Part 6 out of 10
nobles come--and why am I not in ordinary decency apprised of their
"Their purpose, madam," replied the Lady of Lochleven, "they must
themselves explain--but a formal annunciation were needless, where
your Grace hath attendants who can play the espial so well."
"Alas! poor Fleming," said the Queen, turning to the elder of the
female attendants, "thou wilt be tried, condemned, and gibbeted, for a
spy in the garrison, because thou didst chance to cross the great hall
while my good Lady of Lochleven was parleying at the full pitch of her
voice with her pilot Randal. Put black wool in thy ears, girl, as you
value the wearing of them longer. Remember, in the Castle of
Lochleven, ears and tongues are matters not of use, but for show
merely. Our good hostess can hear, as well as speak, for us all. We
excuse your farther attendance, my lady hostess," she said, once more
addressing the object of her resentment, "and retire to prepare for an
interview with our rebel lords. We will use the ante-chamber of our
sleeping apartment as our hall of audience. You, young man," she
proceeded, addressing Roland Graeme, and at once softening the
ironical sharpness of her manner into good-humoured raillery, "you,
who are all our male attendance, from our Lord High Chamberlain down
to our least galopin, follow us to prepare our court."
She turned, and walked slowly towards the castle. The Lady of
Lochleven folded her arms, and smiled in bitter resentment, as she
watched her retiring steps.
"The whole male attendance!" she muttered, repeating the Queen's last
words, "and well for thee had it been had thy train never been
larger;" then turning to Roland, in whose way she had stood while
making this pause, she made room for him to pass, saying at the same
time, "Art thou already eaves-dropping? follow thy mistress, minion,
and, if thou wilt, tell her what I have now said."
Roland Graeme hastened after his royal mistress and her attendants,
who had just entered a postern-gate communicating betwixt the castle
and the small garden. They ascended a winding-stair as high as the
second story, which was in a great measure occupied by a suite of
three rooms, opening into each other, and assigned as the dwelling of
the captive Princess. The outermost was a small hall or ante-room,
within which opened a large parlour, and from that again the Queen's
bedroom. Another small apartment, which opened into the same parlour,
contained the beds of the gentlewomen in waiting.
Roland Graeme stopped, as became his station, in the outermost of
these apartments, there to await such orders as might be communicated
to him. From the grated window of the room he saw Lindesay, Melville,
and their followers disembark; and observed that they were met at the
castle gate by a third noble, to whom Lindesay exclaimed, in his loud
harsh voice, "My Lord of Ruthven, you have the start of us!"
At this instant, the page's attention was called to a burst of
hysterical sobs from the inner apartment, and to the hurried
ejaculations of the terrified females, which led him almost instantly
to hasten to their assistance. When he entered, he saw that the Queen
had thrown herself into the large chair which stood nearest the door,
and was sobbing for breath in a strong fit of hysterical affection.
The elder female supported her in her arms, while the younger bathed
her face with water and with tears alternately.
"Hasten, young man!" said the elder lady, in alarm, "fly--call in
assistance--she is swooning!"
But the Queen ejaculated in a faint and broken voice, "Stir not, I
charge you!--call no one to witness--I am better--I shall
recover instantly." And, indeed, with an effort which seemed like that
of one struggling for life, she sate up in her chair, and endeavoured
to resume her composure, while her features yet trembled with the
violent emotion of body and mind which she had undergone. "I am
ashamed of my weakness, girls," she said, taking the hands of her
attendants; "but it is over--and I am Mary Stewart once more. The
savage tone of that man's voice--my knowledge of his insolence--
the name which he named--the purpose for which they come--may
excuse a moment's weakness, and it shall be a moment's only." She
snatched from her head the curch or cap, which had been disordered
during her hysterical agony, shook down the thick clustered tresses of
dark brown which had been before veiled under it--and, drawing her
slender fingers across the labyrinth which they formed, she arose from
the chair, and stood like the inspired image of a Grecian prophetess
in a mood which partook at once of sorrow and pride, of smiles and of
tears. "We are ill appointed," she said, "to meet our rebel subjects;
but, as far as we may, we will strive to present ourselves as becomes
their Queen. Follow me, my maidens," she said; "what says thy
favourite song, my Fleming?
'My maids, come to my dressing-bower,
And deck my nut-brown hair;
Where'er ye laid a plait before,
Look ye lay ten times 'mair.'
"Alas!" she added, when she had repeated with a smile these lines of an
old ballad, "violence has already robbed me of the ordinary
decorations of my rank; and the few that nature gave me have been
destroyed by sorrow and by fear." Yet while she spoke thus, she again
let her slender fingers stray through the wilderness of the beautiful
tresses which veiled her kingly neck and swelling bosom, as if, in her
agony of mind, she had not altogether lost the consciousness of her
unrivalled charms. Roland Graeme, on whose youth, inexperience, and
ardent sense of what was dignified and lovely, the demeanour of so
fair and high-born a lady wrought like the charm of a magician, stood
rooted to the spot with surprise and interest, longing to hazard his
life in a quarrel so fair as that which Mary Stewart's must needs be.
She had been bred in France--she was possessed of the most
distinguished beauty--she had reigned a Queen and a Scottish Queen, to
whom knowledge of character was as essential as the use of vital air.
In all these capacities, Mary was, of all women on the earth, most
alert at perceiving and using the advantages which her charms gave her
over almost all who came within the sphere of their influence. She
cast on Roland a glance which might have melted a heart of stone. "My
poor boy," she said, with a feeling partly real, partly politic, "thou
art a stranger to us--sent to this doleful captivity from the society
of some tender mother, or sister, or maiden, with whom you had freedom
to tread a gay measure round the Maypole. I grieve for you; but you
are the only male in my limited household--wilt thou obey my orders?"
"To the death, madam," said Graeme, in a determined tone.
"Then keep the door of mine apartment," said the Queen; "keep it till
they offer actual violence, or till we shall be fitly arrayed to
receive these intrusive visiters."
"I will defend it till they pass over my body," said Roland Graeme;
any hesitation which he had felt concerning the line of conduct he
ought to pursue being completely swept away by the impulse of the
"Not so, my good youth," answered Mary; "not so, I command. If I have
one faithful subject beside me, much need, God wot, I have to care for
his safety. Resist them but till they are put to the shame of using
actual violence, and then give way, I charge you. Remember my
commands." And, with a smile expressive at once of favour and of
authority, she turned from him, and, followed by her attendants,
entered the bedroom.
The youngest paused for half a second ere she followed her companion,
and made a signal to Roland Graeme with her hand. He had been already
long aware that this was Catherine Seyton--a circumstance which could
not much surprise a youth of quick intellects, who recollected the
sort of mysterious discourse which had passed betwixt the two matrons
at the deserted nunnery, and on which his meeting with Catherine in
this place seemed to cast so much light. Yet such was the engrossing
effect of Mary's presence, that it surmounted for the moment even the
feelings of a youthful lover; and it was not until Catherine Seyton
had disappeared, that Roland began to consider in what relation they
were to stand to each other. "She held up her hand to me in a
commanding manner," he thought; "perhaps she wanted to confirm my
purpose for the execution of the Queen's commands; for I think she
could scarce purpose to scare me with the sort of discipline which she
administered to the groom in the frieze-jacket, and to poor Adam
Woodcock. But we will see to that anon; meantime, let us do justice to
the trust reposed in us by this unhappy Queen. I think my Lord of
Murray will himself own that it is the duty of a faithful page to
defend his lady against intrusion on her privacy."
Accordingly, he stepped to the little vestibule, made fast, with lock
and bar, the door which opened from thence to the large staircase, and
then sat himself down to attend the result. He had not long to wait--a
rude and strong hand first essayed to lift the latch, then pushed and
shook the door with violence, and, when it resisted his attempt to
open it, exclaimed, "Undo the door there, you within!"
"Why, and at whose command," said the page, "am I to undo the door
of the apartments of the Queen of Scotland?"
Another vain attempt, which made hinge and bolt jingle, showed that
the impatient applicant without would willingly have entered
altogether regardless of his challenge; but at length an answer was
"Undo the door, on your peril--the Lord Lindesay comes to speak with
the Lady Mary of Scotland."
"The Lord Lindesay, as a Scottish noble," answered the page, "must
await his Sovereign's leisure."
An earnest altercation ensued amongst those without, in which Roland
distinguished the remarkable harsh voice of Lindesay in reply to Sir
Robert Melville, who appeared to have been using some soothing
language--"No! no! no! I tell thee, no! I will place a petard against
the door rather than be baulked by a profligate woman, and bearded by
an insolent footboy."
"Yet, at least," said Melville, "let me try fair means in the first
instance. Violence to a lady would stain your scutcheon for ever. Or
await till my Lord Ruthven comes."
"I will await no longer," said Lindesay; "it is high time the business
were done, and we on our return to the council. But thou mayest try
thy fair play, as thou callest it, while I cause my train to prepare
the petard. I came hither provided with as good gunpowder as blew up
the Kirk of Field."
"For God's sake, be patient," said Melville; and, approaching the
door, he said, as speaking to those within, "Let the Queen know, that
I, her faithful servant, Robert Melville, do entreat her, for her own
sake, and to prevent worse consequences, that she will undo the door,
and admit Lord Lindesay, who brings a mission from the Council of
"I will do your errand to the Queen," said the page, "and report to
you her answer."
He went to the door of the bedchamber, and tapping against it gently,
it was opened by the elderly lady, to whom he communicated his errand,
and returned with directions from the Queen to admit Sir Robert
Melville and Lord Lindesay. Roland Graeme returned to the vestibule,
and opened the door accordingly, into which the Lord Lindesay strode,
with the air of a soldier who has fought his way into a conquered
fortress; while Melville, deeply dejected, followed him more slowly.
"I draw you to witness, and to record," said the page to this last,
"that, save for the especial commands of the Queen, I would have made
good the entrance, with my best strength, and my best blood, against
"Be silent, young man," said Melville, in a tone of grave rebuke; "add
not brands to fire--this is no time to make a flourish of thy boyish
"She has not appeared even yet," said Lindesay, who had now reached
the midst of the parlour or audience-room; "how call you this
"Patience, my lord," replied Sir Robert, "time presses not--and Lord
Ruthven hath not as yet descended."
At this moment the door of the inner apartment opened, and Queen Mary
presented herself, advancing with an air of peculiar grace and
majesty, and seeming totally unruffled, either by the visit, or by the
rude manner in which it had been enforced. Her dress was a robe of
black velvet; a small ruff, open in front, gave a full view of her
beautifully formed chin and neck, but veiled the bosom. On her head
she wore a small cap of lace, and a transparent white veil hung from
her shoulders over the long black robe, in large loose folds, so that
it could be drawn at pleasure over the face and person. She wore a
cross of gold around her neck, and had her rosary of gold and ebony
hanging from her girdle. She was closely followed by her two ladies,
who remained standing behind her during the conference. Even Lord
Lindesay, though the rudest noble of that rude age, was surprised into
something like respect by the unconcerned and majestic mien of her,
whom he had expected to find frantic with impotent passion, or
dissolved in useless and vain sorrow, or overwhelmed with the fears
likely in such a situation to assail fallen royalty.
