Part 12 out of 33
The distance was too great for Mary to recognise any of the visitors;
but it was clear, from the signs of intelligence exchanged between
the little troop and the inhabitants of the fortress, that the
newcomers were her enemies. This was a reason why the queen, in her
uneasiness, should not lose sight for a moment of the boat which was
going to fetch them. She saw only two men get into it; and
immediately it put off again for the castle.
As the boat drew nearer, Mary's presentiments changed to real fears,
for in one of the men coming towards her she thought she made out
Lord Lindsay of Byres, the same who, a week before, had brought her
to her prison. It was indeed he himself, as usual in a steel helmet
without a visor, which allowed one to see his coarse face designed to
express strong passions, and his long black beard with grey hairs
here and there, which covered his chest: his person was protected, as
if it were in time of war, with his faithful suit of armour, formerly
polished and well gilded, but which, exposed without ceasing to rain
and mist, was now eaten up with rust; he had slung on his back, much
as one slings a quiver, a broadsword, so heavy that it took two hands
to manage it, and so long that while the hilt reached the left
shoulder the point reached the right spur: in a word, he was still
the same soldier, brave to rashness but brutal to insolence,
recognising nothing but right and force, and always ready to use
force when he believed himself in the right.
The queen was so much taken up with the sight of Lord Lindsay of
Byres, that it was only just as the boat reached the shore that she
glanced at his companion and recognised Robert Melville: this was
some consolation, for, whatever might happen, she knew that she
should find in him if not ostensible at least secret sympathy.
Besides, his dress, by which one could have judged him equally with
Lord Lindsay, was a perfect contrast to his companion's. It
consisted of a black velvet doublet, with a cap and a feather of the
same hue fastened to it with a gold clasp; his only weapon, offensive
or defensive, was a little sword, which he seemed to wear rather as a
sign of his rank than for attack or defence. As to his features and
his manners, they were in harmony with this peaceful appearance: his
pale countenance expressed both acuteness and intelligence; his quick
eye was mild, and his voice insinuating; his figure slight and a
little bent by habit rather than by years, since he was but forty-
five at this time, indicated an easy and conciliatory character.
However, the presence of this man of peace, who seemed entrusted with
watching over the demon of war, could not reassure the queen, and as
to get to the landing-place, in front of the great door of the
castle, the boat had just disappeared behind the corner of a tower,
she told Mary Seyton to go down that she might try to learn what
cause brought Lord Lindsay to Lochleven, well knowing that with the
force of character with which she was endowed, she need know this
cause but a few minutes beforehand, whatever it might be, to give her
countenance that calm and that majesty which she had always found to
influence her enemies.
Left alone, Mary let her glance stray back to the little house in
Kinross, her sole hope; but the distance was too great to distinguish
anything; besides, its shutters remained closed all day, and seemed
to open only in the evening, like the clouds, which, having covered
the sky for a whole morning, scatter at last to reveal to the lost
sailor a solitary star. She had remained no less motionless, her
gaze always fixed on the same object, when she was drawn from this
mute contemplation by the step of Mary Seyton.
"Well, darling?" asked the queen, turning round.
"Your Majesty is not mistaken," replied the messenger: "it really was
Sir Robert Melville and Lord Lindsay; but there came yesterday with
Sir William Douglas a third ambassador, whose name, I am afraid, will
be still more odious to your Majesty than either of the two I have
"You deceive yourself, Mary," the queen answered: "neither the name
of Melville nor that of Lindsay is odious to me. Melville's, on the
contrary, is, in my present circumstances, one of those which I have
most pleasure in hearing; as to Lord Lindsay's, it is doubtless not
agreeable to me, but it is none the less an honourable name, always
borne by men rough and wild, it is true, but incapable of treachery.
Tell me, then, what is this name, Mary; for you see I am calm and
"Alas! madam," returned Mary, "calm and prepared as you may be,
collect all your strength, not merely to hear this name uttered, but
also to receive in a few minutes the man who bears it; for this name
is that of Lord Ruthven."
Mary Seyton had spoken truly, and this name had a terrible influence
upon the queen; for scarcely had it escaped the young girl's lips
than Mary Stuart uttered a cry, and turning pale, as if she were
about to faint, caught hold of the window-ledge.
Mary Seyton, frightened at the effect produced by this fatal name,
immediately sprang to support the queen; but she, stretching one hand
towards her, while she laid the other on her heart
"It is nothing," said she; "I shall be better in a moment. Yes,
Mary, yes, as you said, it is a fatal name and mingled with one of my
most bloody memories. What such men are coming to ask of me must be
dreadful indeed. But no matter, I shall soon be ready to receive my
brother's ambassadors, for doubtless they are sent in his name. You,
darling, prevent their entering, for I must have some minutes to
myself: you know me; it will not take me long."
With these words the queen withdrew with a firm step to her
Mary Seyton was left alone, admiring that strength of character which
made of Mary Stuart, in all other respects so completely woman-like,
a man in the hour of danger. She immediately went to the door to
close it with the wooden bar that one passed between two iron rings,
but the bar had been taken away, so that there was no means of
fastening the door from within. In a moment she heard someone coming
up the stairs, and guessing from the heavy, echoing step that this
must be Lord Lindsay, she looked round her once again to see if she
could find something to replace the bar, and finding nothing within
reach, she passed her arm through the rings, resolved to let it be
broken rather than allow anyone to approach her mistress before it
suited her. Indeed, hardly had those who were coming up reached the
landing than someone knocked violently, and a harsh voice cried:
"Come, come, open the door; open directly."
"And by what right," said Mary Seyton, "am I ordered thus insolently
to open the Queen of Scotland's door?"
"By the right of the ambassador of the regent to enter everywhere in
his name. I am Lord Lindsay, and I am come to speak to Lady Mary
"To be an ambassador," answered Mary Seyton, "is not to be exempted
from having oneself announced in visiting a woman, and much more a
queen; and if this ambassador is, as he says, Lord Lindsay, he will
await his sovereign's leisure, as every Scottish noble would do in
"By St. Andrew!" cried Lord Lindsay, "open, or I will break in the
"Do nothing to it, my lord, I entreat you," said another voice, which
Mary recognised as Meville's. "Let us rather wait for Lord Ruthven,
who is not yet ready."
"Upon my soul," cried Lindsay, shaking the door, "I shall not wait a
second". Then, seeing that it resisted, "Why did you tell me, then,
you scamp," Lindsay went on, speaking to the steward, "that the bar
had been removed?
"It is true," replied he.
"Then," returned Lindsay, "with what is this silly wench securing the
"With my arm, my lord, which I have passed through the rings, as a
Douglas did for King James I, at a time when Douglases had dark hair
instead of red, and were faithful instead of being traitors."
"Since you know your history so well," replied Lindsay, in a rage,"
you should remember that that weak barrier did not hinder Graham,
that Catherine Douglas's arm was broken like a willow wand, and that
James I was killed like a dog."
"But you, my lord," responded the courageous young girl, "ought also
to know the ballad that is still sung in our time--
"'Now, on Robert Gra'am,
The king's destroyer, shame!
To Robert Graham cling
Shame, who destroyed our king.'"
"Mary," cried the queen, who had overheard this altercation from her
bedroom,--"Mary, I command you to open the door directly: do you
Mary obeyed, and Lord Lindsay entered, followed by Melville, who
walked behind him, with slow steps and bent head. Arrived in the
middle of the second room, Lord Lindsay stopped, and, looking round
"Well, where is she, then?" he asked; "and has she not already kept
us waiting long enough outside, without making us wait again inside?
Or does she imagine that, despite these walls and these bars, she is
"Patience, my lord," murmured Sir Robert: "you see that Lord Ruthven
has not come yet, and since we can do nothing without him, let us
"Let wait who will," replied Lindsay, inflamed with anger; "but it
will not be I, and wherever she may be, I shall go and seek her."
With these words, he made some steps towards Mary Stuart's bedroom;
but at the same moment the queen opened the door, without seeming
moved either at the visit or at the insolence of the visitors, and so
lovely and so full of majesty, that each, even Lindsay himself, was
silent at her appearance, and, as if in obedience to a higher power,
bowed respectfully before her.
"I fear I have kept you waiting, my lord," said the queen, without
replying to the ambassador's salutation otherwise than by a slight
inclination of the head; "but a woman does not like to receive even
enemies without having spent a few minutes over her toilet. It is
true that men are less tenacious of ceremony," added she, throwing a
significant glance at Lord Lindsay's rusty armour and soiled and
pierced doublet. "Good day, Melville," she continued, without paying
attention to some words of excuse stammered by Lindsay; "be welcome
in my prison, as you were in my palace; for I believe you as devoted
to the one as to the other".
Then, turning to Lindsay, who was looking interrogatively at the
door, impatient as he was for Ruthven to come--
"You have there, my lord," said she, pointing to the sword he carried
over his shoulder, "a faithful companion, though it is a little
heavy: did you expect, in coming here, to find enemies against whom
to employ it? In the contrary case, it is a strange ornament for a
lady's presence. But no matter, my lord, I, am too much of a Stuart
to fear the sight of a sword, even if it were naked, I warn you."
"It is not out of place here, madam," replied Lindsay, bringing it
forward and leaning his elbow on its cross hilt, "for it is an old
acquaintance of your family."
"Your ancestors, my lord, were brave and loyal enough for me not to
refuse to believe what you tell me. Besides, such a good blade must
have rendered them good service."
"Yes, madam, yes, surely it has done so, but that kind of service
that kings do not forgive. He for whom it was made was Archibald
Bell-the-Cat, and he girded himself with it the day when, to justify
his name, he went to seize in the very tent of King James III, your
grandfather, his un worthy favourites, Cochran, Hummel, Leonard, and
Torpichen, whom he hanged on Louder Bridge with the halters of his
soldiers' horses. It was also with this sword that he slew at one
blow, in the lists, Spens of Kilspindie, who had insulted him in the
presence of King James IV, counting on the protection his master
accorded him, and which did not guard him against it any more than
his shield, which it split in two. At his master's death, which took
place two years after the defeat of Flodden, on whose battlefield he
left his two sons and two hundred warriors of the name of Douglas, it
passed into the hands of the Earl of Angus, who drew it from the
scabbard when he drove the Hamiltons out of Edinburgh, and that so
quickly and completely that the affair was called the 'sweeping of
the streets.' Finally, your father James V saw it glisten in the
fight of the bridge over the Tweed, when Buccleuch, stirred up by
him, wanted to snatch him from the guardianship of the Douglases, and
when eighty warriors of the name of Scott remained on the
"But," said the queen, "how is it that this weapon, after such
exploits, has not remained as a trophy in the Douglas family? No
doubt the Earl of Angus required a great occasion to decide him to-
renounce in your favour this modern Excalibur". [History of Scotland,
by Sir Walter Scott.--"The Abbott": historical part.]
