Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 30

Yet though thou shouldst be dragg'd in scorn
To yonder ignominious tree,
Thou shall not want one faithful friend
To share the cruel fates' decree.
_Ballad of Jemmy Dawson._

Master George Heriot and his ward, as she might justly be termed, for
his affection to Margaret imposed on him all the cares of a guardian,
were ushered by the yeoman of the guard to the lodging of the
Lieutenant, where they found him seated with his lady. They were
received by both with that decorous civility which Master Heriot's
character and supposed influence demanded, even at the hand of a
punctilious old soldier and courtier like Sir Edward Mansel. Lady
Mansel received Margaret with like courtesy, and informed Master
George that she was now only her guest, and no longer her prisoner.

"She is at liberty," she said, "to return to her friends under your
charge--such is his Majesty's pleasure."

"I am glad of it, madam," answered Heriot, "but only I could have
wished her freedom had taken place before her foolish interview with
that singular young man; and I marvel your ladyship permitted it."

"My good Master Heriot," said Sir Edward, "we act according to the
commands of one better and wiser than ourselves--our orders from his
Majesty must be strictly and literally obeyed; and I need not say that
the wisdom of his Majesty doth more than ensure--"

"I know his Majesty's wisdom well," said Heriot; "yet there is an old
proverb about fire and flax--well, let it pass."

"I see Sir Mungo Malagrowther stalking towards the door of the
lodging," said the Lady Mansel, "with the gait of a lame crane--it is
his second visit this morning."

"He brought the warrant for discharging Lord Glenvarloch of the charge
of treason," said Sir Edward.

"And from him," said Heriot, "I heard much of what had befallen; for I
came from France only late last evening, and somewhat unexpectedly."

As they spoke, Sir Mungo entered the apartment--saluted the Lieutenant
of the Tower and his lady with ceremonious civility--honoured George
Heriot with a patronising nod of acknowledgment, and accosted Margaret
with--"Hey! my young charge, you have not doffed your masculine attire

"She does not mean to lay it aside, Sir Mungo," said Heriot, speaking
loud, "until she has had satisfaction from you, for betraying her
disguise to me, like a false knight--and in very deed, Sir Mungo, I
think when you told me she was rambling about in so strange a dress,
you might have said also that she was under Lady Mansel's protection."

"That was the king's secret, Master Heriot," said Sir Mungo, throwing
himself into a chair with an air of atrabilarious importance; "the
other was a well-meaning hint to yourself, as the girl's friend."

"Yes," replied Heriot, "it was done like yourself--enough told to make
me unhappy about her--not a word which could relieve my uneasiness."

"Sir Mungo will not hear that remark," said the lady; "we must change
the subject.--Is there any news from Court, Sir Mungo? you have been
to Greenwich?"

"You might as well ask me, madam," answered the Knight, "whether there
is any news from hell."

"How, Sir Mungo, how!" said Sir Edward, "measure your words something
better--You speak of the Court of King James."

"Sir Edward, if I spoke of the court of the twelve Kaisers, I would
say it is as confused for the present as the infernal regions.
Courtiers of forty years' standing, and such I may write myself, are
as far to seek in the matter as a minnow in the Maelstrom. Some folk
say the king has frowned on the Prince--some that the Prince has
looked grave on the duke--some that Lord Glenvarloch will be hanged
for high treason--and some that there is matter against Lord Dalgarno
that may cost him as much as his head's worth."

"And what do you, that are a courtier of forty years' standing, think
of it all?" said Sir Edward Mansel.

"Nay, nay, do not ask him, Sir Edward," said the lady, with an
expressive look to her husband.

"Sir Mungo is too witty," added Master Heriot, "to remember that he
who says aught that may be repeated to his own prejudice, does but
load a piece for any of the company to shoot him dead with, at their
pleasure and convenience."