"We fear we have detained you, my Lord of Lindesay," said the Queen,
while she curtsied with dignity in answer to his reluctant obeisance;
"but a female does not willingly receive her visiters without some
minutes spent at the toilette. Men, my lord, are less dependant on
Lord Lindesay, casting his eye down on his own travel-stained and
disordered dress, muttered something of a hasty journey, and the Queen
paid her greeting to Sir Robert Melville with courtesy, and even, as
it seemed, with kindness. There was then a dead pause, during which
Lindesay looked towards the door, as if expecting with impatience the
colleague of their embassy. The Queen alone was entirely
unembarrassed, and, as if to break the silence, she addressed Lord
Lindesay, with a glance at the large and cumbrous sword which he wore,
as already mentioned, hanging from his neck.
"You have there a trusty and a weighty travelling companion, my lord.
I trust you expected to meet with no enemy here, against whom such a
formidable weapon could be necessary? it is, methinks, somewhat a
singular ornament for a court, though I am, as I well need to be, too
much of a Stuart to fear a sword."
"It is not the first time, madam," replied Lindesay, bringing round
the weapon so as to rest its point on the ground, and leaning one hand
on the huge cross-handle, "it is not the first time that this weapon
has intruded itself into the presence of the House of Stewart."
"Possibly, my lord," replied the Queen, "it may have done service to
my ancestors--Your ancestors were men of loyalty"
"Ay, madam," replied he, "service it hath done; but such as kings love
neither to acknowledge nor to reward. It was the service which the
knife renders to the tree when trimming it to the quick, and depriving
it of the superfluous growth of rank and unfruitful suckers, which rob
it of nourishment."
"You talk riddles, my lord," said Mary; "I will hope the explanation
carries nothing insulting with it."
"You shall judge, madam," answered Lindesay. "With this good sword was
Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, girded on the memorable day when he
acquired the name of Bell-the-Cat, for dragging from the presence of
your great grandfather, the third James of the race, a crew of
minions, flatterers, and favourites whom he hanged over the bridge of
Lauder, as a warning to such reptiles how they approach a Scottish
throne. With this same weapon, the same inflexible champion of
Scottish honour and nobility slew at one blow Spens of Kilspindie, a
courtier of your grandfather, James the fourth, who had dared to speak
lightly of him in the royal presence. They fought near the brook of
Fala; and Bell-the-Cat, with this blade, sheared through the thigh of
his opponent, and lopped the limb as easily as a shepherd's boy slices
a twig from a sapling."
"My lord," replied the Queen, reddening, "my nerves are too good to be
alarmed even by this terrible history--May I ask how a blade so
illustrious passed from the House of Douglas to that of
Lindesay?--Methinks it should have been preserved as a consecrated
relic, by a family who have held all that they could do against their
king, to be done in favour of their country."
"Nay, madam," said Melville, anxiously interfering, "ask not that
question of Lord Lindesay--And you, my lord, for shame--for decency--
forbear to reply to it."
"It is time that this lady should hear the truth," replied Lindesay.
"And be assured," said the Queen, "that she will be moved to anger by
none that you can tell her, my lord. There are cases in which just
scorn has always the mastery over just anger."
"Then know," said Lindesay, "that upon the field of Carberry-hill,
when that false and infamous traitor and murderer, James, sometime
Earl of Bothwell, and nicknamed Duke of Orkney, offered to do personal
battle with any of the associated nobles who came to drag him to
justice, I accepted his challenge, and was by the noble Earl of Morton
gifted with his good sword that I might therewith fight it out--Ah! so
help me Heaven, had his presumption been one grain more, or his
cowardice one grain less, I should have done such work with this good
steel on his traitorous corpse, that the hounds and carrion-crows
should have found their morsels daintily carved to their use !"
The Queen's courage well-nigh gave way at the mention of Bothwell's
name--a name connected with such a train of guilt, shame, and
disaster. But the prolonged boast of Lindesay gave her time to rally
herself, and to answer with an appearance of cold contempt--"It is
easy to slay an enemy who enters not the lists. But had Mary Stewart
inherited her father's sword as well as his sceptre, the boldest of
her rebels should not upon that day have complained that they had no
one to cope withal. Your lordship will forgive me if I abridge this
conference. A brief description of a bloody fight is long enough to
satisfy a lady's curiosity; and unless my Lord of Lindesay has
something more important to tell us than of the deeds which old
Bell-the-Cat achieved, and how he would himself have emulated them,
had time and tide permitted, we will retire to our private apartment,
and you, Fleming, shall finish reading to us yonder little treatise
_Des Rodomontades Espagnolles_."
"Tarry, madam," said Lindesay, his complexion reddening in his turn,
"I know your quick wit too well of old to have sought an interview
that you might sharpen its edge at the expense of my honour. Lord
Ruthven and myself, with Sir Robert Melville as a concurrent, come to
your Grace on the part of the Secret Council, to tender to you what
much concerns the safety of your own life and the welfare of the
"The Secret Council?" said the Queen; "by what powers can it subsist
or act, while I, from whom it holds its character, am here detained
under unjust restraint? But it matters not--what concerns the welfare
of Scotland shall be acceptable to Mary Stewart, come from whatever
quarter it will--and for what concerns her own life, she has lived
long enough to be weary of it, even at the age of twenty-five.--Where
is your colleague, my lord?--why tarries he?"
"He comes, madam," said Melville, and Lord Ruthven entered at the
instant, holding in his hand a packet. As the Queen returned his
salutation she became deadly pale, but instantly recovered herself by
dint of strong and sudden resolution, just as the noble, whose
appearance seemed to excite such emotions in her bosom, entered the
apartment in company with George Douglas, the youngest son of the
Knight of Lochleven, who, during the absence of his father and
brethren, acted as Seneschal of the Castle, under the direction of the
elder Lady Lochleven, his father's mother.
Chapter the Twenty-Second.
I give this heavy weight from off my head,
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hand I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths.
Lord Ruthven had the look and bearing which became a soldier and a
statesman, and the martial cast of his form and features procured him
the popular epithet of Greysteil, by which he was distinguished by his
intimates, after the hero of a metrical romance then generally known.
His dress, which was a buff-coat embroidered, had a half-military
character, but exhibited nothing of the sordid negligence which
distinguished that of Lindesay. But the son of an ill-fated sire, and
the father of a yet more unfortunate family, bore in his look that
cast of inauspicious melancholy, by which the physiognomists of that
time pretended to distinguish those who were predestined to a violent
and unhappy death.
The terror which the presence of this nobleman impressed on the
Queen's mind, arose from the active share he had borne in the
slaughter of David Rizzio; his father having presided at the
perpetration of that abominable crime, although so weak from long and
wasting illness, that he could not endure the weight of his armour,
having arisen from a sick-bed to commit a murder in the presence of
his Sovereign. On that occasion his son also had attended and taken an
active part. It was little to be wondered at, that the Queen,
considering her condition when such a deed of horror was acted in her
presence, should retain an instinctive terror for the principal actors
in the murder. She returned, however, with grace the salutation of
Lord Ruthven, and extended her hand to George Douglas, who kneeled,
and kissed it with respect; the first mark of a subject's homage which
Roland Graeme had seen any of them render to the captive Sovereign.
She returned his greeting in silence, and there was a brief pause,
during which the steward of the castle, a man of a sad brow and a
severe eye, placed, under George Douglas's directions, a table and
writing materials; and the page, obedient to his mistress's dumb
signal, advanced a large chair to the side on which the Queen stood,
the table thus forming a sort of bar which divided the Queen and her
personal followers from her unwelcome visitors. The steward then
withdrew after a low reverence. When he had closed the door behind
him, the Queen broke silence--"With your favour, my lords, I will
sit--my walks are not indeed extensive enough at present to fatigue me
greatly, yet I find repose something more necessary than usual."
She sat down accordingly, and, shading her cheek with her beautiful
hand, looked keenly and impressively at each of the nobles in turn.
Mary Fleming applied her kerchief to her eyes, and Catherine Seyton
and Roland Graeme exchanged a glance, which showed that both were too
deeply engrossed with sentiments of interest and commiseration for
their royal mistress, to think of any thing which regarded themselves.
"I wait the purpose of your mission, my lords," said the Queen, after
she had been seated for about a minute without a word-being
spoken,--"I wait your message from those you call the Secret
Council.-I trust it is a petition of pardon, and a desire that I will
resume my rightful throne, without using with due severity my right of
punishing those who have dispossessed me of it."
"Madam," replied Ruthven, "it is painful for us to speak harsh truths
to a Princess who has long ruled us. But we come to offer, not to
implore, pardon. In a word, madam, we have to propose to you on the
part of the Secret Council, that you sign these deeds, which will
contribute greatly to the pacification of the State, the advancement
of God's word, and the welfare of your own future life."
"Am I expected to take these fair words on trust, my lord? or may I
hear the contents of these reconciling papers, ere I am asked to sign
"Unquestionably, madam; it is our purpose and wish, you should read
what you are required to sign," replied Ruthven.
"Required?" replied the Queen, with some emphasis; "but the phrase
suits well the matter-read, my lord."
The Lord Ruthven proceeded to read a formal instrument, running in the
Queen's name, and setting forth that she had been called, at an early
age, to the administration of the crown and realm of Scotland, and had
toiled diligently therein, until she was in body and spirit so wearied
out and disgusted, that she was unable any longer to endure the
travail and pain of State affairs; and that since God had blessed her
with a fair and hopeful son, she was desirous to ensure to him, even
while she yet lived, his succession to the crown, which was his by
right of hereditary descent. "Wherefore," the instrument proceeded,
"we, of the motherly affection we bear to our said son, have renounced
and demitted, and by these our letters of free good-will, renounce and
demit, the Crown, government, and guiding of the realm of Scotland, in
favour of our said son, that he may succeed to us as native Prince
thereof, as much as if we had been removed by disease, and not by our
own proper act. And that this demission of our royal authority may
have the more full and solemn effect, and none pretend ignorance, we
give, grant, and commit, fall and free and plain power to our trusty
cousins, Lord Lindesay of the Byres, and William Lord Ruthven, to
appear in our name before as many of the nobility, clergy, and
burgesses, as may be assembled at Stirling, and there, in our name and
behalf, publicly, and in their presence, to renounce the Crown,
guidance, and government of this our kingdom of Scotland."
The Queen here broke in with an air of extreme surprise. "How is this,
my lords?" she said: "Are my ears turned rebels, that they deceive me
with sounds so extraordinary?--And yet it is no wonder that, having
conversed so long with rebellion, they should now force its language
upon my understanding. Say I am mistaken, my lords--say, for the
honour of yourselves and the Scottish nobility, that my right trusty
cousins of Lindesay and Ruthven, two barons of warlike fame and
ancient line, have not sought the prison-house of their kind mistress
for such a purpose as these words seem to imply. Say, for the sake of
honour and loyalty, that my ears have deceived me."
"No, madam," said Ruthven gravely, "your ears do _not_ deceive
you--they deceived you when they were closed against the preachers of
the evangele, and the honest advice of your faithful subjects; and
when they were ever open to flattery of pickthanks and traitors,
foreign cubiculars and domestic minions. The land may no longer brook
the rule of one who cannot rule herself; wherefore, I pray you to
comply with the last remaining wish of your subjects and counsellors,
and spare yourself and us the farther agitation of matter so painful."
