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The Abbot by Sir Walter Scott

Part 8 out of 10

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man, there are more Kates in Kinross; and for the immature fruit, a
glass of my double distilled _aqua mirabilis--probatum est_."

The page darted an ireful glance at the facetious physician; but
presently recollecting that the name Kate, which had provoked his
displeasure, was probably but introduced for the sake of alliteration,
he suppressed his wrath, and only asked if the wains had been heard

"Why, I have been seeking for you this hour, to tell you that the
stuff is in your boat, and that the boat waits your pleasure.
Auchtermuchty had only fallen into company with an idle knave like
himself, and a stoup of aquavitae between them. Your boatmen lie on
their oars, and there have already been made two wefts from the
warder's turret to intimate that those in the castle are impatient for
your return. Yet there is time for you to take a slight repast; and,
as your friend and physician, I hold it unfit you should face the
water-breeze with an empty stomach."

Roland Graeme had nothing for it but to return, with such cheer as he
might, to the place where his boat was moored on the beach, and
resisted all offer of refreshment, although the Doctor promised that
he should prelude the collation with a gentle appetizer--a decoction
of herbs, gathered and distilled by himself. Indeed, as Roland had not
forgotten the contents of his morning cup, it is possible that the
recollection induced him to stand firm in his refusal of all food, to
which such an unpalatable preface was the preliminary. As they passed
towards the boat, (for the ceremonious politeness of the worthy
Chamberlain would not permit the page to go thither without
attendance,) Roland Graeme, amidst a group who seemed to be assembled
around a party of wandering musicians, distinguished, as he thought,
the dress of Catherine Seyton. He shook himself clear from his
attendant, and at one spring was in the midst of the crowd, and at the
side of the damsel. "Catherine," he whispered, "is it well for you to
be still here?--will you not return to the castle?"

"To the devil with your Catherines and your castles!" answered the
maiden, snappishly; "have you not had time enough already to get rid
of your follies? Begone! I desire not your farther company, and there
will be danger in thrusting it upon me."

"Nay--but if there be danger, fairest Catherine," replied Roland;
"why will you not allow me to stay and share it with you?"

"Intruding fool," said the maiden, "the danger is all on thine own
side--the risk in, in plain terms, that I strike thee on the mouth
with the hilt of my dagger." So saying, she turned haughtily from him,
and moved through the crowd, who gave way in some astonishment at the
masculine activity with which she forced her way among them.

As Roland, though much irritated, prepared to follow, he was grappled
on the other side by Doctor Luke Lundin, who reminded him of the
loaded boat, of the two wefts, or signals with the flag, which had
been made from the tower, of the danger of the cold breeze to an empty
stomach, and of the vanity of spending more time upon coy wenches and
sour plums. Roland was thus, in a manner, dragged back to his boat,
and obliged to launch her forth upon his return to Lochleven Castle.

That little voyage was speedily accomplished, and the page was greeted
at the landing-place by the severe and caustic welcome of old
Dryfesdale. "So, young gallant, you are come at last, after a delay
of six hours, and after two signals from the castle? But, I warrant,
some idle junketing hath occupied you too deeply to think of your
service or your duty. Where is the note of the plate and household
stuff?--Pray Heaven it hath not been diminished under the sleeveless
care of so young a gad-about!"

"Diminished under my care, Sir Steward!" retorted the page angrily;
"say so in earnest, and by Heaven your gray hair shall hardly protect
your saucy tongue!"

"A truce with your swaggering, young esquire," returned the steward;
"we have bolts and dungeons for brawlers. Go to my lady, and swagger
before her, if thou darest--she will give thee proper cause of
offence, for she has waited for thee long and impatiently."

"And where then is the Lady of Lochleven?" said the page; "for I
conceive it is of her thou speakest."

"Ay--of whom else?" replied Dryfesdale; "or who besides the Lady
of Lochleven hath a right to command in this castle?"

"The Lady of Lochleven is thy mistress," said Roland Graeme; "but
mine is the Queen of Scotland."

The steward looked at him fixedly for a moment, with an air in which
suspicion and dislike were ill concealed by an affectation of
contempt. "The bragging cock-chicken," he said, "will betray himself
by his rash crowing. I have marked thy altered manner in the chapel of
late--ay, and your changing of glances at meal-time with a certain
idle damsel, who, like thyself, laughs at all gravity and goodness.
There is something about you, my master, which should be looked to.
But, if you would know whether the Lady of Lochleven, or that other
lady, hath a right to command thy service, thou wilt find them
together in the Lady Mary's ante-room."

Roland hastened thither, not unwilling to escape from the ill-natured
penetration of the old man, and marvelling at the same time what
peculiarity could have occasioned the Lady of Lochleven's being in the
Queen's apartment at this time of the afternoon, so much contrary to
her usual wont. His acuteness instantly penetrated the meaning. "She
wishes," he concluded, "to see the meeting betwixt the Queen and me on
my return, that she may form a guess whether there is any private
intelligence or understanding betwixt us--I must be guarded."

With this resolution he entered the parlour, where the Queen, seated
in her chair, with the Lady Fleming leaning upon the back of it, had
already kept the Lady of Lochleven standing in her presence for the
space of nearly an hour, to the manifest increase of her very visible
bad humour. Roland Graeme, on entering the apartment, made a deep
obeisance to the Queen, and another to the Lady, and then stood still
as if to await their farther question. Speaking almost together, the
Lady Lochleven said, "So, young man, you are returned at length?"

And then stopped indignantly short, while the Queen went on without
regarding her--"Roland, you are welcome home to us--you have proved
the true dove and not the raven--Yet I am sure I could have forgiven
you, if, once dismissed, from this water-circled ark of ours, you had
never again returned to us. I trust you have brought back an
olive-branch, for our kind and worthy hostess has chafed herself much
on account of your long absence, and we never needed more some symbol
of peace and reconciliation."

"I grieve I should have been detained, madam," answered the page; "but
from the delay of the person intrusted with the matters for which I
was sent, I did not receive them till late in the day."

"See you there now," said the Queen to the Lady Lochleven; "we could
not persuade you, our dearest hostess, that your household goods were
in all safe keeping and surety. True it is, that we can excuse your
anxiety, considering that these august apartments are so scantily
furnished, that we have not been able to offer you even the relief of
a stool during the long time you have afforded us the pleasure of your

"The will, madam," said the lady, "the will to offer such
accommodation was more wanting than the means."

"What!" said the Queen, looking round, and affecting surprise, "there
are then stools in this apartment--one, two--no less than four,
including the broken one--a royal garniture!--We observed them
not--will it please your ladyship to sit?"

"No, madam, I will soon relieve you of my presence," replied the Lady
Lochleven; "and while with you, my aged limbs can still better brook
fatigue, than my mind stoop to accept of constrained courtesy."

"Nay, Lady of Lochleven, if you take it so deeply," said the Queen,
rising and motioning to her own vacant chair, "I would rather you
assumed my seat--you are not the first of your family who has done

The Lady of Lochleven curtsied a negative, but seemed with much
difficulty to suppress the angry answer which rose to her lips.

During this sharp conversation, the page's attention had been almost
entirely occupied by the entrance of Catherine Seyton, who came from
the inner apartment, in the usual dress in which she attended upon the
Queen, and with nothing in her manner which marked either the hurry or
confusion incident to a hasty change of disguise, or the conscious
fear of detection in a perilous enterprise. Roland Graeme ventured to
make her an obeisance as she entered, but she returned it with an air
of the utmost indifference, which, in his opinion, was extremely
inconsistent with the circumstances in which they stood towards each
other.--"Surely," he thought, "she cannot in reason expect to bully me
out of the belief due to mine own eyes, as she tried to do concerning
the apparition in the hostelry of Saint Michael's--I will try if I
cannot make her feel that this will be but a vain task, and that
confidence in me is the wiser and safer course to pursue."

These thoughts had passed rapidly through his mind, when the Queen,
having finished her altercation with the Lady of the castle, again
addressed him--"What of the revels at Kinross, Roland Graeme?
Methought they were gay, if I may judge from some faint sounds of
mirth and distant music, which found their way so far as these grated
windows, and died when they entered them, as all that is mirthful
must--But thou lookest as sad as if thou hadst come from a conventicle
of the Huguenots!"

"And so perchance he hath, madam," replied the Lady of Lochleven, at
whom this side-shaft was lanched. "I trust, amid yonder idle
fooleries, there wanted not some pouring forth of doctrine to a better
purpose than that vain mirth, which, blazing and vanishing like the
crackling of dry thorns, leaves to the fools who love it nothing but
dust and ashes."

"Mary Fleming," said the Queen, turning round and drawing her mantle
about her, "I would that we had the chimney-grate supplied with a
fagot or two of these same thorns which the Lady of Lochleven
describes so well. Methinks the damp air from the lake, which
stagnates in these vaulted rooms, renders them deadly cold."

"Your Grace's pleasure shall be obeyed," said the Lady of Lochleven;
"yet may I presume to remind you that we are now in summer?"

"I thank you for the information, my good lady," said the Queen; "for
prisoners better learn their calender from the mouth of their jailor,
than from any change they themselves feel in the seasons.--Once more,
Roland Graeme, what of the revels?"

"They were gay, madam," said the page, "but of the usual sort, and
little worth your Highness's ear."

"Oh, you know not," said the Queen, "how very indulgent my ear has
become to all that speaks of freedom and the pleasures of the free.
Methinks I would rather have seen the gay villagers dance their ring
round the Maypole, than have witnessed the most stately masques within
the precincts of a palace. The absence of stone-wall--the sense that
the green turf is under the foot which may tread it free and
unrestrained, is worth all that art or splendour can add to more
courtly revels."

"I trust," said the Lady Lochleven, addressing the page in her turn,
"there were amongst these follies none of the riots or disturbances to
which they so naturally lead?"

Roland gave a slight glance to Catherine Seyton, as if to bespeak her
attention, as he replied,--"I witnessed no offence, madam, worthy of
marking--none indeed of any kind, save that a bold damsel made her
hand somewhat too familiar with the cheek of a player-man, and ran
some hazard of being ducked in the lake."

As he uttered these words he cast a hasty glance at Catherine; but she
sustained, with the utmost serenity of manner and countenance, the
hint which he had deemed could not have been thrown out before her
without exciting some fear and confusion.

"I will cumber your Grace no longer with my presence," said the Lady
Lochleven, "unless you have aught to command me."

"Nought, our good hostess," answered the Queen, "unless it be to pray
you, that on another occasion you deem it not needful to postpone your
better employment to wait so long upon us."

"May it please you," added the Lady Lochleven, "to command this
your gentleman to attend us, that I may receive some account of these
matters which have been sent hither for your Grace's use?"

"We may not refuse what you are pleased to require, madam," answered
the Queen. "Go with the lady, Roland, if our commands be indeed
necessary to thy doing so. We will hear to-morrow the history of thy
Kinross pleasures. For this night we dismiss thy attendance."

