Part 5 out of 10
The page, seeing no end to the conversation betwixt these two old
comrades, and anxious from what he had heard, concerning the fate of
the Abbot, now interrupted their conference.
"Methinks," he said, "Adam Woodcock, thou hadst better deliver thy
master's letter to the Regent; questionless he hath therein stated
what has chanced at Kennaquhair, in the way most advantageous for all
"The boy is right," said Michael Wing-the-wind, "my lord will be very
"The child hath wit enough to keep himself warm," said Adam Woodcock,
producing from his hawking-bag his lord's letter, addressed to the
Earl of Murray, "and for that matter so have I. So, Master Roland, you
will e'en please to present this yourself to the Lord Regent; his
presence will be better graced by a young page than by an old
"Well said, canny Yorkshire!" replied his friend; "and but now you
were so earnest to see our good lord!--Why, wouldst thou put the lad
into the noose that thou mayst slip tether thyself?--or dost thou
think the maiden will clasp his fair young neck more willingly than
thy old sunburnt weasand?"
"Go to," answered the falconer; "thy wit towers high an it could
strike the quarry. I tell thee, the youth has nought to fear--he had
nothing to do with the gambol--a rare gambol it was, Michael, as
mad-caps ever played; and I had made as rare a ballad, if we had had
the luck to get it sung to an end. But mum for that--_tace_, as I
said before, is Latin for a candle. Carry the youth to the presence,
and I will remain here, with bridle in hand, ready to strike the spurs
up to the rowel-heads, in case the hawk flies my way.--I will soon put
Soltraedge, I trow, betwixt the Regent and me, if he means me less
than fair play."
"Come on then, my lad," said Michael, "since thou must needs take the
spring before canny Yorkshire." So saying, he led the way through
winding passages, closely followed by Roland Graeme, until they
arrived at a large winding stone stair, the steps of which were so
long and broad, and at the same time so low, as to render the ascent
uncommonly easy. When they had ascended about the height of one story,
the guide stepped aside, and pushed open the door of a dark and gloomy
antechamber; so dark, indeed, that his youthful companion stumbled,
and nearly fell down upon a low step, which was awkwardly placed on
the very threshold.
"Take heed," said Michael Wing-the-wind, in a very low tone of voice,
and first glancing cautiously round to see if any one listened--"Take
heed, my young friend, for those who fall on these boards seldom rise
again--Seest thou that," he added, in a still lower voice, pointing
to some dark crimson stains on the floor, on which a ray of light,
shot through a small aperture, and traversing the general gloom of the
apartment, fell with mottled radiance--"Seest thou that, youth?--walk
warily, for men have fallen here before you."
"What mean you?" said the page, his flesh creeping, though he scarce
knew why; "Is it blood?"
"Ay, ay," said the domestic, in the same whispering tone, and dragging
the youth on by the arm--"Blood it is,--but this is no time to
question, or even to look at it. Blood it is, foully and fearfully
shed, as foully and fearfully avenged. The blood," he added, in a
still more cautious tone, "of Seignior David."
Roland Graeme's heart throbbed when he found himself so unexpectedly
in the scene of Rizzio's slaughter, a catastrophe which had chilled
with horror all even in that rude age, which had been the theme of
wonder and pity through every cottage and castle in Scotland, and had
not escaped that of Avenel. But his guide hurried him forward,
permitting no farther question, and with the manner of one who has
already tampered too much with a dangerous subject. A tap which he
made at a low door at one end of the vestibule, was answered by a
huissier or usher, who, opening it cautiously, received Michael's
intimation that a page waited the Regent's leisure, who brought
letters from the Knight of Avenel.
"The Council is breaking up," said the usher; "but give me the packet;
his Grace the Regent will presently see the messenger."
"The packet," replied the page, "must be delivered into the Regent's
own hands; such were the orders of my master."
The usher looked at him from head to foot, as if surprised at his
boldness, and then replied, with some asperity, "Say you so, my young
master? Thou crowest loudly to be but a chicken, and from a country
"Were it a time or place," said Roland, "thou shouldst see I can do
more than crow; but do your duty, and let the Regent know I wait his
"Thou art but a pert knave to tell me of my duty," said the courtier
in office; "but I will find a time to show you you are out of yours;
meanwhile, wait there till you are wanted." So saying, he shut the
door in Roland's face.
Michael Wing-the-wind, who had shrunk from his youthful companion
during this altercation, according to the established maxim of
courtiers of all ranks, and in all ages, now transgressed their
prudential line of conduct so far as to come up to him once more.
"Thou art a hopeful young springald," said he, "and I see right well
old Yorkshire had reason in his caution. Thou hast been five minutes
in the court, and hast employed thy time so well, as to make a
powerful and a mortal enemy out of the usher of the council-chamber.
Why, man, you might almost as well have offended the deputy butler!"
"I care not what he is," said Roland Graeme; "I will teach whomever I
speak with to speak civilly to me in return. I did not come from
Avenel to be browbeaten in Holyrood."
"Bravo, my lad!" said Michael; "it is a fine spirit if you can but
hold it--but see, the door opens."
The usher appeared, and, in a more civil tone of voice and manner,
said, that his Grace the Regent would receive the Knight of Avenel's
message; and accordingly marshalled Roland Graeme the way into the
apartment, from which the Council had been just dismissed, after
finishing their consultations. There was in the room a long oaken
table, surrounded by stools of the same wood, with a large elbow
chair, covered with crimson velvet, at the head. Writing materials and
papers were lying there in apparent disorder; and one or two of the
privy counsellors who had lingered behind, assuming their cloaks,
bonnets, and swords, and bidding farewell to the Regent, were
departing slowly by a large door, on the opposite side to that through
which the page entered. Apparently the Earl of Murray had made some
jest, for the smiling countenances of the statesmen expressed that
sort of cordial reception which is paid by courtiers to the
condescending pleasantries of a prince.
The Regent himself was laughing heartily as he said, "Farewell, my
lords, and hold me remembered to the Cock of the North."
He then turned slowly round towards Roland Graeme, and the marks of
gaiety, real or assumed, disappeared from his countenance, as
completely as the passing bubbles leave the dark mirror of a still
profound lake into which a traveller has cast a stone; in the course
of a minute his noble features had assumed their natural expression of
deep and even melancholy gravity.
This distinguished statesman, for as such his worst enemies
acknowledged him, possessed all the external dignity, as well as
almost all the noble qualities, which could grace the power that he
enjoyed; and had he succeeded to the throne as his legitimate
inheritance, it is probable he would have been recorded as one of
Scotland's wisest and greatest kings. But that he held his authority
by the deposition and imprisonment of his sister and benefactress, was
a crime which those only can excuse who think ambition an apology for
ingratitude. He was dressed plainly in black velvet, after the Flemish
fashion, and wore in his high-crowned hat a jewelled clasp, which
looped it up on one side, and formed the only ornament of his apparel.
He had his poniard by his side, and his sword lay on the council
Such was the personage before whom Roland Graeme now presented
himself, with a feeling of breathless awe, very different from the
usual boldness and vivacity of his temper. In fact, he was, from
education and nature, forward, but not impudent, and was much more
easily controlled by the moral superiority, arising from the elevated
talents and renown of those with whom he conversed, than by
pretensions founded only on rank or external show. He might have
braved with indifference the presence of an earl, merely distinguished
by his belt and coronet; but he felt overawed in that of the eminent
soldier and statesman, the wielder of a nation's power, and the leader
of her armies.--The greatest and wisest are flattered by the deference
of youth--so graceful and becoming in itself; and Murray took, with
much courtesy, the letter from the hands of the abashed and blushing
page, and answered with complaisance to the imperfect and
half-muttered greeting, which he endeavoured to deliver to him on the
part of Sir Halbert of Avenel. He even paused a moment ere he broke
the silk with which the letter was secured, to ask the page his
name--so much he was struck with his very handsome features and form.
"Roland Graeme," he said, repeating the words after the hesitating
page. "What! of the Grahams of the Lennox?"
"No, my lord," replied Roland; "my parents dwelt in the Debateable
Murray made no further inquiry, but proceeded to read his dispatches;
during the perusal of which his brow began to assume a stern
expression of displeasure, as that of one who found something which at
once surprised and disturbed him. He sat down on the nearest seat,
frowned till his eyebrows almost met together, read the letter twice
over, and was then silent for several minutes. At length, raising his
head, his eye encountered that of the usher, who in vain endeavoured
to exchange the look of eager and curious observation with which he
had been perusing the Regent's features, for that open and unnoticing
expression of countenance, which, in looking at all, seems as if it
saw and marked nothing--a cast of look which may be practised with
advantage by all those, of whatever degree, who are admitted to
witness the familiar and unguarded hours of their superiors. Great
men are as jealous of their thoughts as the wife of King Candaules was
of her charms, and will as readily punish those who have, however
involuntarily, beheld them in mental deshabille and exposure.
"Leave the apartment, Hyndman," said the Regent, sternly, "and carry
your observation elsewhere. You are too knowing, sir, for your post,
which, by special order, is destined for men of blunter capacity. So!
now you look more like a fool than you did,"--(for Hyndman, as may
easily be supposed, was not a little disconcerted by this
rebuke)--"keep that confused stare, and it may keep your office.
The usher departed in dismay, not forgetting to register, amongst his
other causes of dislike to Roland Graeme, that he had been the witness
of this disgraceful chiding. When he had left the apartment, the
Regent again addressed the page.
"Your name, you say, is Armstrong?"
"No," replied Roland, "my name is Graeme, so please you--Roland
Graeme, whose forbears were designated of Heathergill, in the
"Ay, I knew it was a name from the Debateable Land. Hast thou any
acquaintance in Edinburgh?"
"My lord," replied Roland, willing rather to evade this question than
to answer it directly, for the prudence of being silent with respect
to Lord Seyton's adventure immediately struck him, "I have been in
Edinburgh scarce an hour, and that for the first time in my life."
"What! and thou Sir Halbert Glendinning's page?" said the Regent.
"I was brought up as my Lady's page," said the youth, "and left Avenel
Castle for the first time in my life--at least since my childhood--only
three days since."
"My Lady's page!" repeated the Earl of Murray, as if speaking to
himself; "it was strange to send his Lady's page on a matter of such
deep concernment--Morton will say it is of a piece with the
nomination of his brother to be Abbot; and yet in some sort an
inexperienced youth will best serve the turn.--What hast thou been
taught, young man, in thy doughty apprenticeship?"
"To hunt, my lord, and to hawk," said Roland Graeme.
"To hunt coneys, and to hawk at ouzels!" said the Regent, smiling;
"for such are the sports of ladies and their followers."
Graeme's cheek reddened deeply as he replied, not without some
emphasis, "To hunt red-deer of the first head, and to strike down
herons of the highest soar, my lord, which, in Lothian speech, may be
termed, for aught I know, coneys and ouzels;-also I can wield a brand
and couch a lance, according to our Border meaning; in inland speech
these may be termed water-flags and bulrushes."
"Thy speech rings like metal," said the Regent, "and I pardon the
sharpness of it for the truth.--Thou knowest, then, what belongs to
the duty of a man-at-arms?"