"Yes, no doubt, madam, it was upon a great occasion," replied
Lindsay, in spite of the imploring signs made by Melville, "and this
will have at least the advantage of the others, in being sufficiently
recent for you to remember. It was ten days ago, on the battlefield
of Carberry Hill, madam, when the infamous Bothwell had the audacity
to make a public challenge in which he defied to single combat
whomsoever would dare to maintain that he was not innocent of the
murder of the king your husband. I made him answer then, I the
third, that he was an assassin. And as he refused to fight with the
two others under the pretext that they were only barons, I presented
myself in my turn, I who am earl and lord. It was on that occasion
that the noble Earl of Morton gave me this good sword to fight him to
the death. So that, if he had been a little more presumptuous or a
little less cowardly, dogs and vultures would be eating at this
moment the pieces that, with the help of this good sword, I should
have carved for them from that traitor's carcass."
At these words, Mary Seyton and Robert Melville looked at each other
in terror, for the events that they recalled were so recent that they
were, so to speak, still living in the queen's heart; but the queen,
with incredible impassibility and a smile of contempt on her lips--
"It is easy, my lord," said she, "to vanquish an enemy who does not
appear in the lists; however, believe me, if Mary had inherited the
Stuarts' sword as she has inherited their sceptre, your sword, long
as it is, would yet have seemed to you too short. But as you have
only to relate to us now, my lord, what you intended doing, and not
what you have done, think it fit that I bring you back to something
of more reality; for I do not suppose you have given yourself the
trouble to come here purely and simply to add a chapter to the little
treatise Des Rodomontades Espagnolles by M. de Brantome."
"You are right, madam," replied Lindsay, reddening with anger, "and
you would already know the object of our mission if Lord Ruthven did
not so ridiculously keep us waiting. But," added he, "have patience;
the matter will not be long now, for here he is."
Indeed, at that moment they heard steps mounting the staircase and
approaching the room, and at the sound of these steps, the queen, who
had borne with such firmness Lindsay's insults, grew so perceptibly
paler, that Melville, who did not take his eyes off her,--put out his
hand towards the arm-chair as if to push it towards her; but the
queen made a sign that she had no need of it, and gazed at the door
with apparent calm. Lord Ruthven appeared; it was the first time
that she had seen the son since Rizzio had been assassinated by the
Lord Ruthven was both a warrior and a statesman, and at this moment
his dress savoured of the two professions: it consisted of a close
coat of embroidered buff leather, elegant enough to be worn as a
court undress, and on which, if need were, one could buckle a
cuirass, for battle: like his father, he was pale; like his father,
he was to die young, and, even more than his father, his countenance
wore that ill-omened melancholy by which fortune-tellers recognise
those who are to die a violent death.
Lord Ruthven united in himself the polished dignity of a courtier and
the inflexible character of a minister; but quite resolved as he was
to obtain from Mary Stuart, even if it were by violence, what he had
come to demand in the regent's name, he none the less made her, on
entering, a cold but respectful greeting, to which the queen
responded with a courtesy; then the steward drew up to the empty arm-
chair a heavy table on which had been prepared everything necessary
for writing, and at a sign from the two lords he went out, leaving
the queen and her companion alone with the three ambassadors. Then
the queen, seeing that this table and this arm-chair were put ready
for her, sat down; and after a moment, herself breaking this silence
more gloomy than any word could have been
"My lords," said she, "you see that I wait: can it be that this
message which you have to communicate to me is so terrible that two
soldiers as renowned as Lord Lindsay and Lord Ruthven hesitate at the
moment of transmitting it?"
"Madam," answered Ruthven, "I am not of a family, as you know, which
ever hesitates to perform a duty, painful as it may be; besides, we
hope that your captivity has prepared you to hear what we have to
tell you on the part of the Secret Council."
"The Secret Council!" said the queen. "Instituted by me, by what
right does it act without me? No matter, I am waiting for this
message: I suppose it is a petition to implore my mercy for the men
who have dared to reach to a power that I hold only from God."
"Madam," replied Ruthven, who appeared to have undertaken the painful
role of spokesman, while Lindsay, mute and impatient, fidgeted with
the hilt of his long sword, "it is distressing to me to have to
undeceive you on this point: it is not your mercy that I come to ask;
it is, on the contrary, the pardon of the Secret Council that I come
to offer you."
"To me, my lord, to me!" cried Mary: "subjects offer pardon to their
queen! Oh! it is such a new and wonderful thing, that my amazement
outweighs my indignation, and that I beg you to continue, instead of
stopping you there, as perhaps I ought to do."
"And I obey you so much the more willingly, madam," went on Ruthven
imperturbably, "that this pardon is only granted on certain
conditions, stated in these documents, destined to re-establish the
tranquillity of the State, so cruelly compromised by the errors that
they are going to repair."
"And shall I be permitted, my lord, to read these documents, or must
I, allured by my confidence in those who present them to me, sign
them with my eyes shut?"
"No, madam," Ruthven returned; "the Secret Council desire, on the
contrary, that you acquaint yourself with them, for you must sign
"Read me these documents, my lord; for such a reading is, I think,
included in the strange duties you have accepted."
Lord Ruthven took one of the two papers that he had in his hand, and
read with the impassiveness of his usual voice the following:
"Summoned from my tenderest youth to the government of the kingdom
and to the crown of Scotland, I have carefully attended to the
administration; but I have experienced so much fatigue and trouble
that I no longer find my mind free enough nor my strength great
enough to support the burden of affairs of State: accordingly, and as
Divine favour has granted us a son whom we desire to see during our
lifetime bear the crown which he has acquired by right of birth, we
have resolved to abdicate, and we abdicate in his favour, by these
presents, freely and voluntarily, all our rights to the crown and to
the government of Scotland, desiring that he may immediately ascend
the throne, as if he were called to it by our natural death, and not
as the effect of our own will; and that our present abdication may
have a more complete and solemn effect, and that no one should put
forward the claim of ignorance, we give full powers to our trusty and
faithful cousins, the lords Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven, to
appear in our name before the nobility, the clergy, and the burgesses
of Scotland, of whom they will convoke an assembly at Stirling, and
to there renounce, publicly and solemnly, on our part, all our claims
to the crown and to the government of Scotland.
"Signed freely and as the testimony of one of our last royal wishes,
in our castle of Lochleven, the ___ June 1567". (The date was left
There was a moment's silence after this reading, then
"Did you hear, madam?" asked Ruthven.
"Yes," replied Mary Stuart,--" yes, I have heard rebellious words
that I have not understood, and I thought that my ears, that one has
tried to accustom for some time to a strange language, still deceived
me, and that I have thought for your honour, my lord William Ruthven,
and my lord Lindsay of Byres."
"Madam," answered Lindsay, out of patience at having kept silence so
long, "our honour has nothing to do with the opinion of a woman who
has so ill known how to watch over her own."
"My lord!" said Melville, risking a word.
"Let him speak, Robert," returned the queen. "We have in our
conscience armour as well tempered as that with which Lord Lindsay is
so prudently covered, although, to the shame of justice, we no longer
have a sword. Continue, my lord," the queen went on, turning to Lord
Ruthven: "is this all that my subjects require of me? A date and a
signature? Ah! doubtless it is too little; and this second paper,
which you have kept in order to proceed by degrees, probably contains
some demand more difficult to grant than that of yielding to a child
scarcely a year old a crown which belongs to me by birthright, and to
abandon my sceptre to take a distaff."
"This other paper," replied Ruthven, without letting himself be
intimidated by the tone of bitter irony adopted by the queen, "is the
deed by which your Grace confirms the decision of the Secret Council
which has named your beloved brother, the Earl of Murray, regent of
"Indeed!" said Mary. "The Secret Council thinks it needs my
confirmation to an act of such slight importance? And my beloved
brother, to bear it without remorse, needs that it should be I who
add a fresh title to those of Earl of Mar and of Murray that I have
already bestowed upon him? But one cannot desire anything more
respectful and touching than all this, and I should be very wrong to
complain. My lords," continued the queen, rising and changing her
tone, "return to those who have sent you, and tell them that to such
demands Mary Stuart has no answer to give."
"Take care, madam," responded Ruthven; "for I have told you it is
only on these conditions that your pardon can be granted you."
"And if I refuse this generous pardon," asked Mary, "what will
"I cannot pronounce beforehand, madam; but your Grace has enough
knowledge of the laws, and above all of the history of Scotland and
England, to know that murder and adultery are crimes for which more
than one queen has been punished with death."
"And upon what proofs could such a charge be founded, my lord?
Pardon my persistence, which takes up your precious time; but I am
sufficiently interested in the matter to be permitted such a
"The proof, madam?" returned Ruthven. "There is but one, I know; but
that one is unexceptionable: it is the precipitate marriage of the
widow of the assassinated with the chief assassin, and the letters
which have been handed over to us by James Balfour, which prove that
the guilty persons had united their adulterous hearts before it was
permitted them to unite their bloody hands."
"My lord," cried the queen, "do you forget a certain repast given in
an Edinburgh tavern, by this same Bothwell, to those same noblemen
who treat him to-day as an adulterer and a murderer; do you forget
that at the end of that meal, and on the same table at which it had
been given, a paper was signed to invite that same woman, to whom to-
day you make the haste of her new wedding a crime, to leave off a
widow's mourning to reassume a marriage robe? for if you have
forgotten it, my lords, which would do no more honour to your
sobriety than to your memory, I undertake to show it to you, I who
have preserved it; and perhaps if we search well we shall find among
the signatures the names of Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven.
O noble Lord Herries," cried Mary, "loyal James Melville, you alone
were right then, when you threw yourselves at my feet, entreating me
not to conclude this marriage, which, I see it clearly to-day, was
only a trap set for an ignorant woman by perfidious advisers or
"Madam," cried Ruthven, in spite of his cold impassivity beginning to
lose command of himself, while Lindsay was giving still more noisy
and less equivocal signs of impatience, "madam, all these discussions
are beside our aim: I beg you to return to it, then, and inform us
if, your life and honour guaranteed, you consent to abdicate the
crown of Scotland."