Roland Graeme went with the Lady of Lochleven, who failed not to ask
him many questions concerning what had passed at the sports, to which
he rendered such answers as were most likely to lull asleep any
suspicions which she might entertain of his disposition to favour
Queen Mary, taking especial care to avoid all allusion to the
apparition of Magdalen Graeme, and of the Abbot Ambrosius. At length,
after undergoing a long and somewhat close examination, he was
dismissed with such expressions, as, coming from the reserved and
stern Lady of Lochleven, might seem to express a degree of favour and

His first care was to obtain some refreshment, which was more
cheerfully afforded him by a good-natured pantler than by Dryfesdale,
who was, on this occasion, much disposed to abide by the fashion of
Pudding-burn House, where

They who came not the first call.
Gat no more meat till the next meal.

When Roland Graeme had finished his repast, having his dismissal from
the Queen for the evening, and being little inclined for such society
as the castle afforded, he stole into the garden, in which he had
permission to spend his leisure time, when it pleased him. In this
place, the ingenuity of the contriver and disposer of the walks had
exerted itself to make the most of little space, and by screens, both
of stone ornamented with rude sculpture, and hedges of living green,
had endeavoured to give as much intricacy and variety as the confined
limits of the garden would admit.

Here the young man walked sadly, considering the events of the day,
and comparing what had dropped from the Abbot with what he had himself
noticed of the demeanour of George Douglas. "It must be so," was the
painful but inevitable conclusion at which he arrived. "It must be by
his aid that she is thus enabled, like a phantom, to transport herself
from place to place, and to appear at pleasure on the mainland or on
the islet.--It must be so," he repeated once more; "with him she holds
a close, secret, and intimate correspondence, altogether inconsistent
with the eye of favour which she has sometimes cast upon me, and
destructive to the hopes which she must have known these glances have
necessarily inspired." And yet (for love will hope where reason
despairs) the thought rushed on his mind, that it was possible she
only encouraged Douglas's passion so far as might serve her mistress's
interest, and that she was of too frank, noble, and candid a nature,
to hold out to himself hopes which she meant not to fulfil. Lost in
these various conjectures, he seated himself upon a bank of turf which
commanded a view of the lake on the one side, and on the other of that
front of the castle along which the Queen's apartments were situated.

The sun had now for some time set, and the twilight of May was rapidly
fading into a serene night. On the lake, the expanded water rose and
fell, with the slightest and softest influence of a southern breeze,
which scarcely dimpled the surface over which it passed. In the
distance was still seen the dim outline of the island of Saint Serf,
once visited by many a sandalled pilgrim, as the blessed spot trodden
by a man of God--now neglected or violated, as the refuge of lazy
priests, who had with justice been compelled to give place to the
sheep and the heifers of a Protestant baron.

As Roland gazed on the dark speck, amid the lighter blue of the waters
which surrounded it, the mazes of polemical discussion again stretched
themselves before the eye of the mind. Had these men justly suffered
their exile as licentious drones, the robbers, at once, and disgrace,
of the busy hive? or had the hand of avarice and rapine expelled from
the temple, not the ribalds who polluted, but the faithful priests who
served the shrine in honour and fidelity? The arguments of Henderson,
in this contemplative hour, rose with double force before him; and
could scarcely be parried by the appeal which the Abbot Ambrosius had
made from his understanding to his feelings,--an appeal which he had
felt more forcibly amid the bustle of stirring life, than now when his
reflections were more undisturbed. It required an effort to divert his
mind from this embarrassing topic; and he found that he best succeeded
by turning his eyes to the front of the tower, watching where a
twinkling light still streamed from the casement of Catherine Seyton's
apartment, obscured by times for a moment as the shadow of the fair
inhabitant passed betwixt the taper and the window. At length the
light was removed or extinguished, and that object of speculation was
also withdrawn from the eyes of the meditative lover. Dare I confess
the fact, without injuring his character for ever as a hero of
romance? These eyes gradually became heavy; speculative doubts on the
subject of religious controversy, and anxious conjectures concerning
the state of his mistress's affections, became confusedly blended
together in his musings; the fatigues of a busy day prevailed over the
harassing subjects of contemplation which occupied his mind, and he
fell fast asleep.

Sound were his slumbers, until they were suddenly dispelled by the
iron tongue of the castle-bell, which sent its deep and sullen sounds
wide over the bosom of the lake, and awakened the echoes of Bennarty,
the hill which descends steeply on its southern bank. Roland started
up, for this bell was always tolled at ten o'clock, as the signal for
locking the castle gates, and placing the keys under the charge of the
seneschal. He therefore hastened to the wicket by which the garden
communicated with the building, and had the mortification, just as he
reached it, to hear the bolt leave its sheath with a discordant crash,
and enter the stone groove of the door-lintel. "Hold, hold," cried the
page, "and let me in ere you lock the wicket." The voice of Dryfesdale
replied from within, in his usual tone of embittered sullenness, "The
hour is passed, fair master--you like not the inside of these
walls--even make it a complete holiday, and spend the night as well as
the day out of bounds."

"Open the door," exclaimed the indignant page, "or by Saint Giles I
will make thy gold chain smoke for it!"

"Make no alarm here," retorted the impenetrable Dryfesdale, "but keep
thy sinful oaths and silly threats for those that regard them--I do
mine office, and carry the keys to the seneschal.--Adieu, my young
master! the cool night air will advantage your hot blood."

The steward was right in what he said; for the cooling breeze was very
necessary to appease the feverish fit of anger which Roland
experienced, nor did the remedy succeed for some time. At length,
after some hasty turns made through the garden, exhausting his passion
in vain vows of vengeance, Roland Graeme began to be sensible that his
situation ought rather to be held as matter of laughter than of
serious resentment. To one bred a sportsman, a night spent in the open
air had in it little of hardship, and the poor malice of the steward
seemed more worthy of his contempt than his anger. "I would to God,"
he said, "that the grim old man may always have contented himself with
such sportive revenge. He often looks as he were capable of doing us a
darker turn." Returning, therefore, to the turf-seat which he had
formerly occupied, and which was partially sheltered by a trim fence
of green holly, he drew his mantle around him, stretched himself at
length on the verdant settle, and endeavoured to resume that sleep
which the castle bell had interrupted to so little purpose.

Sleep, like other earthly blessings, is niggard of its favours when
most courted. The more Roland invoked her aid, the farther she fled
from his eyelids. He had been completely awakened, first, by the
sounds of the bell, and then by his own aroused vivacity of temper,
and he found it difficult again to compose himself to slumber. At
length, when his mind--was wearied out with a maze of unpleasing
meditation, he succeeded in coaxing himself into a broken slumber.
This was again dispelled by the voices of two persons who were walking
in the garden, the sound of whose conversation, after mingling for
some time in the page's dreams, at length succeeded in awaking him
thoroughly. He raised himself from his reclining posture in the utmost
astonishment, which the circumstance of hearing two persons at that
late hour conversing on the outside of the watchfully guarded Castle
of Lochloven, was so well calculated to excite. His first thought was
of supernatural beings; his next, upon some attempt on the part of
Queen Mary's friends and followers; his last was, that George of
Douglas, possessed of the keys, and having the means of ingress and
egress at pleasure, was availing himself of his office to hold a
rendezvous with Catherine Seyton in the castle garden. He was
confirmed in this opinion by the tone of the voice, which asked in a
low whisper, "whether all was ready?"

Chapter the Thirtieth.

In some breasts passion lies conceal'd and silent,
Like war's swart powder in a castle vault,
Until occasion, like the linstock, lights it:
Then comes at once the lightning--and the thunder,
And distant echoes tell that all is rent asunder.

Roland Graeme, availing himself of a breach in the holly screen, and
of the assistance of the full moon, which was now arisen, had a
perfect opportunity, himself unobserved, to reconnoitre the persons
and the motions of those by whom his rest had been thus unexpectedly
disturbed; and his observations confirmed his jealous apprehensions.
They stood together in close and earnest conversation within four
yards of the place of his retreat, and he could easily recognize the
tall form and deep voice of Douglas, and the no less remarkable dress
and tone of the page at the hostelry of Saint Michael's.

"I have been at the door of the page's apartment," said Douglas, "but
he is not there, or he will not answer. It is fast bolted on the
inside, as is the custom, and we cannot pass through it--and what his
silence may bode I know not."

"You have trusted him too far," said the other; "a feather-headed
cox-comb, upon whose changeable mind and hot brain there is no making
an abiding impression."

"It was not I who was willing to trust him," said Douglas, "but I was
assured he would prove friendly when called upon--for----" Here he
spoke so low that Roland lost the tenor of his words, which was the
more provoking, as he was fully aware that he was himself the subject
of their conversation.

"Nay," replied the stranger, more aloud, "I have on my side put him
off with fair words, which make fools vain--but now, if you distrust
him at the push, deal with him with your dagger, and so make open

"That were too rash," said Douglas; "and besides, as I told you, the
door of his apartment is shut and bolted. I will essay again to waken

Graeme instantly comprehended, that the ladies, having been somehow
made aware of his being in the garden, had secured the door of the
outer room in which he usually slept, as a sort of sentinel upon that
only access to the Queen's apartments. But then, how came Catherine
Seyton to be abroad, if the Queen and the other lady were still within
their chambers, and the access to them locked and bolted?--"I will be
instantly at the bottom of these mysteries," he said, "and then thank
Mistress Catherine, if this be really she, for the kind use which she
exhorted Douglas to make of his dagger--they seek me, as I comprehend,
and they shall not seek me in vain."

Douglas had by this time re-entered the castle by the wicket, which
was now open. The stranger stood alone in the garden walk, his arms
folded on his breast, and his eyes cast impatiently up to the moon, as
if accusing her of betraying him by the magnificence of her lustre. In
a moment Roland Graeme stood before him--"A goodly night," he said,
"Mistress Catherine, for a young lady to stray forth in disguise, and
to meet with men in an orchard!"

"Hush!" said the stranger page, "hush, thou foolish patch, and tell us
in a word if thou art friend or foe."

"How should I be friend to one who deceives me by fair words, and who
would have Douglas deal with me with his poniard?" replied Roland.

"The fiend receive George of Douglas and thee too, thou born madcap
and sworn marplot!" said the other; "we shall be discovered, and then
death is the word."

"Catherine," said the page, "you have dealt falsely and cruelly with
me, and the moment of explanation is now come--neither it nor you
shall escape me."

"Madman!" said the stranger, "I am neither Kate nor Catherine--the
moon shines bright enough surely to know the hart from the hind."

"That shift shall not serve you, fair mistress," said the page, laying
hold on the lap of the stranger's cloak; "this time, at least, I will
know with whom I deal."

"Unhand me," said she, endeavouring to extricate herself from his
grasp; and in a tone where anger seemed to contend with a desire to
laugh, "use you so little discretion towards a daughter of Seyton?"

But as Roland, encouraged perhaps by her risibility to suppose his
violence was not unpardonably offensive, kept hold on her mantle, she
said, in a sterner tone of unmixed resentment,--"Madman! let me
go!--there is life and death in this moment--I would not willingly
hurt thee, and yet beware!"