"So far as exercise can teach--it without real service in the field,"
answered Roland Graeme; "but our Knight permitted none of his
household to make raids, and I never had the good fortune to see a
"The good fortune!" repeated the Regent, smiling somewhat sorrowfully,
"take my word, young man, war is the only game from which both parties
"Not always, my lord!" answered the page, with his characteristic
audacity, "if fame speaks truth."
"How, sir?" said the Regent, colouring in his turn, and perhaps
suspecting an indiscreet allusion to the height which he himself had
attained by the hap of civil war.
"Because, my lord," said Roland Graeme, without change of tone, "he
who fights well, must have fame in life, or honour in death; and so
war is a game from which no one can rise a loser."
The Regent smiled and shook his head, when at that moment the door
opened, and the Earl of Morton presented himself.
"I come somewhat hastily," he said, "and I enter unannounced because
my news are of weight--It is as I said; Edward Glendinning is named
"Hush, my lord!" said the Regent, "I know it, but--"
"And perhaps you knew it before I did, my Lord of Murray," answered
Morton, his dark red brow growing darker and redder as he spoke.
"Morton," said Murray, "suspect me not--touch not mine honour--I have
to suffer enough from the calumnies of foes, let me not have to
contend with the unjust suspicions of my friends.--We are not alone,"
said he, recollecting himself, "or I could tell you more."
He led Morton into one of the deep embrasures which the windows formed
in the massive wall, and which afforded a retiring place for their
conversing apart. In this recess, Roland observed them speak together
with much earnestness, Murray appearing to be grave and earnest, and
Morton having a jealous and offended air, which seemed gradually to
give way to the assurances of the Regent.
As their conversation grew more earnest, they became gradually louder
in speech, having perhaps forgotten the presence of the page, the more
readily as his position in the apartment placed him put of sight, so
that he found himself unwillingly privy to more of their discourse
than he cared to hear. For, page though he was, a mean curiosity after
the secrets of others had never been numbered amongst Roland's
failings; and moreover, with all his natural rashness, he could not
but doubt the safety of becoming privy to the secret discourse of
these powerful and dreaded men. Still he could neither stop his ears,
nor with propriety leave the apartment; and while he thought of some
means of signifying his presence, he had already heard so much, that,
to have produced himself suddenly would have been as awkward, and
perhaps as dangerous, as in quiet to abide the end of their
conference. What he overheard, however, was but an imperfect part of
their communication; and although an expert politician, acquainted
with the circumstances of the times, would have had little difficulty
in tracing the meaning, yet Roland Graeme could only form very general
and vague conjectures as to the import of their discourse.
"All is prepared," said Murray, "and Lindsay is setting forward--She
must hesitate no longer--thou seest I act by thy counsel, and harden
myself against softer considerations."
"True, my lord," replied Morton, "in what is necessary to gain power,
you do not hesitate, but go boldly to the mark. But are you as careful
to defend and preserve what you have won?--Why this establishment of
domestics around her?--has not your sister men and maidens enough to
tend her, but you must consent to this superfluous and dangerous
"For shame, Morton!--a Princess, and my sister, could I do less than
allow her due attendance?"
"Ay," replied Morton, "even thus fly all your shafts--smartly enough
loosened from the bow, and not unskilfully aimed--but a breath of
foolish affection ever crosses in the mid volley, and sways the arrow
from the mark."
"Say not so, Morton," replied Murray, "I have both dared and done--"
"Yes, enough to gain, but not enough to keep--reckon not that she will
think and act thus--you have wounded her deeply, both in pride and in
power--it signifies nought, that you would tent now the wound with
unavailing salves--as matters stand with you, you must forfeit the
title of an affectionate brother, to hold that of a bold and
"Morton!" said Murray, with some impatience, "I brook not these
taunts--what I have done I have done--what I must farther do, I must
and will--but I am not made of iron like thee, and I cannot but
remember--Enough of this-my purpose holds."
"And I warrant me," said Morton, "the choice of these domestic
consolations will rest with--"
Here he whispered names which escaped Roland Graeme's ear. Murray
replied in a similar tone, but so much raised towards the conclusion,
of the sentence, that the page heard these words--"And of him I hold
myself secure, by Glendinning's recommendation."
"Ay, which may be as much trustworthy as his late conduct at the Abbey
of Saint Mary's--you have heard that his brother's election has taken
place. Your favourite Sir Halbert, my Lord of Murray, has as much
fraternal affection as yourself."
"By heaven, Morton, that taunt demanded an unfriendly answer, but I
pardon it, for your brother also is concerned; but this election shall
be annulled. I tell you, Earl of Morton, while I hold the sword of
state in my royal nephew's name, neither Lord nor Knight in Scotland
shall dispute my authority; and if I bear--with insults from my
friends, it is only while I know them to be such, and forgive their
follies for their faithfulness."
Morton muttered what seemed to be some excuse, and the Regent answered
him in a milder tone, and then subjoined, "Besides, I have another
pledge than Glendinning's recommendation, for this youth's
fidelity--his nearest relative has placed herself in my hands as his
security, to be dealt withal as his doings shall deserve."
"That is something," replied Morton; "but yet in fair love and
goodwill, I must still pray you to keep on your guard. The foes are
stirring again, as horse-flies and hornets become busy so soon as the
storm-blast is over. George of Seyton was crossing the causeway this
morning with a score of men at his back, and had a ruffle with my
friends of the house of Leslie--they met at the Tron, and were
fighting hard, when the provost, with his guard of partisans, came in
thirdsman, and staved them asunder with their halberds, as men part
dog and bear."
"He hath my order for such interference," said the Regent--"Has any
one been hurt?"
"George of Seyton himself, by black Ralph Leslie--the devil take the
rapier that ran not through from side to side! Ralph has a bloody
coxcomb, by a blow from a messan-page whom nobody knew--Dick Seyton of
Windygowl is run through the arm, and two gallants of the Leslies have
suffered phlebotomy. This is all the gentle blood which has been
spilled in the revel; but a yeoman or two on both sides have had bones
broken and ears chopped. The ostlere-wives, who are like to be the
only losers by their miscarriage, have dragged the knaves off the
street, and are crying a drunken coronach over them."
"You take it lightly, Douglas," said the Regent; "these broils and
feuds would shame the capital of the great Turk, let alone that of a
Christian and reformed state. But, if I live, this gear shall be
amended; and men shall say, when they read my story, that if it were
my cruel hap to rise to power by the dethronement of a sister, I
employed it, when gained, for the benefit of the commonweal."
"And of your friends," replied Morton; "wherefore I trust for your
instant order annulling the election of this lurdane Abbot, Edward
"You shall be presently satisfied." said the Regent; and stepping
forward, he began to call, "So ho, Hyndman!" when suddenly his eye
lighted on Roland Graeme--"By my faith, Douglas," said he, turning to
his friend, "here have been three at counsel!"
"Ay, but only two can keep counsel," said Morton; "the galliard must
be disposed of."
"For shame, Morton--an orphan boy!--Hearken thee, my child--Thou
hast told me some of thy accomplishments--canst thou speak truth?"
"Ay, my lord, when it serves my turn," replied Graeme.
"It shall serve thy turn now," said the Regent; "and falsehood shall
be thy destruction. How much hast thou heard or understood of what we
two have spoken together?"
"But little, my lord," replied Roland Graeme boldly, "which met my
apprehension, saving that it seemed to me as if in something you
doubted the faith of the Knight of Avenel, under whose roof I was
"And what hast thou to say on that point, young man?" continued the
Regent, bending his eyes upon him with a keen and strong expression of
"That," said the page, "depends on the quality of those who speak
against his honour whose bread I have long eaten. If they be my
inferiors, I say they lie, and will maintain what I say with my baton;
if my equals, still I say they lie, and will do battle in the quarrel,
if they list, with my sword; if my superiors"--he paused.
"Proceed boldly," said the Regent--"What if thy superiors said aught
that nearly touched your master's honour?"
"I would say," replied Graeme, "that he did ill to slander the absent,
and that my master was a man who could render an account of his
actions to any one who should manfully demand it of him to his face."
"And it were manfully said," replied the Regent--"what thinkest thou,
my Lord of Morton?"
"I think," replied Morton, "that if the young galliard resemble a
certain ancient friend of ours, as much in the craft of his
disposition as he does in eye and in brow, there may be a wide
difference betwixt what he means and what he speaks."
"And whom meanest thou that he resembles so closely?" said Murray.
"Even the true and trusty Julian Avenel," replied Morton.
"But this youth belongs to the Debateable Land," said Murray.
"It may be so; but Julian was an outlaying striker of venison, and
made many a far cast when he had a fair doe in chase."
"Pshaw!" said the Regent, "this is but idle talk--Here, thou
Hyndman--thou curiosity," calling to the usher, who now
entered,--"conduct this youth to his companion--You will both," he
said to Graeme, "keep yourselves in readiness to travel on short
notice."--And then motioning to him courteously to withdraw, he broke
up the interview.
Chapter the Nineteenth.
It is and is not--'tis the thing I sought for,
Have kneel'd for, pray'd for, risk'd my fame and life for,
And yet it is not--no more than the shadow
Upon the hard, cold, flat, and polished mirror,
Is the warm, graceful, rounded, living substance
Which it presents in form and lineament.
The usher, with gravity which ill concealed a jealous scowl, conducted
Roland Graeme to a lower apartment, where he found his comrade the
falconer. The man of office then briefly acquainted them that this
would be their residence till his Grace's farther orders; that they
were to go to the pantry, to the buttery, to the cellar, and to the
kitchen, at the usual hours, to receive the allowances becoming their
station,--instructions which Adam Woodcock's old familiarity with the
court made him perfectly understand--"For your beds," he said, "you
must go to the hostelry of Saint Michael's, in respect the palace is
now full of the domestics of the greater nobles."
No sooner was the usher's back turned than Adam exclaimed with all the
glee of eager curiosity, "And now, Master Roland, the news--the
news--come unbutton thy pouch, and give us thy tidings--What says the
Regent? asks he for Adam Woodcock?--and is all soldered up, or must
the Abbot of Unreason strap for it?"
"All is well in that quarter," said the page; "and for the rest--But,
hey-day, what! have you taken the chain and medal off from my bonnet?"
"And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is,
began to inquire what Popish trangam you were wearing.--By the mass,
the metal would have been confiscated for conscience-sake, like your
other rattle-trap yonder at Avenel, which Mistress Lilias bears about
on her shoes in the guise of a pair of shoe-buckles--This comes of
carrying Popish nicknackets about you."
"The jade!" exclaimed Roland Graeme, "has she melted down my rosary
into buckles for her clumsy hoofs, which will set off such a garnish
nearly as well as a cow's might?--But, hang her, let her keep
them--many a dog's trick have I played old Lilias, for want of having
something better to do, and the buckles will serve for a remembrance.
Do you remember the verjuice I put into the comfits, when old Wingate
and she were to breakfast together on Easter morning?"
"In troth do I, Master Roland--the major-domo's mouth was as crooked
as a hawk's beak for the whole morning afterwards, and any other page
in your room would have tasted the discipline of the porter's lodge
for it. But my Lady's favour stood between your skin and many a
jerking--Lord send you may be the better for her protection in such
"I am least grateful for it, Adam! and I am glad you put me in mind
"Well, but the news, my young master," said Woodcock, "spell me the
tidings--what are we to fly at next?--what did the Regent say to you?"