"What!" said the bold Knight, "you think I am afraid of the trepan?
Why now, what if I should say that Dalgarno has more wit than
honesty,--the duke more sail than ballast,--the Prince more pride than
prudence,--and that the king--" The Lady Mansel held up her finger in
a warning manner--"that the king is my very good master, who has given
me, for forty years and more, dog's wages, videlicit, bones and
beating.--Why now, all this is said, and Archie Armstrong [Footnote:
The celebrated Court jester.] says worse than this of the best of them
every day."

"The more fool he," said George Heriot; "yet he is not so utterly
wrong, for folly is his best wisdom. But do not you, Sir Mungo, set
your wit against a fool's, though he be a court fool."

"A fool, said you?" replied Sir Mungo, not having fully heard what
Master Heriot said, or not choosing to have it thought so,--"I have
been a fool indeed, to hang on at a close-fisted Court here, when men
of understanding and men of action have been making fortunes in every
other place of Europe. But here a man comes indifferently off unless
he gets a great key to turn," (looking at Sir Edward,) "or can beat
tattoo with a hammer on a pewter plate.--Well, sirs, I must make as
much haste back on mine errand as if I were a fee'd messenger.--Sir
Edward and my lady, I leave my commendations with you--and my good-
will with you, Master Heriot--and for this breaker of bounds, if you
will act by my counsel, some maceration by fasting, and a gentle use
of the rod, is the best cure for her giddy fits."

"If you propose for Greenwich, Sir Mungo," said the Lieutenant, "I can
spare you the labour--the king comes immediately to Whitehall."

"And that must be the reason the council are summoned to meet in such
hurry," said Sir Mungo. "Well--I will, with your permission, go to the
poor lad Glenvarloch, and bestow some comfort on him."

The Lieutenant seemed to look up, and pause for a moment as if in

"The lad will want a pleasant companion, who can tell him the nature
of the punishment which he is to suffer, and other matters of
concernment. I will not leave him until I show him how absolutely he
hath ruined himself from feather to spur, how deplorable is his
present state, and how small his chance of mending it."

"Well, Sir Mungo," replied the Lieutenant, "if you really think all
this likely to be very consolatory to the party concerned, I will send
a warder to conduct you."

"And I," said George Heriot, "will humbly pray of Lady Mansel, that
she will lend some of her handmaiden's apparel to this giddy-brained
girl; for I shall forfeit my reputation if I walk up Tower Hill with
her in that mad guise--and yet the silly lassie looks not so ill in it

"I will send my coach with you instantly," said the obliging lady.

"Faith, madam, and if you will honour us by such courtesy, I will
gladly accept it at your hands," said the citizen, "for business
presses hard on me, and the forenoon is already lost, to little

The coach being ordered accordingly, transported the worthy citizen
and his charge to his mansion in Lombard Street. There he found his
presence was anxiously expected by the Lady Hermione, who had just
received an order to be in readiness to attend upon the Royal Privy
Council in the course of an hour; and upon whom, in her inexperience
of business, and long retirement from society and the world, the
intimation had made as deep an impression as if it had not been the
necessary consequence of the petition which she had presented to the
king by Monna Paula. George Heriot gently blamed her for taking any
steps in an affair so important until his return from France,
especially as he had requested her to remain quiet, in a letter which
accompanied the evidence he had transmitted to her from Paris. She
could only plead in answer the influence which her immediately
stirring in the matter was likely to have on the affair of her kinsman
Lord Glenvarloch, for she was ashamed to acknowledge how much she had
been gained on by the eager importunity of her youthful companion. The
motive of Margaret's eagerness was, of course, the safety of Nigel;
but we must leave it to time to show in what particulars that came to
be connected with the petition of the Lady Hermione. Meanwhile, we
return to the visit with which Sir Mungo Malagrowther favoured the
afflicted young nobleman in his place of captivity.

The Knight, after the usual salutations, and having prefaced his
discourse with a great deal of professed regret for Nigel's situation,
sat down beside him, and composing his grotesque features into the
most lugubrious despondence, began his raven song as follows:--

"I bless God, my lord, that I was the person who had the pleasure to
bring his Majesty's mild message to the Lieutenant, discharging the
higher prosecution against ye, for any thing meditated against his
Majesty's sacred person; for, admit you be prosecuted on the lesser
offence, or breach of privilege of the Palace and its precincts,
_usque ad mutilationem_, even to dismemberation, as it is most likely
you will, yet the loss of a member is nothing to being hanged and
drawn quick, after the fashion of a traitor."