As she spoke she made a sudden effort to escape, and, in doing so, a
pistol, which she carried in her hand or about her person, went off.

This warlike sound instantly awakened the well-warded castle. The
warder blew his horn, and began to toll the castle bell, crying out at
the same time, "Fie, treason! treason! cry all! cry all!"

The apparition of Catherine Seyton, which the page had let loose in
the first moment of astonishment, vanished in darkness; but the plash
of oars was heard, and, in a second or two, five or six harquebuses
and a falconet were fired from the battlements of the castle
successively, as if levelled at some object on the water. Confounded
with these incidents, no way for Catherine's protection (supposing her
to be in the boat which he had heard put from the shore) occurred to
Roland, save to have recourse to George of Douglas. He hastened for
this purpose towards the apartment of the Queen, whence he heard loud
voices and much trampling of feet. When he entered, he found himself
added to a confused and astonished group, which, assembled in that
apartment, stood gazing upon each other. At the upper end of the room
stood the Queen, equipped as for a journey, and--attended not only by
the Lady Fleming, but by the omnipresent Catherine Seyton, dressed in
the habit of her own sex, and bearing in her hand the casket in which
Mary kept such jewels as she had been permitted to retain. At the
other end of the hall was the Lady of Lochleven, hastily dressed, as
one startled from slumber by the sudden alarm, and surrounded by
domestics, some bearing torches, others holding naked swords,
partisans, pistols, or such other weapons as they had caught up in the
hurry of a night alarm. Betwixt these two parties stood George of
Douglas, his arms folded on his breast, his eyes bent on the ground,
like a criminal who knows not how to deny, yet continues unwilling to
avow, the guilt in which he has been detected.

"Speak, George of Douglas," said the Lady of Lochleven; "speak, and
clear the horrid suspicion which rests on thy name. Say, 'A Douglas
was never faithless to his trust, and I am a Douglas.' Say this, my
dearest son, and it is all I ask thee to say to clear thy name, even
under, such a foul charge. Say it was but the wile of these unhappy
women, and this false boy, which plotted an escape so fatal to
Scotland--so destructive to thy father's house."

"Madam," said old Dryfesdale the steward, "this much do I say for this
silly page, that he could not be accessary to unlocking the doors,
since I myself this night bolted him out of the castle. Whoever limned
this night-piece, the lad's share in it seems to have been small."

"Thou liest, Dryfesdale," said the Lady, "and wouldst throw the blame
on thy master's house, to save the worthless life of a gipsy boy."

"His death were more desirable to me than his life," answered the
steward, sullenly; "but the truth is the truth."

At these words Douglas raised his head, drew up his figure to its full
height, and spoke boldly and sedately, as one whose resolution was
taken. "Let no life be endangered for me. I alone----"

"Douglas," said the Queen, interrupting him, "art thou mad? Speak
not, I charge you."

"Madam," he replied, bowing with the deepest respect, "gladly would I
obey your commands, but they must have a victim, and let it be the
true one.--Yes, madam," he continued, addressing the Lady of
Lochleven, "I alone am guilty in this matter. If the word of a Douglas
has yet any weight with you, believe me that this boy is innocent; and
on your conscience I charge you, do him no wrong; nor let the Queen
suffer hardship for embracing the opportunity of freedom which sincere
loyalty--which a sentiment yet deeper--offered to her acceptance. Yes!
I had planned the escape of the most beautiful, the most persecuted of
women; and far from regretting that I, for a while, deceived the
malice of her enemies, I glory in it, and am most willing to yield up
life itself in her cause."

"Now may God have compassion on my age," said the Lady of Lochleven,
"and enable me to bear this load of affliction! O Princess, born in a
luckless hour, when will you cease to be the instrument of seduction
and of ruin to all who approach you? O ancient house of Lochleven,
famed so long for birth and honour, evil was the hour which brought
the deceiver under thy roof!"

"Say not so, madam," replied her grandson; "the old honours of the
Douglas line will be outshone, when one of its descendants dies for
the most injured of queens--for the most lovely of women."

"Douglas," said the Queen, "must I at this moment--ay, even at this
moment, when I may lose a faithful subject for ever, chide thee for
forgetting what is due to me as thy Queen?"

"Wretched boy," said the distracted Lady of Lochleven, "hast thou
fallen even thus far into the snare of this Moabitish woman?--hast
thou bartered thy name, thy allegiance, thy knightly oath, thy duty to
thy parents, thy country, and thy God, for a feigned tear, or a sickly
smile, from lips which flattered the infirm Francis--lured to death
the idiot Darnley--read luscious poetry with the minion
Chastelar--mingled in the lays of love which were sung by the beggar
Rizzio--and which were joined in rapture to those of the foul and
licentious Bothwell?"

"Blaspheme not, madam!" said Douglas;--"nor you, fair Queen, and
virtuous as fair, chide at this moment the presumption of thy
vassal!--Think not that the mere devotion of a subject could have
moved me to the part I have been performing. Well you deserve that
each of your lieges should die for you; but I have done more--have
done that to which love alone could compel a Douglas--I have
dissembled. Farewell, then, Queen of all hearts, and Empress of that
of Douglas!--When you are freed from this vile bondage--as freed you
shall be, if justice remains in Heaven--and when you load with honours
and titles the happy man who shall deliver you, cast one thought on
him whose heart would have despised every reward for a kiss of your
hand--cast one thought on his fidelity, and drop one tear on his
grave." And throwing himself at her feet, he seized her hand, and
pressed it to his lips.

"This before my face!" exclaimed the Lady of Lochleven--"wilt thou
court thy adulterous paramour before the eyes of a parent?--Tear them
asunder, and put him under strict ward! Seize him, upon your lives!"
she added, seeing that her attendants looked at each other with

"They are doubtful," said Mary. "Save thyself, Douglas, I command

He started up from the floor, and only exclaiming, "My life or death
are yours, and at your disposal!"--drew his sword, and broke through
those who stood betwixt him and the door. The enthusiasm of his onset
was too sudden and too lively to have been opposed by any thing short
of the most decided opposition; and as he was both loved and feared by
his father's vassals, none of them would offer him actual injury.

The Lady of Lochleven stood astonished at his sudden escape--"Am I
surrounded," she said, "by traitors? Upon him, villains!--pursue,
stab, cut him down."

"He cannot leave the island, madam," said Dryfesdale, interfering; "I
have the key of the boat-chain."

But two or three voices of those who pursued from curiosity, or
command of their mistress, exclaimed from below, that he had cast
himself into the lake.

"Brave Douglas still!" exclaimed the Queen--"Oh, true and noble heart,
that prefers death to imprisonment!"

"Fire upon him!" said the Lady of Lochleven; "if there be here a true
servant of his father, let him shoot the runagate dead, and let the
lake cover our shame!"

The report of a gun or two was heard, but they were probably shot
rather to obey the Lady, than with any purpose of hitting the mark;
and Randal immediately entering, said that Master George had been
taken up by a boat from the castle, which lay at a little distance.

"Man a barge, and pursue them!" said the Lady.

"It were quite vain," said Randal; "by this time they are half way to
shore, and a cloud has come over the moon."

"And has the traitor then escaped?" said the Lady, pressing her hands
against her forehead with a gesture of despair; "the honour of our
house is for ever gone, and all will be deemed accomplices in this
base treachery."

"Lady of Lochleven," said Mary, advancing towards her, "you have this
night cut off my fairest hopes--You have turned my expected freedom
into bondage, and dashed away the cup of joy in the very instant I was
advancing it to my lips--and yet I feel for your sorrow the pity that
you deny to mine--Gladly would I comfort you if I might; but as I may
not, I would at least part from you in charity."

"Away, proud woman!" said the Lady; "who ever knew so well as thou to
deal the deepest wounds under the pretence of kindness and
courtesy?--Who, since the great traitor, could ever so betray with a

"Lady Douglas of Lochleven," said the Queen, "in this moment thou
canst not offend me--no, not even by thy coarse and unwomanly
language, held to me in the presence of menials and armed retainers. I
have this night owed so much to one member of the house of Lochleven,
as to cancel whatever its mistress can do or say in the wildness of
her passion."

"We are bounden to you, Princess," said Lady Lochleven, putting a
strong constraint on herself, and passing from her tone of violence to
that of bitter irony; "our poor house hath been but seldom graced with
royal smiles, and will hardly, with my choice, exchange their rough
honesty for such court-honour as Mary of Scotland has now to bestow."

"They," replied Mary, "who knew so well how to _take_, may think
themselves excused from the obligation implied in receiving. And that
I have now little to offer, is the fault of the Douglasses and their

"Fear nothing, madam," replied the Lady of Lochleven, in the same
bitter tone, "you retain an exchequer which neither your own
prodigality can drain, nor your offended country deprive you of. While
you have fair words and delusive smiles at command, you need no other
bribes to lure youth to folly."

The Queen cast not an ungratified glance on a large mirror, which,
hanging on one side of the apartment, and illuminated by the
torch-light, reflected her beautiful face and person. "Our hostess
grows complaisant," she said, "my Fleming; we had not thought that
grief and captivity had left us so well stored with that sort of
wealth which ladies prize most dearly."

"Your Grace will drive this severe woman frantic," said Fleming, in a
low tone. "On my knees I implore you to remember she is already
dreadfully offended, and that we are in her power."

"I will not spare her, Fleming," answered the Queen; "it is against my
nature. She returned my honest sympathy with insult and abuse, and I
will gall her in return,--if her words are too blunt for answer, let
her use her poniard if she dare!"

"The Lady Lochleven," said the Lady Fleming aloud, "would surely do
well now to withdraw, and to leave her Grace to repose."

"Ay," replied the Lady, "or to leave her Grace, and her Grace's
minions, to think what silly fly they may next wrap their meshes
about. My eldest son is a widower--were he not more worthy the
flattering hopes with which you have seduced his brother?--True, the
yoke of marriage has been already thrice fitted on--but the church of
Rome calls it a sacrament, and its votaries may deem it one in which
they cannot too often participate."

"And the votaries of the church of Geneva," replied Mary, colouring
with indignation, "as they deem marriage _no_ sacrament, are said
at times to dispense with the holy ceremony."--Then, as if afraid of
the consequences of this home allusion to the errors of Lady
Lochleven's early life, the Queen added, "Come, my Fleming, we grace
her too much by this altercation; we will to our sleeping apartment.
If she would disturb us again to-night, she must cause the door to be
forced." So saying, she retired to her bed-room, followed by her two

Lady Lochleven, stunned as it were by this last sarcasm, and not the
less deeply incensed that she had drawn it upon herself, remained like
a statue on the spot which she had occupied when she received an
affront so flagrant. Dryfesdale and Randal endeavoured to rouse her
to recollection by questions.

"What is your honourable Ladyship's pleasure in the premises?"

"Shall we not double the sentinels, and place one upon the boats and
another in the garden?" said Randal.

"Would you that despatches were sent to Sir William at Edinburgh, to
acquaint him with what has happened?" demanded Dryfesdale; "and ought
not the place of Kinross to be alarmed, lest there be force upon the
shores of the lake?"