"Nothing that I am to repeat again," said Roland Graeme, shaking his
"Why, hey-day," said Adam, "how prudent we are become all of a sudden!
You have advanced rarely in brief space, Master Roland. You have well
nigh had your head broken, and you have gained your gold chain, and
you have made an enemy, Master Usher to wit, with his two legs like
hawks' perches, and you have had audience of the first man in the
realm, and bear as much mystery in your brow, as if you had flown in
the court-sky ever since you were hatched. I believe, in my soul, you
would run with a piece of the egg-shell on your head like the curlews,
which (I would we were after them again) we used to call whaups in the
Halidome and its neighbourhood. But sit thee down, boy; Adam Woodcock
was never the lad to seek to enter into forbidden secrets--sit thee
down, and I will go and fetch the vivers--I know the butler and the
pantler of old."
The good-natured falconer set forth upon his errand, busying himself
about procuring their refreshment; and, during his absence, Roland
Graeme abandoned himself to the strange, complicated, and yet
heart-stirring reflections, to which the events of the morning had
given rise. Yesterday he was of neither mark nor likelihood; a vagrant
boy, the attendant on a relative, of whose sane judgment he himself
had not the highest opinion; but now he had become, he knew not why,
or wherefore, or to what extent, the custodier, as the Scottish phrase
went, of some important state secret, in the safe keeping of which the
Regent himself was concerned. It did not diminish from, but rather
added to the interest of a situation so unexpected, that Roland
himself did not perfectly understand wherein he stood committed by the
state secrets, in which he had unwittingly become participator. On
the contrary, he felt like one who looks on a romantic landscape, of
which he sees the features for the first time, and then obscured with
mist and driving tempest. The imperfect glimpse which the eye catches
of rocks, trees, and other objects around him, adds double dignity to
these shrouded mountains and darkened abysses, of which the height,
depth, and extent, are left to imagination.
But mortals, especially at the well-appetized age which precedes
twenty years, are seldom so much engaged either by real or conjectural
subjects of speculation, but that their earthly wants claim their hour
of attention. And with many a smile did our hero, so the reader may
term him if he will, hail the re-appearance of his friend Adam
Woodcock, bearing on one platter a tremendous portion of boiled beef,
and on another a plentiful allowance of greens, or rather what the
Scotch call lang-kale. A groom followed with bread, salt, and the
other means of setting forth a meal; and when they had both placed on
the oaken table what they bore in their hands, the falconer observed,
that since he knew the court, it had got harder and harder every day
to the poor gentlemen and yeoman retainers, but that now it was an
absolute flaying of a flea for the hide and tallow. Such thronging to
the wicket, and such churlish answers, and such bare beef-bones, such
a shouldering at the buttery-hatch and cellarage, and nought to be
gained beyond small insufficient single ale, or at best with a single
straike of malt to counterbalance a double allowance of water--"By the
mass, though, my young friend," said he, while he saw the food
disappearing fast under Roland's active exertions, "it is not so to
well to lament for former times as to take the advantage of the
present, else we are like to lose on both sides."
So saying, Adam Woodcock drew his chair towards the table, unsheathed
his knife, (for every one carried that minister of festive
distribution for himself,) and imitated his young companion's example,
who for the moment had lost his anxiety for the future in the eager
satisfaction of an appetite sharpened by youth and abstinence.
In truth, they made, though the materials were sufficiently simple, a
very respectable meal, at the expense of the royal allowance; and Adam
Woodcock, notwithstanding the deliberate censure which he had passed
on the household beer of the palace, had taken the fourth deep draught
of the black jack ere he remembered him that he had spoken in its
dispraise. Flinging himself jollily and luxuriously back in an old
danske elbow-chair, and looking with careless glee towards the page,
extending at the same time his right leg, and stretching the other
easily over it, he reminded his companion that he had not yet heard
the ballad which he had made for the Abbot of Unreason's revel. And
accordingly he struck merrily up with
"The Pope, that pagan full of pride,
Has blinded us full lang."------
Roland Graeme, who felt no great delight, as may be supposed, in the
falconer's satire, considering its subject, began to snatch up his
mantle, and fling it around his shoulders, an action which instantly
interrupted the ditty of Adam Woodcock.
"Where the vengeance are you going now," he said, "thou restless
boy?--Thou hast quicksilver in the veins of thee to a certainty, and
canst no more abide any douce and sensible communing, than a hoodless
hawk would keep perched on my wrist!"
"Why, Adam," replied the page, "if you must needs know, I am about to
take a walk and look at this fair city. One may as well be still mewed
up in the old castle of the lake, if one is to sit the live-long night
between four walls, and hearken to old ballads."
"It is a new ballad--the Lord help thee!" replied Adam, "and that one
of the best that ever was matched with a rousing chorus."
"Be it so," said the page, "I will hear it another day, when the rain
is dashing against the windows, and there is neither steed stamping,
nor spur jingling, nor feather waving in the neighbourhood to mar my
marking it well. But, even now, I want to be in the world, and to look
"But the never a stride shall you go without me," said the falconer,
"until the Regent shall take you whole and sound off my hand; and so,
if you will, we may go to the hostelrie of Saint Michael's, and there
you will see company enough, but through the casement, mark you me;
for as to rambling through the street to seek Seytons and Leslies, and
having a dozen holes drilled in your new jacket with rapier and
poniard, I will yield no way to it."
"To the hostelrie of Saint Michael's, then, with all my heart," said
the page; and they left the palace accordingly, rendered to the
sentinels at the gate, who had now taken their posts for the evening,
a strict account of their names and business, were dismissed through a
small wicket of the close-barred portal, and soon reached the inn or
hostelrie of Saint Michael, which stood in a large court-yard, off the
main street, close under the descent of the Calton-hill. The place,
wide, waste, and uncomfortable, resembled rather an Eastern
caravansary, where men found shelter indeed, but were obliged to
supply themselves with every thing else, than one of our modern inns;
Where not one comfort shall to those be lost,
Who never ask, or never feel, the cost.
But still, to the inexperienced eye of Roland Graeme, the bustle and
confusion of this place of public resort, furnished excitement and
amusement. In the large room, into which they had rather found their
own way than been ushered by mine host, travellers and natives of the
city entered and departed, met and greeted, gamed or drank together,
forming the strongest contrast to the stern and monotonous order and
silence with which matters were conducted in the well-ordered
household of the Knight of Avenel. Altercation of every kind, from
brawling to jesting, was going on amongst the groups around them, and
yet the noise and mingled voices seemed to disturb no one and indeed
to be noticed by no others than by those who composed the group to
which the speaker belonged.
The falconer passed through the apartment to a projecting latticed
window, which formed a sort of recess from the room itself; and having
here ensconced himself and his companion, he called for some
refreshments; and a tapster, after he had shouted for the twentieth
time, accommodated him with the remains of a cold capon and a neat's
tongue, together with a pewter stoup of weak French vin-de-pays.
"Fetch a stoup of brandy-wine, thou knave--We will be jolly to-night,
Master Roland," said he, when he saw himself thus accommodated, "and
let care come to-morrow."
But Roland had eaten too lately to enjoy the good cheer; and feeling
his curiosity much sharper than his appetite, he made it his choice to
look out of the lattice, which overhung a large yard, surrounded by
the stables of the hostelrie, and fed his eyes on the busy sight
beneath, while Adam Woodcock, after he had compared his companion to
the "Laird of Macfarlane's geese, who liked their play better than
their meat," disposed of his time with the aid of cup and trencher,
occasionally humming the burden of his birth-strangled ballad, and
beating time to it with his fingers on the little round table. In this
exercise he was frequently interrupted by the exclamations of his
companion, as he saw something new in the yard beneath, to attract and
It was a busy scene, for the number of gentlemen and nobles who were
now crowded into the city, had filled all spare stables and places of
public reception with their horses and military attendants. There were
some score of yeomen, dressing their own or their masters' horses in
the yard, whistling, singing, laughing, and upbraiding each other, in
a style of wit which the good order of Avenel Castle rendered strange
to Roland Graeme's ears. Others were busy repairing their own arms, or
cleaning those of their masters. One fellow, having just bought a
bundle of twenty spears, was sitting in a corner, employed in painting
the white staves of the weapons with yellow and vermillion. Other
lacqueys led large stag-hounds, or wolf-dogs, of noble race, carefully
muzzled to prevent accidents to passengers. All came and went, mixed
together and separated, under the delighted eye of the page, whose
imagination had not even conceived a scene so gaily diversified with
the objects he had most pleasure in beholding; so that he was
perpetually breaking the quiet reverie of honest Woodcock, and the
mental progress which he was making in his ditty, by exclaiming, "Look
here, Adam--look at the bonny bay horse--Saint Anthony, what, a
gallant forehand he hath got!--and see the goodly gray, which yonder
fellow in the frieze-jacket is dressing as awkwardly as if he had
never touched aught but a cow--I would I were nigh him to teach him
his trade!--And lo you, Adam, the gay Milan armour that the yeoman is
scouring, all steel and silver, like our Knight's prime suit, of which
old Wingate makes such account--And see to yonder pretty wench, Adam,
who comes tripping through them all with her milk-pail--I warrant me
she has had a long walk from the loaning; she has a stammel waistcoat,
like your favourite Cicely Sunderland, Master Adam!"
"By my hood, lad," answered the falconer, "it is well for thee thou
wert brought up where grace grew. Even in the Castle of Avenel thou
wert a wild-blood enough, but hadst thou been nurtured here, within a
flight-shot of the Court, thou hadst been the veriest crack-hemp of a
page that ever wore feather in thy bonnet or steel by thy side: truly,
I wish it may end well with thee."
"Nay, but leave thy senseless humming and drumming, old Adam, and come
to the window ere thou hast drenched thy senses in the pint-pot there.
See here comes a merry minstrel with his crowd, and a wench with him,
that dances with bells at her ankles; and see, the yeomen and pages
leave their horses and the armour they were cleaning, and gather
round, as is very natural, to hear the music. Come, old Adam, we will
"You shall call me cutt if I do go down," said Adam; "you are near as
good minstrelsy as the stroller can make, if you had but the grace to
listen to it."
"But the wench in the stammel waistcoat is stopping too, Adam--by
heaven, they are going to dance! Frieze-jacket wants to dance with
stammel waistcoat, but she is coy and recusant."
Then suddenly changing his tone of levity into one of deep interest
and surprise, he exclaimed, "Queen of Heaven! what is it that I see!"
and then remained silent.
The sage Adam Woodcock, who was in a sort of languid degree amused
with the page's exclamations, even while he professed to despise them,
became at length rather desirous to set his tongue once more a-going,
that he might enjoy the superiority afforded by his own intimate
familiarity with all the circumstances which excited in his young
companion's mind so much wonderment.
"Well, then," he said at last, "what is it you do see, Master Roland,
that you have become mute all of a sudden?"
Roland returned no answer.
"I say, Master Roland Graeme," said the falconer, "it is manners in my
country for a man to speak when he is spoken to."