"And is this _all_ my loving subjects require of me, my lord?"
said Mary, in a tone of bitter irony. "Do they really stint themselves
to the easy boon that I should yield up the crown, which is mine by
birthright, to an infant which is scarcely more than a year old--fling
down my sceptre, and take up a distaff--Oh no! it is too little for
them to ask--That other roll of parchment contains something harder to
be complied with, and which may more highly task my readiness to
comply with the petitions of my lieges."
"This parchment," answered Ruthven, in the same tone of inflexible
gravity, and unfolding the instrument as he spoke, "is one by which
your grace constitutes your nearest in blood, and the most honourable
and trustworthy of your subjects, James, Earl of Murray, Regent of the
kingdom during the minority of the young King. He already holds the
appointment from the Secret Council."
The Queen gave a sort of shriek, and, clapping her hands together,
exclaimed, "Comes the arrow out of his quiver?--out of my brother's
bow?--Alas! I looked for his return from France as my sole, at least
my readiest, chance of deliverance.--And yet, when I heard he had
assumed the government, I guessed he would shame to wield it in my
"I must pray your answer, madam," said Lord Ruthven, "to the demand
of the Council."
"The demand of the Council!" said the Queen; "say rather the demand of
a set of robbers, impatient to divide the spoil they have seized. To
such a demand, and sent by the mouth of a traitor, whose scalp, but
for my womanish mercy, should long since have stood on the city gates,
Mary of Scotland has no answer."
"I trust, madam," said Lord Ruthven, "my being unacceptable to your
presence will not add to your obduracy of resolution. It may become
you to remember that the death of the minion, Rizzio, cost the house
of Ruthven its head and leader. My father, more worthy than a whole
province of such vile sycophants, died in exile, and broken-hearted."
The Queen clasped her hands on her face, and, resting her arms on the
table, stooped down her head and wept so bitterly, that the tears were
seen to find their way in streams between the white and slender
fingers with which she endeavoured to conceal them.
"My lords," said Sir Robert Melville, "this is too much rigour. Under
your lordship's favour, we came hither, not to revive old griefs, but
to find the mode of avoiding new ones."
"Sir Robert Melville," said Ruthven, "we best know for what purpose we
were delegated hither, and wherefore you were somewhat unnecessarily
sent to attend us."
"Nay, by my hand," said Lord Lindesay, "I know not why we were
cumbered with the good knight, unless he comes in place of the lump of
sugar which pothicars put into their wholesome but bitter medicaments,
to please a froward child--a needless labour, methinks, where men have
the means to make them swallow the physic otherwise."
"Nay, my lords," said Melville, "ye best know your own secret
instructions. I conceive I shall best obey mine in striving to
mediate between her Grace and you."
"Be silent, Sir Robert Melville," said the Queen, arising, and her
face still glowing with agitation as she spoke. "My kerchief,
Fleming--I shame that traitors should have power to move me
thus.--Tell me, proud lords," she added, wiping away the tears as she
spoke, "by what earthly warrant can liege subjects pretend to
challenge the rights of an anointed Sovereign--to throw off the
allegiance they have vowed, and to take away the crown from the head
on which Divine warrant hath placed it?"
"Madam," said Ruthven, "I will deal plainly with you. Your reign, from
the dismal field of Pinkie-cleugh, when you were a babe in the cradle,
till now that ye stand a grown dame before us, hath been such a
tragedy of losses, disasters, civil dissensions, and foreign wars,
that the like is not to be found in our chronicles. The French and
English have, with one consent, made Scotland the battle-field on
which to fight out their own ancient quarrel.--For ourselves every
man's hand hath been against his brother, nor hath a year passed over
without rebellion and slaughter, exile of nobles, and oppressing of
the commons. We may endure it no longer, and therefore, as a prince,
to whom God hath refused the gift of hearkening to wise counsel, and
on whose dealings and projects no blessing hath ever descended, we
pray you to give way to other rule and governance of the land, that a
remnant may yet be saved to this distracted realm."
"My lord," said Mary, "it seems to me that you fling on my unhappy and
devoted head those evils, which, with far more justice, I may impute
to your own turbulent, wild, and untameable dispositions--the frantic
violence with which you, the Magnates of Scotland, enter into feuds
against each other, sticking at no cruelty to gratify your wrath,
taking deep revenge for the slightest offences, and setting at
defiance those wise laws which your ancestors made for stanching of
such cruelty, rebelling against the lawful authority, and bearing
yourselves as if there were no king in the land; or rather as if each
were king in his own premises. And now you throw the blame on me--on
me, whose life has been embittered--whose sleep has been broken--whose
happiness has been wrecked by your dissensions. Have I not myself
been obliged to traverse wilds and mountains, at the head of a few
faithful followers, to maintain peace and put down oppression? Have I
not worn harness on my person, and carried pistols at my saddle; fain
to lay aside the softness of a woman, and the dignity of a Queen, that
I might show an example to my followers?"
"We grant, madam," said Lindesay, "that the affrays occasioned by your
misgovernment, may sometimes have startled you in the midst of a
masque or galliard; or it may be that such may have interrupted the
idolatry of the mass, or the jesuitical counsels of some French
ambassador. But the longest and severest journey which your Grace has
taken in my memory, was from Hawick to Hermitage Castle; and whether
it was for the weal of the state, or for your own honour, rests with
your Grace's conscience."
The Queen turned to him with inexpressible sweetness of tone and
manner, and that engaging look which Heaven had assigned her, as if to
show that the choicest arts to win men's affections may be given in
vain. "Lindesay," she said, "you spoke not to me in this stern tone,
and with such scurril taunt, yon fair summer evening, when you and I
shot at the butts against the Earl of Mar and Mary Livingstone, and
won of them the evening's collation, in the privy garden of Saint
Andrews. The Master of Lindesay was then my friend, and vowed to be my
soldier. How I have offended the Lord of Lindesay I know not, unless
honours have changed manners."
Hardhearted as he was, Lindesay seemed struck with this unexpected
appeal, but almost instantly replied, "Madam, it is well known that
your Grace could in those days make fools of whomever approached you.
I pretend not to have been wiser than others. But gayer men and better
courtiers soon jostled aside my rude homage, and I think your Grace
cannot but remember times, when my awkward attempts to take the
manners that pleased you, were the sport of the court-popinjays, the
Marys and the Frenchwomen."
"My lord, I grieve if I have offended you through idle gaiety," said
the Queen; "and can but say it was most unwittingly done. You are
fully revenged; for through gaiety," she said with a sigh, "will I
never offend any one more."
"Our time is wasting, madam," said Lord Ruthven; "I must pray your
decision on this weighty matter which I have submitted to you."
"What, my lord!" said the Queen, "upon the instant, and without a
moment's time to deliberate?--Can the Council, as they term
themselves, expect this of me?"
"Madam," replied Ruthven, "the Council hold the opinion, that since
the fatal term which passed betwixt the night of King Henry's murder
and the day of Carberry-hill, your Grace should have held you prepared
for the measure now proposed, as the easiest escape from your numerous
dangers and difficulties."
"Great God!" exclaimed the Queen; "and is it as a boon that you
propose to me, what every Christian king ought to regard as a loss of
honour equal to the loss of life!--You take from me my crown, my
power, my subjects, my wealth, my state. What, in the name of every
saint, can you offer, or do you offer, in requital of my compliance?"
"We give you pardon," answered Ruthven, sternly--"we give you space
and means to spend your remaining life in penitence and seclusion--we
give you time to make your peace with Heaven, and to receive the pure
Gospel, which you have ever rejected and persecuted."
The Queen turned pale at the menace which this speech, as well as the
rough and inflexible tones of the speaker, seemed distinctly to
infer--"And if I do not comply with your request so fiercely urged, my
lord, what then follows?"
She said this in a voice in which female and natural fear was
contending with the feelings of insulted dignity.--There was a pause,
as if no one cared to return to the question a distinct answer. At
length Ruthven spoke: "There is little need to tell to your Grace, who
are well read both in the laws and in the chronicles of the realm,
that murder and adultery are crimes for which ere now queens
themselves have suffered death."
"And where, my lord, or how, found you an accusation so horrible,
against her who stands before you?" said Queen Mary. "The foul and
odious calumnies which have poisoned the general mind of Scotland, and
have placed me a helpless prisoner in your hands, are surely no proof
"We need look for no farther proof," replied the stern Lord Ruthven,
"than the shameless marriage betwixt the widow of the murdered and the
leader of the band of murderers!--They that joined hands in the fated
month of May, had already united hearts and counsel in the deed which
preceded that marriage but a few brief weeks."
"My lord, my lord!" said the Queen, eagerly, "remember well there were
more consents than mine to that fatal union, that most unhappy act of
a most unhappy life. The evil steps adopted by sovereigns are often
the suggestion of bad counsellors; but these counsellors are worse
than fiends who tempt and betray, if they themselves are the first to
call their unfortunate princes to answer for the consequences of their
own advice.--Heard ye never of a bond by the nobles, my lords,
recommending that ill-fated union to the ill-fated Mary? Methinks,
were it carefully examined, we should see that the names of Morton and
of Lindesay, and of Ruthven, may be found in that bond, which pressed
me to marry that unhappy man.--Ah! stout and loyal Lord Herries, who
never knew guile or dishonour, you bent your noble knee to me in vain,
to warn me of my danger, and wert yet the first to draw thy good sword
in my cause when I suffered for neglecting thy counsel! Faithful
knight and true noble, what a difference betwixt thee and those
counsellors of evil, who now threaten my life for having fallen into
the snares they spread for me!"
"Madam," said Ruthven, "we know that you are an orator; and perhaps
for that reason the Council has sent hither men, whose converse hath
been more with the wars, than with the language of the schools or the
cabals of state. We but desire to know if, on assurance of life and
honour, ye will demit the rule of this kingdom of Scotland?"
"And what warrant have I," said the Queen, "that ye will keep treaty
with me, if I should barter my kingly estate for seclusion, and leave
to weep in secret?"
"Our honour and our word, madam," answered Ruthven.
"They are too slight and unsolid pledges, my lord," said the Queen;
"add at least a handful of thistle-down to give them weight in the
"Away, Ruthven," said Lindesay; "she was ever deaf to counsel, save of
slaves and sycophants; let her remain by her refusal, and abide by
"Stay, my lord," said Sir Robert Melville, "or rather permit me to
have but a few minutes' private audience with her Grace. If my
presence with you could avail aught, it must be as a mediator--do not,
I conjure you, leave the castle, or break off the conference, until I
bring you word how her Grace shall finally stand disposed."
"We will remain in the hall," said Lindesay, "for half an hour's
space; but in despising our words and our pledge of honour, she has
touched the honour of my name--let her look herself to the course she
has to pursue. If the half hour should pass away without her
determining to comply with the demands of the nation, her career will
be brief enough."
With little ceremony the two nobles left the apartment, traversed the
vestibule, and descended the winding-stairs, the clash of Lindesay's
huge sword being heard as it rang against each step in his descent.
George Douglas followed them, after exchanging with Melville a gesture
of surprise and sympathy.
