Graeme, the favourite attendant of the
descendant of their ancient lords. This was a mode of flattery too
pleasing to encounter rebuke or censure; and the opportunity which it
afforded the youth to form, as it were, a party of his own within the
limits of the ancient barony of Avenel, added not a little to the
audacity and decisive tone of a character, which was by nature bold,
impetuous, and incontrollable.
Of the two members of the household who had manifested an early
jealousy of Roland Graeme, the prejudices of Wolf were easily
overcome; and in process of time the noble dog slept with Bran, Luath,
and the celebrated hounds of ancient days. But Mr. Warden, the
chaplain, lived, and retained his dislike to the youth. That good man,
single-minded and benevolent as he really was, entertained rather more
than a reasonable idea of the respect due to him as a minister, and
exacted from the inhabitants of the castle more deference than the
haughty young page, proud of his mistress's favour, and petulant from
youth and situation, was at all times willing to pay. His bold and
free demeanour, his attachment to rich dress and decoration, his
inaptitude to receive instruction, and his hardening himself against
rebuke, were circumstances which induced the good old man, with more
haste than charity, to set the forward page down as a vessel of wrath,
and to presage that the youth nursed that pride and haughtiness of
spirit which goes before ruin and destruction. On the other hand,
Roland evinced at times a marked dislike, and even something like
contempt, of the chaplain. Most of the attendants and followers of Sir
Halbert Glendinning entertained the same charitable thoughts as the
reverend Mr. Warden; but while Roland was favoured by their lady, and
endured by their lord, they saw no policy in making their opinions
Roland Graeme was sufficiently sensible of the unpleasant situation in
which he stood; but in the haughtiness of his heart he retorted upon
the other domestics the distant, cold, and sarcastic manner in which
they treated him, assumed an air of superiority which compelled the
most obstinate to obedience, and had the satisfaction at least to be
dreaded, if he was heartily hated.
The chaplain's marked dislike had the effect of recommending him to
the attention of Sir Halbert's brother, Edward, who now, under the
conventual appellation of Father Ambrose, continued to be one of the
few monks who, with the Abbot Eustatius, had, notwithstanding the
nearly total downfall of their faith under the regency of Murray, been
still permitted to linger in the cloisters at Kennaquhair. Respect to
Sir Halbert had prevented their being altogether driven out of the
Abbey, though their order was now in a great measure suppressed, and
they were interdicted the public exercise of their ritual, and only
allowed for their support a small pension out of their once splendid
revenues. Father Ambrose, thus situated, was an occasional, though
very rare visitant, at the Castle of Avenel, and was at such times
observed to pay particular attention to Roland Graeme, who seemed to
return it with more depth of feeling than consisted with his usual
Thus situated, years glided on, during which the Knight of Avenel
continued to act a frequent and important part in the convulsions of
his distracted country; while young Graeme anticipated, both in wishes
and personal accomplishments, the age which should enable him to
emerge from the obscurity of his present situation.
Chapter the Fourth.
Amid their cups that freely flow'd,
Their revelry and mirth,
A youthful lord tax'd Valentine
With base and doubtful birth.
VALENTINE AND ORSON.
When Roland Graeme was a youth about seventeen years of age, he
chanced one summer morning to descend to the mew in which Sir Halbert
Glendinning kept his hawks, in order to superintend the training of an
eyas, or young hawk, which he himself, at the imminent risk of neck
and limbs, had taken from the celebrated eyry in the neighborhood,
called Gledscraig. As he was by no means satisfied with the attention
which had been bestowed on his favourite bird, he was not slack in
testifying his displeasure to the falconer's lad, whose duty it was to
have attended upon it.
"What, ho! sir knave," exclaimed Roland, "is it thus you feed the eyas
with unwashed meat, as if you were gorging the foul brancher of a
worthless hoodie-crow? by the mass, and thou hast neglected its
castings also for these two days! Think'st thou I ventured my neck to
bring the bird down from the crag, that thou shouldst spoil him by thy
neglect?" And to add force to his remonstrances, he conferred a cuff
or two on the negligent attendant of the hawks, who, shouting rather
louder than was necessary under all the circumstances, brought the
master falconer to his assistance.