Roland Graeme remained silent.
"The murrain is in the boy," said Adam Woodcock, "he has stared out
his eyes, and talked his tongue to pieces, I think."
The falconer hastily drank off his can of wine, and came to Roland,
who stood like a statue, with his eyes eagerly bent on the court-yard,
though Adam Woodcock was unable to detect amongst the joyous scenes
which it exhibited aught that could deserve such devoted attention.
"The lad is mazed!" said the falconer to himself.
But Roland Graeme had good reasons for his surprise, though they were
not such as he could communicate to his companion.
The touch of the old minstrel's instrument, for he had already begun
to play, had drawn in several auditors from the street when one
entered the gate of the yard, whose appearance exclusively arrested
the attention of Roland Graeme. He was of his own age, or a good deal
younger, and from his dress and bearing might be of the same rank and
calling, having all the air of coxcombry and pretension, which
accorded with a handsome, though slight and low figure, and an elegant
dress, in part hid by a large purple cloak. As he entered, he cast a
glance up towards the windows, and, to his extreme astonishment, under
the purple velvet bonnet and white feather, Roland recognized the
features so deeply impressed on his memory, the bright and clustered
tresses, the laughing full blue eyes, the well-formed eyebrows, the
nose, with the slightest possible inclination to be aquiline, the ruby
lip, of which an arch and half-suppressed smile seemed the habitual
expression--in short, the form and face of Catherine Seyton; in man's
attire, however, and mimicking, as it seemed, not unsuccessfully, the
bearing of a youthful but forward page.
"Saint George and Saint Andrew!" exclaimed the amazed Roland Graeme to
himself, "was there ever such an audacious quean!--she seems a little
ashamed of her mummery too, for she holds the lap of her cloak to her
face, and her colour is heightened--but Santa Maria, how she threads
the throng, with as firm and bold a step as if she had never tied
petticoat round her waist!--Holy Saints! she holds up her riding-rod
as if she would lay it about some of their ears, that stand most in
her way--by the hand of my father! she bears herself like the very
model of pagehood.--Hey! what! sure she will not strike frieze-jacket
in earnest?" But he was not long left in doubt; for the lout whom he
had before repeatedly noticed, standing in the way of the bustling
page, and maintaining his place with clownish obstinacy or stupidity,
the advanced riding-rod was, without a moment's hesitation, sharply
applied to his shoulders, in a manner which made him spring aside,
rubbing the part of the body which had received so unceremonious a
hint that it was in the way of his betters. The party injured growled
forth an oath or two of indignation, and Roland Graeme began to think
of flying down stairs to the assistance of the translated Catherine;
but the laugh of the yard was against frieze-jacket, which indeed had,
in those days, small chance of fair play in a quarrel with velvet and
embroidery; so that the fellow, who was menial in the inn, slunk back
to finish his task of dressing the bonny gray, laughed at by all, but
most by the wench in the stammel waistcoat, his fellow-servant, who,
to crown his disgrace, had the cruelty to cast an applauding smile
upon the author of the injury, while, with a freedom more like the
milk-maid of the town than she of the plains, she accosted him
with--"Is there any one you want here, my pretty gentleman, that you
seem in such haste?"
"I seek a sprig of a lad," said the seeming gallant, "with a sprig of
holly in his cap, black hair, and black eyes, green jacket, and the
air of a country coxcomb--I have sought him through every close and
alley in the Canongate, the fiend gore him!"
"Why, God-a-mercy, Nun!" muttered Roland Graeme, much bewildered.
"I will inquire him presently out for your fair young worship," said
the wench of the inn.
"Do," said the gallant squire, "and if you bring me to him, you shall
have a groat to-night, and a kiss on Sunday when you have on a cleaner
"Why, God-a-mercy, Nun!" again muttered Roland, "this is a note
above E La."
In a moment after, the servant entered the room, and ushered in the
object of his surprise.
While the disguised vestal looked with unabashed brow, and bold and
rapid glance of her eye, through the various parties in the large old
room, Roland Graeme, who felt an internal awkward sense of bashful
confusion, which he deemed altogether unworthy of the bold and dashing
character to which he aspired, determined not to be browbeaten and put
down by this singular female, but to meet her with a glance of
recognition so sly, so penetrating, so expressively humorous, as
should show her at once he was in possession of her secret and master
of her fate, and should compel her to humble herself towards him, at
least into the look and manner of respectful and deprecating
This was extremely well planned; but just as Roland had called up the
knowing glance, the suppressed smile, the shrewd intelligent look,
which was to ensure his triumph, he encountered the bold, firm, and
steady gaze of his brother or sister-page, who, casting on him a
falcon glance, and recognizing him at once as the object of his
search, walked up with the most unconcerned look, the most free and
undaunted composure, and hailed him with "You, Sir Holly-top, I would
speak with you."
The steady coolness and assurance with which these words were uttered,
although the voice was the very voice he had heard at the old convent,
and although the features more nearly resembled those of Catharine
when seen close than when viewed from a distance, produced,
nevertheless, such a confusion in Roland's mind, that he became
uncertain whether he was not still under a mistake from the beginning;
the knowing shrewdness which should have animated his visage faded
into a sheepish bashfulness, and the half-suppressed but most
intelligible smile, became the senseless giggle of one who laughs to
cover his own disorder of ideas.
"Do they understand a Scotch tongue in thy country, Holly-top?" said
this marvellous specimen of metamorphosis. "I said I would speak with
"What is your business with my comrade, my young chick of the game?"
said Adam Woodcock, willing to step in to his companion's assistance,
though totally at a loss to account for the sudden disappearance of
all Roland's usual smartness and presence of mind.
"Nothing to you, my old cock of the perch," replied the gallant; "go
mind your hawk's castings. I guess by your bag and your gauntlet that
you are squire of the body to a sort of kites."
He laughed as he spoke, and the laugh reminded Roland so irresistibly
of the hearty fit of risibility, in which Catherine had indulged at
his expense when they first met in the old nunnery, that he could
scarce help exclaiming, "Catherine Seyton, by Heavens!"--He checked
the exclamation, however, and only said, "I think, sir, we two are not
totally strangers to each other."
"We must have met in our dreams then" said the youth; "and my days are
too busy to remember what I think on at nights."
"Or apparently to remember upon one day those whom you may have seen
on the preceding eve" said Roland Graeme.
The youth in his turn cast on him a look of some surprise, as he
replied, "I know no more of what you mean than does the horse I ride
on--if there be offence in your words, you shall find me ready to take
it as any lad in Lothian."
"You know well," said Roland, "though it pleases you to use the
language of a stranger, that with you I have no purpose to quarrel."
"Let me do mine errand, then, and be rid of you," said the page. "Step
hither this way, out of that old leathern fist's hearing."
They walked into the recess of the window, which Roland had left upon
the youth's entrance into the apartment. The messenger then turned his
back on the company, after casting a hasty and sharp glance around to
see if they were observed. Roland did the same, and the page in the
purple mantle thus addressed him, taking at the same time from under
his cloak a short but beautifully wrought sword, with the hilt and
ornaments upon the sheath of silver, massively chased and
over-gilded--"I bring you this weapon from a friend, who gives it you
under the solemn condition, that you will not unsheath it until you
are commanded by your rightful Sovereign. For your warmth of temper is
known, and the presumption with which you intrude yourself into the
quarrels of others; and, therefore, this is laid upon you as a penance
by those who wish you well, and whose hand will influence your destiny
for good or for evil. This is what I was charged to tell you. So if
you will give a fair word for a fair sword, and pledge your promise,
with hand and glove, good and well; and if not, I will carry back
Caliburn to those who sent it."
"And may I not ask who these are?" said Roland Graeme, admiring at the
same time the beauty of the weapon thus offered him.
"My commission in no way leads me to answer such a question," said he
of the purple mantle.
"But if I am offended" said Roland, "may I not draw to defend myself?"
"Not _this_ weapon," answered the sword-bearer; "but you have
your own at command, and, besides, for what do you wear your poniard?"
"For no good," said Adam Woodcock, who had now approached close to
them, "and that I can witness as well as any one."
"Stand back, fellow," said the messenger, "thou hast an intrusive
curious face, that will come by a buffet if it is found where it has
"A buffet, my young Master Malapert?" said Adam, drawing back,
however; "best keep down fist, or, by Our Lady, buffet will beget
"Be patient, Adam Woodcock," said Roland Graeme; "and let me pray you,
fair sir, since by such addition you choose for the present to be
addressed, may I not barely unsheathe this fair weapon, in pure
simplicity of desire to know whether so fair a hilt and scabbard are
matched with a befitting blade?"
"By no manner of means," said the messenger; "at a word, you must take
it under the promise that you never draw it until you receive the
commands of your lawful Sovereign, or you must leave it alone."
"Under that condition, and coming from your friendly hand, I accept of
the sword," said Roland, taking it from his hand; "but credit me, if
we are to work together in any weighty emprise, as I am induced to
believe, some confidence and openness on your part will be necessary
to give the right impulse to my zeal--I press for no more at present,
it is enough that you understand me."
"I understand you!" said the page, exhibiting the appearance of
unfeigned surprise in his turn,--"Renounce me if I do!--here you stand
jiggeting, and sniggling, and looking cunning, as if there were some
mighty matter of intrigue and common understanding betwixt you and me,
whom you never set your eyes on before!"
"What!" said Roland Graeme, "will you deny that we have met before?"
"Marry that I will, in any Christian court," said the other page.
"And will you also deny," said Roland, "that it was recommended to us
to study each other's features well, that in whatever disguise the
time might impose upon us, each should recognize in the other the
secret agent of a mighty work? Do not you remember, that Sister
Magdalen and Dame Bridget----"
The messenger here interrupted him, shrugging up his shoulders, with a
look of compassion, "Bridget and Magdalen! why, this is madness and
dreaming! Hark ye, Master Holly-top, your wits are gone on
wool-gathering; comfort yourself with a caudle, and thatch your
brain-sick noddle with a woollen night-cap, and so God be with you!"
As he concluded this polite parting address, Adam Woodcock, who was
again seated by the table on which stood the now empty can, said to
him, "Will you drink a cup, young man, in the way of courtesy, now you
have done your errand, and listen to a good song?" and without waiting
for an answer, he commenced his ditty,--
"The Pope, that pagan full of pride,
Hath blinded us full lang--"
It is probable that the good wine had made some innovation in the
falconer's brain, otherwise he would have recollected the danger of
introducing any thing like political or polemical pleasantry into a
public assemblage at a time when men's minds were in a state of great
irritability. To do him justice, he perceived his error, and stopped
short so soon as he saw that the word Pope had at once interrupted the
separate conversations of the various parties which were assembled in
the apartment; and that many began to draw themselves up, bridle, look
big, and prepare to take part in the impending brawl; while others,
more decent and cautious persons, hastily paid down their lawing, and
prepared to leave the place ere bad should come to worse.
And to worse it was soon likely to come; for no sooner did Woodcock's
ditty reach the ear of the stranger page, than, uplifting his
riding-rod, he exclaimed, "He who speaks irreverently of the Holy
Father of the church in my presence, is the cub of a heretic
wolf-bitch, and I will switch him as I would a mongrel-cur."