"And what safeguard should I have that the promises you here make me
will be kept?"
"Our word, madam," proudly replied Ruthven.
"Your word, my lord, is a very feeble pledge to offer, when one so
quickly forgets one's signature: have you not some trifle to add to
it, to make me a little easier than I should be with it alone?"
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," cried Lindsay. "Do you not see that for
an hour this woman answers our proposals only by insults?"
"Yes, let us go," said Ruthven; "and thank yourself only, madam, for
the day when the thread breaks which holds the sword suspended over
"My lords," cried Melville, "my lords, in Heaven's name, a little
patience, and forgive something to her who, accustomed to command, is
today forced to obey."
"Very well," said Lindsay, turning round, "stay with her, then, and
try to obtain by your smooth words what is refused to our frank and
loyal demand. In a quarter of an hour we shall return: let the
answer be ready in a quarter of an hour!"
With these words, the two noblemen went out, leaving Melville with
the queen; and one could count their footsteps, from the noise that
Lindsay's great sword made, in resounding on each step of the
Scarcely were they alone than Melville threw himself at the queen's
"Madam," said he," you remarked just now that Lord Herries and my
brother had given your Majesty advice that you repented not having
followed; well, madam, reflect on that I in my turn give you; for it
is more important than the other, for you will regret with still more
bitterness not having listened to it. Ah! you do not know what may
happen, you are ignorant of what your brother is capable."
"It seems to me, however," returned the queen, "that he has just
instructed me on that head: what more will he do than he has done
already? A public trial! Oh! it is all I ask: let me only plead my
cause, and we shall see what judges will dare to condemn me."
"But that is what they will take good care not to do, madam; for they
would be mad to do it when they keep you here in this isolated
castle, in the care of your enemies, having no witness but God, who
avenges crime, but who does not prevent it. Recollect, madam, what
Machiavelli has said, 'A king's tomb is never far from his prison.'
You come of a family in which one dies young, madam, and almost
always of a sudden death: two of your ancestors perished by steel,
and one by poison."
"Oh, if my death were sudden and easy," cried Mary, "yes, I should
accept it as an expiation for my faults; for if I am proud when I
compare myself with others, Melville, I am humble when I judge
myself. I am unjustly accused of being an accomplice of Darnley's
death, but I am justly condemned for having married Bothwell."
"Time presses, madam; time presses," cried Melville, looking at the
sand, which, placed on the table, was marking the time. "They are
coming back, they will be here in a minute; and this time you must
give them an answer. Listen, madam, and at least profit by your
situation as much as you can. You are alone here with one woman,
without friends, without protection, without power: an abdication
signed at such a juncture will never appear to your people to have
been freely given, but will always pass as having been torn from you
by force; and if need be, madam, if the day comes when such a solemn
declaration is worth something, well, then you will have two
witnesses of the violence done you: the one will be Mary Seyton, and
the other," he added in a low voice and looking uneasily about him,--
"the other will be Robert Melville."
Hardly had he finished speaking when the footsteps of the two nobles
were again heard on the staircase, returning even before the quarter
of an hour had elapsed; a moment afterwards the door opened, and
Ruthven appeared, while over his shoulder was seen Lindsay's head.
"Madam," said Ruthven, "we have returned. Has your Grace decided?
We come for your answer."
"Yes," said Lindsay, pushing aside Ruthven, who stood in his way, and
advancing to the table,--" yes, an answer, clear, precise, positive,
and without dissimulation."
"You are exacting, my lord," said the queen: "you would scarcely have
the right to expect that from me if I were in full liberty on the
other side of the lake and surrounded with a faithful escort; but
between these walls, behind these bars, in the depths of this
fortress, I shall not tell you that I sign voluntarily, lest you
should not believe it. But no matter, you want my signature; well, I
am going to give it to you. Melville, pass me the pen."
"But I hope," said Lord Ruthven, "that your Grace is not counting on
using your present position one day in argument to protest against
what you are going to do?"
The queen had already stooped to write, she had already set her hand
to the paper, when Ruthven spoke to her. But scarcely had he done
so, than she rose up proudly, and letting fall the pen, "My lord,"
said she, "what you asked of me just now was but an abdication pure
and simple, and I was going to sign it. But if to this abdication is
joined this marginal note, then I renounce of my own accord, and as
judging myself unworthy, the throne of Scotland. I would not do it
for the three united crowns that I have been robbed of in turn."
"Take care, madam," cried Lord Lindsay, seizing the queen's wrist
with his steel gauntlet and squeezing it with all his angry strength
--"take care, for our patience is at an end, and we could easily end
by breaking what would not bend."
The queen remained standing, and although a violent flush had passed
like a flame over her countenance, she did not utter a word, and did
not move: her eyes only were fixed with such a great expression of
contempt on those of the rough baron, that he, ashamed of the passion
that had carried him away, let go the hand he had seized and took a
step back. Then raising her sleeve and showing the violet marks made
on her arm by Lord Lindsay's steel gauntlet,
"This is what I expected, my lords," said she, "and nothing prevents
me any longer from signing; yes, I freely abdicate the throne and
crown of Scotland, and there is the proof that my will has not been
With these words, she took the pen and rapidly signed the two
documents, held them out to Lord Ruthven, and bowing with great
dignity, withdrew slowly into her room, accompanied by Mary Seyton.
Ruthven looked after her, and when she had disappeared, "It doesn't
matter," he said; "she has signed, and although the means you
employed, Lindsay, may be obsolete enough in diplomacy, it is not the
less efficacious, it seems."
"No joking, Ruthven," said Lindsay; "for she is a noble creature, and
if I had dared, I should have thrown myself at her feet to ask her
"There is still time," replied Ruthven, "and Mary, in her present
situation, will not be severe upon you: perhaps she has resolved to
appeal to the judgment of God to prove her innocence, and in that
case a champion such as you might well change the face of things."
"Do not joke, Ruthven," Lindsay answered a second time, with more
violence than the first; "for if I were as well convinced of her
innocence as I am of her crime, I tell you that no one should touch a
hair of her head, not even the regent."
"The devil! my lord," said Ruthven. "I did not know you were so
sensitive to a gentle voice and a tearful eye; you know the story of
Achilles' lance, which healed with its rust the wounds it made with
its edge: do likewise my lord, do likewise."
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," replied Lindsay; "you are like a corselet
of Milan steel, which is three times as bright as the steel armour of
Glasgow, but which is at the same time thrice as hard: we know one
another, Ruthven, so an end to railleries or threats; enough, believe
And after these words, Lord Lindsay went out first, followed by
Ruthven and Melville, the first with his head high and affecting an
air of insolent indifference, and the second, sad, his brow bent, and
not even trying to disguise the painful impression which this scene
had made on him.' ["History of Scotland, by Sir Walter Scott.--'The
Abbott": historical part.]
The queen came out of her room only in the evening, to take her place
at the window which looked over the lake: at the usual time she saw
the light which was henceforth her sole hope shine in the little
house in Kinross; for a whole long month she had no other consolation
than seeing it, every night, fixed and faithful.
At last, at the end of this time, and as she was beginning to despair
of seeing George Douglas again, one morning, on opening the window,
she uttered a cry. Mary Seyton ran to her, and the queen, without
having strength to speak, showed her in the middle of the lake the
tiny boat at anchor, and in the boat Little Douglas and George, who
were absorbed in fishing, their favourite amusement. The young man
had arrived the day before, and as everyone was accustomed to his
unexpected returns, the sentinel had not even blown the horn, and the
queen had not known that at last a friend had come.
However, she was three days yet without seeing this friend otherwise
than she had just done-that is, on the lake. It is true that from
morning till evening he did not leave that spot, from which he could
view the queen's windows and the queen herself, when, to gaze at a
wider horizon, she leaned her face against the bars. At last, on the
morning of the fourth day, the queen was awakened by a great noise of
dogs and horns: she immediately ran to the window, for to a prisoner
everything is an event, and she saw William Douglas, who was
embarking with a pack of hounds and some huntsmen. In fact, making a
truce, for a day, with his gaoler's duties, to enjoy a pleasure more
in harmony with his rank and birth, he was going to hunt in the woods
which cover the last ridge of Ben Lomond, and which, ever sinking,
die down on the banks of the lake.
The queen trembled with delight, for she hoped that Lady Lochleven
would maintain her ill-will, and that then George would replace his
brother: this hope was not disappointed. At the usual time the queen
heard the footsteps of those who were bringing her her breakfast; the
door opened, and she saw George Douglas enter, preceded by the
servants who were carrying the dishes. George barely bowed; but the
queen, warned by him not to be surprised at anything, returned him
his greeting with a disdainful air; then the servants performed their
task and went out, as they were accustomed.
"At last," said the queen, "you are back again, then."
George motioned with his finger, went to the door to listen if all
the servants had really gone away, and if no one had remained to spy.
Then, returning more at ease, and bowing respectfully--
"Yes, madam," returned he; "and, Heaven be thanked, I bring good
"Oh, tell me quickly!" cried the queen; "for staying in this castle
is hell. You knew that they came, did you not, and that they made me
sign an abdication?"
"Yes, madam," replied Douglas; "but we also knew that your signature
had been obtained from you by violence alone, and our devotion to
your Majesty is increased thereby, if possible."
"But, after all, what have you done?"
"The Seytons and the Hamiltons, who are, as your Majesty knows, your
most faithful servants,"--Mary turned round, smiling, and put out her
hand to Mary Seyton,--" have already," continued George, "assembled
their troops, who keep themselves in readiness for the first signal;
but as they alone would not be sufficiently numerous to hold the
country, we shall make our way directly to Dumbarton, whose governor
is ours, and which by its position and its strength can hold out long
enough against all the regent's troops to give to the faithful hearts
remaining to you time to come and join us."
"Yes, yes," said the queen; "I see clearly what we shall do once we
get out of this; but how are we to get out?"
"That is the occasion, madam," replied Douglas, "for which your
Majesty must call to your aid that courage of which you have given
such great proofs."
"If I have need only of courage and coolness," replied the queen, "be
easy; neither the one nor the other will fail me."
"Here is a file," said George, giving Mary Seyton that instrument
which he judged unworthy to touch the queen's hands, "and this
evening I shall bring your Majesty cords to construct a ladder. You
will cut through one of the bars of this window, it is only at a
height of twenty feet; I shall come up to you, as much to try it as
to support you; one of the garrison is in my pay, he will give us
passage by the door it is his duty to guard, and you will be free."