"Do all as thou wilt," said the Lady, collecting herself, and about to
depart. "Thou hast the name of a good soldier, Dryfesdale, take all
precautions.--Sacred Heaven! that I should be thus openly insulted!"

"Would it be your pleasure," said Dryfesdale, hesitating, "that this
person--this Lady--be more severely restrained?"

"No, vassal!" answered the Lady, indignantly, "my revenge stoops not
to so low a gratification. But I will have more worthy vengeance, or
the tomb of my ancestors shall cover my shame!"

"And you shall have it, madam," replied Dryfesdale--"ere two suns go
down, you shall term yourself amply revenged."

The Lady made no answer--perhaps did not hear his words, as she
presently left the apartment. By the command of Dryfesdale, the rest
of the attendants were dismissed, some to do the duty of guard, others
to their repose. The steward himself remained after they had all
departed; and Roland Graeme, who was alone in the apartment, was
surprised to see the old soldier advance towards him with an air of
greater cordiality than he had ever before assumed to him, but which
sat ill on his scowling features.

"Youth," he said, "I have done thee some wrong--it is thine own fault,
for thy behaviour hath seemed as light to me as the feather thou
wearest in thy hat; and surely thy fantastic apparel, and idle humour
of mirth and folly, have made me construe thee something harshly. But
I saw this night from my casement, (as I looked out to see how thou
hadst disposed of thyself in the garden,) I saw, I say, the true
efforts which thou didst make to detain the companion of the perfidy
of him who is no longer worthy to be called by his father's name, but
must be cut off from his house like a rotten branch. I was just about
to come to thy assistance when the pistol went off; and the warder (a
false knave, whom I suspect to be bribed for the nonce) saw himself
forced to give the alarm, which, perchance, till then he had wilfully
withheld. To atone, therefore, for my injustice towards you, I would
willingly render you a courtesy, if you would accept of it from my

"May I first crave to know what it is?" replied the page.

"Simply to carry the news of this discovery to Holyrood, where thou
mayest do thyself much grace, as well with the Earl of Morton and the
Regent himself, as with Sir William Douglas, seeing thou hast seen the
matter from end to end, and borne faithful part therein. The making
thine own fortune will be thus lodged in thine own hand, when I trust
thou wilt estrange thyself from foolish vanities, and learn to walk in
this world as one who thinks upon the next."

"Sir Steward," said Roland Graeme, "I thank you for your courtesy, but
I may not do your errand. I pass that I am the Queen's sworn servant,
and may not be of counsel against her. But, setting this apart,
methinks it were a bad road to Sir William of Lochleven's favour, to
be the first to tell him of his son's defection--neither would the
Regent be over well pleased to hear the infidelity of his vassal, nor
Morton to learn the falsehood of his kinsman."

"Um!" said the steward, making that inarticulate sound which expresses
surprise mingled with displeasure. "Nay, then, even fly where ye list;
for, giddy-pated as ye may be, you know how to bear you in the world."

"I will show you my esteem is less selfish than ye think for," said
the page; "for I hold truth and mirth to be better than gravity and
cunning--ay, and in the end to be a match for them.--You never loved
me less, Sir Steward, than you do at this moment. I know you will give
me no real confidence, and I am resolved to accept no false
protestations as current coin. Resume your old course--suspect me as
much and watch me as closely as you will, I bid you defiance--you have
met with your match."

"By Heaven, young man," said the steward, with a look of bitter
malignity, "if thou darest to attempt any treachery towards the House
of Lochleven, thy head shall blacken in the sun from the warder's

"He cannot commit treachery who refuses trust," said the page; "and
for my head, it stands as securely on my shoulders, as on any turret
that ever mason built."

"Farewell, thou prating and speckled pie," said Dryfesdale, "that art
so vain of thine idle tongue and variegated coat! Beware trap and

"And fare thee well, thou hoarse old raven," answered the page; "thy
solemn flight, sable hue, and deep croak, are no charms against
bird-bolt or hail-shot, and that thou mayst find--it is open war
betwixt us, each for the cause of our mistress, and God show the

"Amen, and defend his own people!" said the steward. "I will let my
mistress know what addition thou hast made to this mess of traitors.
Good night, Monsieur Featherpate."

"Good-night, Seignior Sowersby," replied the page; and, when the old
man departed, he betook himself to rest.

Chapter the Thirty-First.

Poison'd--ill fare!--dead, forsook, cast off!--

However weary Roland Graeme might be of the Castle of
Lochleven--however much he might wish that the plan for Mary's escape
had been perfected, I question if he ever awoke with more pleasing
feelings than on the morning after George Douglas's plan for
accomplishing her deliverance had been frustrated. In the first place,
he had the clearest conviction that he had misunderstood the innuendo
of the Abbot, and that the affections of Douglas were fixed, not on
Catherine Seyton, but on the Queen; and in the second place, from the
sort of explanation which had taken place betwixt the steward and him,
he felt himself at liberty, without any breach of honour towards the
family of Lochleven, to contribute his best aid to any scheme which
should in future be formed for the Queen's escape; and, independently
of the good-will which he himself had to the enterprise, he knew he
could find no surer road to the favour of Catherine Seyton. He now
sought but an opportunity to inform her that he had dedicated himself
to this task, and fortune was propitious in affording him one which
was unusually favourable.

At the ordinary hour of breakfast, it was introduced by the steward
with his usual forms, who, as soon as it was placed on the board in
the inner apartment, said to Roland Graeme, with a glance of sarcastic
import, "I leave you, my young sir, to do the office of sewer--it has
been too long rendered to the Lady Mary by one belonging to the house
of Douglas."

"Were it the prime and principal who ever bore the name," said Roland,
"the office were an honour to him."

The steward departed without replying to this bravade, otherwise than
by a dark look of scorn. Graeme, thus left alone, busied himself as
one engaged in a labour of love, to imitate, as well as he could, the
grace and courtesy with which George of Douglas was wont to render his
ceremonial service at meals to the Queen of Scotland. There was more
than youthful vanity--there was a generous devotion in the feeling
with which he took up the task, as a brave soldier assumes the place
of a comrade who has fallen in the front of battle. "I am now," he
said, "their only champion: and, come weal, come wo, I will be, to the
best of my skill and power, as faithful, as trustworthy, as brave, as
any Douglas of them all could have been."

At this moment Catherine Seyton entered alone, contrary to her custom;
and not less contrary to her custom, she entered with her kerchief at
her eyes. Roland Graeme approached her with beating heart and with
down-cast eyes, and asked her, in a low and hesitating voice, whether
the Queen were well?

"Can you suppose it?" said Catherine. "Think you her heart and body
are framed of steel and iron, to endure the cruel disappointment of
yester even, and the infamous taunts of yonder puritanic hag?--Would
to God that I were a man, to aid her more effectually!"

"If those who carry pistols, and batons, and poniards," said the page,
"are not men, they are at least Amazons; and that is as formidable."

"You are welcome to the flash of your wit, sir," replied the damsel;
"I am neither in spirits to enjoy, nor to reply to it."

"Well, then," said the page, "list to me in all serious truth. And,
first, let me say, that the gear last night had been smoother, had you
taken me into your counsels."

"And so we meant; but who could have guessed that Master Page should
choose to pass all night in the garden, like some moon-stricken knight
in a Spanish romance--instead of being in his bed-room, when Douglas
came to hold communication with him on our project."

"And why," said the page, "defer to so late a moment so important a

"Because your communications with Henderson, and--with pardon--the
natural impetuosity and fickleness of your disposition, made us dread
to entrust you with a secret of such consequence, till the last

"And why at the last moment?" said the page, offended at this frank
avowal; "why at that, or any other moment, since I had the misfortune
to incur so much suspicion?"

"Nay--now you are angry again," said Catherine; "and to serve you
aright I should break off this talk; but I will be magnanimous, and
answer your question. Know, then, our reason for trusting you was
twofold. In the first place, we could scarce avoid it, since you slept
in the room through which we had to pass. In the second place----"

"Nay," said the page, "you may dispense with a second reason, when
the first makes your confidence in me a case of necessity."

"Good now, hold thy peace," said Catherine. "In the second place, as I
said before, there is one foolish person among us, who believes that
Roland Graeme's heart is warm, though his head is giddy--that his
blood is pure, though it boils too hastily--and that his faith and
honour are true as the load-star, though his tongue sometimes is far
less than discreet."

This avowal Catherine repeated in a low tone, with her eye fixed on
the floor, as if she shunned the glance of Roland while she suffered
it to escape her lips--"And this single friend," exclaimed the youth
in rapture; "this only one who would do justice to the poor Roland
Graeme, and whose own generous heart taught her to distinguish between
follies of the brain and faults of the heart--Will you not tell me,
dearest Catherine, to whom I owe my most grateful, my most heartfelt

"Nay," said Catherine, with her eyes still fixed on the ground, "if
your own heart tell you not----"

"Dearest Catherine!" said the page, seizing upon her hand, and
kneeling on one knee.

"If your own heart, I say, tell you not," said Catherine, gently
disengaging her hand, "it is very ungrateful; for since the maternal
kindness of the Lady Fleming----"

The page started on his feet. "By Heaven, Catherine, your tongue wears
as many disguises as your person! But you only mock me, cruel girl.
You know the Lady Fleming has no more regard for any one, than hath
the forlorn princess who is wrought into yonder piece of old figured
court tapestry."

"It may be so," said Catherine Seyton, "but you should not speak so

"Pshaw!" answered the page, but at the same time lowering his voice,
"she cares for no one but herself and the Queen. And you know,
besides, there is no one of you whose opinion I value, if I have not
your own. No--not that of Queen Mary herself."

"The more shame for you, if it be so," said Catherine, with great

"Nay, but, fair Catherine," said the page, "why will you thus damp my
ardour, when I am devoting myself, body and soul, to the cause of your

"It is because in doing so," said Catherine, "you debase a cause so
noble, by naming along with it any lower or more selfish motive.
Believe me," she said, with kindling eyes, and while the blood mantled
on her cheek, "they think vilely and falsely of women--I mean of those
who deserve the name--who deem that they love the gratification of
their vanity, or the mean purpose of engrossing a lover's admiration
and affection, better than they love the virtue and honour of the man
they may be brought to prefer. He that serves his religion, his
prince, and his country, with ardour and devotion, need not plead his
cause with the commonplace rant of romantic passion--the woman whom he
honours with his love becomes his debtor, and her corresponding
affection is engaged to repay his glorious toil."

"You hold a glorious prize for such toil," said the youth, bending his
eyes on her with enthusiasm.

"Only a heart which knows how to value it," said Catherine. "He that
should free this injured Princess from these dungeons, and set her at
liberty among her loyal and warlike nobles, whose hearts are burning
to welcome her--where is the maiden in Scotland whom the love of such
a hero would not honour, were she sprung from the blood royal of the
land, and he the offspring of the poorest cottager that ever held a

"I am determined," said Roland, "to take the adventure. Tell me first,
however, fair Catherine, and speak it as if you were confessing to the
priest--this poor Queen, I know she is unhappy--but, Catherine, do you
hold her innocent? She is accused of murder."