"And I will break thy young pate," said Adam, "if thou darest to lift
a finger to me." And then, in defiance of the young Drawcansir's
threats, with a stout heart and dauntless accent, he again uplifted
"The Pope, that pagan full of pride.
But Adam was able to proceed no farther, being himself unfortunately
blinded by a stroke of the impatient youth's switch across his eyes.
Enraged at once by the smart and the indignity, the falconer started
up, and darkling as he was, for his eyes watered too fast to permit
his seeing any thing, he would soon have been at close grips with his
insolent adversary, had not Roland Graeme, contrary to his nature,
played for once the prudent man and the peacemaker, and thrown himself
betwixt them, imploring Woodcock's patience. "You know not," he said,
"with whom you have to do.--And thou," addressing the messenger, who
stood scornfully laughing at Adam's rage, "get thee gone, whoever thou
art; if thou be'st what I guess thee, thou well knowest there are
earnest reasons why thou shouldst."
"Thou hast hit it right for once, Holly-top," said the gallant,
"though I guess you drew your bow at a venture.--Here, host, let this
yeoman have a bottle of wine to wash the smart out of his eyes--and
there is a French crown for him." So saying, he threw the piece of
money on the table, and left the apartment, with a quick yet steady
pace, looking firmly at right and left, as if to defy interruption:
and snapping his fingers at two or three respectable burghers, who,
declaring it was a shame that any one should be suffered to rant and
ruffle in defence of the Pope, were labouring to find the hilts of
their swords, which had got for the present unhappily entangled in the
folds of their cloaks. But, as the adversary was gone ere any of them
had reached his weapon, they did not think it necessary to unsheath
cold iron, but merely observed to each other, "This is more than
masterful violence, to see a poor man stricken in the face just for
singing a ballad against the whore of Babylon! If the Pope's champions
are to be bangsters in our very change-houses, we shall soon have the
old shavelings back again."
"The provost should look to it," said another, "and have some five or
six armed with partisans, to come in upon the first whistle, to teach
these gallants their lesson. For, look you, neighbour Lugleather, it
is not for decent householders like ourselves to be brawling with the
godless grooms and pert pages of the nobles, that are bred up to
little else save bloodshed and blasphemy."
"For all that, neighbour," said Lugleather, "I would have curried that
youngster as properly as ever I curried a lamb's hide, had not the
hilt of my bilbo been for the instant beyond my grasp; and before I
could turn my girdle, gone was my master!"
"Ay," said the others, "the devil go with him, and peace abide with
us--I give my rede, neighbours, that we pay the lawing, and be
stepping homeward, like brother and brother; for old Saint Giles's is
tolling curfew, and the street grows dangerous at night."
With that the good burghers adjusted their cloaks, and prepared for
their departure, while he that seemed the briskest of the three,
laying his hand on his Andrea Ferrara, observed, "that they that spoke
in the praise of the Pope on the High-gate of Edinburgh, had best
bring the sword of Saint Peter to defend them."
While the ill-humour excited by the insolence of the young aristocrat
was thus evaporating in empty menace, Roland Graeme had to control the
far more serious indignation of Adam Woodcock. "Why, man, it was but a
switch across the mazzard--blow your nose, dry your eyes, and you will
see all the better for it."
"By this light, which I cannot see," said Adam Woodcock, "thou hast
been a false friend to me, young man--neither taking up my rightful
quarrel, nor letting me fight it out myself."
"Fy for shame, Adam Woodcock," replied the youth, determined to turn
the tables on him, and become in turn the counsellor of good order and
peaceable demeanour--"I say, fy for shame!--Alas, that you will speak
thus! Here are you sent with me, to prevent my innocent youth getting
"I wish your innocent youth were cut short with a halter, with all my
heart," said Adam, who began to see which way the admonition tended.
--"And instead of setting before me," continued Roland, "an example of
patience and sobriety becoming the falconer of Sir Halbert
Glendinning, you quaff me off I know not how many flagons of ale,
besides a gallon of wine, and a full measure of strong waters."
"It was but one small pottle," said poor Adam, whom consciousness of
his own indiscretion now reduced to a merely defensive warfare.
"It was enough to pottle you handsomely, however," said the page--"And
then, instead of going to bed to sleep off your liquor, must you sit
singing your roistering songs about popes and pagans, till you have
got your eyes almost switched out of your head; and but for my
interference, whom your drunken ingratitude accuses of deserting you,
yon galliard would have cut your throat, for he was whipping out a
whinger as broad as my hand, and as sharp as a razor--And these are
lessons for an inexperienced youth!--Oh, Adam! out upon you! out upon
"Marry, amen, and with all my heart," said Adam; "out upon my folly
for expecting any thing but impertinent raillery from a page like
thee, that if he saw his father in a scrape, would laugh at him,
instead of lending him aid.
"Nay, but I will lend you aid," said the page, still laughing, "that
is, I will lend thee aid to thy chamber, good Adam, where thou shalt
sleep off wine and ale, ire and indignation, and awake the next
morning with as much fair wit as nature has blessed thee withal. Only
one thing I will warn thee, good Adam, that henceforth and for ever,
when thou railest at me for being somewhat hot at hand, and rather too
prompt to out with poniard or so, thy admonition shall serve as a
prologue to the memorable adventure of the switching of Saint
With such condoling expressions he got the crest-fallen falconer to
his bed, and then retired to his own pallet, where it was some time
ere he could fall asleep. If the messenger whom he had seen were
really Catherine Seyton, what a masculine virago and termagant must
she be! and stored with what an inimitable command of insolence and
assurance!--The brass on her brow would furbish the front of twenty
pages; "and I should know," thought Roland, "what that amounts to--And
yet, her features, her look, her light gait, her laughing eye, the art
with which she disposed the mantle to show no more of her limbs than
needs must be seen--I am glad she had at least that grace left--the
voice, the smile--it must have been Catherine Seyton, or the devil in
her likeness! One thing is good, I have silenced the eternal
predications of that ass, Adam Woodcock, who has set up for being a
preacher and a governor, over me, so soon as he has left the hawks'
mew behind him."
And with this comfortable reflection, joined to the happy indifference
which youth hath for the events of the morrow, Roland Graeme fell fast
Chapter the Twentieth.
Now have you reft me from my staff, my guide,
Who taught my youth, as men teach untamed falcons,
To use my strength discreetly--I am reft
Of comrade and of counsel.
In the gray of the next morning's dawn, there was a loud knocking at
the gate of the hostelrie; and those without, proclaiming that they
came in the name of the Regent, were instantly admitted. A moment or
two afterwards, Michael Wing-the-wind stood by the bedside of our
"Up! up!" he said, "there is no slumber where Murray hath work
Both sleepers sprung up, and began to dress themselves.
"You, old friend," said Wing-the-wind to Adam Woodcock, "must to horse
instantly, with this packet to the Monks of Kennaquhair; and with
this," delivering them as he spoke, "to the Knight of Avenel."
"As much as commanding the monks to annul their election, I'll warrant
me, of an Abbot," quoth Adam Woodcock, as he put the packets into his
bag, "and charging my master to see it done--To hawk at one brother
with another, is less than fair play, methinks."
"Fash not thy beard about it, old boy," said Michael, "but betake thee
to the saddle presently; for if these orders are not obeyed, there
will be bare walls at the Kirk of Saint Mary's, and it may be at the
Castle of Avenel to boot; for I heard my Lord of Morton loud with the
Regent, and we are at a pass that we cannot stand with him anent
"But," said Adam, "touching the Abbot of Unreason--what say they to
that outbreak--An they be shrewishly disposed, I were better pitch the
packets to Satan, and take the other side of the Border for my bield."
"Oh, that was passed over as a jest, since there was little harm
done.--But, hark thee, Adam," continued his comrade, "if there was a
dozen vacant abbacies in your road, whether of jest or earnest, reason
or unreason, draw thou never one of their mitres over thy brows.--The
time is not fitting, man!--besides, our Maiden longs to clip the neck
of a fat churchman."
"She shall never sheer mine in that capacity," said the falconer,
while he knotted the kerchief in two or three double folds around his
sunburnt bull-neck, calling out at the same time, "Master Roland,
Master Roland, make haste! we must back to perch and mew, and, thank
Heaven, more than our own wit, with our bones whole, and without a
stab in the stomach."
"Nay, but," said Wing-the-wind, "the page goes not back with you; the
Regent has other employment for him."
"Saints and sorrows!" exclaimed the falconer--"Master Roland Graeme to
remain here, and I to return to Avenel!--Why, it cannot be--the child
cannot manage himself in this wide world without me, and I question if
he will stoop to any other whistle than mine own; there are times I
myself can hardly bring him to my lure."
It was at Roland's tongue's end to say something concerning the
occasion they had for using mutually each other's prudence, but the
real anxiety which Adam evinced at parting with him, took away his
disposition to such ungracious raillery. The falconer did not
altogether escape, however, for, in turning his face towards the
lattice, his friend Michael caught a glimpse of it, and exclaimed, "I
prithee, Adam Woodcock, what hast thou been doing with these eyes of
thine? They are swelled to the starting from the socket!"
"Nought in the world," said he, after casting a deprecating glance at
Roland Graeme, "but the effect of sleeping in this d--ned truckle
without a pillow."
"Why, Adam Woodcock, thou must be grown strangely dainty," said his
old companion; "I have known thee sleep all night with no better
pillow than a bush of ling, and start up with the sun, as glegg as a
falcon; and now thine eyes resemble----"
"Tush, man, what signifies how mine eyes look now?" said Adam--"let us
but roast a crab-apple, pour a pottle of ale on it, and bathe our
throats withal, thou shalt see a change in me."
"And thou wilt be in heart to sing thy jolly ballad about the Pope,"
said his comrade.
"Ay, that I will," replied the falconer, "that is, when we have left
this quiet town five miles behind us, if you will take your hobby and
ride so far on my way."
"Nay, that I may not," said Michael--"I can but stop to partake your
morning draught, and see you fairly to horse--I will see that they
saddle them, and toast the crab for thee, without loss of time."
During his absence the falconer took the page by the hand--"May I
never hood hawk again," said the good-natured fellow, "if I am not as
sorry to part with you as if you were a child of mine own, craving
pardon for the freedom--I cannot tell what makes me love you so much,
unless it be for the reason that I loved the vicious devil of a brown
galloway nag whom my master the Knight called Satan, till Master
Warden changed his name to Seyton; for he said it was over boldness to
call a beast after the King of Darkness----"
"And," said the page, "it was over boldness in him, I trow, to call a
vicious brute after a noble family."
"Well," proceeded Adam, "Seyton or Satan, I loved that nag over every
other horse in the stable---There was no sleeping on his back--he was
for ever fidgeting, bolting, rearing, biting, kicking, and giving you
work to do, and maybe the measure of your back on the heather to the
boot of it all. And I think I love you better than any lad in the
castle, for the self-same qualities."
"Thanks, thanks, kind Adam. I regard myself bound to you for the
good estimation in which you hold me."