As soon as they were gone, the Queen, giving way to grief, fear, and
agitation, threw herself into the seat, wrung her hands, and seemed to
abandon herself to despair. Her female attendants, weeping themselves,
endeavoured yet to pray her to be composed, and Sir Robert Melville,
kneeling at her feet, made the same entreaty. After giving way to a
passionate burst of sorrow, she at length said to Melville, "Kneel not
to me, Melville--mock me not with the homage of the person, when the
heart is far away--Why stay you behind with the deposed, the
condemned? her who has but few hours perchance to live? You have been
favoured as well as the rest; why do you continue the empty show of
gratitude and thankfulness any longer than they?"
"Madam," said Sir Robert Melville, "so help me Heaven at my need,
my heart is as true to you as when you were in your highest place."
"True to me! true to me!" repeated the Queen, with some scorn; "tush,
Melville, what signifies the truth which walks hand in hand with my
enemies' falsehood?--thy hand and thy sword have never been so well
acquainted that I can trust thee in aught where manhood is
required--Oh, Seyton, for thy bold father, who is both wise, true, and
Roland Graeme could withstand no longer his earnest desire to offer
his services to a princess so distressed and so beautiful. "If one
sword," he said, "madam, can do any thing to back the wisdom of this
grave counsellor, or to defend your rightful cause, here is my weapon,
and here is my hand ready to draw and use it." And raising his sword
with one hand, he laid the other upon the hilt.
As he thus held up the weapon, Catherine Seyton exclaimed, "Methinks
I see a token from my father, madam;" and immediately crossing the
apartment, she took Roland Graeme by the skirt of the cloak, and asked
him earnestly whence he had that sword.
The page answered with surprise, "Methinks this is no presence in
which to jest--Surely, damsel, you yourself best know whence and how I
obtained the weapon."
"Is this a time for folly?" said Catherine Seyton; "unsheathe the
"If the Queen commands me," said the youth, looking towards his royal
"For shame, maiden!" said the Queen; "wouldst thou instigate the poor
boy to enter into useless strife with the two most approved soldiers
"In your Grace's cause," replied the page, "I will venture my life
upon them!" And as he spoke, he drew his weapon partly from the
sheath, and a piece of parchment, rolled around the blade, fell out
and dropped on the floor. Catherine Seyton caught it up with eager
"It is my father's hand-writing," she said, "and doubtless conveys his
best duteous advice to your Majesty; I know that it was prepared to be
sent in this weapon, but I expected another messenger."
"By my faith, fair one," thought Roland, "and if you knew not that I
had such a secret missive about me, I was yet more ignorant."
The Queen cast her eye upon the scroll, and remained a few minutes
wrapped in deep thought. "Sir Robert Melville," she at length said,
"this scroll advises me to submit myself to necessity, and to
subscribe the deeds these hard men have brought with them, as one who
gives way to the natural fear inspired by the threats of rebels and
murderers. You, Sir Robert, are a wise man, and Seyton is both
sagacious and brave. Neither, I think, would mislead me in this
"Madam," said Melville, "if I have not the strength of body of the
Lord Herries or Seyton, I will yield to neither in zeal for your
Majesty's service. I cannot fight for you like these lords, but
neither of them is more willing to die for your service."
"I believe it, my old and faithful counsellor," said the Queen, "and
believe me, Melville, I did thee but a moment's injustice. Read what
my Lord Seyton hath written to us, and give us thy best counsel."
He glanced over the parchment, and instantly replied,--"Oh! my dear
and royal mistress, only treason itself could give you other advice
than Lord Seyton has here expressed. He, Herries, Huntly, the English
ambassador Throgmorton, and others, your friends, are all alike of
opinion, that whatever deeds or instruments you execute within these
walls, must lose all force and effect, as extorted from your Grace by
duresse, by sufferance of present evil, and fear of men, and harm to
ensue on your refusal. Yield, therefore, to the tide, and be assured,
that in subscribing what parchments they present to you, you bind
yourself to nothing, since your act of signature wants that which
alone can make it valid, the free will of the granter."
"Ay, so says my Lord Seyton," replied Mary; "yet methinks, for the
daughter of so long a line of sovereigns to resign her birthright,
because rebels press upon her with threats, argues little of royalty,
and will read ill for the fame of Mary in future chronicles. Tush! Sir
Robert Melville, the traitors may use black threats and bold words,
but they will not dare to put their hands forth on our person."
"Alas! madam, they have already dared so far and incurred such peril
by the lengths which they have gone, that they are but one step from
the worst and uttermost."
"Surely," said the Queen, her fears again predominating, "Scottish
nobles would not lend themselves to assassinate a helpless woman?"
"Bethink you, madam," he replied, "what horrid spectacles have been
seen in our day; and what act is so dark, that some Scottish hand has
not been found to dare it? Lord Lindesay, besides his natural
sullenness and hardness of temper, is the near kinsman of Henry
Darnley, and Ruthven has his own deep and dangerous plans. The
Council, besides, speak of proofs by writ and word, of a casket with
letters--of I know not what."
"Ah! good Melville," answered the Queen, "were I as sure of the
even-handed integrity of my judges, as of my own innocence--and
"Oh! pause, madam," said Melville; "even innocence must sometimes
for a season stoop to injurious blame. Besides, you are here--"
He looked round, and paused.
"Speak out, Melville," said the Queen, "never one approached my person
who wished to work me evil; and even this poor page, whom I have
to-day seen for the first time in my life, I can trust safely with
"Nay, madam," answered Melville, "in such emergence, and he being the
bearer of Lord Seyton's message, I will venture to say, before him and
these fair ladies, whose truth and fidelity I dispute not--I say I
will venture to say, that there are other modes besides that of open
trial, by which deposed sovereigns often die; and that, as Machiavel
saith, there is but one step betwixt a king's prison and his grave."
"Oh I were it but swift and easy for the body," said the unfortunate
Princess, "were it but a safe and happy change for the soul, the woman
lives not that would take the step so soon as I--But, alas! Melville,
when we think of death, a thousand sins, which we have trod as worms
beneath our feet, rise up against us as flaming serpents. Most
injuriously do they accuse me of aiding Darnley's death; yet, blessed
Lady! I afforded too open occasion for the suspicion--I espoused
"Think not of that now, madam," said Melville, "think rather of the
immediate mode of saving yourself and son. Comply with the present
unreasonable demands, and trust that better times will shortly
"Madam," said Roland Graeme, "if it pleases you that I should do so, I
will presently swim through the lake, if they refuse me other
conveyance to the shore; I will go to the courts successively of
England, France, and Spain, and will show you have subscribed these
vile instruments from no stronger impulse than the fear of death, and
I will do battle against them that say otherwise."
The Queen turned her round, and with one of those sweet smiles which,
during the era of life's romance, overpay every risk, held her hand
towards Roland, but without "speaking a word. He kneeled reverently,
and kissed it, and Melville again resumed his plea.
"Madam," he said, "time presses, and you must not let those boats,
which I see they are even now preparing, put forth on the lake. Here
are enough of witnesses--your ladies--this bold youth--myself, when it
can serve your cause effectually, for I would not hastily stand
committed in this matter--but even without me here is evidence enough
to show, that you have yielded to the demands of the Council through
force and fear, but from no sincere and unconstrained assent. Their
boats are already manned for their return--oh! permit your old servant
to recall them."
"Melville," said the Queen, "thou art an ancient courtier--when didst
thou ever know a Sovereign Prince recall to his presence subjects who
had parted from him on such terms as those on which these envoys of
the Council left us, and who yet were recalled without submission or
apology?--Let it cost me both life and crown, I will not again
command them to my presence."
"Alas! madam, that empty form should make a barrier! If I rightly
understand, you are not unwilling to listen to real and advantageous
counsel--but your scruple is saved--I hear them returning to ask your
final resolution. Oh! take the advice of the noble Seyton, and you may
once more command those who now usurp a triumph over you. But hush!
I hear them in the vestibule."
As he concluded speaking, George Douglas opened the door of the
apartment, and marshalled in the two noble envoys.
"We come, madam," said the Lord Ruthven, "to request your answer to
the proposal of the Council."
"Your final answer," said Lord Lindesay; "for with a refusal you must
couple the certainty that you have precipitated your fate, and
renounced the last opportunity of making peace with God, and ensuring
your longer abode in the world."
"My lords," said Mary, with inexpressible grace and dignity, "the
evils we cannot resist we must submit to--I will subscribe these
parchments with such liberty of choice as my condition permits me.
Were I on yonder shore, with a fleet jennet and ten good and loyal
knights around me, I would subscribe my sentence of eternal
condemnation as soon as the resignation of my throne. But here, in the
Castle of Lochleven, with deep water around me--and you, my lords,
beside me,--I have no freedom of choice.--Give me the pen, Melville,
and bear witness to what I do, and why I do it."
"It is our hope your Grace will not suppose yourself compelled by any
apprehensions from us," said the Lord Ruthven, "to execute what must
be your own voluntary deed."
The Queen had already stooped towards the table, and placed the
parchment before her, with the pen between her fingers, ready for the
important act of signature. But when Lord Ruthven had done speaking,
she looked up, stopped short, and threw down the pen. "If," she said,
"I am expected to declare I give away my crown of free will, or
otherwise than because I am compelled to renounce it by the threat of
worse evils to myself and my subjects, I will not put my name to such
an untruth--not to gain full possession of England, France, and
Scotland!--all once my own, in possession, or by right."
"Beware, madam," said Lindesay, and, snatching hold of the Queen's arm
with his own gauntleted hand, he pressed it, in the rudeness of his
passion, more closely, perhaps, than he was himself aware of,--"beware
how you contend with those who are the stronger, and have the mastery
of your fate!"
He held his grasp on her arm, bending his eyes on her with a stern and
intimidating look, till both Ruthven and Melville cried shame; and
Douglas, who had hitherto remained in a state of apparent apathy, had
made a stride from the door, as if to interfere. The rude Baron then
quitted his hold, disguising the confusion which he really felt at
having indulged his passion to such extent, under a sullen and
The Queen immediately began, with an expression of pain, to bare the
arm which he had grasped, by drawing up the sleeve of her gown, and it
appeared that his gripe had left the purple marks of his iron fingers
upon her flesh--"My lord," she said, "as a knight and gentleman, you
might have spared my frail arm so severe a proof that you have the
greater strength on your side, and are resolved to use it--But I thank
you for it--it is the most decisive token of the terms on which this
day's business is to rest.--I draw you to witness, both lords and
ladies," she said, "showing the marks of the grasp on her arm, "that I
subscribe these instruments in obedience to the sign manual of my Lord
of Lindesay, which you may see imprinted on mine arm."
[Footnote: The details of this remarkable event are, as given in the
preceding chapter, imaginary; but the outline of the events is
historical. Sir Robert Lindesay, brother to the author of the Memoirs,
was at first intrusted with the delicate commission of persuading the
imprisoned queen to resign her crown. As he flatly refused to
interfere, they determined to send the Lord Lindesay, one of the
rudest and most violent of their own faction, with instructions, first
to use fair persuasions, and if these did not succeed, to enter into
harder terms. Knox associates Lord Ruthven with Lindesay in this
alarming commission. He was the son of that Lord Ruthven who was prime
agent in the murder of Rizzio; and little mercy was to be expected
from his conjunction with Lindesay.