Adam Woodcock, the falconer of Avenel, was an Englishman by birth, but
so long in the service of Glendinning, that he had lost much of his
notional attachment in that which he had formed to his master. He was
a favourite in his department, jealous and conceited of his skill, as
masters of the game usually are; for the rest of his character he was
a jester and a parcel poet, (qualities which by no means abated his
natural conceit,) a jolly fellow, who, though a sound Protestant,
loved a flagon of ale better than a long sermon, a stout man of his
hands when need required, true to his master, and a little presuming
on his interest with him.
Adam Woodcock, such as we have described him, by no means relished the
freedom used by young Graeme, in chastising his assistant. "Hey, hey,
my Lady's page," said he, stepping between his own boy and Roland,
"fair and softly, an it like your gilt jacket--hands off is fair
play--if my boy has done amiss, I can beat him myself, and then you
may keep your hands soft."
"I will beat him and thee too," answered Roland, without hesitation,
"an you look not better after your business. See how the bird is cast
away between you. I found the careless lurdane feeding him with
unwashed flesh, and she an eyas." [Footnote: There is a difference
amongst authorities how long the nestling hawk should be fed with
flesh which has previously been washed.]
"Go to," said the falconer, "thou art but an eyas thyself, child
Roland.--What knowest thou of feeding? I say that the eyas should have
her meat unwashed, until she becomes a brancher--'twere the ready way
to give her the frounce, to wash her meat sooner, and so knows every
one who knows a gled from a falcon."
"It is thine own laziness, thou false English blood, that dost nothing
but drink and sleep," retorted the page, "and leaves that lither lad
to do the work, which he minds as little as thou."
"And am I so idle then," said the falconer, "that have three cast of
hawks to look after, at perch and mew, and to fly them in the field to
boot?--and is my Lady's page so busy a man that he must take me up
short?--and am I of false English blood?--I marvel what blood thou
art--neither Englander nor Scot--fish nor flesh--a bastard from the
Debateable Land, without either kith, kin, or ally!--Marry, out upon
thee, foul kite, that would fain be a tercel gentle!"
The reply to this sarcasm was a box on the ear, so well applied, that
it overthrew the falconer into the cistern in which water was kept for
the benefit of the hawks. Up started Adam Woodcock, his wrath no way
appeased by the cold immersion, and seizing on a truncheon which stood
by, would have soon requited the injury he had received, had not
Roland laid his hand on his poniard, and sworn by all that was sacred,
that if he offered a stroke towards him, he would sheath the blade in
his bowels. The noise was now so great, that more than one of the
household came in, and amongst others the major-domo, a grave
personage, already mentioned, whose gold chain and white wand
intimated his authority. At the appearance of this dignitary, the
strife was for the present appeased. He embraced, however, so
favourable an opportunity, to read Roland Graeme a shrewd lecture on
the impropriety of his deportment to his fellow-menials, and to assure
him, that, should he communicate this fray to his master, (who, though
now on one of his frequent expeditions, was speedily expected to
return,) which but for respect to his Lady he would most certainly do,
the residence of the culprit in the Castle of Avenel would be but of
brief duration. "But, however," added the prudent master of the
household, "I will report the matter first to my Lady."
"Very just, very right, Master Wingate," exclaimed several voices
together; "my Lady will consider if daggers, are to be drawn on us for
every idle word, and whether we are to live in a well-ordered
household, where there is the fear of God, or amidst drawn dirks and
The object of this general resentment darted an angry glance around
him, and suppressing with difficulty the desire which urged him to
reply in furious or in contemptuous language, returned his dagger into
his scabbard, looked disdainfully around upon the assembled menials,
turned short upon his heel, and pushing aside those who stood betwixt
him and the door, left the apartment.
"This will be no tree for my nest," said the falconer, "if this
cock-sparrow is to crow over us as he seems to do."
"He struck me with his switch yesterday," said one of the grooms,
"because the tail of his worship's gelding was not trimmed altogether
so as suited his humour."
"And I promise you," said the laundress, "my young master will stick
nothing to call an honest woman slut and quean, if there be but a
speck of soot upon his band-collar."