"I should feel the shame of having deserved such a punishment,"
answered Nigel, "more than the pain of undergoing it."

"Doubtless, my lord, the having, as you say, deserved it, must be an
excruciation to your own mind," replied his tormentor; "a kind of
mental and metaphysical hanging, drawing, and quartering, which may be
in some measure equipollent with the external application of hemp,
iron, fire, and the like, to the outer man."

"I say, Sir Mungo," repeated Nigel, "and beg you to understand my
words, that I am unconscious of any error, save that of having arms on
my person when I chanced to approach that of my Sovereign."

"Ye are right, my lord, to acknowledge nothing," said Sir Mungo. "We
have an old proverb,--Confess, and--so forth. And indeed, as to the
weapons, his Majesty has a special ill-will at all arms whatsoever,
and more especially pistols; but, as I said, there is an end of that
matter. [Footnote: Wilson informs us that when Colonel Grey, a
Scotsman who affected the buff dress even in the time of peace,
appeared in that military garb at Court, the king, seeing him with a
case of pistols at his girdle, which he never greatly liked, told him,
merrily, "he was now so fortified, that, if he were but well
victualled, he would be impregnable."--WILSON'S _Life and Reign of
James VI._, _apud_ KENNET'S _History of England_, vol. ii. p. 389. In
1612, the tenth year of James's reign, there was a rumour abroad that
a shipload of pocket-pistols had been exported from Spain, with a view
to a general massacre of the Protestants. Proclamations were of
consequence sent forth, prohibiting all persons from carrying pistols
under a foot long in the barrel. _Ibid_. p. 690.] I wish you as well
through the next, which is altogether unlikely."

"Surely, Sir Mungo," answered Nigel, "you yourself might say something
in my favour concerning the affair in the Park. None knows better than
you that I was at that moment urged by wrongs of the most heinous
nature, offered to me by Lord Dalgarno, many of which were reported to
me by yourself, much to the inflammation of my passion."

"Alack-a-day!-Alack-a-day!" replied Sir Mungo, "I remember but too
well how much your choler was inflamed, in spite of the various
remonstrances which I made to you respecting the sacred nature of the
place. Alas! alas! you cannot say you leaped into the mire for want of

"I see, Sir Mungo, you are determined to remember nothing which can do
me service," said Nigel.

"Blithely would I do ye service," said the Knight; "and the best whilk
I can think of is, to tell you the process of the punishment to the
whilk you will be indubitably subjected, I having had the good fortune
to behold it performed in the Queen's time, on a chield that had
written a pasquinado. I was then in my Lord Gray's train, who lay
leaguer here, and being always covetous of pleasing and profitable
sights, I could not dispense with being present on the occasion."

"I should be surprised, indeed," said Lord Glenvarloch, "if you had so
far put restraint upon your benevolence, as to stay away from such an

"Hey! was your lordship praying me to be present at your own
execution?" answered the Knight. "Troth, my lord, it will be a painful
sight to a friend, but I will rather punish myself than baulk you. It
is a pretty pageant, in the main--a very pretty pageant. The fallow
came on with such a bold face, it was a pleasure to look on him. He
was dressed all in white, to signify harmlessness and innocence. The
thing was done on a scaffold at Westminster--most likely yours will be
at the Charing. There were the Sheriffs and the Marshal's men, and
what not--the executioner, with his cleaver and mallet, and his man,
with a pan of hot charcoal, and the irons for cautery. He was a
dexterous fallow that Derrick. This man Gregory is not fit to jipper a
joint with him; it might be worth your lordship's while to have the
loon sent to a barber-surgeon's, to learn some needful scantling of
anatomy--it may be for the benefit of yourself and other unhappy
sufferers, and also a kindness to Gregory."