"Do I hold the lamb guilty, because it is assailed by the wolf?"
answered Catherine; "do I hold yonder sun polluted, because an
earth-damp sullies his beams?"

The page sighed and looked down. "Would my conviction were as deep as
thine! But one thing is clear, that in this captivity she hath
wrong--She rendered herself up, on a capitulation, and the terms have
been refused her--I will embrace her quarrel to the death!"

"Will you--will you, indeed?" said Catherine, taking his hand in her
turn. "Oh, be but firm in mind, as thou art bold in deed and quick in
resolution; keep but thy plighted faith, and after ages shall honour
thee as the saviour of Scotland!"

"But when I have toiled successfully to win that Leah, Honour, thou
wilt not, my Catherine," said the page, "condemn me to a new term of
service for that Rachel, Love?"

"Of that," said Catherine, again extricating her hand from his grasp,
"we shall have full time to speak; but Honour is the elder sister, and
must be won the first."

"I may not win her," answered the page; "but I will venture fairly for
her, and man can do no more. And know, fair Catherine,--for you shall
see the very secret thought of my heart,--that not Honour only--not
only that other and fairer sister, whom you frown on me for so much as
mentioning--but the stern commands of duty also, compel me to aid the
Queen's deliverance."

"Indeed!" said Catherine; "you were wont to have doubts on that

"Ay, but her life was not then threatened," replied Roland.

"And is it now more endangered than heretofore?" asked Catherine
Seyton, in anxious terror.

"Be not alarmed," said the page; "but you heard the terms on which
your royal mistress parted with the Lady of Lochleven?"

"Too well--but too well," said Catherine; "alas! that she cannot rule
her princely resentment, and refrain from encounters like these!"

"That hath passed betwixt them," said Roland, "for which woman never
forgives woman. I saw the Lady's brow turn pale, and then black, when,
before all the menzie, and in her moment of power, the Queen humbled
her to the dust by taxing her with her shame. And I heard the oath of
deadly resentment and revenge which she muttered in the ear of one,
who by his answer will, I judge, be but too ready an executioner of
her will."

"You terrify me," said Catherine.

"Do not so take it--call up the masculine part of your spirit--we will
counteract and defeat her plans, be they dangerous as they may. Why do
you look upon me thus, and weep?"

"Alas!" said Catherine, "because you stand there before me a living
and breathing man, in all the adventurous glow and enterprise of
youth, yet still possessing the frolic spirits of childhood--there you
stand, full alike of generous enterprise and childish recklessness;
and if to-day, or to-morrow, or some such brief space, you lie a
mangled and lifeless corpse upon the floor of these hateful dungeons,
who but Catherine Seyton will be the cause of your brave and gay
career being broken short as you start from the goal? Alas! she whom
you have chosen to twine your wreath, may too probably have to work
your shroud!"

"And be it so, Catherine," said the page, in the full glow of youthful
enthusiasm; "and _do_ thou work my shroud! and if thou grace it
with such tears as fall now at the thought, it will honour my remains
more than an earl's mantle would my living body. But shame on this
faintness of heart! the time craves a firmer mood--Be a woman,
Catherine, or rather be a man--thou canst be a man if thou wilt."

Catherine dried her tears, and endeavoured to smile.

"You must not ask me," she said, "about that which so much disturbs
your mind; you shall know all in time--nay, you should know all now,
but that--Hush! here comes the Queen."

Mary entered from her apartment, paler than usual, and apparently
exhausted by a sleepless night, and by the painful thoughts which had
ill supplied the place of repose; yet the languor of her looks was so
far from impairing her beauty, that it only substituted the frail
delicacy of the lovely woman for the majestic grace of the Queen.
Contrary to her wont, her toilette had been very hastily despatched,
and her hair, which was usually dressed by Lady Fleming with great
care, escaping from beneath the headtire, which had been hastily
adjusted, fell in long and luxuriant tresses of Nature's own curling,
over a neck and bosom which were somewhat less carefully veiled than

As she stepped over the threshold of her apartment, Catherine, hastily
drying her tears, ran to meet her royal mistress, and having first
kneeled at her feet, and kissed her hand, instantly rose, and placing
herself on the other side of the Queen, seemed anxious to divide with
the Lady Fleming the honour of supporting and assisting her. The page,
on his part, advanced and put in order the chair of state, which she
usually occupied, and having placed the cushion and footstool for her
accommodation, stepped back, and stood ready for service in the place
usually occupied by his predecessor, the young Seneschal. Mary's eye
rested an instant on him, and could not but remark the change of
persons. Hers was not the female heart which could refuse compassion,
at least, to a gallant youth who had suffered in her cause, although
he had been guided in his enterprise by a too presumptuous passion;
and the words "Poor Douglas!" escaped from her lips, perhaps
unconsciously, as she leant herself back in her chair, and put the
kerchief to her eyes.

"Yes, gracious madam," said Catherine, assuming a cheerful manner, in
order to cheer her sovereign, "our gallant Knight is indeed
banished--the adventure was not reserved for him; but he has left
behind him a youthful Esquire, as much devoted to your Grace's
service, and who, by me, makes you tender of his hand and sword."

"If they may in aught avail your Grace," said Roland Graeme, bowing

"Alas!" said the Queen, "what needs this, Catherine?--why prepare new
victims to be involved in, and overwhelmed by, my cruel fortune?--were
we not better cease to struggle, and ourselves sink in the tide
without farther resistance, than thus drag into destruction with us
every generous heart which makes an effort in our favour?--I have had
but too much of plot and intrigue around me, since I was stretched an
orphan child in my very cradle, while contending nobles strove which
should rule in the name of the unconscious innocent. Surely time it
were that all this busy and most dangerous coil should end. Let me
call my prison a convent, and my seclusion a voluntary sequestration
of myself from the world and its ways."

"Speak not thus, madam, before your faithful servants," said
Catherine, "to discourage their zeal at once, and to break their
hearts. Daughter of Kings, be not in this hour so unkingly--Come,
Roland, and let us, the youngest of her followers, show ourselves
worthy of her cause--let us kneel before her footstool, and implore
her to be her own magnanimous self." And leading Roland Graeme to the
Queen's seat, they both kneeled down before her. Mary raised herself
in her chair, and sat erect, while, extending one hand to be kissed by
the page, she arranged with the other the clustering locks which
shaded the bold yet lovely brow of the high-spirited Catherine.

"Alas! _ma mignóne_," she said, for so in fondness she often
called her young attendant, "that you should thus desperately mix with
my unhappy fate the fortune of your young lives!--Are they not a
lovely couple, my Fleming? and is it not heart-rending to think that I
must be their ruin?"

"Not so," said Roland Graeme, "it is we, gracious Sovereign, who will
be your deliverers."

"_Ex oribus parvulorum!_" said the Queen, looking upward; "if it
is by the mouth of these children that Heaven calls me to resume the
stately thoughts which become my birth and my rights, thou wilt grant
them thy protection, and to me the power of rewarding their
zeal!"--Then turning to Fleming, she instantly added,--"Thou knowest,
my friend, whether to make those who have served me happy, was not
ever Mary's favourite pastime. When I have been rebuked by the stern
preachers of the Calvinistic heresy--when I have seen the fierce
countenances of my nobles averted from me, has it not been because I
mixed in the harmless pleasures of the young and gay, and rather for
the sake of their happiness than my own, have mingled in the masque,
the song, or the dance, with the youth of my household? Well, I repent
not of it--though Knox termed it sin, and Morton degradation--I was
happy, because I saw happiness around me; and woe betide the wretched
jealousy that can extract guilt out of the overflowings of an
unguarded gaiety!--Fleming, if we are restored to our throne, shall we
not have one blithesome day at a blithesome bridal, of which we must
now name neither the bride nor the bridegroom? but that bridegroom
shall have the barony of Blairgowrie, a fair gift even for a Queen to
give, and that bride's chaplet shall be twined with the fairest pearls
that ever were found in the depths of Lochlomond; and thou thyself,
Mary Fleming, the best dresser of tires that ever busked the tresses
of a Queen, and who would scorn to touch those of any woman of lower
rank,--thou thyself shalt, for my love, twine them into the bride's
tresses.--Look, my Fleming, suppose them such clustered locks as those
of our Catherine, they would not put shame upon thy skill."

So saying, she passed her hand fondly over the head of her youthful
favourite, while her more aged attendant replied despondently, "Alas!
madam, your thoughts stray far from home."

"They do, my Fleming," said the Queen; "but is it well or kind in you
to call them back?--God knows, they have kept the perch this night but
too closely--Come, I will recall the gay vision, were it but to punish
them. Yes, at that blithesome bridal, Mary herself shall forget the
weight of sorrows, and the toil of state, and herself once more lead a
measure.--At whose wedding was it that we last danced, my Fleming? I
think care has troubled my memory--yet something of it I should
remember--canst thou not aid me?--I know thou canst."

"Alas! madam," replied the lady----

"What!" said Mary, "wilt thou not help us so far? this is a peevish
adherence to thine own graver opinion, which holds our talk as folly.
But thou art court-bred, and wilt well understand me when I say, the
Queen _commands_ Lady Fleming to tell her where she led the last

With a face deadly pale, and a mien as if she were about to sink into
the earth, the court-bred dame, no longer daring to refuse obedience,
faltered out--"Gracious Lady--if my memory err not--it was at a masque
in Holyrood--at the marriage of Sebastian."

The unhappy Queen, who had hitherto listened with a melancholy smile,
provoked by the reluctance with which the Lady Fleming brought out her
story, at this ill-fated word interrupted her with a shriek so wild
and loud that the vaulted apartment rang, and both Roland and
Catherine sprang to their feet in the utmost terror and alarm.
Meantime, Mary seemed, by the train of horrible ideas thus suddenly
excited, surprised not only beyond self-command, but for the moment
beyond the verge of reason.

"Traitress!" she said to the Lady Fleming, "thou wouldst slay thy
sovereign--Call my French guards--_a moi! a moi! mes Français!_--
I am beset with traitors in mine own palace--they have murdered my
husband--Rescue! rescue for the Queen of Scotland!" She started up
from her chair--her features, late so exquisitely lovely in their
paleness, now inflamed with the fury of frenzy, and resembling those
of a Bellona. "We will take the field ourself," she said; "warn the
city--warn Lothian and Fife--saddle our Spanish barb, and bid French
Paris see our petronel be charged!--Better to die at the head of our
brave Scotsmen, like our grandfather at Flodden, than of a broken
heart, like our ill-starred father!"

"Be patient--be composed, dearest Sovereign," said Catherine: and then
addressing Lady Fleming angrily, she added, "How could you say aught
that reminded her of her husband?"

The word reached the ear of the unhappy Princess, who caught it up,
speaking with great rapidity. "Husband!--what husband?--Not his most
Christian Majesty--he is ill at ease--he cannot mount on
horseback.--Not him of the Lennox--but it was the Duke of Orkney thou
wouldst say."

"For God's love, madam, be patient!" said the Lady Fleming.