"And when will that be?" cried the queen.
"We must wait for two things, madam," replied Douglas: "the first, to
collect at Kinross an escort sufficient for your Majesty's safety;
the second, that the turn for night watch of Thomas Warden should
happen to be at an isolated door that we can reach without being
"And how will you know that? Do you stay at the castle, then?"
"Alas! no, madam," replied George; "at the castle I am a useless and
even a dangerous fried for you, while once beyond the lake I can
serve you in an effectual manner."
"And how will you know when Warden's turn to mount guard has come?"
"The weathercock in the north tower, instead of turning in the wind
with the others, will remain fixed against it."
"But I, how shall I be warned?"
"Everything is already provided for on that side: the light which
shines each night in the little house in Kinross incessantly tells
you that your friends keep watch for you; but when you would like to
know if the hour of your deliverance approaches or recedes, in your
turn place a light in this window. The other will immediately
disappear; then, placing your hand on your breast, count your
heartbeats: if you reach the number twenty without the light
reappearing, nothing is yet settled; if you only reach ten, the
moment approaches; if the light does not leave you time to count
beyond five, your escape is fixed for the following night; if it
reappears no more, it is fixed for the same evening; then the owl's
cry, repeated thrice in the courtyard, will be the signal; let down
the ladder when you hear it".
"Oh, Douglas," cried the queen, "you alone could foresee and
calculate everything thus. Thank you, thank you a hundred times!"
And she gave him her hand to kiss.
A vivid red flushed the young man's cheeks; but almost directly
mastering his emotion, he kneeled down, and, restraining the
expression of that love of which he had once spoken to the queen,
while promising her never more to speak of it, he took the hand that
Mary extended, and kissed it with such respect that no one could have
seen in this action anything but the homage of devotion and fidelity.
Then, having bowed to the queen, he went out, that a longer stay with
her should not give rise to any suspicions.
At the dinner-hour Douglas brought, as he had said, a parcel of cord.
It was not enough, but when evening came Mary Seyton was to unroll it
and let fall the end from the window, and George would fasten the
remainder to it: the thing was done as arranged, and without any
mishap, an hour after the hunters had returned.
The following day George left the castle.
The queen and Mary Seyton lost no time in setting about the rope
ladder, and it was finished on the third day. The same evening, the
queen in her impatience, and rather to assure herself of her
partisans' vigilance than in the hope that the time of her
deliverance was so near, brought her lamp to the window: immediately,
and as George Douglas had told her, the light in the little house at
Kinross disappeared: the queen then laid her hand on her heart and
counted up to twenty-two; then the light reappeared; they were ready
for everything, but nothing was yet settled. For a week the queen
thus questioned the light and her heart-beats without their number
changing; at last, on the eighth day, she counted only as far as ten;
at the eleventh the light reappeared.
The queen believed herself mistaken: she did not dare to hope what
this announced. She withdrew the lamp; then, at the end of a quarter
of an hour, showed it again: her unknown correspondent understood.
with his usual intelligence that a fresh trial was required of him,
and the light in the little house disappeared in its turn. Mary
again questioned the pulsations of her heart, and, fast as it leaped,
before the twelfth beat the propitious star was shining on the
horizon: there was no longer any doubt; everything was settled.
Mary could not sleep all night: this persistency of her partisans
inspired her with gratitude to the point of tears. The day came, and
the queen several times questioned her companion to assure herself
that it was not all a dream; at every sound it seemed to her that the
scheme on which her liberty hung was discovered, and when, at
breakfast and at dinner time, William Douglas entered as usual, she
hardly dared look at him, for fear of reading on his face the
announcement that all was lost.
In the evening the queen again questioned the light: it made the same
answer; nothing had altered; the beacon was always one of hope.
For four days it thus continued to indicate that the moment of escape
was at hand; on the evening of the fifth, before the queen had
counted five beats, the light reappeared: the queen leaned upon Mary
Seyton; she was nearly fainting, between dread and 'delight. Her
escape was fixed for the next evening.
The queen tried once more, and obtained the same reply: there was no
longer a doubt; everything was ready except the prisoner's courage,
for it failed her for a moment, and if Mary Seyton had not drawn up a
seat in time, she would have fallen prone; but, the first moment
over, she collected herself as usual, and was stronger and more
resolute than ever.
Till midnight the queen remained at the window, her eyes fixed on
that star of good omen: at last Mary Seyton persuaded her to go to
bed, offering, if she had no wish to sleep, to read her some verses
by M. Ronsard, or some chapters from the Mer des Histoires; but Mary
had no desire now for any profane reading, and had her Hours read,
making the responses as she would have done if she had been present
at a mass said by a Catholic priest: towards dawn, however, she grew
drowsy, and as Mary Seyton, for her part, was dropping with fatigue,
she fell asleep directly in the arm-chair at the head of the queen's
Next day she awoke, feeling that someone was tapping her on the
shoulder: it was the queen, who had already arisen.
"Come and see, darling," said she,--"come and see the fine day that
God is giving us. Oh! how alive is Nature! How happy I shall be to
be once more free among those plains and mountains! Decidedly, Heaven
is on our side."
"Madam," replied Mary, "I would rather see the weather less fine: it
would promise us a darker night; and consider, what we need is
darkness, not light."
"Listen," said the queen; "it is by this we are going to see if God
is indeed for us; if the weather remains as it is, yes, you are
right, He abandons us; but if it clouds over, oh! then, darling, this
will be a certain proof of His protection, will it not?"
Mary Seyton smiled, nodding that she adopted her mistress's
superstition; then the queen, incapable of remaining idle in her
great preoccupation of mind, collected the few jewels that she had
preserved, enclosed them in a casket, got ready for the evening a
black dress, in order to be still better hidden in the darkness: and,
these preparations made, she sat down again at the window,
ceaselessly carrying her eyes from the lake to the little house in
Kinross, shut up and dumb as usual.
The dinner-hour arrived: the queen was so happy that she received
William Douglas with more goodwill than was her wont, and it was with
difficulty she remained seated during the time the meal lasted; but
she restrained herself, and William Douglas withdrew, without seeming
to have noticed her agitation.
Scarcely had he gone than Mary ran to the window; she had need of
air, and her gaze devoured in advance those wide horizons which she
was about to cross anew; it seemed to her that once at liberty she
would never shut herself up in a palace again, but would wander about
the countryside continually: then, amid all these tremors of delight,
from time to time she felt unexpectedly heavy at heart. She then
turned round to Mary Seyton, trying to fortify her strength with
hers, and the young girl kept up her hopes, but rather from duty than
But slow as they seemed to the queen, the hours yet passed: towards
the afternoon some clouds floated across the blue sky; the queen
remarked upon them joyfully to her companion; Mary Seyton
congratulated her upon them, not on account of the imaginary omen
that the queen sought in them, but because of the real importance
that the weather should be cloudy, that darkness might aid them in
their flight. While the two prisoners were watching the billowy,
moving vapours, the hour of dinner arrived; but it was half an hour
of constraint and dissimulation, the more painful that, no doubt in
return for the sort of goodwill shown him by the queen in the
morning, William Douglas thought himself obliged, in his turn, to
accompany his duties with fitting compliments, which compelled the
queen to take a more active part in the conversation than her
preoccupation allowed her; but William Douglas did not seem in any
way to observe this absence of mind, and all passed as at breakfast.
Directly he had gone the queen ran to the window: the few clouds
which were chasing one another in the sky an hour before had
thickened and spread, and--all the blue was blotted out, to give
place to a hue dull and leaden as pewter. Mary Stuart's
presentiments were thus realised: as to the little house in Kinross,
which one could still make out in the dusk, it remained shut up, and
Night fell: the light shone as usual; the queen signalled, it
disappeared. Mary Stuart waited in vain; everything remained in
darkness: the escape was for the same evening. The queen heard eight
o'clock, nine o'clock, and ten o'clock strike successively. At ten
o'clock the sentinels were relieved; Mary Stuart heard the patrols
pass beneath her windows, the steps of the watch recede: then all
returned to silence. Half an hour passed away thus; suddenly the
owl's cry resounded thrice, the queen recognised George Douglas's
signal: the supreme moment had come.
In these circumstances the queen found all her strength revive: she
signed to Mary Seyton to take away the bar and to fix the rope
ladder, while, putting out the lamp, she felt her way into the
bedroom to seek the casket which contained her few remaining jewels.
When she came back, George Douglas was already in the room.
"All goes well, madam," said he. "Your friends await you on the
other side of the lake, Thomas Warden watches at the postern, and God
has sent us a dark night."
The queen, without replying, gave him her hand. George bent his knee
and carried this hand to his lips; but on touching it, he felt it
cold and trembling.
"Madam," said he, "in Heaven's name summon all your courage, and do
not let yourself be downcast at such a moment."
"Our Lady-of-Good-Help," murmured Seyton, "come to our aid!"
"Summon to you the spirit of the kings your ancestors," responded
George, "for at this moment it is not the resignation of a Christian
that you require, but the strength and resolution of a queen"
"Oh, Douglas! Douglas," cried Mary mournfully, "a fortune-teller
predicted to me that I should die in prison and by a violent death:
has not the hour of the prediction arrived?"
"Perhaps," George said, "but it is better to die as a queen than to
live in this ancient castle calumniated and a prisoner."
"You are right, George," the queen answered; "but for a woman the
first step is everything: forgive me". Then, after a moment's pause,
"Come," said she; "I am ready."
George immediately went to the window, secured the ladder again and
more firmly, then getting up on to the sill and holding to the bars
with one hand, he stretched out the other to the queen, who, as
resolute as she had been timid a moment before, mounted on a stool,
and had already set one foot on the window-ledge, when suddenly the
cry, "Who goes there?" rang out at the foot of the tower. The queen
sprang quickly back, partly instinctively and partly pushed by
George, who, on the contrary, leaned out of the window to see whence
came this cry, which, twice again renewed, remained twice unanswered,
and was immediately followed by a report and the flash of a firearm:
at the same moment the sentinel on duty on the tower blew his bugle,
another set going the alarm bell, and the cries, "To arms, to arms!"
and "Treason, treason!" resounded throughout the castle.