"I will not take the trouble," said Nigel.--"If the laws will demand
my hand, the executioner may get it off as he best can. If the king
leaves it where it is, it may chance to do him better service."

"Vera noble--vera grand, indeed, my lord," said Sir Mungo; "it is
pleasant to see a brave man suffer. This fallow whom I spoke of--This
Tubbs, or Stubbs, or whatever the plebeian was called, came forward as
bold as an emperor, and said to the people, 'Good friends, I come to
leave here the hand of a true Englishman,' and clapped it on the
dressing-block with as much ease as if he had laid it on his
sweetheart's shoulder; whereupon Derrick the hangman, adjusting, d'ye
mind me, the edge of his cleaver on the very joint, hit it with the
mallet with such force, that the hand flew off as far from the owner
as a gauntlet which the challenger casts down in the tilt-yard. Well,
sir, Stubbs, or Tubbs, lost no whit of countenance, until the fallow
clapped the hissing-hot iron on his raw stump. My lord, it fizzed like
a rasher of bacon, and the fallow set up an elritch screech, which
made some think his courage was abated; but not a whit, for he plucked
off his hat with his left hand, and waved it, crying, 'God save the
Queen, and confound all evil counsellors!' The people gave him three
cheers, which he deserved for his stout heart; and, truly, I hope to
see your lordship suffer with the same magnanimity."

"I thank you, Sir Mungo," said Nigel, who had not been able to forbear
some natural feelings of an unpleasant nature during this lively
detail,--"I have no doubt the exhibition will be a very engaging one
to you and the other spectators, whatever it may prove to the party
principally concerned."

"Vera engaging," answered Sir Mungo, "vera interesting--vera
interesting indeed, though not altogether so much so as an execution
for high treason. I saw Digby, the Winters, Fawkes, and the rest of
the gunpowder gang, suffer for that treason, whilk was a vera grand
spectacle, as well in regard to their sufferings, as to their
constancy in enduring."

"I am the more obliged to your goodness, Sir Mungo," replied Nigel,
"that has induced you, although you have lost the sight, to
congratulate me on my escape from the hazard of making the same
edifying appearance."

"As you say, my lord," answered Sir Mungo, "the loss is chiefly in
appearance. Nature has been very bountiful to us, and has given
duplicates of some organs, that we may endure the loss of one of them,
should some such circumstance chance in our pilgrimage. See my poor
dexter, abridged to one thumb, one finger, and a stump,--by the blow
of my adversary's weapon, however, and not by any carnificial knife.
Weel, sir, this poor maimed hand doth me, in some sort, as much
service as ever; and, admit yours to be taken off by the wrist, you
have still your left hand for your service, and are better off than
the little Dutch dwarf here about town, who threads a needle, limns,
writes, and tosses a pike, merely by means of his feet, without ever a
hand to help him."

"Well, Sir Mungo," said Lord Glenvarloch, "this is all no doubt very
consolatory; but I hope the king will spare my hand to fight for him
in battle, where, notwithstanding all your kind encouragement, I could
spend my blood much more cheerfully than on a scaffold."

"It is even a sad truth," replied Sir Mungo, "that your lordship was
but too like to have died on a scaffold--not a soul to speak for you
but that deluded lassie Maggie Ramsay."

"Whom mean you?" said Nigel, with more interest than he had hitherto
shown in the Knight's communications.

"Nay, who should I mean, but that travestied lassie whom we dined with
when we honoured Heriot the goldsmith? Ye ken best how you have made
interest with her, but I saw her on her knees to the king for you. She
was committed to my charge, to bring her up hither in honour and
safety. Had I had my own will, I would have had her to Bridewell, to
flog the wild blood out of her--a cutty quean, to think of wearing the
breeches, and not so much as married yet!"

"Hark ye, Sir Mungo Malagrowther," answered Nigel, "I would have you
talk of that young person with fitting respect."

"With all the respect that befits your lordship's paramour, and Davy
Ramsay's daughter, I shall certainly speak of her, my lord," said Sir
Mungo, assuming a dry tone of irony.