But the Queen's excited imagination could by no entreaty be diverted
from its course. "Bid him come hither to our aid," she said, "and
bring with him his lambs, as he calls them--Bowton, Hay of Talla,
Black Ormiston, and his kinsman Hob--Fie! how swart they are, and how
they smell of sulphur! What! closeted with Morton? Nay, if the Douglas
and the Hepburn hatch the complot together, the bird, when it breaks
the shell, will scare Scotland. Will it not, my Fleming?"

"She grows wilder and wilder," said Fleming; "we have too many
hearers for these strange words."

"Roland," said Catherine, "in the name of God, begone! You cannot
aid us here--Leave us to deal with her alone--Away--away!"

She thrust him to the door of the anteroom; yet even when he had
entered that apartment, and shut the door, he could still hear the
Queen talk in a loud and determined tone, as if giving forth orders,
until at length the voice died away in a feeble and continued

At this crisis Catherine entered the anteroom. "Be not too anxious,"
she said, "the crisis is now over; but keep the door fast--let no one
enter until she is more composed."

"In the name of God, what does this mean?" said the page; "or what
was there in the Lady Fleming's words to excite so wild a transport?"

"Oh, the Lady Fleming, the Lady Fleming," said Catherine, repeating
the words impatiently; "the Lady Fleming is a fool--she loves her
mistress, yet knows so little how to express her love, that were the
Queen to ask her for very poison, she would deem it a point of duty
not to resist her commands. I could have torn her starched head-tire
from her formal head--The Queen should have as soon had the heart out
of my body, as the word Sebastian out of my lips--That that piece of
weaved tapestry should be a woman, and yet not have wit enough to tell
a lie!"

"And what was this story of Sebastian?" said the page. "By Heaven,
Catherine, you are all riddles alike!"

"You are as great a fool as Fleming," returned the impatient maiden;
"know ye not, that on the night of Henry Darnley's murder, and at the
blowing up of the Kirk of Field, the Queen's absence was owing to her
attending on a masque at Holyrood, given by her to grace the marriage
of this same Sebastian, who, himself a favoured servant, married one
of her female attendants, who was near to her person?"

"By Saint Giles," said the page, "I wonder not at her passion, but
only marvel by what forgetfulness it was that she could urge the Lady
Fleming with such a question."

"I cannot account for it," said Catherine; "but it seems as if great
and violent grief and horror sometimes obscure the memory, and spread
a cloud like that of an exploding cannon, over the circumstances with
which they are accompanied. But I may not stay here, where I came not
to moralize with your wisdom, but simply to cool my resentment against
that unwise Lady Fleming, which I think hath now somewhat abated, so
that I shall endure her presence without any desire to damage either
her curch or vasquine. Meanwhile, keep fast that door--I would not
for my life that any of these heretics saw her in the unhappy state,
which, brought on her as it has been by the success of their own
diabolical plottings, they would not stick to call, in their snuffling
cant, the judgment of Providence."

She left the apartment just as the latch of the outward door was
raised from without. But the bolt which Roland had drawn on the
inside, resisted the efforts of the person desirous to enter. "Who is
there?" said Graeme aloud.

"It is I," replied the harsh and yet slow voice of the steward

"You cannot enter now," returned the youth.

"And wherefore?" demanded Dryfesdale, "seeing I come but to do my
duty, and inquire what mean the shrieks from the apartment of the
Moabitish woman. Wherefore, I say, since such is mine errand, can I
not enter?"

"Simply," replied the youth, "because the bolt is drawn, and I have no
fancy to undo it. I have the right side of the door to-day, as you had
last night."

"Thou art ill-advised, thou malapert boy," replied the steward, "to
speak to me in such fashion; but I shall inform my Lady of thine

"The insolence," said the page, "is meant for thee only, in fair
guerdon of thy discourtesy to me. For thy Lady's information, I have
answer more courteous--you may say that the Queen is ill at ease, and
desires to be disturbed neither by visits nor messages."

"I conjure you, in the name of God," said the old man, with more
solemnity in his tone than he had hitherto used, "to let me know if
her malady really gains power on her!"

"She will have no aid at your hand, or at your Lady's--wherefore,
begone, and trouble us no more--we neither want, nor will accept of,
aid at your hands."

With this positive reply, the steward, grumbling and dissatisfied,
returned down stairs.

Chapter the Thirty-Second.

It is the curse of kings to be attended
By slaves, who take their humours for a warrant
To break into the bloody house of life,
And on the winking of authority
To understand a law.

The Lady of Lochleven sat alone in her chamber, endeavouring with
sincere but imperfect zeal, to fix her eyes and her attention on the
black-lettered Bible which lay before her, bound in velvet and
embroidery, and adorned with massive silver clasps and knosps. But she
found her utmost efforts unable to withdraw her mind from the
resentful recollection of what had last night passed betwixt her and
the Queen, in which the latter had with such bitter taunt reminded her
of her early and long-repented transgression.

"Why," she said, "should I resent so deeply that another reproaches me
with that which I have never ceased to make matter of blushing to
myself? and yet, why should this woman, who reaps--at least, has
reaped--the fruits of my folly, and has jostled my son aside from the
throne, why should she, in the face of all my domestics, and of her
own, dare to upbraid me with my shame? Is she not in my power? Does
she not fear me? Ha! wily tempter, I will wrestle with thee strongly,
and with better suggestions than my own evil heart can supply!"

She again took up the sacred volume, and was endeavouring to fix her
attention on its contents, when she was disturbed by a tap at the door
of the room. It opened at her command, and the steward Dryfesdale
entered, and stood before her with a gloomy and perturbed expression
on his brow.

"What has chanced, Dryfesdale, that thou lookest thus?" said his
mistress--"Have there been evil tidings of my son, or of my

"No, Lady," replied Dryfesdale, "but you were deeply insulted last
night, and I fear me thou art as deeply avenged this morning--Where is
the chaplain?"

"What mean you by hints so dark, and a question so sudden? The
chaplain, as you well know, is absent at Perth upon an assembly of
the brethren."

"I care not," answered the steward; "he is but a priest of Baal."

"Dryfesdale," said the Lady, sternly, "what meanest thou? I have ever
heard, that in the Low Countries thou didst herd with the Anabaptist
preachers, those boars which tear up the vintage--But the ministry
which suits me and my house must content my retainers."

"I would I had good ghostly counsel, though," replied the steward, not
attending to his mistress's rebuke, and seeming to speak to himself.
"This woman of Moab----"

"Speak of her with reverence," said the Lady; "she is a king's

"Be it so," replied Dryfesdale; "she goes where there is little
difference betwixt her and a beggar's child--Mary of Scotland is

"Dying, and in my castle!" said the Lady, starting up in alarm; "of
what disease, or by what accident?"

"Bear patience, Lady. The ministry was mine."

"Thine, villain and traitor!--how didst thou dare----"

"I heard you insulted, Lady--I heard you demand vengeance--I promised
you should have it, and I now bring tidings of it."

"Dryfesdale, I trust thou ravest?" said the Lady.

"I rave not," replied the steward. "That which was written of me a
million of years ere I saw the light, must be executed by me. She hath
that in her veins that, I fear me, will soon stop the springs of
life." "Cruel villain," exclaimed the Lady, "thou hast not poisoned
her?" "And if I had," said Dryfesdale, "what does it so greatly merit?
Men. bane vermin--why not rid them of their enemies so? in Italy they
will do it for a cruizuedor."

"Cowardly ruffian, begone from my sight!"

"Think better of my zeal, Lady," said the steward, "and judge not
without looking around you. Lindesay, Ruthven, and your kinsman
Morton, poniarded Rizzio, and yet you now see no blood on their
embroidery--the Lord Semple stabbed the Lord of Sanquhar--does his
bonnet sit a jot more awry on his brow? What noble lives in Scotland
who has not had a share, for policy or revenge, in some such
dealing?--and who imputes it to them? Be not cheated with names--a
dagger or a draught work to the same end, and are little unlike--a
glass phial imprisons the one, and a leathern sheath the other--one
deals with the brain, the other sluices the blood--Yet, I say not I
gave aught to this lady."

"What dost thou mean by thus dallying with me?" said the Lady; "as
thou wouldst save thy neck from the rope it merits, tell me the whole
truth of this story-thou hast long been known a dangerous man."

"Ay, in my master's service I can be cold and sharp as my sword. Be it
known to you, that when last on shore, I consulted with a woman of
skill and power, called Nicneven, of whom the country has rung for
some brief time past. Fools asked her for charms to make them beloved,
misers for means to increase their store; some demanded to know the
future--an idle wish, since it cannot be altered; others would have an
explanation of the past--idler still, since it cannot be recalled. I
heard their queries with scorn, and demanded the means of avenging
myself of a deadly enemy, for I grow old, and may trust no longer to
Bilboa blade. She gave me a packet--`Mix that,' said she, `with any
liquid, and thy vengeance is complete.'"

"Villain! and you mixed it with the food of this imprisoned Lady, to
the dishonour of thy master's house?"

"To redeem the insulted honour of my master's house, I mixed the
contents of the packet with the jar of succory-water: They seldom fail
to drain it, and the woman loves it over all."

"It was a work of hell," said the Lady Lochleven, "both the asking and
the granting.--Away, wretched man, let us see if aid be yet too late!"

"They will not admit us, madam, save we enter by force--I have been.
twice at the door, but can obtain no entrance."

"We will beat it level with the ground, if needful--And, hold--summon
Randal hither instantly.--Randal, here is a foul and evil chance
befallen--send off a boat instantly to Kinross, the Chamberlain Luke
Lundin is said to have skill--Fetch off, too, that foul witch
Nicneven; she shall first counteract her own spell, and then be burned
to ashes in the island of Saint Serf. Away, away--Tell them to hoist
sail and ply oar, as ever they would have good of the Douglas's hand!"

"Mother Nicneven will not be lightly found, or fetched hither on these
conditions," answered Dryfesdale.

"Then grant her full assurance of safety--Look to it, for thine own
life must answer for this lady's recovery."

"I might have guessed that," said Dryfesdale, sullenly; "but it is my
comfort I have avenged mine own cause, as well as yours. She hath
scoffed and scripped at me, and encouraged her saucy minion of a page
to ridicule my stiff gait and slow speech. I felt it borne in upon me
that I was to be avenged on them."

"Go to the western turret," said the Lady, "and remain there in ward
until we see how this gear will terminate. I know thy resolved
disposition--thou wilt not attempt escape."

"Not were the walls of the turret of egg-shells, and the lake sheeted
ice," said Dryfesdale. "I am well taught, and strong in belief, that
man does nought of himself; he is but the foam on the billow, which
rises, bubbles, and bursts, not by its own effort, but by the mightier
impulse of fate which urges him. Yet, Lady, if I may advise, amid this
zeal for the life of the Jezebel of Scotland, forget not what is due
to thine own honour, and keep the matter secret as you may."

So saying, the gloomy fatalist turned from her, and stalked off with
sullen composure to the place of confinement allotted to him.