"Yes, yes, treason, treason!" cried George Douglas, leaping down into
the room. "Yes, the infamous Warden has betrayed us!" Then,
advancing to Mary, cold and motionless as a statue, "Courage, madam,"
said he, "courage! Whatever happens, a friend yet remains for you in
the castle; it is Little Douglas."
Scarcely had he finished speaking when the door of the queen's
apartment opened, and William Douglas and Lady Lochleven, preceded by
servants carrying torches and armed soldiers, appeared on the
threshold: the room was immediately filled with people and light.
"Mother," said William Douglas, pointing to his brother standing
before Mary Stuart and protecting her with his body, "do you believe
me now? Look!"
The old lady was for a moment speechless; then finding a word at
last, and taking a step forward--
"Speak, George Douglas," cried she, "speak, and clear yourself at
once of the charge which weighs on your honour; say but these words,
'A Douglas was never faithless to his trust,' and I believe you".
"Yes, mother," answered William, "a Douglas!... but he--he is not a
"May God grant my old age the strength needed to bear on the part of
one of my sons such a misfortune, and on the part of the other such
an injury!" exclaimed Lady Lochleven. "O woman born under a fatal
star," she went on, addressing the queen, "when will you cease to be,
in the Devil's hands, an instrument of perdition and death to all who
approach you? O ancient house of Lochleven, cursed be the hour when
this enchantress crossed thy threshold!"
"Do not say that, mother, do not say that," cried George; "blessed
be, on the contrary, the moment which proves that, if there are
Douglases who no longer remember what they owe to their sovereigns,
there are others who have never forgotten it."
"Douglas! Douglas!" murmured Mary Stuart, "did I not tell you?"
"And I, madam," said George, "what did I reply then? That it was an
honour and a duty to every faithful subject of your Majesty to die
"Well, die, then!" cried William Douglas, springing on his brother
with raised sword, while he, leaping back, drew his, and with a
movement quick as thought and eager as hatred defended himself. But
at the same moment Mary Stuart darted between the two young people.
"Not another step, Lord Douglas," said she. "Sheathe your sword,
George, or if you use it, let be to go hence, and against everyone
but your b other. I still have need of your life; take care of it."
"My life, like my arm and my honour, is at your service, madam, and
from the moment you command it I shall preserve it for you."
With these words, rushing to the door with a violence and resolve
which prevented anyone's stopping him--
"Back!" cried he to the domestics who were barring the passage; "make
way for the young master of Douglas, or woe to you!".
"Stop him!" cried William. "Seize him, dead or alive! Fire upon him!
Kill him like a dog!"
Two or three soldiers, not daring to disobey William, pretended to
pursue his brother. Then some gunshots were heard, and a voice
crying that George Douglas had just thrown himself into the lake.
"And has he then escaped?" cried William.
Mary Stuart breathed again; the old lady raised her hands to Heaven.
"Yes, yes," murmured William,--"yes, thank Heaven for your son's
flight; for his flight covers our entire house with shame; counting
from this hour, we shall be looked upon as the accomplices of his
"Have pity on me, William!" cried Lady Lochleven, wringing her hands.
"Have compassion o your old mother! See you not that I am dying?"
With these words, she fell backwards, pale and tottering; the steward
and a servant supported er in their arms.
"I believe, my lord," said Mary Seyton, coming forward, "that your
mother has as much need of attention just now as the queen has need
of repose: do you not consider it is time for you to withdraw?"
"Yes, yes," said William, "to give you time to spin fresh webs, I
suppose, and to seek what fresh flies you can take in them? It is
well, go on with your work; but you have just seen that it is not
easy to deceive William Douglas. Play your game, I shall play mine".
Then turning to the servants, "Go out, all of you," said he; "and
you, mother, come."
The servants and the soldiers obeyed; then William Douglas went out
last, supporting Lady Lochleven, and the queen heard him shut behind
him and double-lock the two doors of her prison.
Scarcely was Mary alone, and certain that she was no longer seen or
heard, than all her strength deserted her, and, sinking into an arm-
chair, she burst out sobbing.
Indeed, all her courage had been needed to sustain her so far, and
the sight of her enemies alone had given her this courage; but hardly
had they gone than her situation appeared before her in all its fatal
hardship. Dethroned, a prisoner, without another fiend in this
impregnable castle than a child to whom she had scarce given
attention, and who was the sole and last thread attaching her past
hopes to her hopes for the future, what remained to Mary Stuart of
her two thrones and her double power? Her name, that was all; her,
name with which, free, she had doubtless stirred Scotland, but which
little by little was about to be effaced in the hearts of her
adherents, and which during her lifetime oblivion was to cover
perhaps as with a shroud. Such an idea was insupportable to a soul
as lofty as Mary Stuart's, and to an organisation which, like that of
the flowers, has need, before everything, of air, light, and sun.
Fortunately there remained to her the best beloved of her four Marys,
who, always devoted and consoling, hastened to succour and comfort
her; but this time it was no easy matter, and the queen let her act
and speak without answering her otherwise than with sobs and tears;
when suddenly, looking through the window to which she had drawn up
her mistress's armchair--
"The light!" cried she, "madam, the light!"
At the same time she raised the queen, and with arm outstretched from
the window, she showed her the beacon, the eternal symbol of hope,
relighted in the midst of this dark night on Kinross hill: there was
no mistake possible, not a star was shining in the sky.
"Lord God, I give Thee thanks," said the queen, falling on her knees
and raising her arms to heaven with a gesture of gratitude: "Douglas
has escaped, and my friends still keep watch."
Then, after a fervent prayer, which restored to her a little
strength, the queen re-entered her room, and, tired out by her varied
successive emotions, she slept an uneasy, agitated sleep, over which
the indefatigable Mary Seyton kept watch till daybreak.
As William Douglas had said, from this time forward the queen was a
prisoner indeed, and permission to go down into the garden was no
longer granted but under the surveillance of two soldiers; but this
annoyance seemed to her so unbearable that she preferred to give up
the recreation, which, surrounded with such conditions, became a
torture. So she shut herself up in her apartments, finding a certain
bitter and haughty pleasure in the very excess of her misfortune.
A week after the events we have related, as nine o'clock in the
evening had just sounded from the castle bell, and the queen and Mary
Seyton were sitting at a table where they were working at their
tapestry, a stone thrown from the courtyard passed through the window
bars, broke a pane of glass, and fell into the room. The queen's
first idea was to believe it accidental or an insult; but Mary
Seyton, turning round, noticed that the stone was wrapped up in a
paper: she immediately picked it up. The paper was a letter from
George Douglas, conceived in these terms:
"You have commanded me to live, madam: I have obeyed, and your
Majesty has been able to tell, from the Kinross light, that your
servants continue to watch over you. However, not to raise
suspicion, the soldiers collected for that fatal night dispersed at
dawn, and will not gather again till a fresh attempt makes their
presence necessary. But, alas! to renew this attempt now, when your
Majesty's gaolers are on their guard, would be your ruin. Let them
take every precaution, then, madam; let them sleep in security, while
we, we, in our devotion, shall go on watching.
"Patience and courage!"
"Brave and loyal heart!" cried Mary, "more constantly devoted to
misfortune than others are to prosperity! Yes, I shall have patience
and courage, and so long as that light shines I shall still believe
This letter restored to the queen all her former courage: she had
means of communication with George through Little Douglas; for no
doubt it was he who had thrown that stone. She hastened, in her
turn, to write a letter to George, in which she both charged him to
express her gratitude to all the lords who had signed the
protestation; and begged them, in the name of the fidelity they had
sworn to her, not to cool in their devotion, promising them, for her
part, to await the result with that patience and courage they asked
The queen was not mistaken: next day, as she was at her window,
Little Douglas came to play at the foot of the tower, and, without
raising his head, stopped just beneath her to dig a trap to catch
birds. The queen looked to see if she were observed, and assured
that that part of the courtyard was deserted. she let fail the stone
wrapped in her letter: at first she feared to have made a serious
error; for Little Douglas did not even turn at the noise, and it was
only after a moment, during which the prisoner's heart was torn with
frightful anxiety, that indifferently, and as if he were looking for
something else, the child laid his hand on the stone, and without
hurrying, without raising his head, without indeed giving any sign of
intelligence to her who had thrown it, he put the letter in his
pocket, finishing the work he had begun with the greatest calm, and
showing the queen, by this coolness beyond his years, what reliance
she could place in him.
>From that moment the queen regained fresh hope; but days, weeks,
months passed without bringing any change in her situation: winter
came; the prisoner saw snow spread over the plains and mountains, and
the lake afforded her, if she had only been able to pass the door, a
firm road to gain the other bank; but no letter came during all this
time to bring her the consoling news that they were busy about her
deliverance; the faithful light alone announced to her every evening
that a friend was keeping watch.
Soon nature awoke from her death-sleep: some forward sun-rays broke
through the clouds of this sombre sky of Scotland; the snow melted,
the lake broke its ice-crust, the first buds opened, the green turf
reappeared; everything came out of its prison at the joyous approach
of spring, and it was a great grief to Mary to see that she alone was
condemned to an eternal winter.
At last; one evening, she thought she observed in the motions of the
light that something fresh was happening: she had so often questioned
this poor flickering star, and she had so often let it count her
heart-beats more than twenty times, that to spare herself the pain of
disappointment, for a long time she had no longer interrogated it;
however, she resolved to make one last attempt, and, almost hopeless,
she put her light near the window, and immediately took it away;
still, faithful to the signal, the other disappeared at the same
moment, and reappeared at the eleventh heart-beat of the queen. At
the same time, by a strange coincidence, a stone passing through the
window fell at Mary Seyton's feet. It was, like the first, wrapped
in a letter from George: the queen took it from her companion's
hands, opened it, and read:
"The moment draws near; your adherents are assembled; summon all your
"To-morrow, at eleven o'clock in the evening, drop a cord from your
window, and draw up the packet that will be fastened to it."