"Nay, interrupt me not," said the falconer--"Satan was a good nag--
But I say I think I shall call the two eyases after you, the one
Roland, and the other Graeme; and while Adam Woodcock lives, be sure
you have a friend--Here is to thee, my dear son."
Roland most heartily returned the grasp of the hand, and Woodcock,
having taken a deep draught, continued his farewell speech.
"There are three things I warn you against, Roland, now that you art
to tread this weary world without my experience to assist you. In the
first place, never draw dagger on slight occasion--every man's doublet
is not so well stuffed as a certain abbot's that you wot of. Secondly,
fly not at every pretty girl, like a merlin at a thrush--you will not
always win a gold chain for your labour--and, by the way, here I
return to you your fanfarona--keep it close, it is weighty, and may
benefit you at a pinch more ways than one. Thirdly, and to conclude,
as our worthy preacher says, beware of the pottle-pot--it has drenched
the judgment of wiser men than you. I could bring some instances of
it, but I dare say it needeth not; for if you should forget your own
mishaps, you will scarce fail to remember mine--And so farewell, my
Roland returned his good wishes, and failed not to send his humble
duty to his kind Lady, charging the falconer, at the same time, to
express his regret that he should have offended her, and his
determination so to bear him in the world that she would not be
ashamed of the generous protection she had afforded him.
The falconer embraced his young friend, mounted his stout, round-made,
trotting-nag, which the serving-man, who had attended him, held ready
at the door, and took the road to the southward. A sullen and heavy
sound echoed from the horse's feet, as if indicating the sorrow of the
good-natured rider. Every hoof-tread seemed to tap upon Roland's heart
as he heard his comrade withdraw with so little of his usual alert
activity, and felt that he was once more alone in the world.
He was roused from his reverie by Michael Wing-the-wind, who reminded
him that it was necessary they should instantly return to the palace,
as my Lord Regent went to the Sessions early in the morning. They went
thither accordingly, and Wing-the-wind, a favourite old domestic, who
was admitted nearer to the Regent's person and privacy, than many
whose posts were more ostensible, soon introduced Graeme into a small
matted chamber, where he had an audience of the present head of the
troubled State of Scotland. The Earl of Murray was clad in a
sad-coloured morning-gown, with a cap and slippers of the same cloth,
but, even in this easy deshabillé, held his sheathed rapier in his
hand, a precaution which he adopted when receiving strangers, rather
in compliance with the earnest remonstrances of his friends and
partisans, than from any personal apprehensions of his own. He
answered with a silent nod the respectful obeisance of the page, and
took one or two turns through the small apartment in silence, fixing
his keen eye on Roland, as if he wished to penetrate into his very
soul. At length he broke silence.
"Your name is, I think, Julian Graeme?"
"Roland Graeme, my lord, not Julian," replied the page.
"Right--I was misled by some trick of my memory--Roland Graeme, from
the Debateable Land.--Roland, thou knowest the duties which belong to
a lady's service?"
"I should know them, my lord," replied Roland, "having been bred so
near the person of my Lady of Avenel; but I trust never more to
practise them, as the Knight hath promised----"
"Be silent, young man," said the Regent, "I am to speak, and you to
hear and obey. It is necessary that, for some space at least, you
shall again enter into the service of a lady, who, in rank, hath no
equal in Scotland; and this service accomplished, I give thee my word
as Knight and Prince, that it shall open to you a course of ambition,
such as may well gratify the aspiring wishes of one whom circumstances
entitle to entertain much higher views than thou. I will take thee
into my household and near to my person, or, at your own choice, I
will give you the command of a foot-company--either is a preferment
which the proudest laird in the land might be glad to ensure for a
"May I presume to ask, my lord," said Roland, observing the Earl
paused for a reply, "to whom my poor services are in the first place
"You will be told hereafter," said the Regent; and then, as if
overcoming some internal reluctance to speak farther himself, he
added, "or why should I not myself tell you, that you are about to
enter into the service of a most illustrious--most unhappy lady--
into the service of Mary of Scotland."
"Of the Queen, my lord!" said the page, unable to suppress his
"Of her who was the Queen!" said Murray, with a singular mixture of
displeasure and embarrassment in his tone of voice. "You must be
aware, young man, that her son reigns in her stead."
He sighed from an emotion, partly natural, perhaps, and partly
"And am I to attend upon her Grace in her place of imprisonment, my
lord?" again demanded the page, with a straightforward and hardy
simplicity, which somewhat disconcerted the sage and powerful
"She is not imprisoned," answered Murray, angrily; "God forbid she
should--she is only sequestered from state affairs, and from the
business of the public, until the world be so effectually settled,
that she may enjoy her natural and uncontrolled freedom, without her
royal disposition being exposed to the practices of wicked and
designing men. It is for this purpose," he added, "that while she is
to be furnished, as right is, with such attendance as may befit her
present secluded state, it becomes necessary that those placed around
her, are persons on whose prudence I can have reliance. You see,
therefore, you are at once called on to discharge an office most
honourable in itself, and so to discharge it that you may make a
friend of the Regent of Scotland. Thou art, I have been told, a
singularly apprehensive youth; and I perceive by thy look, that thou
dost already understand what I would say on this matter. In this
schedule your particular points of duty are set down at length--but
the sum required of you is fidelity--I mean fidelity to myself and
to the state. You are, therefore, to watch every attempt which is
made, or inclination displayed, to open any communication with any of
the lords who have become banders in the west--with Hamilton,
Seyton, with Fleming, or the like. It is true that my gracious sister,
reflecting upon the ill chances that have happened to the state of
this poor kingdom, from evil counsellors who have abused her royal
nature in time past, hath determined to sequestrate herself from state
affairs in future. But it is our duty, as acting for and in the name
of our infant nephew, to guard against the evils which may arise from
any mutation or vacillation in her royal resolutions. Wherefore, it
will be thy duty to watch, and report to our lady mother, whose guest
our sister is for the present, whatever may infer a disposition to
withdraw her person from the place of security in which she is lodged,
or to open communication with those without. If, however, your
observation should detect any thing of weight, and which may exceed
mere suspicion, fail not to send notice by an especial messenger to me
directly, and this ring shall be thy warrant to order horse and men on
such service.--And now begone. If there be half the wit in thy head
that there is apprehension in thy look, thou fully comprehendest all
that I would say--Serve me faithfully, and sure as I am belted earl,
thy reward shall be great."
Roland Graeme made an obeisance, and was about to depart.
The Earl signed to him to remain. "I have trusted thee deeply," he
said, "young man, for thou art the only one of her suite who has been
sent to her by my own recommendation. Her gentlewomen are of her own
nomination--it were too hard to have barred her that privilege, though
some there were who reckoned it inconsistent with sure policy. Thou
art young and handsome. Mingle in their follies, and see they cover
not deeper designs under the appearance of female levity--if they do
mine, do thou countermine. For the rest, bear all decorum and respect
to the person of thy mistress--she is a princess, though a most
unhappy one, and hath been a queen! though now, alas! no longer such!
Pay, therefore, to her all honour and respect, consistent with thy
fidelity to the King and me--and now, farewell.--Yet stay--you travel
with Lord Lindesay, a man of the old world, rough and honest, though
untaught; see that thou offend him not, for he is not patient of
raillery, and thou, I have heard, art a crack-halter." This he said
with a smile, then added, "I could have wished the Lord Lindesay's
mission had been intrusted to some other and more gentle noble."
"And wherefore should you wish that, my lord?" said Morton, who even
then entered the apartment; "the council have decided for the
best--we have had but too many proofs of this lady's stubbornness of
mind, and the oak that resists the sharp steel axe, must be riven with
the rugged iron wedge.--And this is to be her page?--My Lord Regent
hath doubtless instructed you, young man, how you shall guide yourself
in these matters; I will add but a little hint on my part. You are
going to the castle of a Douglas, where treachery never thrives--the
first moment of suspicion will be the last of your life. My kinsman,
William Douglas, understands no raillery, and if he once have cause to
think you false, you will waver in the wind from the castle
battlements ere the sun set upon his anger.--And is the lady to have
an almoner withal?"
"Occasionally, Douglas," said the Regent; "it were hard to deny the
spiritual consolation which she thinks essential to her salvation."
"You are ever too soft hearted, my lord--What! a false priest to
communicate her lamentations, not only to our unfriends in Scotland,
but to the Guises, to Rome, to Spain, and I know not where!"
"Fear not," said the Regent, "we will take such order that no
treachery shall happen."
"Look to it then." said Morton; "you know my mind respecting the
wench you have consented she shall receive as a waiting-woman--one of
a family, which, of all others, has ever been devoted to her, and
inimical to us. Had we not been wary, she would have been purveyed of
a page as much to her purpose as her waiting-damsel. I hear a rumour
that an old mad Romish pilgrimer, who passes for at least half a saint
among them, was employed to find a fit subject."
"We have escaped that danger at least," said Murray, "and converted it
into a point of advantage, by sending this boy of Glendinning's--and
for her waiting-damsel, you cannot grudge her one poor maiden instead
of her four noble Marys and all their silken train?"
"I care not so much for the waiting-maiden," said Morton, "but I
cannot brook the almoner--I think priests of all persuasions are much
like each other--Here is John Knox, who made such a noble puller-down,
is ambitious of becoming a setter-up, and a founder of schools and
colleges out of the Abbey lands, and bishops' rents, and other spoils
of Rome, which the nobility of Scotland have won with their sword and
bow, and with which he would endow new hives to sing the old drone."
"John is a man of God," said the Regent, "and his scheme is a devout
The sedate smile with which this was spoken, left it impossible to
conjecture whether the words were meant in approbation, or in
derision, of the plan of the Scottish Reformer. Turning then to Roland
Graeme, as if he thought he had been long enough a witness of this
conversation, he bade him get him presently to horse, since my Lord of
Lindesay was already mounted. The page made his reverence, and left
Guided by Michael Wing-the-wind, he found his horse ready saddled and
prepared for the journey, in front of the palace porch, where hovered
about a score of men-at-arms, whose leader showed no small symptoms of
"Is this the jackanape page for whom we have waited thus long?" said
he to Wing-the-wind.--"And my Lord Ruthven will reach the castle long
Michael assented, and added, that the boy had been detained by the
Regent to receive some parting instructions. The leader made an
inarticulate sound in his throat, expressive of sullen acquiescence,
and calling to one of his domestic attendants, "Edward," said he,
"take the gallant into your charge, and let him speak with no one
He then addressed, by the title of Sir Robert, an elderly and
respectable-looking gentleman, the only one of the party who seemed
above the rank of a retainer or domestic, and observed, that they must
get to horse with all speed.
During this discourse, and while they were riding slowly along the
street of the suburb, Roland had time to examine more accurately the
looks and figure of the Baron, who was at their head.