Nigel was greatly disposed to have made a serious quarrel of it, but
with Sir Mungo such an affair would have been ridiculous; he smothered
his resentment, therefore, and conjured him to tell what he had heard
and seen respecting this young person.

"Simply, that I was in the ante-room when she had audience, and heard
the king say, to my great perplexity, '_Pulchra sane puella;_' and
Maxwell, who hath but indifferent Latin ears, thought that his Majesty
called on him by his own name of Sawney, and thrust into the presence,
and there I saw our Sovereign James, with his own hand, raising up the
lassie, who, as I said heretofore, was travestied in man's attire. I
should have had my own thoughts of it, but our gracious Master is
auld, and was nae great gillravager amang the queans even in his
youth; and he was comforting her in his own way and saying,--'Ye
needna greet about it, my bonnie woman, Glenvarlochides shall have
fair play; and, indeed, when the hurry was off our spirits, we could
not believe that he had any design on our person. And touching his
other offences, we will look wisely and closely into the matter.' So I
got charge to take the young fence-louper to the Tower here, and
deliver her to the charge of Lady Mansel; and his Majesty charged me
to say not a word to her about your offences, for, said he, the poor
thing is breaking her heart for him."

"And on this you have charitably founded the opinion to the prejudice
of this young lady, which you have now thought proper to express?"
said Lord Glenvarloch.

"In honest truth, my lord," replied Sir Mungo, "what opinion would you
have me form of a wench who gets into male habiliments, and goes on
her knees to the king for a wild young nobleman? I wot not what the
fashionable word may be, for the phrase changes, though the custom
abides. But truly I must needs think this young leddy--if you call
Watchie Ramsay's daughter a young leddy--demeans herself more like a
leddy of pleasure than a leddy of honour."

"You do her egregious wrong, Sir Mungo," said Nigel; "or rather you
have been misled by appearances."

"So will all the world be misled, my lord," replied the satirist,
"unless you were doing that to disabuse them which your father's son
will hardly judge it fit to do."

"And what may that be, I pray you?"

"E'en marry the lass--make her Leddy Glenvarloch.--Ay, ay, ye may
start--but it's the course you are driving on. Rather marry than do
worse, if the worst be not done already."

"Sir Mungo," said Nigel, "I pray you to forbear this subject, and
rather return to that of the mutilation, upon which it pleased you to
enlarge a short while since."

"I have not time at present," said Sir Mungo, hearing the clock strike
four; "but so soon as you shall have received sentence, my lord, you
may rely on my giving you the fullest detail of the whole solemnity;
and I give you my word, as a knight and a gentleman, that I will
myself attend you on the scaffold, whoever may cast sour looks on me
for doing so. I bear a heart, to stand by a friend in the worst of

So saying, he wished Lord Glenvarloch farewell; who felt as heartily
rejoiced at his departure, though it may be a bold word, as any person
who had ever undergone his society.

But, when left to his own reflections, Nigel could not help feeling
solitude nearly as irksome as the company of Sir Mungo Malagrowther.
The total wreck of his fortune,--which seemed now to be rendered
unavoidable by the loss of the royal warrant, that had afforded him
the means of redeeming his paternal estate,--was an unexpected and
additional blow. When he had seen the warrant he could not precisely
remember; but was inclined to think, it was in the casket when he took
out money to pay the miser for his lodgings at Whitefriars. Since
then, the casket had been almost constantly under his own eye, except
during the short time he was separated from his baggage by the arrest
in Greenwich Park. It might, indeed, have been taken out at that time,
for he had no reason to think either his person or his property was in
the hands of those who wished him well; but, on the other hand, the
locks of the strong-box had sustained no violence that he could
observe, and, being of a particular and complicated construction, he
thought they could scarce be opened without an instrument made on
purpose, adapted to their peculiarities, and for this there had been
no time. But, speculate as he would on the matter, it was clear that
this important document was gone, and probable that it had passed into
no friendly hands. "Let it be so," said Nigel to himself; "I am
scarcely worse off respecting my prospects of fortune, than when I
first reached this accursed city. But to be hampered with cruel
accusations, and stained with foul suspicions-to be the object of pity
of the most degrading kind to yonder honest citizen, and of the
malignity of that envious and atrabilarious courtier, who can endure
the good fortune and good qualities of another no more than the mole
can brook sunshine--this is indeed a deplorable reflection; and the
consequences must stick to my future life, and impede whatever my
head, or my hand, if it is left me, might be able to execute in my