There remained in the queen's apartments the rope over and above what
had served for the ladder taken away by the guards the evening of the
frustrated escape: next day, at the appointed hour, the two prisoners
shut up the lamp in the bedroom, so that no light should betray them,
and Mary Seyton, approaching the window, let down the cord. After a
minute, she felt from its movements that something was being attached
to it. Mary Seyton pulled, and a rather bulky parcel appeared at the
bars, which it could not pass on account of its size. Then the queen
came to her companion's aid. The parcel was untied, and its
contents, separately, got through easily. The two prisoners carried
them into the bedroom, and, barricaded within, commenced an
inventory. There were two complete suits of men's clothes in the
Douglas livery. The queen was at a loss, when she saw a letter
fastened to the collar of one of the two coats. Eager to know the
meaning of this enigma, she immediately opened it, and read as
"It is only by dint of audacity that her Majesty can recover her
liberty: let her Majesty read this letter, then, and punctually
follow, if she deign to adopt them, the instructions she will find
"In the daytime the keys of the castle do not leave the belt of the
old steward; when curfew is rung and he has made his rounds to make
sure that all the doors are fast shut, he gives them up to William
Douglas, who, if he stays up, fastens them to his sword-belt, or, if
he sleeps, puts them under his pillow. For five months, Little
Douglas, whom everyone is accustomed to see working at the armourer's
forge of the castle, has been employed in making some keys like
enough to the others, once they are substituted for them, for William
to be deceived. Yesterday Little Douglas finished the last.
"On the first favourable opportunity that her Majesty will know to be
about to present itself, by carefully questioning the light each day,
Little Douglas will exchange the false keys for the true, will enter
the queen's room, and will find her dressed, as well as Miss Mary
Seyton, in their men's clothing, and he will go before them to lead
them, by the way which offers the best chances for their escape; a
boat will be prepared and will await them.
"Till then, every evening, as much to accustom themselves to these
new costumes as to give them an appearance of having been worn, her
Majesty and Miss Mary Seyton will dress themselves in the suits,
which they must keep on from nine o'clock till midnight. Besides, it
is possible that, without having had time to warn them, their young
guide may suddenly come to seek them: it is urgent, then, that he
find them ready.
"The garments ought to fit perfectly her Majesty and her companion,
the measure having been taken on Miss Mary Fleming and Miss Mary
Livingston, who are exactly their size.
"One cannot too strongly recommend her Majesty to summon to her aid
on the supreme occasion the coolness and courage of which she has
given such frequent proofs at other times."
The two prisoners were astounded at the boldness of this plan: at
first they looked at one another in consternation, for success seemed
impossible. They none the less made trial of their disguise: as
George had said, it fitted each of them as if they had been measured
Every evening the queen questioned the light, as George had urged,
and that for a whole long month, during which each evening the queen
and Mary Seyton, although the light gave no fresh tidings, arrayed
themselves in their men's clothes, as had been arranged, so that they
both acquired such practice that they became as familiar to them as
those of their own sex.
At last, the 2nd May, 1568, the queen was awakened by the blowing of
a horn: uneasy as to what it announced, she slipped on a cloak and
ran to the window, where Mary Seyton joined her directly. A rather
numerous band of horsemen had halted on the side of the lake,
displaying the Douglas pennon, and three boats were rowing together
and vying with each other to fetch the new arrivals.
This event caused the queen dismay: in her situation the least change
in the castle routine was to be feared, for it might upset all the
concerted plans. This apprehension redoubled when, on the boats
drawing near, the queen recognised in the elder Lord Douglas, the
husband of Lady Lochleven, and the father of William and George. The
venerable knight, who was Keeper of the Marches in the north, was
coming to visit his ancient manor, in which he had not set foot for
It was an event for Lochleven; and, some minutes after the arrival of
the boats, Mary Stuart heard the old steward's footsteps mounting the
stairs: he came to announce his master's arrival to the queen, and,
as it must needs be a time of rejoicing to all the castle inhabitants
when its master returned, he came to invite the queen to the dinner
in celebration of the event: whether instinctively or from distaste,
the queen declined.
All day long the bell and the bugle resounded: Lord Douglas, like a
true feudal lord, travelled with the retinue of a prince. One saw
nothing but new soldiers and servants passing and repassing beneath
the queen's windows: the footmen and horsemen were wearing, moreover,
a livery similar to that which the queen and Mary Seyton had
Mary awaited the night with impatience. The day before, she had
questioned her light, and it had informed her as usual, in
reappearing at her eleventh or twelfth heart-beat, that the moment of
escape was near; but she greatly feared that Lord Douglas's arrival
might have upset everything, and that this evening's signal could
only announce a postponement. But hardly had she seen the light
shine than she placed her lamp in the window; the other disappeared
directly, and Mary Stuart, with terrible anxiety, began to question
it. This anxiety increased when she had counted more than fifteen
beats. Then she stopped, cast down, her eyes mechanically fixed on
the spot where the light had been. But her astonishment was great
when, at the end of a few minutes, she did not see it reappear, and
when, half an hour having elapsed, everything remained in darkness.
The queen then renewed her signal, but obtained no response: the
escape was for the same evening.
The queen and Mary Seyton were so little expecting this issue, that,
contrary to their custom, they had not put on their men's clothes
that evening. They immediately flew to the queen's bed-chamber,
bolted the door behind them, and began to dress.
They had hardly finished their hurried toilette when they heard a key
turn in the lock: they immediately blew out the lamp. Light steps
approached the door. The two women leaned one against the other; for
they both were near falling. Someone tapped gently. The queen asked
who was there, and Little Douglas's voice answered in the two first
lines of an old ballad--
Tender and true."
Mary opened, directly: it was the watchword agreed upon with George
The child was without a light. He stretched out his hand and
encountered the queen's: in the starlight, Mary Stuart saw him kneel
down; then she felt the imprint of his lips on her fingers.
"Is your Majesty ready to follow me?" he asked in a low tone, rising.
"Yes, my child," the queen answered: "it is for this evening, then?"
"With your Majesty's permission, yes, it is for this evening."
"Is everything ready?"
"What are we to do?"
"Follow me everywhere."
"My God! my God!" cried Mary Stuart, "have pity on us!" Then, having
breathed a short prayer in a low voice, while Mary Seyton was taking
the casket in which were the queen's jewels, "I am ready," said she:
"and you, darling?"
"I also," replied Mary Seyton.
"Come, then," said Little Douglas.
The two prisoners followed the child; the queen going first, and Mary
Seyton after. Their youthful guide carefully shut again the door
behind him, so that if a warder happened to pass he would see
nothing; then he began to descend the winding stair. Half-way down,
the noise of the feast reached them, a mingling of shouts of
laughter, the confusion of voices, and the clinking of glasses. The
queen placed her hand on her young guide's shoulder.
"Where are you leading us?" she asked him with terror.
"Out of the castle," replied the child.
"But we shall have to pass through the great hall?"
"Without a doubt; and that is exactly what George foresaw. Among the
footmen, whose livery your Majesty is wearing, no one will recognise
"My God! my God!" the queen murmured, leaning against the wall.
"Courage, madam," said Mary Seyton in a low voice, "or we are lost."
"You are right," returned the queen; "let us go". And they started
again still led by their guide.
At the foot of the stair he stopped, and giving the queen a stone
pitcher full of wine
"Set this jug on your right shoulder, madam," said he; "it will hide
your face from the guests, and your Majesty will give rise to less
suspicion if carrying something. You, Miss Mary, give me that
casket, and put on your head this basket of bread. Now, that's
right: do you feel you have strength?"
"Yes," said the queen.
"Yes," said Mary Seyton.
"Then follow me."
The child went on his way, and after a few steps the fugitives found
themselves in a kind of antechamber to the great hall, from which
proceeded noise and light. Several servants were occupied there with
different duties; not one paid attention to them, and that a little
reassured the queen. Besides, there was no longer any drawing back:
Little Douglas had just entered the great hall.
The guests, seated on both sides of a long table ranged according to
the rank of those assembled at it, were beginning dessert, and
consequently had reached the gayest moment of the repast. Moreover,
the hall was so large that the lamps and candles which lighted it,
multiplied as they were, left in the most favourable half-light both
sides of the apartment, in which fifteen or twenty servants were
coming and going. The queen and Mary Seyton mingled with this crowd,
which was too much occupied to notice them, and without stopping,
without slackening, without looking back, they crossed the whole
length of the hall, reached the other door, and found themselves in
the vestibule corresponding to the one they had passed through on
coming in. The queen set down her jug there, Mary Seyton her basket,
and both, still led by the child, entered a corridor at the end of
which they found themselves in the courtyard. A patrol was passing
at the moment, but he took no notice of them.
The child made his way towards the garden, still followed by the two
women. There, for no little while, it was necessary to try which of
all the keys opened the door; it--was a time of inexpressible
anxiety. At last the key turned in the lock, the door opened; the
queen and Mary Seyton rushed into the garden. The child closed the
door behind them.
About two-thirds of the way across, Little Douglas held out his hand
as a sign to them to stop; then, putting down the casket and the keys
on the ground, he placed his hands together, and blowing into them,
thrice imitated the owl's cry so well that it was impossible to
believe that a human voice was uttering the sounds; then, picking up
the casket and the keys, he kept on his way on tiptoe and with an
attentive ear. On getting near the wall, they again stopped, and
after a moment's anxious waiting they heard a groan, then something
like the sound of a falling body. Some seconds later the owl's cry
was--answered by a tu-whit-tu-whoo.
"It is over," Little Douglas said calmly; "come."
"What is over?" asked the queen; "and what is that groan we heard?"
"There was a sentry at the door on to the lake," the child answered,
"but he is no longer there."
The queen felt her heart's blood grow cold, at the same tine that a
chilly sweat broke out to the roots of her hair; for she perfectly
understood: an unfortunate being had just lost his life on her
account. Tottering, she leaned on Mary Seyton, who herself felt her
strength giving way. Meanwhile Little Douglas was trying the keys:
the second opened the door.
"And the queen?" said in a low voice a man who was waiting on the
other side of the wall.
"She is following me," replied the child.
George Douglas, for it was he, sprang into the garden, and, taking
the queen's arm on one side and Mary Seyton's on the other, he
hurried them away quickly to the lake-side. When passing through the
doorway Mary Stuart could not help throwing an uneasy look about her,
and it seemed to her that a shapeless object was lying at the bottom
of the wall, and as she was shuddering all over
"Do not pity him," said George in a low voice, "for it is a judgment
from heaven. That man was the infamous Warden who betrayed us."
"Alas!" said the queen, "guilty as he was, he is none the less dead
on my account."
"When it concerned your safety, madam, was one to haggle over drops
of that base blood? But silence! This way, William, this way; let
us keep along the wall, whose shadow hides us. The boat is within
twenty steps, and we are saved."