The employment of such rude tools argued a resolution on the part of
those who had the Queen's person in their power, to proceed to the
utmost extremities, should they find Mary obstinate. To avoid this
pressing danger, Sir Robert Melville was despatched by them to
Lochleven, carrying with him, concealed in the scabbard of his sword,
letters to the Queen from the Earl of Athole, Maitland of Lethington,
and even from Throgmorton, the English Ambassador, who was then
favourable to the unfortunate Mary, conjuring her to yield to the
necessity of the times, and to subscribe such deeds as Lindesay should
lay before her, without being startled by their tenor; and assuring
her that her doing so, in the state of captivity under which she was
placed, would neither, in law, honour, nor conscience, be binding upon
her when she should obtain her liberty. Submitting by the advice of
one part of her subjects to the menace of the others, and learning
that Lindesay was arrived in a boasting, that is, threatening humour,
the Queen, "with some reluctancy, and with tears," saith Knox,
subscribed one deed resigning her crown to her infant son, and another
establishing the Earl of Murray regent. It seems agreed by historians
that Lindesay behaved with great brutality on the occasion. The deeds
were signed 24th July, 1567.]
Lindesay would have spoken, but was restrained by his colleague
Ruthven, who said to him, "Peace, my lord. Let the Lady Mary of
Scotland ascribe her signature to what she will, it is our business to
procure it, and carry it to the Council. Should there be debate
hereafter on the manner in which it was adhibited, there will be time
enough for it."
Lindesay was silent accordingly, only muttering within his beard, "I
meant not to hurt her; but I think women's flesh be as tender as
The Queen meanwhile subscribed the rolls of parchment with a hasty
indifference, as if they had been matters of slight consequence, or of
mere formality. When she had performed this painful task, she arose,
and, having curtsied to the lords, was about to withdraw to her
chamber. Ruthven and Sir Robert Melville made, the first a formal
reverence, the second an obeisance, in which his desire to acknowledge
his sympathy was obviously checked by the fear of appearing in the
eyes of his colleagues too partial to his former mistress. But
Lindesay stood motionless, even when they were preparing to withdraw.
At length, as if moved by a sudden impulse, he walked round the table
which had hitherto been betwixt them and the Queen, kneeled on one
knee, took her hand, kissed it, let it fall, and arose--"Lady," he
said, "thou art a noble creature, even though thou hast abused God's
choicest gifts. I pay that devotion to thy manliness of spirit, which
I would not have paid to the power thou hast long undeservedly
wielded--I kneel to Mary Stewart, not to the Queen."
"The Queen and Mary Stewart pity thee alike, Lindesay," said Mary--
"alike thee pity, and they forgive thee. An honoured soldier hadst
thou been by a king's side--leagued with rebels, what art thou but a
good blade in the hands of a ruffian?--Farewell, my Lord Ruthven, the
smoother but the deeper traitor.--Farewell, Melville--Mayest thou find
masters that can understand state policy better, and have the means to
reward it more richly, than Mary Stewart.--Farewell, George of
Douglas--make your respected grand-dame comprehend that we would be
alone for the remainder of the day--God wot, we have need to collect
All bowed and withdrew; but scarce had they entered the vestibule, ere
Ruthven and Lindesay were at variance. "Chide not with me, Ruthven,"
Lindesay was heard to say, in answer to something more indistinctly
urged by his colleague--"Chide not with me, for I will not brook it!
You put the hangman's office on me in this matter, and even the very
hangman hath leave to ask some pardon of those on whom he does his
office. I would I had as deep cause to be this lady's friend as I have
to be her enemy--thou shouldst see if I spared limb and life in her
"Thou art a sweet minion," said Ruthven, "to fight a lady's quarrel,
and all for a brent brow and a tear in the eye! Such toys have been
out of thy thoughts this many a year."
"Do me right, Ruthven," said Lindesay. "You are like a polished
corslet of steel; it shines more gaudily, but it is not a whit
softer--nay, it is five times harder than a Glasgow breastplate of
hammered iron. Enough. We know each other."
They descended the stairs, were heard to summon their boats, and the
Queen signed to Roland Graeme to retire to the vestibule, and leave
her with her female attendants.
Chapter the Twenty-Third.
Give me a morsel on the greensward rather,
Coarse as you will the cooking--Let the fresh spring
Bubble beside my napkin--and the free birds
Twittering and chirping, hop from bough to bough,
To claim the crumbs I leave for perquisites--
Your prison feasts I like not.
THE WOODSMAN, A DRAMA.
A recess in the vestibule was enlightened by a small window, at which
Roland Graeme stationed himself to mark the departure of the lords. He
could see their followers mustering on horseback under their
respective banners--the western sun glancing on their corslets and
steel-caps as they moved to and fro, mounted or dismounted, at
intervals. On the narrow space betwixt the castle and the water, the
Lords Ruthven and Lindesay were already moving slowly to their boats,
accompanied by the Lady of Lochleven, her grandson, and their
principal attendants. They took a ceremonious leave of each other, as
Roland could discern by their gestures, and the boats put oft from
their landing-place; the boatmen stretched to their oars, and they
speedily diminished upon the eye of the idle gazer, who had no better
employment than to watch their motions. Such seemed also the
occupation of the Lady Lochleven and George Douglas, who, returning
from the landing-place, looked frequently back to the boats, and at
length stopped as if to observe their progress under the window at
which Roland Graeme was stationed.--As they gazed on the lake, he
could hear the lady distinctly say, "And she has bent her mind to save
her life at the expense of her kingdom?"
"Her life, madam!" replied her son; "I know not who would dare to
attempt it in the castle of my father. Had I dreamt that it was with
such purpose that Lindesay insisted on bringing his followers hither,
neither he nor they should have passed the iron gate of Lochleven
"I speak not of private slaughter, my son, but of open trial,
condemnation, and execution; for with such she has been threatened,
and to such threats she has given way. Had she not more of the false
Gusian blood than of the royal race of Scotland in her veins, she had
bidden them defiance to their teeth--But it is all of the same
complexion, and meanness is the natural companion of profligacy.--I am
discharged, forsooth, from intruding on her gracious presence this
evening. Go thou, my son, and render the usual service of the meal to
this unqueened Queen."
"So please you, lady mother," said Douglas," I care not greatly to
approach her presence."
"Thou art right, my son; and therefore I trust thy prudence, even
because I have noted thy caution. She is like an isle on the ocean,
surrounded with shelves and quicksands; its verdure fair and inviting
to the eye, but the wreck of many a goodly vessel which hath
approached it too rashly. But for thee, my son, I fear nought; and we
may not, with our honour, suffer her to eat without the attendance of
one of us. She may die by the judgment of Heaven, or the fiend may
have power over her in her despair; and then we would be touched in
honour to show that in our house, and at our table, she had had all
fair play and fitting usage."
Here Roland was interrupted by a smart tap on the shoulders, reminding
him sharply of Adam Woodcock's adventure of the preceding evening. He
turned round, almost expecting to see the page of Saint Michael's
hostelry. He saw, indeed, Catherine Seyton; but she was in female
attire, differing, no doubt, a great deal in shape and materials from
that which she had worn when they first met, and becoming her birth as
the daughter of a great baron, and her rank as the attendant on a
princess. "So, fair page," said she, "eaves-dropping is one of your
page-like qualities, I presume."
"Fair sister," answered Roland, in the same tone, "if some friends of
mine be as well acquainted with the rest of our mystery as they are
with the arts of swearing, swaggering, and switching, they need ask no
page in Christendom for farther insight into his vocation."
"Unless that pretty speech infer that you have yourself had the
discipline of the switch since we last met, the probability whereof I
nothing doubt, I profess, fair page, I am at a loss to conjecture your
meaning. But there is no time to debate it now--they come with the
evening meal. Be pleased, Sir Page, to do your duty."
Four servants entered bearing dishes, preceded by the same stern old
steward whom Roland had already seen, and followed by George Douglas,
already mentioned as the grandson of the Lady of Lochleven, and who,
acting as seneschal, represented, upon this occasion, his father, the
Lord of the Castle. He entered with his arms folded on his bosom, and
his looks bent on the ground. With the assistance of Roland Graeme, a
table was suitably covered in the next or middle apartment, on which
the domestics placed their burdens with great reverence, the steward
and Douglas bending low when they had seen the table properly adorned,
as if their royal prisoner had sat at the board in question. The door
opened, and Douglas, raising his eyes hastily, cast them again on the
earth, when he perceived it was only the Lady Mary Fleming who
"Her Grace," she said, "will not eat to-night."
"Let us hope she may be otherwise persuaded," said Douglas; "meanwhile,
madam, please to see our duty performed."
A servant presented bread and salt on a silver plate, and the old
steward carved for Douglas a small morsel in succession from each of
the dishes presented, which he tasted, as was then the custom at the
tables of princes, to which death was often suspected to find its way
in the disguise of food.
"The Queen will not then come forth to-night?" said Douglas.
"She has so determined," replied the lady.
"Our farther attendance then is unnecessary--we leave you to your
supper, fair ladies, and wish you good even."
He retired slowly as he came, and with the same air of deep dejection,
and was followed by the attendants belonging to the castle. The two
ladies sate down to their meal, and Roland Graeme, with ready
alacrity, prepared to wait upon them. Catherine Seyton whispered to
her companion, who replied with the question spoken in a low tone, but
looking at the page--"Is he of gentle blood and well nurtured?"
The answer which she received seemed satisfactory, for she said to
Roland, "Sit down, young gentleman, and eat with your sisters in
"Permit me rather to perform my duty in attending them," said Roland,
anxious to show he was possessed of the high tone of deference
prescribed by the rules of chivalry towards the fair sex, and
especially to dames and maidens of quality.
"You will find, Sir Page," said Catherine, "you will have little time
allowed you for your meal; waste it not in ceremony, or you may rue
your politeness ere to-morrow morning."
"Your speech is too free, maiden," said the elder lady; "the modesty
of the youth may teach you more fitting fashions towards one whom
to-day you have seen for the first time."
Catherine Seyton cast down her eyes, but not till she had given a
single glance of inexpressible archness towards Roland, whom her more
grave companion now addressed in a tone of protection.
"Regard her not, young gentleman--she knows little of the world, save
the forms of a country nunnery--take thy place at the board-end, and
refresh thyself after thy journey."
Roland Graeme obeyed willingly, as it was the first food he had that
day tasted; for Lindesay and his followers seemed regardless of human
wants. Yet, notwithstanding the sharpness of his appetite, a natural
gallantry of disposition, the desire of showing himself a
well-nurtured gentleman, in all courtesies towards the fair sex, and,
for aught I know, the pleasure of assisting Catherine Seyton, kept his
attention awake, during the meal, to all those nameless acts of duty
and service which gallants of that age were accustomed to render. He
carved with neatness and decorum, and selected duly whatever was most
delicate to place before the ladies. Ere they could form a wish, he
sprung from the table, ready to comply with it--poured wine--tempered
it with water--removed the exchanged trenchers, and performed the
whole honours of the table, with an air at once of cheerful diligence,
profound respect, and graceful promptitude.
When he observed that they had finished eating, he hastened to offer
to the elder lady the silver ewer, basin, and napkin, with the
ceremony and gravity which he would have used towards Mary herself. He
next, with the same decorum, having supplied the basin with fair
water, presented it to Catherine Seyton. Apparently, she was
determined to disturb his self-possession, if possible; for, while in
the act of bathing her hands, she contrived, as it were by accident,
to flirt some drops of water upon the face of the assiduous assistant.