"If Master Wingate do not his errand to my Lady," was the general
result, "there will be no tarrying in the same house with Roland
The master of the household heard them all for some time, and then,
motioning for universal silence, he addressed them with all the
dignity of Malvolio himself.--"My masters,--not forgetting you, my
mistresses,--do not think the worse of me that I proceed with as much
care as haste in this matter. Our master is a gallant knight, and will
have his sway at home and abroad, in wood and field, in hall and
bower, as the saying is. Our Lady, my benison upon her, is also a
noble person of long descent, and rightful heir of this place and
barony, and she also loves her will; as for that matter, show me the
woman who doth not. Now, she hath favoured, doth favour, and will
favour, this jack-an-ape,--for what good part about him I know not,
save that as one noble lady will love a messan dog, and another a
screaming popinjay, and a third a Barbary ape, so doth it please our
noble dame to set her affections upon this stray elf of a page, for
nought that I can think of, save that she--was the cause of his being
saved (the more's the pity) from drowning." And here Master Wingate
made a pause.
"I would have been his caution for a gray groat against salt water or
fresh," said Roland's adversary, the falconer; "marry, if he crack not
a rope for stabbing or for snatching, I will be content never to hood
"Peace, Adam Woodcock," said Wingate, waving his hand; "I prithee,
peace man--Now, my Lady liking this springald, as aforesaid, differs
therein from my Lord, who loves never a bone in his skin. Now, is it
for me to stir up strife betwixt them, and put as'twere my finger
betwixt the bark and the tree, on account of a pragmatical youngster,
whom, nevertheless, I would willingly see whipped forth of the barony?
Have patience, and this boil will break without our meddling. I have
been in service since I wore a beard on my chin, till now that that
beard is turned gray, and I have seldom known any one better
themselves, even by taking the lady's part against the lord's; but
never one who did not dirk himself, if he took the lord's against the
"And so," said Lilias, "we are to be crowed over, every one of us, men
and women, cock and hen, by this little upstart?--I will try titles
with him first, I promise you.--I fancy, Master Wingate, for as wise
as you look, you will be pleased to tell what you have seen to-day, if
my lady commands you?"
"To speak the truth when my lady commands me," answered the prudential
major-domo, "is in some measure my duty, Mistress Lilias; always
providing for and excepting those cases in which it cannot be spoken
without breeding mischief and inconvenience to myself or my
fellow-servants; for the tongue of a tale-bearer breaketh bones as
well as Jeddart-staff." [Footnote: A species of battle-axe, so called
as being in especial use in that ancient burgh, whose armorial bearing
still represent an armed horseman brandishing such a weapon.]
"But this imp of Satan is none of your friends or fellow-servants,"
said Lilias; "and I trust you mean not to stand up for him against the
whole family besides?"
"Credit me, Mrs. Lilias," replied the senior, "should I see the time
fitting, I would, with right good-will give him a lick with the rough
side of my tongue."
"Enough said, Master Wingate," answered Lilias; "then trust me his
song shall soon be laid. If my mistress does not ask me what is the
matter below stairs before she be ten minutes of time older, she is no
born woman, and my name is not Lilias Bradbourne."
In pursuance of her plan, Mistress Lilias failed not to present
herself before her mistress with all the exterior of one who is
possessed of an important secret,--that is, she had the corners of her
mouth turned down, her eyes raised up, her lips pressed as fast
together as if they had been sewed up, to prevent her babbling, and an
air of prim mystical importance diffused over her whole person and
demeanour, which seemed to intimate, "I know something which I am
resolved not to tell you!"
Lilias had rightly read her mistress's temper, who, wise and good as
she was, was yet a daughter of grandame Eve, and could not witness
this mysterious bearing on the part of her waiting-woman without
longing to ascertain the secret cause. For a space, Mrs. Lilias was
obdurate to all inquiries, sighed, turned her eyes up higher yet to
heaven, hoped for the best, but had nothing particular to communicate.
All this, as was most natural and proper, only stimulated the Lady's
curiosity; neither was her importunity to be parried with,--"Thank
God, I am no makebate--no tale-bearer,--thank God, I never envied any
one's favour, or was anxious to propale their misdemeanour-only, thank
God, there has been no bloodshed and murder in the house--that is
"Bloodshed and murder!" exclaimed the Lady, "what does the quean
mean?--if you speak not plain out, you shall have something you will
scarce be thankful for."