With these words, George hurried on the two women still more quickly,
and all four, without having been detected, reached the banks of the
lake. 'As Douglas had said, a little boat was waiting; and, on
seeing the fugitives approach, four rowers, couched along its bottom,
rose, and one of them, springing to land, pulled the chain, so that
the queen and Mary Seyton could get in. Douglas seated them at the
prow, the child placed himself at the rudder, and George, with a
kick, pushed off the boat, which began to glide over the lake.
"And now," said he, "we are really saved; for they might as well
pursue a sea swallow on Solway Firth as try to reach us. Row,
children, row; never mind if they hear us: the main thing is to get
into the open."
"Who goes there?" cried a voice above, from the castle terrace.
"Row, row," said Douglas, placing himself in front of the queen.
"The boat! the boat!" cried the same voice; "bring to the boat!"
Then, seeing that it continued to recede, "Treason! treason!" cried
the sentinel. "To arms!"
At the same moment a flash lit up the lake; the report of a firearm
was heard, and a ball passed, whistling. The queen uttered a little
cry, although she had run no danger, George, as we have said, having
placed himself in front of her, quite protecting her with his body.
The alarm bell now rang, and all the castle lights were seen moving
and glancing about, as if distracted, in the rooms.
"Courage, children!" said Douglas. "Row as if your lives depended on
each stroke of the oar; for ere five minutes the skiff will be out
"That won't be so easy for them as you think, George," said Little
Douglas; "for I shut all the doors behind me, and some time will
elapse before the keys that I have left there open them. As to
these," added he, showing those he had so skilfully abstracted, "I
resign them to the Kelpie, the genie of the lake, and I nominate him
porter of Lochleven Castle."
The discharge of a small piece of artillery answered William's joke;
but as the night was too dark for one to aim to such a distance as
that already between the castle and the boat, the ball ricochetted at
twenty paces from the fugitives, while the report died away in echo
after echo. Then Douglas drew his pistol from his belt, and, warning
the ladies to have no fear, he fired in the air, not to answer by
idle bravado the castle cannonade, but to give notice to a troop of
faithful friends, who were waiting for them on the other shore of the
lake, that the queen had escaped. Immediately, in spite of the
danger of being so near Kinross, cries of joy resounded on the bank,
and William having turned the rudder, the boat made for land at the
spot whence they had been heard. Douglas then gave his hand to the
queen, who sprang lightly ashore, and who, falling on her knees,
immediately began to give thanks to God for her happy deliverance.
On rising, the queen found herself surrounded by her most faithful
servants--Hamilton, Herries, and Seyton, Mary's father. Light-headed
with joy, the queen extended her hands to them, thanking them with
broken words, which expressed her intoxication and her gratitude
better than the choicest phrases could have done, when suddenly,
turning round, she perceived George Douglas, alone and melancholy.
Then, going to him and taking him by the hand--
"My lords," said she, presenting George to them, and pointing to
William, "behold my two deliverers: behold those to whom, as long as
I live, I shall preserve gratitude of which nothing will ever acquit
"Madam," said Douglas, "each of us has only done what he ought, and
he who has risked most is the happiest. But if your Majesty will
believe me, you will not lose a moment in needless words."
"Douglas is right," said Lord Seyton. "To horse! to horse!"
Immediately, and while four couriers set out in four different
directions to announce to the queen's friends her happy escape, they
brought her a horse saddled for her, which she mounted with her usual
skill; then the little troop, which, composed of about twenty
persons, was escorting the future destiny of Scotland, keeping away
from the village of Kinross, to which the castle firing had doubtless
given the alarm, took at a gallop the road to Seyton's castle, where
was already a garrison large enough to defend the queen from a sudden
The queen journeyed all night, accompanied on one side by Douglas, on
the other by Lord Seyton; then, at daybreak, they stopped at the gate
of the castle of West Niddrie, belonging to Lord Seyton, as we have
said, and situated in West Lothian. Douglas sprang from his horse to
offer his hand to Mary Stuart; but Lord Seyton claimed his privilege
as master of the house. The queen consoled Douglas with a glance,
and entered the fortress.
"Madam," said Lord Seyton, leading her into a room prepared for her
for nine months, "your Majesty must have need of repose, after the
fatigue and the emotions you have gone through since yesterday
morning; you may sleep here in peace, and disquiet yourself for
nothing: any noise you may hear will be made by a reinforcement of
friends which we are expecting. As to our enemies, your Majesty has
nothing to fear from them so long as you inhabit the castle of a
The queen again thanked all her deliverers, gave her hand to Douglas
to kiss one last time, kissed Little William on the forehead, and
named him her favourite page for the future; then, profiting by the
advice given her, entered her room where Mary Seyton, to the
exclusion of every other woman, claimed the privilege of performing
about her the duties with which she had been charged during their
eleven months' captivity in Lochleven Castle.
On opening her eyes, Mary Stuart thought she had had one of those
dreams so gainful to prisoners, when waking they see again the bolts
on their doors and the bars on their windows. So the queen, unable
to believe the evidence of her senses, ran, half dressed, to the
window. The courtyard was filled with soldiers, and these soldiers
all friends who had hastened at the news of her escape; she
recognised the banners of her faithful friends, the Seytons, the
Arbroaths, the Herries, and the Hamiltons, and scarcely had she been
seen at the window than all these banners bent before her, with the
shouts a hundred times repeated of "Long live Mary of Scotland! Long
live our queen!" Then, without giving heed to the disarray of her
toilet, lovely and chaste with her emotion and her happiness, she
greeted them in her turn, her eyes full of tears; but this time they
were tears of joy. However, the queen recollected that she was
barely covered, and blushing at having allowed herself to be thus
carried away in her ecstasy, she abruptly drew back, quite rosy with
Then she had an instant's womanly fright: she had fled from Lochleven
Castle in the Douglas livery, and without either the leisure or the
opportunity for taking women's clothes with her. But she could not
remain attired as a man; so she explained her uneasiness to Mary
Seyton, who responded by opening the closets in the queen's room.
They were furnished, not only with robes, the measure for which, like
that of the suit, had been taken from Mary Fleming, but also with all
the necessaries for a woman's toilet. The queen was astonished: it
was like being in a fairy castle.
"Mignonne," said she, looking one after another at the robes, all the
stuffs of which were chosen with exquisite taste, "I knew your father
was a brave and loyal knight, but I did not think him so learned in
the matter of the toilet. We shall name him groom of the wardrobe."
"Alas! madam," smilingly replied Mary Seyton, "you are not mistaken:
my father has had everything in the castle furbished up to the last
corselet, sharpened to the last sword, unfurled to the last banner;
but my father, ready as he is to die for your Majesty, would not have
dreamed for an instant of offering you anything but his roof to rest
under, or his cloak to cover you. It is Douglas again who has
foreseen everything, prepared everything--everything even to
Rosabelle, your Majesty's favourite steed, which is impatiently
awaiting in the stable the moment when, mounted on her, your Majesty
will make your triumphal re-entry into Edinburgh."
"And how has he been able to get her back again?" Mary asked.
"I thought that in the division of my spoils Rosabelle had fallen to
the fair Alice, my brother's favourite sultana?"
"Yes, yes," said Mary Seyton, "it was so; and as her value was known,
she was kept under lock and key by an army of grooms; but Douglas is
the man of miracles, and, as I have told you, Rosabelle awaits your
"Noble Douglas!" murmured the queen, with eyes full of tears; then,
as if speaking to herself, "And this is precisely one of those
devotions that we can never repay. The others will be happy with
honours, places, money; but to Douglas what matter all these things?"
"Come, madam, come," said Mary Seyton, "God takes on Himself the
debts of kings; He will reward Douglas. As to your Majesty, reflect
that they are waiting dinner for you. I hope," added she, smiling,
"that you will not affront my father as you did Lord Douglas
yesterday in refusing to partake of his feast on his fortunate home-
"And luck has come to me for it, I hope," replied Mary. "But you are
right, darling: no more sad thoughts; we will consider when we have
indeed become queen again what we can do for Douglas."
The queen dressed and went down. As Mary Seyton had told her, the
chief noblemen of her party, already gathered round her, were waiting
for her in the great hall of the castle. Her arrival was greeted
with acclamations of the liveliest enthusiasm, and she sat down to
table, with Lord Seyton on her right hand, Douglas on her left, and
behind her Little William, who the same day was beginning his duties
Next morning the queen was awakened by the sound of trumpets and
bugles: it had been decided the day before that she should set out
that day for Hamilton, where reinforcements were looked for. The
queen donned an elegant riding-habit, and soon, mounted on Rosabelle,
appeared amid her defenders. The shouts of joy redoubled: her
beauty, her grace, and her courage were admired by everyone. Mary
Stuart became her own self once more, and she felt spring up in her
again the power of fascination she had always exercised on those who
came near her. Everyone was in good humour, and the happiest of all
was perhaps Little William, who for the first time in his life had
such a fine dress and such a fine horse.
Two or three thousand men were awaiting the queen at Hamilton, which
she reached the same evening; and during the night following her
arrival the troops increased to six thousand. The 2nd of May she was
a prisoner, without another friend but a child in her prison, without
other means of communication with her adherents than the flickering
and uncertain light of a lamp, and three days afterwards--that is to
say, between the Sunday and the Wednesday--she found herself not only
free, but also at the head of a powerful confederacy, which counted
at its head nine earls, eight peers, nine bishops, and a number of
barons and nobles renowned among the bravest of Scotland.
The advice of the most judicious among those about the queen was to
shut herself up in the strong castle of Dumbarton, which, being
impregnable, would give all her adherents time to assemble together,
distant and scattered as they were: accordingly, the guidance of the
troops who were to conduct the queen to that town was entrusted to
the Earl of Argyll, and the 11th of May she took the road with an
army of nearly ten thousand men.
Murray was at Glasgow when he heard of the queen's escape: the place
was strong; he decided to hold it, and summoned to him his bravest
and most devoted partisans. Kirkcaldy of Grange, Morton, Lindsay of
Byres, Lord Lochleven, and William Douglas hastened to him, and six
thousand of the best troops in the kingdom gathered round them, while
Lord Ruthven in the counties of Berwick and Angus raised levies with
which to join them.