The feeling, that he is the object of general dislike and dereliction,
seems to be one of the most unendurably painful to which a human being
can be subjected. The most atrocious criminals, whose nerves have not
shrunk from perpetrating the most horrid cruelty, endure more from the
consciousness that no man will sympathise with their sufferings, than
from apprehension of the personal agony of their impending punishment;
and are known often to attempt to palliate their enormities, and
sometimes altogether to deny what is established by the clearest
proof, rather than to leave life under the general ban of humanity. It
was no wonder that Nigel, labouring under the sense of general, though
unjust suspicion, should, while pondering on so painful a theme,
recollect that one, at least, had not only believed him innocent, but
hazarded herself, with all her feeble power, to interpose in his

"Poor girl!" he repeated; "poor, rash, but generous maiden! your fate
is that of her in Scottish story, who thrust her arm into the staple
of the door, to oppose it as a bar against the assassins who
threatened the murder of her sovereign. The deed of devotion was
useless; save to give an immortal name to her by whom it was done, and
whose blood flows, it is said, in the veins of my house."

I cannot explain to the reader, whether the recollection of this
historical deed of devotion, and the lively effect which the
comparison, a little overstrained perhaps, was likely to produce in
favour of Margaret Ramsay, was not qualified by the concomitant ideas
of ancestry and ancient descent with which that recollection was
mingled. But the contending feelings suggested a new train of ideas.--
"Ancestry," he thought, "and ancient descent, what are they to me?--My
patrimony alienated--my title become a reproach--for what can be so
absurd as titled beggary?--my character subjected to suspicion,--I
will not remain in this country; and should I, at leaving it, procure
the society of one so lovely, so brave, and so faithful, who should
say that I derogated from the rank which I am virtually renouncing?"

There was something romantic and pleasing, as he pursued this picture
of an attached and faithful pair, becoming all the world to each
other, and stemming the tide of fate arm in arm; and to be linked thus
with a creature so beautiful, and who had taken such devoted and
disinterested concern in his fortunes, formed itself into such a
vision as romantic youth loves best to dwell upon.

Suddenly his dream was painfully dispelled, by the recollection, that
its very basis rested upon the most selfish ingratitude on his own
part. Lord of his castle and his towers, his forests and fields, his
fair patrimony and noble name, his mind would have rejected, as a sort
of impossibility, the idea of elevating to his rank the daughter of a
mechanic; but, when degraded from his nobility, and plunged into
poverty and difficulties, he was ashamed to feel himself not
unwilling, that this poor girl, in the blindness of her affection,
should abandon all the better prospects of her own settled condition,
to embrace the precarious and doubtful course which he himself was
condemned to. The generosity of Nigel's mind recoiled from the
selfishness of the plan of happiness which he projected; and he made a
strong effort to expel from his thoughts for the rest of the evening
this fascinating female, or, at least, not to permit them to dwell
upon the perilous circumstance, that she was at present the only
creature living who seemed to consider him as an object of kindness.

He could not, however, succeed in banishing her from his slumbers,
when, after having spent a weary day, he betook himself to a perturbed
couch. The form of Margaret mingled with the wild mass of dreams which
his late adventures had suggested; and even when, copying the lively
narrative of Sir Mungo, fancy presented to him the blood bubbling and
hissing on the heated iron, Margaret stood behind him like a spirit of
light, to breathe healing on the wound. At length nature was exhausted
by these fantastic creations, and Nigel slept, and slept soundly,
until awakened in the morning by the sound of a well-known voice,
which had often broken his slumbers about the same hour.

Sir Walter Scott