"Nay, my Lady," answered Lilias, eager to disburden her mind, or, in,
Chaucer's phrase, to "unbuckle her mail," "if you bid me speak out the
truth, you must not be moved with what might displease you--Roland
Graeme has dirked Adam Woodstock--that is all."
"Good Heaven!" said the Lady, turning pale as ashes, "is the man
"No, madam," replied Lilias, "but slain he would have been, if there
had not been ready help; but may be, it is your Ladyship's pleasure
that this young esquire shall poniard the servants, as well as switch
and baton them."
"Go to, minion," said the Lady, "you are saucy-tell the master of the
household to attend me instantly."
Lilias hastened to seek out Mr. Wingate, and hurry him to his lady's
presence, speaking as a word in season to him on the way, "I have set
the stone a-trowling, look that you do not let it stand still."
The steward, too prudential a person to commit himself otherwise,
answered by a sly look and a nod of intelligence, and presently after
stood in the presence of the Lady of Avenel, with a look of great
respect for his lady, partly real, partly affected, and an air of
great sagacity, which inferred no ordinary conceit of himself.
"How is this, Wingate," said the Lady, "and what rule do you keep in
the castle, that the domestics of Sir Halbert Glendinning draw the
dagger on each other, as in a cavern of thieves and murderers?--is the
wounded man much hurt? and what--what hath become of the unhappy boy?"
"There is no one wounded as yet, madam," replied he of the golden
chain; "it passes my poor skill to say how many may be wounded before
Pasche, [Footnote: Easter.] if some rule be not taken with this
youth--not but the youth is a fair youth," he added, correcting
himself, "and able at his exercise; but somewhat too ready with the
ends of his fingers, the butt of his riding-switch, and the point of
"And whose fault is that," said the Lady, "but yours, who should have
taught him better discipline, than to brawl or to draw his dagger."
"If it please your Ladyship so to impose the blame on me," answered
the steward, "it is my part, doubtless, to bear it--only I submit to
your consideration, that unless I nailed his weapon to the scabbard, I
could no more keep it still, than I could fix quicksilver, which
defied even the skill of Raymond Lullius."
"Tell me not of Raymond Lullius," said the Lady, losing patience, "but
send me the chaplain hither. You grow all of you too wise for me,
during your lord's long and repeated absences. I would to God his
affairs would permit him to remain at home and rule his own household,
for it passes my wit and skill!"
"God forbid, my Lady!" said the old domestic, "that you should
sincerely think what you are now pleased to say: your old servants
might well hope, that after so many years' duty, you would do their
service more justice than to distrust their gray hairs, because they
cannot rule the peevish humour of a green head, which the owner
carries, it may be, a brace of inches higher than becomes him."
"Leave me," said the Lady; "Sir Halbert's return must now be expected
daily, and he will look into these matters himself--leave me, I say,
Wingate, without saying more of it. I know you are honest, and I
believe the boy is petulant; and yet I think it is my favour which
hath set all of you against him."
The steward bowed and retired, after having been silenced in a second
attempt to explain the motives on which he acted.
The chaplain arrived; but neither from him did the Lady receive much
comfort. On the contrary, she found him disposed, in plain terms, to
lay to the door of her indulgence all the disturbances which the fiery
temper of Roland Graeme had already occasioned, or might hereafter
occasion, in the family. "I would," he said, "honoured Lady, that you
had deigned to be ruled by me in the outset of this matter, sith it is
easy to stem evil in the fountain, but hard to struggle against it in
the stream. You, honoured madam, (a word which I do not use according
to the vain forms of this world, but because I have ever loved and
honoured you as an honourable and elect lady,)--you, I say, madam,
have been pleased, contrary to my poor but earnest counsel, to raise
this boy from his station, into one approaching to your own."
"What mean you, reverend sir?" said the Lady; "I have made this
youth a page--is there aught in my doing so that does not become my
character and quality?"
"I dispute not, madam," said the pertinacious preacher, "your
benevolent purpose in taking charge of this youth, or your title to
give him this idle character of page, if such was your pleasure;
though what the education of a boy in the train of a female can tend
to, save to ingraft foppery and effeminacy on conceit and arrogance,
it passes my knowledge to discover. But I blame you more directly for
having taken little care to guard him against the perils of his
condition, or to tame and humble a spirit naturally haughty,