But if such was her mischievous purpose she was completely
disappointed; for Roland Graeme, internally piquing himself on his
self-command, neither laughed nor was discomposed; and all that the
maiden gained by her frolic was a severe rebuke from her companion,
taxing her with mal-address and indecorum. Catherine replied not, but
sat pouting, something in the humour of a spoilt child, who watches
the opportunity of wreaking upon some one or other its resentment for
a deserved reprimand.
The Lady Mary Fleming, in the mean-while, was naturally well pleased
with the exact and reverent observance of the page, and said to
Catherine, after a favourable glance at Roland Graeme,--"You might
well say, Catherine, our companion in captivity was well born and
gentle nurtured. I would not make him vain by my praise, but his
services enable us to dispense with those which George Douglas
condescends not to afford us, save when the Queen is herself in
"Umph! I think hardly," answered Catherine. "George Douglas is one of
the most handsome gallants in Scotland, and 'tis pleasure to see him
even still, when the gloom of Lochleven Castle has shed the same
melancholy over him, that it has done over every thing else. When he
was at Holyrood who would have said the young sprightly George Douglas
would have been contented to play the locksman here in Lochleven, with
no gayer amusement than that of turning the key on two or three
helpless women?--a strange office for a Knight of the Bleeding
Heart--why does he not leave it to his father or his brothers?"
"Perhaps, like us, he has no choice," answered the Lady Fleming. "But,
Catherine, thou hast used thy brief space at court well, to remember
what George Douglas was then."
"I used mine eyes, which I suppose was what I was designed to do, and
they were worth using there. When I was at the nunnery, they were very
useless appurtenances; and now I am at Lochleven, they are good for
nothing, save to look over that eternal work of embroidery."
"You speak thus, when you have been but a few brief hours amongst us
--was this the maiden who would live and die in a dungeon, might she
but have permission to wait on her gracious Queen?"
"Nay, if you chide in earnest, my jest is ended," said Catherine
Seyton. "I would not yield in attachment to my poor god-mother, to
the gravest dame that ever had wise saws upon her tongue, and a
double-starched ruff around her throat--you know I would not, Dame
Mary Fleming, and it is putting shame on me to say otherwise."
"She will challenge the other court lady," thought Roland Graeme; "she
will to a certainty fling down her glove, and if Dame Mary Fleming
hath but the soul to lift it, we may have a combat in the lists!"--but
the answer of Lady Mary Fleming was such as turns away wrath.
"Thou art a good child," she said, "my Catherine, and a faithful; but
Heaven pity him who shall have one day a creature so beautiful to
delight him, and a thing so mischievous to torment him--thou art fit
to drive twenty husbands stark mad."
"Nay," said Catherine, resuming the full career of her careless
good-humour, "he must be half-witted beforehand, that gives me such an
opportunity. But I am glad you are not angry with me in sincerity,"
casting herself as she spoke into the arms of her friend, and
continuing, with a tone of apologetic fondness, while she kissed her
on either side of the face; "you know, my dear Fleming, that I have to
contend with both my father's lofty pride, and with my mother's high
spirit--God bless them! they have left me these good qualities, having
small portion to give besides, as times go--and so I am wilful and
saucy; but let me remain only a week in this castle, and oh, my dear
Fleming, my spirit will be as chastised and humble as thine own."
Dame Mary Fleming's sense of dignity, and love of form, could not
resist this affectionate appeal. She kissed Catherine Seyton in her
turn affectionately; while, answering the last part of her speech, she
said, "Now Our Lady forbid, dear Catherine, that you should lose aught
that is beseeming of what becomes so well your light heart and lively
humour. Keep but your sharp wit on this side of madness, and it cannot
but be a blessing to us. But let me go, mad wench--I hear her Grace
touch her silver call." And, extricating herself from Catherine's
grasp, she went towards the door of Queen Mary's apartment, from which
was heard the low tone of a silver whistle, which, now only used by
the boatswains in the navy, was then, for want of bells, the ordinary
mode by which ladies, even of the very highest rank, summoned their
domestics. When she had made two or three steps towards the door,
however, she turned back, and advancing to the young couple whom she
left together, she said, in a very serious though a low tone, "I trust
it is impossible that we can, any of us, or in any circumstances,
forget, that, few as we are, we form the household of the Queen of
Scotland; and that, in her calamity, all boyish mirth and childish
jesting can only serve to give a great triumph to her enemies, who
have already found their account in objecting to her the lightness of
every idle folly, that the young and the gay practised in her court."
So saying, she left the apartment.
Catherine Seyton seemed much struck with this remonstrance--She
suffered herself to drop into the seat which she had quitted when she
went to embrace Dame Mary Fleming, and for some time rested her brow
upon her hands; while Roland Graeme looked at her earnestly, with a
mixture of emotions which perhaps he himself could neither have
analysed nor explained. As she raised her face slowly from the posture
to which a momentary feeling of self-rebuke had depressed it, her eyes
encountered those of Roland, and became gradually animated with their
usual spirit of malicious drollery, which not unnaturally excited a
similar expression in those of the equally volatile page. They sat for
the space of two minutes, each looking at the other with great
seriousness on their features, and much mirth in their eyes, until at
length Catherine was the first to break silence.
"May I pray you, fair sir," she began, very demurely, "to tell me what
you see in my face to arouse looks so extremely sagacious and knowing
as those with which it is your worship's pleasure to honour me? It
would seem as if there were some wonderful confidence and intimacy
betwixt us, fair sir, if one is to judge from your extremely cunning
looks; and so help me, Our Lady, as I never saw you but twice in my
"And where were those happy occasions," said Roland, "if I may be
bold enough to ask the question?"
"At the nunnery of St. Catherine's," said the damsel, "in the first
instance; and, in the second, during five minutes of a certain raid or
foray which it was your pleasure to make into the lodging of my lord
and father, Lord Seyton, from which, to my surprise, as probably to
your own, you returned with a token of friendship and favour, instead
of broken bones, which were the more probable reward of your
intrusion, considering the prompt ire of the house of Seyton. I am
deeply mortified," she added, ironically, "that your recollection
should require refreshment on a subject so important; and that my
memory should be stronger than yours on such an occasion, is truly
"Your own, memory is not so exactly correct, fair mistress," answered
the page, "seeing you have forgotten meeting the third, in the
hostelrie of St. Michael's, when it pleased you to lay your switch
across the face of my comrade, in order, I warrant, to show that, in
the house of Seyton, neither the prompt ire of its descendants, nor
the use of the doublet and hose, are subject to Salique law, or
confined to the use of the males."
"Fair sir," answered Catherine, looking at him with great steadiness,
and some surprise, "unless your fair wits have forsaken you, I am at a
loss what to conjecture of your meaning."
"By my troth, fair mistress," answered Roland, "and were I as wise a
warlock as Michael Scott, I could scarce riddle the dream you read me.
Did I not see you last night in the hostelrie of St. Michael's?--Did
you not bring me this sword, with command not to draw it save at the
command of my native and rightful Sovereign? And have I not done as
you required me? Or is the sword a piece of lath--my word a
bulrush--my memory a dream--and my eyes good for nought--espials which
corbies might pick out of my head?"
"And if your eyes serve you not more truly on other occasions than in
your vision of St. Michael," said Catherine, "I know not, the pain
apart, that the corbies would do you any great injury in the
deprivation--But hark, the bell--hush, for God's sake, we are
The damsel was right; for no sooner had the dull toll of the castle
bell begun to resound through the vaulted apartment, than the door of
the vestibule flew open, and the steward, with his severe countenance,
his gold chain, and his white rod, entered the apartment, followed by
the same train of domestics who had placed the dinner on the table,
and who now, with the same ceremonious formality, began to remove it.
The steward remained motionless as some old picture, while the
domestics did their office; and when it was accomplished, every thing
removed from the table, and the board itself taken from its tressels
and disposed against the wall, he said aloud, without addressing any
one in particular, and somewhat in the tone of a herald reading a
proclamation, "My noble lady, Dame Margaret Erskine, by marriage
Douglas, lets the Lady Mary of Scotland and her attendants to wit,
that a servant of the true evangele, her reverend chaplain, will
to-night, as usual, expound, lecture, and catechise, according to the
forms of the congregation of gospellers."
"Hark you, my friend, Mr. Dryfesdale," said Catherine, "I understand
this announcement is a nightly form of yours. Now, I pray you to
remark, that the Lady Fleming and I--for I trust your insolent
invitation concerns us only--have chosen Saint Peter's pathway to
Heaven, so I see no one whom your godly exhortation, catechise, or
lecture, can benefit, excepting this poor page, who, being in Satan's
hand as well as yourself, had better worship with you than remain to
cumber our better-advised devotions."
The page was well-nigh giving a round denial to the assertions which
this speech implied, when, remembering what had passed betwixt him and
the Regent, and seeing Catherine's finger raised in a monitory
fashion, he felt himself, as on former occasions at the Castle of
Avenel, obliged to submit to the task of dissimulation, and followed
Dryfesdale down to the castle chapel, where he assisted in the
devotions of the evening.
The chaplain was named Elias Henderson. He was a man in the prime of
life, and possessed of good natural parts, carefully improved by the
best education which those times afforded. To these qualities were
added a faculty of close and terse reasoning; and, at intervals, a
flow of happy illustration and natural eloquence. The religious faith
of Roland Graeme, as we have already had opportunity to observe,
rested on no secure basis, but was entertained rather in obedience to
his grandmother's behests, and his secret desire to contradict the
chaplain of Avenel Castle, than from any fixed or steady reliance
which he placed on the Romish creed. His ideas had been of late
considerably enlarged by the scenes he had passed through; and feeling
that there was shame in not understanding something of those political
disputes betwixt the professors of the ancient and the reformed faith,
he listened with more attention than it had hitherto been in his
nature to yield on such occasions, to an animated discussion of some
of the principal points of difference betwixt the churches. So passed
away the first day in the Castle of Lochleven; and those which
followed it were, for some time, of a very monotonous and uniform
Chapter the Twenty-Fourth.
'Tis a weary life this--
Vaults overhead, and grates and bars around me,
And my sad hours spent with as sad companions,
Whose thoughts are brooding: o'er their own mischances,
Far, far too deeply to take part in mine.
The course of life to which Mary and her little retinue were doomed,
was in the last degree secluded and lonely, varied only as the weather
permitted or rendered impossible the Queen's usual walk in the garden
or on the battlements. The greater part of the morning she wrought
with her ladies at those pieces of needlework, many of which still
remain proofs of her indefatigable application. At such hours the page
was permitted the freedom of the castle and islet; nay, he was
sometimes invited to attend George Douglas when he went a-sporting
upon the lake, or on its margin; opportunities of diversion which were
only clouded by the remarkable melancholy which always seemed to brood
on that gentleman's brow, and to mark his whole demeanour,--a sadness
so profound, that Roland never observed him to smile, or to speak any
word unconnected with the immediate object of their exercise.