His lady caught at his last hint, and only expressed her fear that the
prisoner had partaken of some unwholesome food, and was dangerously
ill. The castle was soon alarmed and in confusion. Randal was
dispatched to the shore to fetch off Lundin, with such remedies as
could counteract poison; and with farther instructions to bring mother
Nicneven, if she could be found, with full power to pledge the Lady of
Lochleven's word for her safety.

Meanwhile the Lady of Lochleven herself held parley at the door of the
Queen's apartment, and in vain urged the page to undo it.

"Foolish boy!" she said, "thine own life and thy Lady's are at stake--
Open, I say, or we will cause the door to be broken down."

"I may not open the door without my royal mistress's orders," answered
Roland; "she has been very ill, and now she slumbers--if you wake her
by using violence, let the consequence be on you and your followers."

"Was ever woman in a strait so fearful!" exclaimed the Lady of
Lochleven--"At least, thou rash boy, beware that no one tastes the
food, but especially the jar of succory-water."

She then hastened to the turret, where Dryfesdale had composedly
resigned himself to imprisonment. She found him reading, and demanded
of him, "Was thy fell potion of speedy operation?"

"Slow," answered the steward. "The hag asked me which I chose--I told
her I loved a slow and sure revenge. 'Revenge,' said I, 'is the
highest-flavoured draught which man tastes upon earth, and he should
sip it by little and little--not drain it up greedily at once."

"Against whom, unhappy man, couldst thou nourish so fell a revenge?"

"I had many objects, but the chief was that insolent page."

"The boy!--thou inhuman man!" exclaimed the lady; "what could he
do to deserve thy malice?"

"He rose in your favour, and you graced him with your commissions--
that was one thing. He rose in that of George Douglas's also--that was
another. He was the favourite of the Calvinistic Henderson, who hated
me because my spirit disowns a separated priesthood. The Moabitish
Queen held him dear--winds from each opposing point blew in his
favour--the old servitor of your house was held lightly among
ye--above all, from the first time I saw his face, I longed to destroy

"What fiend have I nurtured in my house!" replied the Lady. "May
God forgive me the sin of having given thee food and raiment!"

"You might not choose, Lady," answered the steward. "Long ere this
castle was builded--ay, long ere the islet which sustains it reared
its head above the blue water, I was destined to be your faithful
slave, and you to be my ungrateful mistress. Remember you not when I
plunged amid the victorious French, in the time of this lady's mother,
and brought off your husband, when those who had hung at the same
breasts with him dared not attempt the rescue?--Remember how I plunged
into the lake when your grandson's skiff was overtaken by the tempest,
boarded, and steered her safe to the land. Lady--the servant of a
Scottish baron is he who regards not his own life, or that of any
other, save his master. And, for the death of the woman, I had tried
the potion on her sooner, had not Master George been her taster. Her
death--would it not be the happiest news that Scotland ever heard? Is
she not of the bloody Guisian stock, whose sword was so often red with
the blood of God's saints? Is she not the daughter of the wretched
tyrant James, whom Heaven cast down from his kingdom, and his pride,
even as the king of Babylon was smitten?"

"Peace, villain !" said the Lady--a thousand varied recollections
thronging on her mind at the mention of her royal lover's name;
"Peace, and disturb not the ashes of the dead--of the royal, of the
unhappy dead. Read thy Bible; and may God grant thee to avail thyself
better of its contents than thou hast yet done!" She departed hastily,
and as she reached the next apartment, the tears rose in her eyes so
hastily, that she was compelled to stop and use her kerchief to dry
them. "I expected not this," she said, "no more than to have drawn
water from the dry flint, or sap from a withered tree. I saw with a
dry eye the apostacy and shame of George Douglas, the hope of my son's
house--the child of my love; and yet I now weep for him who has so
long lain in his grave--for him to whom I owe it that his daughter can
make a scoffing and a jest of my name! But she is _his_
daughter--my heart, hardened against her for so many causes, relents
when a glance of her eye places her father unexpectedly before me--and
as often her likeness to that true daughter of the house of Guise, her
detested mother, has again confirmed my resolution. But she must
not--must not die in my house, and by so foul a practice. Thank God,
the operation of the potion is slow, and may be counteracted. I will
to her apartment once more. But oh! that hardened villain, whose
fidelity we held in such esteem, and had such high proof of! What
miracle can unite so much wickedness and so much truth in one bosom!"

The Lady of Lochleven was not aware how far minds of a certain gloomy
and determined cast by nature, may be warped by a keen sense of petty
injuries and insults, combining with the love of gain, and sense of
self-interest, and amalgamated with the crude, wild, and indigested
fanatical opinions which this man had gathered among the crazy
sectaries of Germany; or how far the doctrines of fatalism, which he
had embraced so decidedly, sear the human conscience, by representing
our actions as the result of inevitable necessity.

During her visit to the prisoner, Roland had communicated to Catherine
the tenor of the conversation he had had with her at the door of the
apartment. The quick intelligence of that lively maiden instantly
comprehended the outline of what was believed to have happened, but
her prejudices hurried her beyond the truth.

"They meant to have poisoned us," she exclaimed in horror, "and there
stands the fatal liquor which should have done the deed!--Ay, as soon
as Douglas ceased to be our taster, our food was likely to be fatally
seasoned. Thou, Roland, who shouldst have made the essay, wert
readily doomed to die with us. Oh, dearest Lady Fleming, pardon,
pardon, for the injuries I said to you in my anger--your words were
prompted by Heaven to save our lives, and especially that of the
injured Queen. But what have we now to do? that old crocodile of the
lake will be presently back to shed her hypocritical tears over our
dying agonies.--Lady Fleming, what shall we do?"

"Our Lady help us in our need !" she replied; "how should I tell?--
unless we were to make our plaint to the Regent."

"Make our plaint to the devil," said Catherine impatiently, "and
accuse his dam at the foot of his burning throne!--The Queen still
sleeps--we must gain time. The poisoning hag must not know her scheme
has miscarried; the old envenomed spider has but too many ways of
mending her broken web. The jar of succory-water," said she--"Roland,
if thou be'st a man, help me--empty the jar on the chimney or from the
window--make such waste among the viands as if we had made our usual
meal, and leave the fragments on cup and porringer, but taste nothing
as thou lovest thy life. I will sit by the Queen, and tell her at her
waking, in what a fearful pass we stand. Her sharp wit and ready
spirit will teach us what is best to be done. Meanwhile, till farther
notice, observe, Roland, that the Queen is in a state of torpor--that
Lady Fleming is indisposed--that character" (speaking in a lower tone)
"will suit her best, and save her wits some labour in vain. I am not
so much indisposed, thou understandest."

"And I?" said the page--

"You?" replied Catherine, "you are quite well--who thinks it worth
while to poison puppy-dogs or pages?"

"Does this levity become the time?" asked the page.

"It does, it does," answered Catherine Seyton; "if the Queen approves,
I see plainly how this disconcerted attempt may do us good service."

She went to work while she spoke, eagerly assisted by Roland. The
breakfast table soon displayed the appearance as if the meal had been
eaten as usual; and the ladies retired as softly as possible into the
Queen's sleeping apartment. At a new summons of the Lady Lochleven,
the page undid the door, and admitted her into the anteroom, asking
her pardon for having withstood her, alleging in excuse, that the
Queen had fallen into a heavy slumber since she had broken her fast.

"She has eaten and drunken, then?" said the Lady of Lochleven.

"Surely," replied the page, "according to her Grace's ordinary custom,
unless upon the fasts of the church."

"The jar," she said, hastily examining it, "it is empty--drank the
Lady Mary the whole of this water?"

"A large part, madam; and I heard the Lady Catherine Seyton jestingly
upbraid the Lady Mary Fleming with having taken more than a just share
of what remained, so that but little fell to her own lot."

"And are they well in health?" said the Lady of Lochleven.

"Lady Fleming," said the page, "complains of lethargy, and looks
duller than usual; and the Lady Catherine of Seyton feels her head
somewhat more giddy than is her wont."

He raised his voice a little as he said these words, to apprise the
ladies of the part assigned to each of them, and not, perhaps, without
the wish of conveying to the ears of Catherine the page-like jest
which lurked in the allotment.

"I will enter the Queen's bedchamber," said the Lady of Lochleven; "my
business is express."

As she advanced to the door, the voice of Catherine Seyton was heard
from within--"No one can enter here--the Queen sleeps."

"I will not be controlled, young lady," replied the Lady of Lochleven;
"there is, I wot, no inner bar, and I will enter in your despite."

"There is, indeed, no inner bar," answered Catherine, firmly, "but
there are the staples where that bar should be; and into those staples
have I thrust mine arm, like an ancestress of your own, when, better
employed than the Douglasses of our days, she thus defended the
bedchamber of her sovereign against murderers. Try your force, then,
and see whether a Seyton cannot rival in courage a maiden of the house
of Douglas."

"I dare not attempt the pass at such risk," said the Lady of
Lochleven: "Strange, that this Princess, with all that justly attaches
to her as blameworthy, should preserve such empire over the minds of
her attendants.--Damsel, I give thee my honour that I come for the
Queen's safety and advantage. Awaken her, if thou lovest her, and pray
her leave that I may enter--I will retire from the door the whilst."

"Thou wilt not awaken the Queen?" said the Lady Fleming.

"What choice have we?" said the ready-witted maiden, "unless you deem
it better to wait till the Lady Lochleven herself plays lady of the
bedchamber. Her fit of patience will not last long, and the Queen must
be prepared to meet her."

"But thou wilt bring back her Grace's fit by thus disturbing her."

"Heaven forbid!" replied Catherine; "but if so, it must pass for an
effect of the poison. I hope better things, and that the Queen will be
able when she wakes to form her own judgment in this terrible crisis.
Meanwhile, do thou, dear Lady Fleming, practise to look as dull and
heavy as the alertness of thy spirit will permit."

Catherine kneeled by the side of the Queen's bed, and, kissing her
hand repeatedly, succeeded at last in awakening without alarming her.
She seemed surprised to find that she was ready dressed, but sate up
in her bed, and appeared so perfectly composed, that Catherine Seyton,
without farther preamble, judged it safe to inform her of the
predicament in which they were placed. Mary turned pale, and crossed
herself again and again, when she heard the imminent danger in which
she had stood. But, like the Ulysses of Homer,

--Hardly waking yet,
Sprung in her mind the momentary wit,

and she at once understood her situation, with the dangers and
advantages that attended it.

"We cannot do better," she said, after her hasty conference with
Catherine, pressing her at the same time to her bosom, and kissing her
forehead; "we cannot do better than to follow the scheme so happily
devised by thy quick wit and bold affection. Undo the door to the Lady
Lochleven--She shall meet her match in art, though not in perfidy.
Fleming, draw close the curtain, and get thee behind it--thou art a
better tire-woman than an actress; do but breathe heavily, and, if
thou wilt, groan slightly, and it will top thy part. Hark! they come.
Now, Catherine of Medicis, may thy spirit inspire me, for a cold
northern brain is too blunt for this scene!"