The 13th May, Morton occupied from daybreak the village of Langside,
through which the queen must pass to get to Dumbarton. The news of
the occupation reached the queen as the two armies were yet seven
miles apart. Mary's first instinct was to escape an engagement: she
remembered her last battle at Carberry Hill, at the end of which she
had been separated from Bothwell and brought to Edinburgh; so she
expressed aloud this opinion, which was supported by George Douglas,
who, in black armour, without other arms, had continued at the
"Avoid an engagement!" cried Lord Seyton, not daring to answer his
sovereign, and replying to George as if this opinion had originated
with him. "We could do it, perhaps, if we were one to ten; but we
shall certainly not do so when we are three to two. You speak a
strange tongue, my young master," continued he, with some contempt;
"and you forget, it seems to me, that you are a Douglas and that you
speak to a Seyton."
"My lord," returned George calmly, "when we only hazard the lives of
Douglases and Seytons, you will find me, I hope, as ready to fight as
you, be it one to ten, be it three to two; but we are now answerable
for an existence dearer to Scotland than that of all the Seytons and
all the Douglases. My advice is then to avoid battle."
"Battle! battle!" cried all the chieftains.
"You hear, madam?" said Lord Seyton to Mary Stuart: "I believe that
to wish to act against such unanimity would be dangerous. In
Scotland, madam, there is an ancient proverb which has it that 'there
is most prudence in courage.'"
"But have you not heard that the regent has taken up an advantageous
position?" the queen said.
"The greyhound hunts the hare on the hillside as well as in the
plain," replied Seyton: "we will drive him out, wherever he is."
"Let it be as you desire, then, my lords. It shall not be said that
Mary Stuart returned to the scabbard the sword her defenders had
drawn for her."
Then, turning round to Douglas
"George," she said to him, "choose a guard of twenty men for me, and
take command of them: you will not quit me."
George bent low in obedience, chose twenty from among the bravest
men, placed the queen in their midst, and put himself at their head;
then the troops, which had halted, received the order to continue
their road. In two hours' time the advance guard was in sight of the
enemy; it halted, and the rest of the army rejoined it.
The queen's troops then found themselves parallel with the city of
Glasgow, and the heights which rose in front of them were already
occupied by a force above which floated, as above that of Mary, the
royal banners of Scotland, On the other side, and on the opposite
slope, stretched the village of Langside, encircled with enclosures
and gardens. The road which led to it, and which followed all the
variations of the ground, narrowed at one place in such a way that
two men could hardly pass abreast, then, farther on, lost itself in a
ravine, beyond which it reappeared, then branched into two, of which
one climbed to the village of Langside, while the other led to
On seeing the lie of the ground, the Earl of Argyll immediately
comprehended the importance of occupying this village, and, turning
to Lord Seyton, he ordered him to gallop off and try to arrive there
before the enemy, who doubtless, having made the same observation as
the commander of the royal forces, was setting in motion at that very
moment a considerable body of cavalry.
Lord Seyton called up his men directly, but while he was ranging them
round his banner, Lord Arbroath drew his sword, and approaching the
Earl of Argyll
"My lord," said he, "you do me a wrong in charging Lord Seyton to
seize that post: as commander of the vanguard, it is to me this
honour belongs. Allow me, then, to use my privilege in claiming it."
"It is I who received the order to seize it; I will seize it!" cried
"Perhaps," returned Lord Arbroath, "but not before me!"
"Before you and before every Hamilton in the world!" exclaimed
Seyton, putting his horse to the gallop and rushing down into the
"Saint Bennet! and forward!"
"Come, my faithful kinsmen!" cried Lord Arbroath, dashing forward on
his side with the same object; "come, my men-at-arms! For God and the
The two troops precipitated themselves immediately in disorder and
ran against one another in the narrow way, where, as we have said,
two men could hardly pass abreast. There was a terrible collision
there, and the conflict began among friends who should have been
united against the enemy. Finally, the two troops, leaving behind
them some corpses stifled in the press, or even killed by their
companions, passed through the defile pell-mell and were lost sight
of in the ravine. But during this struggle Seyton and Arbroath had
lost precious time, and the detachment sent by Murray, which had
taken the road by Glasgow, had reached the village beforehand; it was
now necessary not to take it, but to retake it.
Argyll saw that the whole day's struggle would be concentrated there,
and, understanding more and more the importance of the village,
immediately put himself at the head of the body of his army,
commanding a rearguard of two thousand men to remain there and await
further orders to take part in the fighting. But whether the captain
who commanded them had ill understood, or whether he was eager to
distinguish himself in the eyes of the queen, scarcely had Argyll
vanished into the ravine, at the end of which the struggle had
already commenced between Kirkcaldy of Grange and Morton on the one
side, and on the other between Arbroath and Seyton, than, without
regarding the cries of Mary Stuart, he set off in his turn at a
gallop, leaving the queen without other guard than the little escort
of twenty men which Douglas had chosen for her. Douglas sighed.
"Alas!" said the queen, hearing him, "I am not a soldier, but there
it seems to me is a battle very badly begun."
"What is to be done?" replied Douglas. "We are every one of us
infatuated, from first to last, and all these men are behaving to-day
like madmen or children."
"Victory! victory!" said the queen; "the enemy is retreating,
fighting. I see the banners of Seyton and Arbroath floating near the
first houses in the village. Oh! my brave lords," cried she,
clapping her hands. "Victory! victory!"
But she stopped suddenly on perceiving a body of the enemy's army
advancing to charge the victors in flank.
"It is nothing, it is nothing," said Douglas; "so long as there is
only cavalry we have nothing much to fear, and besides the Earl of
Argyll will fall in in time to aid them."
"George," said Little William.
"Well?" asked Douglas.
"Don't you see? "the child went on, stretching out his arms towards
the enemy's force, which was coming on at a gallop.
"Each horseman carries a footman armed with an arquebuse behind him,
so that the troop is twice as numerous as it appears."
"That's true; upon my soul, the child has good sight. Let someone go
at once full gallop and take news of this to the Earl or Argyll."
"I! I!" cried Little William. "I saw them first; it is my right to
bear the tidings."
"Go, then, my child," said Douglas; "and may God preserve thee!"
The child flew, quick as lightning, not hearing or feigning not to
hear the queen, who was recalling him. He was seen to cross the
gorge and plunge into the hollow road at the moment when Argyll was
debouching at the end and coming to the aid of Seyton and Arbroath.
Meanwhile, the enemy's detachment had dismounted its infantry, which,
immediately formed up, was scattering on the sides of the ravine by
paths impracticable for horses.
"William will come too late!" cried Douglas, "or even, should he
arrive in time, the news is now useless to them. Oh madmen, madmen
that we are! This is how we have always lost all our battles!"
"Is the battle lost, then?" demanded Mary, growing pale.
"No, madam, no," cried Douglas; "Heaven be thanked, not yet; but
through too great haste we have begun badly."
"And William?" said Mary Stuart.
"He is now serving his apprenticeship in arms; for, if I am not
mistaken, he must be at this moment at the very spot where those
marksmen are making such quick firing."
"Poor child!" cried the queen; "if ill should befall him, I shall
never console myself."
"Alas! madam," replied Douglas, "I greatly fear that his first battle
is his last, and that everything is already over for him; for, unless
I mistake, there is his horse returning riderless."
"Oh, my God! my God!" said the queen, weeping, and raising her hands
to heaven, "it is then decreed that I should be fatal to all around
George was not deceived: it was William's horse coming back without
his young master and covered with blood.
"Madam," said Douglas, "we are ill placed here; let us gain that
hillock on which is the Castle of Crookstone: from thence we shall
survey the whole battlefield."
"No, not there! not there!" said the queen in terror: "within that
castle I came to spend the first days of my marriage with Darnley; it
will bring me misfortune."
"Well, beneath that yew-tree, then," said George, pointing to another
slight rise near the first; "but it is important for us to lose no
detail of this engagement. Everything depends perhaps for your
Majesty on an ill-judged manoeuvre or a lost moment."
"Guide me, then," the queen said; "for, as for me, I no longer see
it. Each report of that terrible cannonade echoes to the depths of
However well placed as was this eminence for overlooking from its
summit the whole battlefield, the reiterated discharge of cannon and
musketry covered it with such a cloud of smoke that it was impossible
to make out from it anything but masses lost amid a murderous fog.
At last, when an hour had passed in this desperate conflict, through
the skirts of this sea of smoke the fugitives were seen to emerge and
disperse in all directions, followed by the victors. Only, at that
distance, it was impossible to make out who had gained or lost the
battle, and the banners, which on both sides displayed the Scottish
arms, could in no way clear up this confusion.
At that moment there was seen coming down from the Glasgow hillsides
all the remaining reserve of Murray's army; it was coming at full
speed to engage in the fighting; but this manoeuvre might equally
well have for its object the support of defeated friends as to
complete the rout of the enemy. However, soon there was no longer
any doubt; for this reserve charged the fugitives, amid whom it
spread fresh confusion. The queen's army was beaten. At the same
time, three or four horsemen appeared on the hither side of the
ravine, advancing at a gallop. Douglas recognised them as enemies.
"Fly, madam," cried George, "fly without loss of a second; for those
who are coming upon us are followed by others. Gain the road, while
I go to check them. And you," added he, addressing the escort, "be
killed to the last man rather than let them take your queen."
"George! George!" cried the queen, motionless, and as if riveted to
But George had already dashed away with all his horse's speed, and as
he was splendidly mounted, he flew across the space with lightning
rapidity, and reached the gorge before the enemy. There he stopped,
put his lance in rest, and alone against five bravely awaited the
As to the queen, she had no desire to go; but, on the contrary, as if
turned to stone, she remained in the same place, her eyes fastened on
this combat which was taking place at scarcely five hundred paces
from her. Suddenly, glancing at her enemies, she saw that one of
them bore in the middle of his shield a bleeding heart, the Douglas
arms. Then she uttered a cry of pain, and drooping her head
"Douglas against Douglas; brother against brother!" she murmured: "it
only wanted this last blow."
"Madam, madam," cried her escort, "there is not an instant to lose:
the young master of Douglas cannot hold out long thus alone against
five; let us fly! let us fly!" And two of them taking the queen's
horse by the bridle, put it to the gallop, at the moment when George,
after having beaten down two of his enemies and wounded a third, was
thrown down in his turn in the dust, thrust to the heart by a lance-
head. The queen groaned on seeing him fall; then, as if he alone had
detained her, and as if he being killed she had no interest in
anything else, she put Rosabelle to the gallop, and as she and her
troop were splendidly mounted, they had soon lost sight of the
She fled thus for sixty miles, without taking any rest, and without
ceasing to weep or to sigh: at last, having traversed the counties of