The most pleasant part of Roland's day, was the occasional space which
he was permitted to pass in personal attendance on the Queen and her
ladies, together with the regular dinner-time, which he always spent
with Dame Mary Fleming and Catharine Seyton. At these periods, he had
frequent occasion to admire the lively spirit and inventive
imagination of the latter damsel, who was unwearied in her
contrivances to amuse her mistress, and to banish, for a time at
least, the melancholy which preyed on her bosom. She danced, she sung,
she recited tales of ancient and modern times, with that heartfelt
exertion of talent, of which the pleasure lies not in the vanity of
displaying it to others, but in the enthusiastic consciousness that we
possess it ourselves. And yet these high accomplishments were mixed
with an air of rusticity and harebrained vivacity, which seemed rather
to belong to some village maid, the coquette of the ring around the
Maypole, than to the high-bred descendant of an ancient baron. A touch
of audacity, altogether short of effrontery, and far less approaching
to vulgarity, gave as it were a wildness to all that she did; and
Mary, while defending her from some of the occasional censures of her
grave companion, compared her to a trained singing-bird escaped from a
cage, which practises in all the luxuriance of freedom, and in full
possession of the greenwood bough, the airs which it had learned
during its earlier captivity.
The moments which the page was permitted to pass in the presence of
this fascinating creature, danced so rapidly away, that, brief as they
were, they compensated the weary dulness of all the rest of the day.
The space of indulgence, however, was always brief, nor were any
private interviews betwixt him and Catharine permitted, or even
possible. Whether it were some special precaution respecting the
Queen's household, or whether it were her general ideas of propriety,
Dame Fleming seemed particularly attentive to prevent the young people
from holding any separate correspondence together, and bestowed, for
Catharine's sole benefit in this matter, the full stock of prudence
and experience which she had acquired, when mother of the Queen's
maidens of honour, and by which she had gained their hearty hatred.
Casual meetings, however, could not be prevented, unless Catherine had
been more desirous of shunning, or Roland Graeme less anxious in
watching for them. A smile, a gibe, a sarcasm, disarmed of its
severity by the arch look with which it was accompanied, was all that
time permitted to pass between them on such occasions. But such
passing interviews neither afforded means nor opportunity to renew the
discussion of the circumstances attending their earlier acquaintance,
nor to permit Roland to investigate more accurately the mysterious
apparition of the page in the purple velvet cloak at the hostelrie of
The winter months slipped heavily away, and spring was already
advanced, when Roland Graeme observed a gradual change in the manners
of his fellow-prisoners. Having no business of his own to attend to,
and being, like those of his age, education, and degree, sufficiently
curious concerning what passed around, he began by degrees to suspect,
and finally to be convinced, that there was something in agitation
among his companions in captivity, to which they did not desire that
he should be privy. Nay, he became almost certain that, by some means
unintelligible to him, Queen Mary held correspondence beyond the walls
and waters which surrounded her prison-house, and that she nourished
some secret hope of deliverance or escape. In the conversations
betwixt her and her attendants, at which he was necessarily present,
the Queen could not always avoid showing that she was acquainted with
the events which were passing abroad in the world, and which he only
heard through her report. He observed that she wrote more and worked
less than had been her former custom, and that, as if desirous to lull
suspicion asleep, she changed her manner towards the Lady Lochleven
into one more gracious, and which seemed to express a resigned
submission to her lot. "They think I am blind," he said to himself,
"and that I am unfit to be trusted because I am so young, or it may be
because I was sent hither by the Regent. Well!--be it so--they may be
glad to confide in me in the long run; and Catherine Seyton, for as
saucy as she is, may find me as safe a confidant as that sullen
Douglas, whom she is always running after. It may be they are angry
with me for listening to Master Elias Henderson; but it was their own
fault for sending me there, and if the man speaks truth and good
sense, and preaches only the word of God, he is as likely to be right
as either Pope or Councils."
It is probable that in this last conjecture, Roland Graeme had hit
upon the real cause why the ladies had not intrusted him with their
councils. He had of late had several conferences with Henderson on the
subject of religion, and had given him to understand that he stood in
need of his instructions, although he had not thought there was either
prudence or necessity for confessing that hitherto he had held the
tenets of the Church of Rome.
Elias Henderson, a keen propagator of the reformed faith, had sought
the seclusion of Lochleven Castle, with the express purpose and
expectation of making converts from Rome amongst the domestics of the
dethroned Queen, and confirming the faith of those who already held
the Protestant doctrines. Perhaps his hopes soared a little higher,
and he might nourish some expectation of a proselyte more
distinguished in the person of the deposed Queen. But the pertinacity
with which she and her female attendants refused to see or listen to
him, rendered such hope, if he nourished it, altogether abortive.
The opportunity, therefore, of enlarging the religious information of
Roland Graeme, and bringing him to a more due sense of his duties to
Heaven, was hailed by the good man as a door opened by Providence for
the salvation of a sinner. He dreamed not, indeed, that he was
converting a Papist, but such was the ignorance which Roland displayed
upon some material points of the reformed doctrine, that Master
Henderson, while praising his docility to the Lady Lochleven and her
grandson, seldom failed to add, that his venerable brother, Henry
Warden, must be now decayed in strength and in mind, since he found a
catechumen of his flock so ill-grounded in the principles of his
belief. For this, indeed, Roland Graeme thought it was unnecessary to
assign the true reason, which was his having made it a point of honour
to forget all that Henry Warden taught him, as soon as he was no
longer compelled to read it over as a lesson acquired by rote. The
lessons of his new instructor, if not more impressively delivered,
were received by a more willing ear, and a more awakened
understanding, and the solitude of Lochleven Castle was favourable to
graver thoughts than the page had hitherto entertained. He wavered
yet, indeed, as one who was almost persuaded; but his attention to the
chaplain's instructions procured him favour even with the stern old
dame herself; and he was once or twice, but under great precaution,
permitted to go to the neighbouring village of Kinross, situated on
the mainland, to execute some ordinary commission of his unfortunate
For some time Roland Graeme might be considered as standing neuter
betwixt the two parties who inhabited the water-girdled Tower of
Lochleven; but, as he rose in the opinion of the Lady of the Castle
and her chaplain, he perceived, with great grief, that he lost ground
in that of Mary and her female allies.
He came gradually to be sensible that he was regarded as a spy upon
their discourse, and that, instead of the ease with which they had
formerly conversed in his presence, without suppressing any of the
natural feelings of anger, of sorrow, or mirth, which the chance topic
of the moment happened to call forth, their talk was now guardedly
restricted to the most indifferent subjects, and a studied reserve
observed even in their mode of treating these. This obvious want of
confidence was accompanied with a correspondent change in their
personal demeanor towards the unfortunate page. The Queen, who had at
first treated him with marked courtesy, now scarce spoke to him, save
to convey some necessary command for her service. The Lady Fleming
restricted her notice to the most dry and distant expressions of
civility, and Catherine Seyton became bitter in her pleasantries, and
shy, cross, and pettish, in any intercourse they had together. What
was yet more provoking, he saw, or thought he saw, marks of
intelligence betwixt George Douglas and the beautiful Catherine
Seyton; and, sharpened by jealousy, he wrought himself almost into a
certainty, that the looks which they exchanged, conveyed matters of
deep and serious import. "No wonder," he thought, "if, courted by the
son of a proud and powerful baron, she can no longer spare a word or
look to the poor fortuneless page."
In a word, Roland Graeme's situation became truly disagreeable, and
his heart naturally enough rebelled against the injustice of this
treatment, which deprived him of the only comfort which he had
received for submitting to a confinement in other respects irksome. He
accused Queen Mary and Catherine Seyton (for concerning the opinion of
Dame Fleming he was indifferent) of inconsistency in being displeased
with him on account of the natural consequences of an order of their
own. Why did they send him to hear this overpowering preacher? The
Abbot Ambrosius, he recollected, understood the weakness of their
Popish cause better, when he enjoined him to repeat within his own
mind, _aves_, and _credos_, and _paters_, all the while
old Henry Warden preached or lectured, that so he might secure himself
against lending even a momentary ear to his heretical doctrine. "But I
will endure this life no longer," said he to himself, manfully; "do
they suppose I would betray my mistress, because I see cause to doubt
of her religion?--that would be a serving, as they say, the devil for
God's sake. I will forth into the world--he that serves fair ladies,
may at least expect kind looks and kind words; and I bear not the mind
of a gentleman, to submit to cold treatment and suspicion, and a
life-long captivity besides. I will speak to George Douglas to-morrow
when we go out a-fishing."
A sleepless night was spent in agitating this magnanimous resolution,
and he arose in the morning not perfectly decided in his own mind
whether he should abide by it or not. It happened that he was summoned
by the Queen at an unusual hour, and just as he was about to go out
with George Douglas. He went to attend her commands in, the garden;
but as he had his angling-rod in his hand, the circumstance announced
his previous intention, and the Queen, turning to the Lady Fleming,
said, "Catherine must devise some other amusement for us, _ma bonnie
amie_; our discreet page has already made his party for the day's
"I said from the beginning," answered the Lady Fleming, "that your
Grace ought not to rely on being favoured with the company of a youth
who has so many Huguenot acquaintances, and has the means of amusing
himself far more agreeably than with us."
"I wish," said Catherine, her animated features reddening with
mortification, "that his friends would sail away with him for good,
and bring us in return a page (if such a thing can be found) faithful
to his Queen and to his religion."
"One part of your wishes may be granted, madam," said Roland Graeme,
unable any longer to restrain his sense of the treatment which he
received on all sides; and he was about to add, "I heartily wish you a
companion in my room, if such can be found, who is capable of enduring
women's caprices without going distracted." Luckily, he recollected
the remorse which he had felt at having given way to the vivacity of
his temper upon a similar occasion; and, closing his lips, imprisoned,
until it died on his tongue, a reproach so misbecoming the presence of
"Why do you remain there," said the Queen, "as if you were rooted to
"I but attend your Grace's commands," said the page.
"I have none to give you--Begone, sir."
As he left the garden to go to the boat, he distinctly heard Mary
upbraid one of her attendants in these words:--"You see to what you
have exposed us!"
This brief scene at once determined Roland Graeme's resolution to quit
the castle, if it were possible, and to impart his resolution to
George Douglas without loss of time. That gentleman, in his usual mood
of silence, sate in the stern of the little skiff which they used on
such occasions, trimming his fishing-tackle, and, from time to time,
indicating by signs to Graeme, who pulled the oars, which way he
should row. When they were a furlong or two from the castle, Roland
rested on the oars, and addressed his companion somewhat abruptly,--"I
have something of importance to say to you, under your pleasure, fair
The pensive melancholy of Douglas's countenance at once gave way to
the eager, keen, and startled look of one who expects to hear
something of deep and alarming import.
"I am wearied to the very death of this Castle of Lochleven,"
"Is that all?" said Douglas; "I know none of its inhabitants who are
much better pleased with it."
"Ay, but I am neither a native of the house, nor a prisoner in it, and
so I may reasonably desire to leave it."
"You might desire to quit it with equal reason," answered Douglas, "if
you were both the one and the other."
"But," said Roland Graeme, "I am not only tired of living in Lochleven
Castle, but I am determined to quit it."
"That is a resolution more easily taken than executed," replied
"Not if yourself, sir, and your Lady Mother, choose to consent,"
answered the page.
"You mistake the matter, Roland," said Douglas; "you will find that
the consent of two other persons is equally essential--that of the
Lady Mary your mistress, and that of my uncle the Regent, who placed
you about her person, and who will not think it proper that she should
change her attendants so soon."