Lord Lindesay of the Byres was rather touched than stricken with
years. His upright stature and strong limbs, still showed him fully
equal to all the exertions and fatigues of war. His thick eyebrows,
now partially grizzled, lowered over large eyes full of dark fire,
which seemed yet darker from the uncommon depth at which they were set
in his head. His features, naturally strong and harsh, had their
sternness exaggerated by one or two scars received in battle. These
features, naturally calculated to express the harsher passions, were
shaded by an open steel cap, with a projecting front, but having no
visor, over the gorget of which fell the black and grizzled beard of
the grim old Baron, and totally hid the lower part of his face. The
rest of his dress was a loose buff-coat, which had once been lined
with silk and adorned with embroidery, but which seemed much stained
with travel, and damaged with cuts, received probably in battle. It
covered a corslet, which had once been of polished steel, fairly
gilded, but was now somewhat injured with rust. A sword of antique
make and uncommon size, framed to be wielded with both hands, a kind
of weapon which was then beginning to go out of use, hung from his
neck in a baldrick, and was so disposed as to traverse his whole
person, the huge hilt appearing over his left shoulder, and the point
reaching well-nigh to the right heel, and jarring against his spur as
he walked. This unwieldy weapon could only be unsheathed by pulling
the handle over the left shoulder--for no human arm was long enough
to draw it in the usual manner. The whole equipment was that of a rude
warrior, negligent of his exterior even to misanthropical sullenness;
and the short, harsh, haughty tone, which he used towards his
attendants, belonged to the same unpolished character.
The personage who rode with Lord Lindesay, at the head of the party,
was an absolute contrast to him, in manner, form, and features. His
thin and silky hair was already white, though he seemed not above
forty-five or fifty years old. His tone of voice was soft and
insinuating--his form thin, spare, and bent by an habitual stoop--
his pale cheek was expressive of shrewdness and intelligence--his
eye was quick though placid, and his whole demeanour mild and
conciliatory. He rode an ambling nag, such as were used by ladies,
clergymen, or others of peaceful professions--wore a riding habit of
black velvet, with a cap and feather of the same hue, fastened up by a
golden medal--and for show, and as a mark of rank rather than for
use, carried a walking-sword, (as the short light rapiers were
called,) without any other arms, offensive or defensive.
The party had now quitted the town, and proceeded, at a steady trot,
towards the west.--As they prosecuted their journey, Roland Graeme
would gladly have learned something of its purpose and tendency, but
the countenance of the personage next to whom he had been placed in
the train, discouraged all approach to familiarity. The Baron himself
did not look more grim and inaccessible than his feudal retainer,
whose grisly beard fell over his mouth like the portcullis before the
gate of a castle, as if for the purpose of preventing the escape of
any word, of which absolute necessity did not demand the utterance.
The rest of the train seemed under the same taciturn influence, and
journeyed on without a word being exchanged amongst them--more like a
troop of Carthusian friars than a party of military retainers. Roland
Graeme was surprised at this extremity of discipline; for even in the
household of the Knight of Avenel, though somewhat distinguished for
the accuracy with which decorum was enforced, a journey was a period
of license, during which jest and song, and every thing within the
limits of becoming mirth and pastime were freely permitted. This
unusual silence was, however, so far acceptable, that it gave him time
to bring any shadow of judgment which he possessed to council on his
own situation and prospects, which would have appeared to any
reasonable person in the highest degree dangerous and perplexing.
It was quite evident that he had, through various circumstances not
under his own control, formed contradictory connexions with both the
contending factions, by whose strife the kingdom was distracted,
without being properly an adherent of either. It seemed also clear,
that the same situation in the household of the deposed Queen, to
which he was now promoted by the influence of the Regent, had been
destined to him by his enthusiastic grandmother, Magdalen Graeme; for
on this subject, the words which Morton had dropped had been a ray of
light; yet it was no less clear that these two persons, the one the
declared enemy, the other the enthusiastic votary, of the Catholic
religion,--the one at the head of the King's new government, the
other, who regarded that government as a criminal usurpation--must
have required and expected very different services from the individual
whom they had thus united in recommending. It required very little
reflection to foresee that these contradictory claims on his services
might speedily place him in a situation where his honour as well as
his life might be endangered. But it was not in Roland Graeme's
nature to anticipate evil before it came, or to prepare to combat
difficulties before they arrived. "I will see this beautiful and
unfortunate Mary Stewart," said he, "of whom we have heard so much,
and then there will be time enough to determine whether I will be
kingsman or queensman. None of them can say I have given word or
promise to either of their factions; for they have led me up and down
like a blind Billy, without giving me any light into what I was to do.
But it was lucky that grim Douglas came into the Regent's closet this
morning, otherwise I had never got free of him without plighting my
troth to do all the Earl would have me, which seemed, after all, but
foul play to the poor imprisoned lady, to place her page as an espial
Skipping thus lightly over a matter of such consequence, the thoughts
of the hare-brained boy went a wool-gathering after more agreeable
topics. Now he admired the Gothic towers of Barnbougle, rising from
the seabeaten rock, and overlooking one of the most glorious
landscapes in Scotland--and now he began to consider what notable
sport for the hounds and the hawks must be afforded by the variegated
ground over which they travelled--and now he compared the steady and
dull trot at which they were then prosecuting their journey, with the
delight of sweeping over hill and dale in pursuit of his favourite
sports. As, under the influence of these joyous recollections, he gave
his horse the spur, and made him execute a gambade, he instantly
incurred the censure of his grave neighbour, who hinted to him to keep
the pace, and move quietly and in order, unless he wished such notice
to be taken of his eccentric movements as was likely to be very
displeasing to him.
The rebuke and the restraint under which the youth now found himself,
brought back to his recollection his late good-humoured and
accommodating associate and guide, Adam Woodcock; and from that topic
his imagination made a short flight to Avenel Castle, to the quiet and
unconfined life of its inhabitants, the goodness of his early
protectress, not forgetting the denizens of its stables, kennels, and
hawk-mews. In a brief space, all these subjects of meditation gave way
to the resemblance of that riddle of womankind, Catherine Seyton, who
appeared before the eye of his mind--now in her female form, now in
her male attire--now in both at once--like some strange dream, which
presents to us the same individual under two different characters at
the same instant. Her mysterious present also recurred to his
recollection--the sword which he now wore at his side, and which he
was not to draw save by command of his legitimate Sovereign! But the
key of this mystery he judged he was likely to find in the issue of
his present journey.
With such thoughts passing through his mind, Roland Graeme accompanied
the party of Lord Lindesay to the Queen's-Ferry, which they passed in
vessels that lay in readiness for them. They encountered no adventure
whatever in their passage, excepting one horse being lamed in getting
into the boat, an accident very common on such occasions, until a few
years ago, when the ferry was completely regulated. What was more
peculiarly characteristic of the olden age, was the discharge of a
culverin at the party from the battlements of the old castle of
Rosythe, on the north side of the Ferry, the lord of which happened to
have some public or private quarrel with the Lord Lindesay, and took
this mode of expressing his resentment. The insult, however, as it
was harmless, remained unnoticed and unavenged, nor did any thing else
occur worth notice until the band had come where Lochleven spread its
magnificent sheet of waters to the beams of a bright summer's sun.
The ancient castle, which occupies an island nearly in the centre of
the lake, recalled to the page that of Avenel, in which he had been
nurtured. But the lake was much larger, and adorned with several
islets besides that on which the fortress was situated; and instead of
being embosomed in hills like that of Avenel, had upon the southern
side only a splendid mountainous screen, being the descent of one of
the Lomond hills, and on the other was surrounded by the extensive and
fertile plain of Kinross. Roland Graeme looked with some degree of
dismay on the water-girdled fortress, which then, as now, consisted
only of one large donjon-keep, surrounded with a court-yard, with two
round flanking-towers at the angles, which contained within its
circuit some other buildings of inferior importance. A few old trees,
clustered together near the castle, gave some relief to the air of
desolate seclusion; but yet the page, while he gazed upon a building
so sequestrated, could not but feel for the situation of a captive
Princess doomed to dwell there, as well as for his own. "I must have
been born," he thought, "under the star that presides over ladies and
lakes of water, for I cannot by any means escape from the service of
the one, or from dwelling in the other. But if they allow me not the
fair freedom of my sport and exercise, they shall find it as hard to
confine a wild-drake, as a youth who can swim like one."
The band had now reached the edge of the water, and one of the party
advancing displayed Lord Lindesay's pennon, waving it repeatedly to
and fro, while that Baron himself blew a clamorous blast on his bugle.
A banner was presently displayed from the roof of the castle in reply
to these signals, and one or two figures were seen busied as if
unmooring a boat which lay close to the islet.
"It will be some time ere they can reach us with the boat," said the
companion of Lord Lindesay; "should we not do well to proceed to the
town, and array ourselves in some better order, ere we appear
"You may do as you list, Sir Robert," replied Lindesay, "I have
neither time nor temper to waste on such vanities. She has cost me
many a hard ride, and must not now take offence at the threadbare
cloak and soiled doublet that I am arrayed in. It is the livery to
which she has brought all Scotland."
"Do not speak so harshly," said Sir Robert; "if she hath done wrong,
she hath dearly abied it; and in losing all real power, one would not
deprive her of the little external homage due at once to a lady and a
"I say to you once more, Sir Robert Melville," replied Lindesay, "do
as you will--for me, I am now too old to dink myself as a gallant to
grace the bower of dames."
"The bower of dames, my lord!" said Melville, looking at the rude old
tower--"is it yon dark and grated castle, the prison of a captive
Queen, to which you give so gay a name?"
"Name it as you list," replied Lindesay; "had the Regent desired to
send an envoy capable to speak to a captive Queen, there are many
gallants in his court who would have courted the occasion to make
speeches out of Amadis of Gaul, or the Mirror of Knighthood. But when
he sent blunt old Lindesay, he knew he would speak to a misguided
woman, as her former misdoings and her present state render necessary.
I sought not this employment--it has been thrust upon me; and I will
not cumber myself with more form in the discharge of it, than needs
must be tacked to such an occupation."
So saying, Lord Lindesay threw himself from horseback, and wrapping
his riding-cloak around him, lay down at lazy length upon the sward,
to await the arrival of the boat, which was now seen rowing from the
castle towards the shore. Sir Robert Melville, who had also
dismounted, walked at short turns to and fro upon the bank, his arms
crossed on his breast, often looking to the castle, and displaying in
his countenance a mixture of sorrow and of anxiety. The rest of the
party sate like statues on horseback, without moving so much as the
points of their lances, which they held upright in the air.
As soon as the boat approached a rude quay or landing-place, near to
which they had stationed themselves, Lord Lindesay started up from his
recumbent posture, and asked the person who steered, why he had not
brought a larger boat with him to transport his retinue.
"So please you," replied the boatman, "because it is the order of our
lady, that we bring not to the castle more than four persons."
"Thy lady is a wise woman," said Lindesay, "to suspect me of
treachery!--Or, had I intended it, what was to hinder us from throwing
you and your comrades into the lake, and filling the boat with my own
The steersman, on hearing this, made a hasty signal to his men to back
their oars, and hold off from the shore which they were approaching.
"Why, thou ass," said Lindesay, "thou didst not think that I meant thy
fool's head serious harm? Hark thee, friend--with fewer than three
servants I will go no whither--Sir Robert Melville will require at
least the attendance of one domestic; and it will be at your peril and
your lady's to refuse us admission, come hither as we are, on matters
of great national concern."