Ushered by Catherine Seyton, and stepping as light as she could, the
Lady Lochleven was shown into the twilight apartment, and conducted to
the side of the couch, where Mary, pallid and exhausted from a
sleepless night, and the subsequent agitation of the morning, lay
extended so listlessly as might well confirm the worst fears of her

"Now, God forgive us our sins!" said the Lady of Lochleven, forgetting
her pride, and throwing herself on her knees by the side of the bed;
"It is too true--she is murdered!"

"Who is in the chamber?" said Mary, as if awaking from a heavy sleep.
"Seyton, Fleming, where are you? I heard a strange voice. Who waits?
--Call Courcelles."

"Alas! her memory is at Holyrood, though her body is at Lochleven.--
Forgive, madam," continued the Lady, "if I call your attention to
me--I am Margaret Erskine, of the house of Mar, by marriage Lady
Douglas of Lochleven."

"Oh, our gentle hostess," answered the Queen, "who hath such care of
our lodgings and of our diet--We cumber you too much and too long,
good Lady of Lochleven; but we now trust your task of hospitality is
well-nigh ended."

"Her words go like a knife through my heart," said the Lady of
Lochleven--"With a breaking heart, I pray your Grace to tell me what
is your ailment, that aid may be had, if there be yet time."

"Nay, my ailment," replied the Queen, "is nothing worth telling, or
worth a leech's notice--my limbs feel heavy--my heart feels cold--a
prisoner's limbs and heart are rarely otherwise--fresh air, methinks,
and freedom, would soon revive me; but as the Estates have ordered it,
death alone can break my prison-doors."

"Were it possible, madam," said the Lady, "that your liberty could
restore your perfect health, I would myself encounter the resentment
of the Regent--of my son, Sir William--of my whole friends, rather
than you should meet your fate in this castle."

"Alas! madam," said the Lady Fleming, who conceived the time
propitious to show that her own address had been held too lightly of;
"it is but trying what good freedom may work upon us; for myself, I
think a free walk on the greensward would do me much good at heart."

The Lady of Lochleven rose from the bedside, and darted a penetrating
look at the elder valetudinary. "Are you so evil-disposed, Lady

"Evil-disposed indeed, madam," replied the court dame, "and more
especially since breakfast."

"Help! help!" exclaimed Catherine, anxious to break off a conversation
which boded her schemes no good; "help! I say, help! the Queen is
about to pass away. Aid her, Lady Lochleven, if you be a woman!"

The Lady hastened to support the Queen's head, who, turning her eyes
towards her with an air of great languor, exclaimed, "Thanks, my
dearest Lady of Lochleven--notwithstanding some passages of late, I
have never misconstrued or misdoubted your affection to our house. It
was proved, as I have heard, before I was born."

The Lady Lochleven sprung from the floor, on which she had again
knelt, and, having paced the apartment in great disorder, flung open
the lattice, as if to get air.

"Now, Our Lady forgive me!" said Catherine to herself. "How deep must
the love of sarcasm, be implanted in the breasts of us women, since
the Queen, with all her sense, will risk ruin rather than rein in her
wit!" She then adventured, stooping over the Queen's person, to press
her arm with her hand, saying, at the same time, "For God's sake,
madam, restrain yourself!"

"Thou art too forward, maiden," said the Queen; but immediately added,
in a low whisper, "Forgive me, Catherine; but when I felt the hag's
murderous hands busy about my head and neck, I felt such disgust and
hatred, that I must have said something, or died. But I will be
schooled to better behaviour--only see that thou let her not touch

"Now, God be praised!" said the Lady Lochleven, withdrawing her head
from the window, "the boat comes as fast as sail and oar can send wood
through water. It brings the leech and a female--certainly, from the
appearance, the very person I was in quest of. Were she but well out
of this castle, with our honour safe, I would that she were on the top
of the wildest mountain in Norway; or I would I had been there myself,
ere I had undertaken this trust."

While she thus expressed herself, standing apart at one window, Roland
Graeme, from the other, watched the boat bursting through the waters
of the lake, which glided from its side in ripple and in foam. He,
too, became sensible, that at the stern was seated the medical
Chamberlain, clad in his black velvet cloak; and that his own
relative, Magdalen Graeme, in her assumed character of Mother
Nieneven, stood in the bow, her hands clasped together, and pointed
towards the castle, and her attitude, even at that distance,
expressing enthusiastic eagerness to arrive at the landing-place.
They arrived there accordingly, and while the supposed witch was
detained in a room beneath, the physician was ushered to the Queen's
apartment, which he entered with all due professional solemnity.
Catherine had, in the meanwhile, fallen back from the Queen's bed, and
taken an opportunity to whisper to Roland, "Methinks, from the
information of the threadbare velvet cloak and the solemn beard, there
would be little trouble in haltering yonder ass. But thy grandmother,
Roland--thy grandmother's zeal will ruin us, if she get not a hint to

Roland, without reply, glided towards the door of the apartment,
crossed the parlour, and safely entered the antechamber; but when he
attempted to pass farther, the word "Back! Back!" echoed from one to
the other, by two men armed with carabines, convinced him that the
Lady of Lochleven's suspicions had not, even in the midst of her
alarms, been so far lulled to sleep as to omit the precaution of
stationing sentinels on her prisoners. He was compelled, therefore, to
return to the parlour, or audience-chamber, in which he found the Lady
of the castle in conference with her learned leech.

"A truce with your cant phrase and your solemn foppery, Lundin," in
such terms she accosted the man of art, "and let me know instantly, if
thou canst tell, whether this lady hath swallowed aught that is less
than wholesome?"

"Nay, but, good lady--honoured patroness--to whom I am alike bonds-man
in my medical and official capacity, deal reasonably with me. If this,
mine illustrious patient, will not answer a question, saving with
sighs and moans--if that other honourable lady will do nought but yawn
in my face when I inquire after the diagnostics--and if that other
young damsel, who I profess is a comely maiden--"

"Talk not to me of comeliness or of damsels," said the Lady of
Lochleven, "I say, are they evil-disposed?--In one word, man, have
they taken poison, ay or no?"

"Poisons, madam," said the learned leech, "are of various sorts. There
is your animal poison, as the lepus marinus, as mentioned by
Dioscorides and Galen--there are mineral and semi-mineral poisons, as
those compounded of sublimate regulus of antimony, vitriol, and the
arsenical salts--there are your poisons from herbs and vegetables, as
the aqua cymbalariae, opium, aconitum, cantharides, and the
like--there are also--"

"Now, out upon thee for a learned fool! and I myself am no better for
expecting an oracle from such a log," said the Lady.

"Nay, but if your ladyship will have patience--if I knew what food
they have partaken of, or could see but the remnants of what they have
last eaten--for as to the external and internal symptoms, I can
discover nought like; for, as Galen saith in his second book _de

"Away, fool!" said the Lady; "send me that hag hither; she shall
avouch what it was that she hath given to the wretch Dryfesdale, or
the pilniewinks and thumbikins shall wrench it out of her finger

"Art hath no enemy unless the ignorant," said the mortified Doctor;
veiling, however, his remark under the Latin version, and stepping
apart into a corner to watch the result.

In a minute or two Magdalen Graeme entered the apartment, dressed as
we have described her at the revel, but with her muffler thrown back,
and all affectation of disguise. She was attended by two guards, of
whose presence she did not seem even to be conscious, and who followed
her with an air of embarrassment and timidity, which was probably
owing to their belief in her supernatural power, coupled with the
effect produced by her bold and undaunted demeanour. She confronted
the Lady of Lochleven, who seemed to endure with high disdain the
confidence of her air and manner.

"Wretched woman!" said the Lady, after essaying for a moment to bear
her down, before she addressed her, by the stately severity of her
look, "what was that powder which thou didst give to a servant of this
house, by name Jasper Dryfesdale, that he might work out with it some
slow and secret vengeance?--Confess its nature and properties, or, by
the honour of Douglas, I give thee to fire and stake before the sun is

"Alas!" said Magdalen Graeme in reply, "and when became a Douglas or a
Douglas's man so unfurnished in his revenge, that he should seek them
at the hands of a poor and solitary woman? The towers in which your
captives pine away into unpitied graves, yet stand fast on their
foundation--the crimes wrought in them have not yet burst their
vaults asunder--your men have still their cross-bows, pistolets, and
daggers--why need you seek to herbs or charms for the execution of
your revenges?"

"Hear me, foul hag," said the Lady Lochleven,--"but what avails
speaking to thee?--Bring Dryfesdale hither, and let them be confronted

"You may spare your retainers the labour," replied Magdalen Graeme.
"I came not here to be confronted with a base groom, nor to answer the
interrogatories of James's heretical leman--I came to speak with the
Queen of Scotland--Give place there!"

And while the Lady Lochleven stood confounded at her boldness, and at
the reproach she had cast upon her, Magdalen Graeme strode past her
into the bedchamber of the Queen, and, kneeling on the floor, made a
salutation as if, in the Oriental fashion, she meant to touch the
earth with her forehead.

"Hail, Princess!" she said, "hail, daughter of many a King, but graced
above them all in that thou art called to suffer for the true
faith--hail to thee, the pure gold of whose crown has been tried in
the seven-times heated furnace of affliction--hear the comfort which
God and Our Lady send thee by the mouth of thy unworthy servant.--But
first"--and stooping her head she crossed herself repeatedly, and,
still upon her knees, appeared to be rapidly reciting some formula of

"Seize her, and drag her to the massy-more!--to the deepest dungeon
with the sorceress, whose master, the Devil, could alone have inspired
her with boldness enough to insult the mother of Douglas in his own

Thus spoke the incensed Lady of Lochleven, but the physician presumed
to interpose.

"I pray of you, honoured madam, she be permitted to take her course
without interruption. Peradventure we shall learn something concerning
the nostrum she hath ventured, contrary to law and the rules of art,
to adhibit to these ladies, through the medium of the steward

"For a fool," replied the Lady of Lochleven, "thou hast counselled
wisely--I will bridle my resentment till their conference be over."

"God forbid, honoured Lady," said Doctor Lundin, "that you should
suppress it longer--nothing may more endanger the frame of your
honoured body; and truly, if there be witchcraft in this matter, it is
held by the vulgar, and even by solid authors on Demonology, that
three scruples of the ashes of the witch, when she hath been well and
carefully burned at a stake, is a grand Catholicon in such matter,
even as they prescribe _crinis canis rabidi_, a hair of the dog
that bit the patient, in cases of hydrophobia. I warrant neither
treatment, being out of the regular practice of the schools; but, in
the present case, there can be little harm in trying the conclusion
upon this old necromancer and quacksalver-_fiat experimentum_ (as
we say) _in corpore vili_."

"Peace, fool!" said the Lady, "she is about to speak."

At that moment Magdalen Graeme arose from her knees, and turned her
countenance on the Queen, at the same time advancing her foot,
extending her arm, and assuming the mien and attitude of a Sibyl in
frenzy. As her gray hair floated back from beneath her coif, and her
eye gleamed fire from under its shaggy eyebrow, the effect of her
expressive though emaciated features, was heightened by an enthusiasm

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