"And must I then remain whether I will or no?" demanded the page,
somewhat appalled at a view of the subject, which would have occurred
sooner to a person of more experience.
"At least," said George Douglas, "you must will to remain till my
uncle consents to dismiss you."
"Frankly," said the page, "and speaking to you as a gentleman who is
incapable of betraying me, I will confess, that if I thought myself a
prisoner here, neither walls nor water should confine me long."
"Frankly," said Douglas, "I could not much blame you for the attempt;
yet, for all that, my father, or uncle, or the earl, or any of my
brothers, or in short any of the king's lords into whose hands you
fell, would in such a case hang you like a dog, or like a sentinel who
deserts his post; and I promise you that you will hardly escape them.
But row towards Saint Serf's island--there is a breeze from the west,
and we shall have sport, keeping to windward of the isle, where the
ripple is strongest. We will speak more of what you have mentioned
when we have had an hour's sport."
Their fishing was successful, though never did two anglers pursue even
that silent and unsocial pleasure with less of verbal intercourse.
When their time was expired, Douglas took the oars in his turn, and by
his order Roland Graeme steered the boat, directing her course upon
the landing-place at the castle. But he also stopped in the midst of
his course, and, looking around him, said to Graeme, "There is a thing
which I could mention to thee; but it is so deep a secret, that even
here, surrounded as we are by sea and sky, without the possibility of
a listener, I cannot prevail on myself to speak it out."
"Better leave it unspoken, sir," answered Roland Graeme, "if you doubt
the honour of him who alone can hear it."
"I doubt not your honour," replied George Douglas; "but you are young,
imprudent, and changeful."
"Young," said Roland, "I am, and it may be imprudent--but who hath
informed you that I am changeful?"
"One that knows you, perhaps, better than you know yourself," replied
"I suppose you mean Catherine Seyton," said the page, his heart rising
as he spoke; "but she is herself fifty times more variable in her
humour than the very water which we are floating upon."
"My young acquaintance," said Douglas, "I pray you to remember that
Catherine Seyton is a lady of blood and birth, and must not be lightly
"Master George of Douglas," said Graeme, "as that speech seemed to be
made under the warrant of something like a threat, I pray you to
observe, that I value not the threat at the estimation of a fin of one
of these dead trouts; and, moreover, I would have you to know that the
champion who undertakes the defence of every lady of blood and birth,
whom men accuse of change of faith and of fashion, is like to have
enough of work on his hands."
"Go to," said the Seneschal, but in a tone of good-humour, "thou art a
foolish boy, unfit to deal with any matter more serious than the
casting of a net, or the flying of a hawk."
"If your secret concern Catherine Seyton," said the page, "I care not
for it, and so you may tell her if you will. I wot she can shape you
opportunity to speak with her, as she has ere now."
The flush which passed over Douglas's face, made the page aware that
he had alighted on a truth, when he was, in fact, speaking at random;
and the feeling that he had done so, was like striking a dagger into
his own heart. His companion, without farther answer, resumed the
oars, and pulled lustily till they arrived at the island and the
castle. The servants received the produce of their spoil, and the two
fishers, turning from each other in silence, went each to his several
Roland Graeme had spent about an hour in grumbling against Catherine
Seyton, the Queen, the Regent, and the whole house of Lochleven, with
George Douglas at the head of it, when the time approached that his
duty called him to attend the meal of Queen Mary. As he arranged his
dress for this purpose, he grudged the trouble, which, on similar
occasions, he used, with boyish foppery, to consider as one of the
most important duties of his day; and when he went to take his place
behind the chair of the Queen, it was with an air of offended dignity,
which could not escape her observation, and probably appeared to her
ridiculous enough, for she whispered something in French to her
ladies, at which the lady Fleming laughed, and Catherine appeared half
diverted and half disconcerted. This pleasantry, of which the subject
was concealed from him, the unfortunate page received, of course, as a
new offence, and called an additional degree of sullen dignity into
his mien, which might have exposed him to farther raillery, but that
Mary appeared disposed to make allowance for and compassionate his
With the peculiar tact and delicacy which no woman possessed in
greater perfection, she began to soothe by degrees the vexed spirit of
her magnanimous attendant. The excellence of the fish which he had
taken in his expedition, the high flavour and beautiful red colour of
the trouts, which have long given distinction to the lake, led her
first to express her thanks to her attendant for so agreeable an
addition to her table, especially upon a _jour de jeune_; and
then brought on inquiries into the place where the fish had been
taken, their size, their peculiarities, the times when they were in
season, and a comparison between the Lochleven trouts and those which
are found in the lakes and rivers of the south of Scotland. The ill
humour of Roland Graeme was never of an obstinate character. It rolled
away like mist before the sun, and he was easily engaged in a keen and
animated dissertation about Lochleven trout, and sea trout, and river
trout, and bull trout, and char, which never rise to a fly, and par,
which some suppose infant salmon, and _herlings_, which frequent
the Nith, and _vendisses_, which are only found in the
Castle-Loch of Lochmaben; and he was hurrying on with the eager
impetuosity and enthusiasm of a young sportsman, when he observed that
the smile with which the Queen at first listened to him died languidly
away, and that, in spite of her efforts to suppress them, tears rose
to her eyes. He stopped suddenly short, and, distressed in his turn,
asked, "If he had the misfortune unwittingly to give displeasure to
"No, my poor boy," replied the Queen; "but as you numbered up the
lakes and rivers of my kingdom, imagination cheated me, as it will do,
and snatched me from these dreary walls away to the romantic streams
of Nithsdale, and the royal towers of Lochmaben.--O land, which my
fathers have so long ruled! of the pleasures which you extend so
freely, your Queen is now deprived, and the poorest beggar, who may
wander free from one landward town to another, would scorn to change
fates with Mary of Scotland!"
"Your highness," said the Lady Fleming, "will do well to withdraw."
"Come with me, then, Fleming," said the Queen, "I would not burden
hearts so young as these are, with the sight of my sorrows."
She accompanied these words with a look of melancholy compassion
towards Roland and Catherine, who were now left alone together in the
The page found his situation not a little embarrassing; for, as every
reader has experienced who may have chanced to be in such a situation,
it is extremely difficult to maintain the full dignity of an offended
person in the presence of a beautiful girl, whatever reason we may
have for being angry with her. Catherine Seyton, on her part, sate
still like a lingering ghost, which, conscious of the awe which its
presence imposes, is charitably disposed to give the poor confused
mortal whom it visits, time to recover his senses, and comply with the
grand rule of demonology by speaking first. But as Roland seemed in
no hurry to avail himself of her condescension, she carried it a step
farther, and herself opened the conversation.
"I pray you, fair sir, if it may be permitted me to disturb your
august reverie by a question so simple,--what may have become of your
"It is lost, madam--lost some time since," said Roland, partly
embarrassed and partly indignant.
"And may I ask farther, sir," said Catherine, "why you have not
replaced it with another?--I have half a mind," she said, taking from
her pocket a string of ebony beads adorned with gold, "to bestow one
upon yon, to keep for my sake, just to remind you of former
There was a little tremulous accent in the tone with which these words
were delivered, which at once put to flight Roland Graeme's
resentment, and brought him to Catherine's side; but she instantly
resumed the bold and firm accent which was more familiar to her. "I
did not bid you," she said, "come and sit so close by me; for the
acquaintance that I spoke of, has been stiff and cold, dead and
buried, for this many a day."
"Now Heaven forbid!" said the page, "it has only slept, and now that
you desire it should awake, fair Catherine, believe me that a pledge
of your returning favour--"
"Nay, nay," said Catherine, withholding the rosary, towards which, as
he spoke, he extended his hand, "I have changed my mind on better
reflection. What should a heretic do with these holy beads, that have
been blessed by the father of the church himself?"
Roland winced grievously, for he saw plainly which way the discourse
was now likely to tend, and felt that it must at all events be
embarrassing. "Nay, but," he said, "it was as a token of your own
regard that you offered them."
"Ay, fair sir, but that regard attended the faithful subject, the
loyal and pious Catholic, the individual who was so solemnly devoted
at the same time with myself to the same grand duty; which, you must
now understand, was to serve the church and Queen. To such a person,
if you ever heard of him, was my regard due, and not to him who
associates with heretics, and is about to become a renegado."
"I should scarce believe, fair mistress," said Roland, indignantly,
"that the vane of your favour turned only to a Catholic wind,
considering that it points so plainly to George Douglas, who, I think,
is both kingsman and Protestant."
"Think better of George Douglas," said Catherine, "than to believe--"
and then checking herself, as if she had spoken too much, she went on,
"I assure you, fair Master Roland, that all who wish you well are
sorry for you."
"Their number is very few, I believe," answered Roland, "and their
sorrow, if they feel any, not deeper than ten minutes' time will
"They are more numerous, and think more deeply concerning you, than
you seem to be aware," answered Catherine. "But perhaps they think
wrong--You are the best judge in your own affairs; and if you prefer
gold and church-lands to honour and loyalty, and the faith of your
fathers, why should you be hampered in conscience more than others?"
"May Heaven bear witness for me," said Roland, "that if I entertain
any difference of opinion--that is, if I nourish any doubts in point
of religion, they have been adopted on the conviction of my own mind,
and the suggestion of my own conscience!"
"Ay, ay, your conscience--your conscience!" repeated she with satiric
emphasis; "your conscience is the scape-goat; I warrant it an able
one--it will bear the burden of one of the best manors of the Abbey
of Saint Mary of Kennaquhair", lately forfeited to our noble Lord the
King, by the Abbot and community thereof, for the high crime of
fidelity to their religious vows, and now to be granted by the High
and Mighty Traitor, and so forth, James Earl of Murray, to the good
squire of dames Roland Graeme, for his loyal and faithful service as
under-espial, and deputy-turnkey, for securing the person of his
lawful sovereign, Queen Mary."
"You misconstrue me cruelly," said the page; "yes, Catherine, most
cruelly--God knows I would protect this poor lady at the risk of my
life, or with my life; but what can I do--what can any one do for
"Much may be done--enough may be done--all may be done--if men will be
but true and honourable, as Scottish men were in the days of Bruce and
Wallace. Oh, Roland, from what an enterprise you are now withdrawing
your heart and hand, through mere fickleness and coldness of spirit!"
"How can I withdraw," said Roland, "from an enterprise which has never
been communicated to me?--Has the Queen, or have you, or has any one,
communicated with me upon any thing for her service which I have
refused? Or have you not, all of you, held me at such distance from
your counsels, as if I were the most faithless spy since the days of
Ganelon?" [Footnote: Gan, Gano, or Ganelon of Mayence, is in the
Romances on the subject of Charlemagne and his Paladins, always
represented as the traitor by whom the Christian champions are
"And who," said Catherine Seyton, "would trust the sworn friend, and
pupil, and companion, of the heretic preacher Henderson? ay--a proper
tutor you have chosen, instead of the excellent Ambrosius, who is now
turned out of house and homestead, if indeed he is not languishing in
a dungeon, for withstanding the tyranny of Morton, to whose brother
the temporalities of that noble house of God have been gifted away by
"Is it possible?" said the page; "and is the excellent Father Ambrose
in such distress?"
"He would account the news of your falling away from the faith of your