The steersman answered with firmness, but with great civility of
expression, that his orders were positive to bring no more than four
into the island, but he offered to row back to obtain a revisal of his
"Do so, my friend," said Sir Robert Melville, after he had in vain
endeavoured to persuade his stubborn companion to consent to a
temporary abatement of his train, "row back to the castle, sith it
will be no better, and obtain thy lady's orders to transport the Lord
Lindesay, myself, and our retinue hither."
"And hearken," said Lord Lindesay, "take with you this page, who comes
as an attendant on your lady's guest.--Dismount, sirrah," said he,
addressing Roland, "and embark with them in that boat."
"And what is to become of my horse?" said Graeme; "I am answerable
for him to my master."
"I will relieve you of the charge," said Lindesay; "thou wilt have
little enough to do with horse, saddle, or bridle, for ten years to
come--Thou mayst take the halter an thou wilt--it may stand thee in a
"If I thought so," said Roland--but he was interrupted by Sir Robert
Melville, who said to him good-humouredly, "Dispute it not, young
friend--resistance can do no good, but may well run thee into danger."
Roland Graeme felt the justice of what he said, and, though neither
delighted with the matter or manner of Lindesay's address, deemed it
best to submit to necessity, and to embark without farther
remonstrance. The men plied their oars. The quay, with the party of
horse stationed near it, receded from the page's eyes--the castle and
the islet seemed to draw near in the same proportion, and in a brief
space he landed under the shadow of a huge old tree which overhung the
landing place. The steersman and Graeme leaped ashore; the boatmen
remained lying on their oars ready for farther service.
Chapter the Twenty-First.
Could valour aught avail or people's love,
France had not wept Navarre's brave Henry slain;
If wit or beauty could compassion move,
The rose of Scotland had not wept in vain.
_Elegy in a Royal Mausoleum._ LEWIS.
At the gate of the court-yard of Lochleven appeared the stately form
of the Lady Lochleven, a female whose early charms had captivated
James V., by whom she became mother of the celebrated Regent Murray.
As she was of noble birth (being a daughter of the house of Mar) and
of great beauty, her intimacy with James did not prevent her being
afterwards sought in honourable marriage by many gallants of the time,
among whom she had preferred Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. But
well has it been said
----"Our pleasant vices
Are made the whips to scourge us"---
The station which the Lady of Lochleven now held as the wife of a man
of high rank and interest, and the mother of a lawful family, did not
prevent her nourishing a painful sense of degradation, even while she
was proud of the talents, the power, and the station of her son, now
prime ruler of the state, but still a pledge of her illicit
intercourse. "Had James done to her," she said, in her secret heart,
"the justice he owed her, she had seen in her son, as a source of
unmixed delight and of unchastened pride, the lawful monarch of
Scotland, and one of the ablest who ever swayed the sceptre." The
House of Mar, not inferior in antiquity or grandeur to that of
Drummond, would then have also boasted a Queen among its daughters,
and escaped the stain attached to female frailty, even when it has a
royal lover for its apology. While such feelings preyed on a bosom
naturally proud and severe, they had a corresponding effect on her
countenance, where, with the remains of great beauty, were mingled
traits of inward discontent and peevish melancholy. It perhaps
contributed to increase this habitual temperament, that the Lady
Lochleven had adopted uncommonly rigid and severe views of religion,
imitating in her ideas of reformed faith the very worst errors of the
Catholics, in limiting the benefit of the gospel to those who profess
their own speculative tenets.
In every respect, the unfortunate Queen Mary, now the compulsory
guest, or rather prisoner, of this sullen lady, was obnoxious to her
hostess. Lady Lochleven disliked her as the daughter of Mary of
Guise, the legal possessor of those rights over James's heart and
hand, of which she conceived herself to have been injuriously
deprived; and yet more so as the professor of a religion which she
detested worse than Paganism.
Such was the dame, who, with stately mien, and sharp yet handsome
features, shrouded by her black velvet coif, interrogated the domestic
who steered her barge to the shore, what had become of Lindesay and
Sir Robert Melville. The man related what had passed, and she smiled
scornfully as she replied, "Fools must be flattered, not foughten
with.--Row back--make thy excuse as thou canst--say Lord Ruthven hath
already reached this castle, and that he is impatient for Lord
Lindesay's presence. Away with thee, Randal--yet stay--what galopin
is that thou hast brought hither?"
"So please you, my lady, he is the page who is to wait upon----"
"Ay, the new male minion," said the Lady Lochleven; "the female
attendant arrived yesterday. I shall have a well-ordered house with
this lady and her retinue; but I trust they will soon find some others
to undertake such a charge. Begone, Randal--and you" (to Roland
Graeme) "follow me to the garden."
She led the way with a slow and stately step to the small garden,
which, enclosed by a stone wall ornamented with statues, and an
artificial fountain in the centre, extended its dull parterres on the
side of the court-yard, with which it communicated by a low and arched
portal. Within the narrow circuit of its formal and limited walks,
Mary Stewart was now learning to perform the weary part of a prisoner,
which, with little interval, she was doomed to sustain during the
remainder of her life. She was followed in her slow and melancholy
exercise by two female attendants; but in the first glance which
Roland Graeme bestowed upon one so illustrious by birth, so
distinguished by her beauty, accomplishments, and misfortunes, he was
sensible of the presence of no other than the unhappy Queen of
Her face, her form, have been so deeply impressed upon the
imagination, that even at the distance of nearly three centuries, it
is unnecessary to remind the most ignorant and uninformed reader of
the striking traits which characterize that remarkable countenance,
which seems at once to combine our ideas of the majestic, the
pleasing, and the brilliant, leaving us to doubt whether they express
most happily the queen, the beauty, or the accomplished woman. Who is
there, that, at the very mention of Mary Stewart's name, has not her
countenance before him, familiar as that of the mistress of his youth,
or the favourite daughter of his advanced age? Even those who feel
themselves compelled to believe all, or much, of what her enemies laid
to her charge, cannot think without a sigh upon a countenance
expressive of anything rather than the foul crimes with which she was
charged when living, and which still continue to shade, if not to
blacken, her memory. That brow, so truly open and regal--those
eyebrows, so regularly graceful, which yet were saved from the charge
of regular insipidity by the beautiful effect of the hazel eyes which
they overarched, and which seem to utter a thousand histories--the
nose, with all its Grecian precision of outline--the mouth, so well
proportioned, so sweetly formed, as if designed to speak nothing but
what was delightful to hear--the dimpled chin--the stately swan-like
neck, form a countenance, the like of which we know not to have
existed in any other character moving in that class of life, where the
actresses as well as the actors command general and undivided
attention. It is in vain to say that the portraits which exist of this
remarkable woman are not like each other; for, amidst their
discrepancy, each possesses general features which the eye at once
acknowledges as peculiar to the vision which our imagination has
raised while we read her history for the first time, and which has
been impressed upon it by the numerous prints and pictures which we
have seen. Indeed we cannot look on the worst of them, however
deficient in point of execution, without saying that it is meant for
Queen Mary; and no small instance it is of the power of beauty, that
her charms should have remained the subject not merely of admiration,
but of warm and chivalrous interest, after the lapse of such a length
of time. We know that by far the most acute of those who, in latter
days, have adopted the unfavourable view of Mary's character, longed,
like the executioner before his dreadful task was performed, to kiss
the fair hand of her on whom he was about to perform so horrible a
Dressed, then, in a deep mourning robe, and with all those charms of
face, shape, and manner, with which faithful tradition has made each
reader familiar, Mary Stewart advanced to meet the Lady of Lochleven,
who, on her part, endeavoured to conceal dislike and apprehension
under the appearance of respectful indifference. The truth was, that
she had experienced repeatedly the Queen's superiority in that species
of disguised yet cutting sarcasm, with which women can successfully
avenge themselves, for real and substantial injuries. It may be well
doubted, whether this talent was not as fatal to its possessor as the
many others enjoyed by that highly gifted, but most unhappy female;
for, while it often afforded her a momentary triumph over her keepers,
it failed not to exasperate their resentment; and the satire and
sarcasm in which she had indulged were frequently retaliated by the
deep and bitter hardships which they had the power of inflicting. It
is well known that her death was at length hastened by a letter which
she wrote to Queen Elizabeth, in which she treated her jealous rival,
and the Countess of Shrewsbury, with the keenest irony and ridicule.
As the ladies met together, the Queen said, bending her head at the
same time, in return to the obeisance of the Lady Lochleven, "We are
this day fortunate--we enjoy the company of our amiable hostess at an
unusual hour, and during a period which we have hitherto been
permitted to give to our private exercise. But our good hostess knows
well she has at all times access to our presence, and need not observe
the useless ceremony of requiring our permission."
"I am sorry my presence is deemed an intrusion by your Grace," said
the Lady of Lochleven. "I came but to announce the arrival of an
addition to your train," motioning with her hand towards Roland
Graeme; "a circumstance to which ladies are seldom indifferent."
"Oh! I crave your ladyship's pardon; and am bent to the earth with
obligations for the kindness of my nobles--or my sovereigns, shall I
call them?--who have permitted me such a respectable addition to my
"They have indeed studied, Madam," said the Lady of Lochleven, "to
show their kindness towards your Grace--something at the risk perhaps
of sound policy, and I trust their doings will not be misconstrued."
"Impossible!" said the Queen; "the bounty which permits the daughter
of so many kings, and who yet is Queen of the realm, the attendance of
two waiting-women and a boy, is a grace which Mary Stewart can never
sufficiently acknowledge. Why! my train will be equal to that of any
country dame in this your kingdom of Fife, saving but the lack of a
gentleman-usher, and a pair or two of blue-coated serving-men. But I
must not forget, in my selfish joy, the additional trouble and charges
to which this magnificent augmentation of our train will put our kind
hostess, and the whole house of Lochleven. It is this prudent anxiety,
I am aware, which clouds your brows, my worthy lady. But be of good
cheer; the crown of Scotland has many a fair manor, and your
affectionate son, and my no less affectionate brother, will endow the
good knight your husband with the best of them, ere Mary should be
dismissed from this hospitable castle from your ladyship's lack of
means to support the charges."
"The Douglasses of Lochleven, madam," answered the lady, "have known
for ages how to discharge their duty to the State, without looking for
reward, even when the task was both irksome and dangerous."
"Nay! but, my dear Lochleven," said the Queen, "you are over
scrupulous--I pray you accept of a goodly manor; what should support
the Queen of Scotland in this her princely court, saving her own
crown-lands--and who should minister to the wants of a mother, save an
affectionate son like the Earl of Murray, who possesses so wonderfully
both the power and inclination?--Or said you it was the danger of the
task which clouded your smooth and hospitable brow?--No doubt, a page
is a formidable addition to my body-guard of females; and I bethink me
it must have been for that reason that my Lord of Lindesay refused
even now to venture within the reach of a force so formidable, without
being attended by a competent retinue."
The Lady Lochleven started, and looked something surprised; and Mary
suddenly changing her manner from the smooth ironical affectation of
mildness to an accent of austere command, and drawing up at the same
time her fine person, said, with the full majesty of her rank, "Yes!
Lady of Lochleven; I know that Ruthven is already in the castle, and
that Lindesay waits on the bank the return of your barge to bring him
hither along with Sir Robert Melville. For what purpose do these