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Chapter 32

_Benedict_. This looks not like a nuptial.
_Much Ado About Nothing._

Master George Heriot had no sooner returned to the king's apartment,
than James inquired of Maxwell if the Earl of Huntinglen was in
attendance, and, receiving an answer in the affirmative, desired that
he should be admitted. The old Scottish Lord having made his reverence
in the usual manner, the king extended his hand to be kissed, and then
began to address him in a tone of great sympathy.

"We told your lordship in our secret epistle of this morning, written
with our ain hand, in testimony we have neither pretermitted nor
forgotten your faithful service, that we had that to communicate to
you that would require both patience and fortitude to endure, and
therefore exhorted you to peruse some of the most pithy passages of
Seneca, and of Boethius _de Consolatione_, that the back may be, as we
say, fitted for the burden--This we commend to you from our ain

'Non ignara mail, miseris succurrere disco,'

sayeth Dido, and I might say in my own person, _non ignarus_; but to
change the gender would affect the prosody, whereof our southern
subjects are tenacious. So, my Lord of Huntinglen, I trust you have
acted by our advice, and studied patience before ye need it--_venienti
occurrite morbo_--mix the medicament when the disease is coming on."

"May it please your Majesty," answered Lord Huntinglen, "I am more of
an old soldier than a scholar--and if my own rough nature will not
bear me out in any calamity, I hope I shall have grace to try a text
of Scripture to boot."

"Ay, man, are you there with your bears?" said the king; "The Bible,
man," (touching his cap,) "is indeed _principium et fons_--but it is
pity your lordship cannot peruse it in the original. For although we
did ourselves promote that work of translation,--since ye may read, at
the beginning of every Bible, that when some palpable clouds of
darkness were thought like to have overshadowed the land, after the
setting of that bright occidental star, Queen Elizabeth; yet our
appearance, like that of the sun in his strength, instantly dispelled
these surmised mists,--I say, that although, as therein mentioned, we
countenanced the preaching of the gospel, and especially the
translation of the Scriptures out of the original sacred tongues; yet
nevertheless, we ourselves confess to have found a comfort in
consulting them in the original Hebrew, whilk we do not perceive even
in the Latin version of the Septuagint, much less in the English

"Please your Majesty," said Lord Huntinglen, "if your Majesty delays
communicating the bad news with which your honoured letter threatens
me, until I am capable to read Hebrew like your Majesty, I fear I
shall die in ignorance of the misfortune which hath befallen, or is
about to befall, my house."

"You will learn it but too soon, my lord," replied the king. "I grieve
to say it, but your son Dalgarno, whom I thought a very saint, as he
was so much with Steenie and Baby Charles, hath turned out a very

"Villain!" repeated Lord Huntinglen; and though he instantly checked
himself, and added, "but it is your Majesty speaks the word," the
effect of his first tone made the king step back as if he had received
a blow. He also recovered himself again, and said in the pettish way
which usually indicated his displeasure--"Yes, my lord, it was we that
said it--_non surdo canis_--we are not deaf--we pray you not to raise
your voice in speech with us--there is the bonny memorial--read, and
judge for yourself."

The king then thrust into the old nobleman's hand a paper, containing
the story of the Lady Hermione, with the evidence by which it was
supported, detailed so briefly and clearly, that the infamy of Lord
Dalgarno, the lover by whom she had been so shamefully deceived,
seemed undeniable. But a father yields not up so easily the cause of
his son.

"May it please your Majesty," he said, "why was this tale not sooner
told? This woman hath been here for years--wherefore was the claim on
my son not made the instant she touched English ground?"

"Tell him how that came about, Geordie," said the king, dressing

"I grieve to distress my Lord Huntinglen," said Heriot; but I must
speak the truth. For a long time the Lady Hermione could not brook the
idea of making her situation public; and when her mind became changed
in that particular, it was necessary to recover the evidence of the
false marriage, and letters and papers connected with it, which, when
she came to Paris, and just before I saw her, she had deposited with a
correspondent of her father in that city. He became afterwards
bankrupt, and in consequence of that misfortune the lady's papers
passed into other hands, and it was only a few days since I traced and
recovered them. Without these documents of evidence, it would have
been imprudent for her to have preferred her complaint, favoured as
Lord Dalgarno is by powerful friends."

"Ye are saucy to say sae," said the king; "I ken what ye mean weel
eneugh--ye think Steenie wad hae putten the weight of his foot into
the scales of justice, and garr'd them whomle the bucket--ye forget,
Geordie, wha it is whose hand uphaulds them. And ye do poor Steenie
the mair wrang, for he confessed it ance before us and our privy
council, that Dalgarno would have put the quean aff on him, the puir
simple bairn, making him trow that she was a light-o'-love; in whilk
mind he remained assured even when he parted from her, albeit Steenie
might hae weel thought ane of thae cattle wadna hae resisted the like
of him."

"The Lady Hermione," said George Heriot, "has always done the utmost
justice to the conduct of the duke, who, although strongly possessed
with prejudice against her character, yet scorned to avail himself of
her distress, and on the contrary supplied her with the means of
extricating herself from her difficulties."

"It was e'en like himsell--blessings on his bonny face!" said the
king; "and I believed this lady's tale the mair readily, my Lord
Huntinglen, that she spake nae ill of Steenie--and to make a lang tale
short, my lord, it is the opinion of our council and ourself, as weel
as of Baby Charles and Steenie, that your son maun amend his wrong by
wedding this lady, or undergo such disgrace and discountenance as we
can bestow."

The person to whom he spoke was incapable of answering him. He stood
before the king motionless, and glaring with eyes of which even the
lids seemed immovable, as if suddenly converted into an ancient statue
of the times of chivalry, so instantly had his hard features and
strong limbs been arrested into rigidity by the blow he had received--
And in a second afterwards, like the same statue when the lightning
breaks upon it, he sunk at once to the ground with a heavy groan. The
king was in the utmost alarm, called upon Heriot and Maxwell for help,
and, presence of mind not being his _forte_, ran to and fro in his
cabinet, exclaiming--"My ancient and beloved servant--who saved our
anointed self! _vae atque dolor!_ My Lord of Huntinglen, look up--look
up, man, and your son may marry the Queen of Sheba if he will."

By this time Maxwell and Heriot had raised the old nobleman, and
placed him on a chair; while the king, observing that he began to
recover himself, continued his consolations more methodically.

"Haud up your head--haud up your head, and listen to your ain kind
native Prince. If there is shame, man, it comesna empty-handed--there
is siller to gild it--a gude tocher, and no that bad a pedigree;--if
she has been a loon, it was your son made her sae, and he can make her
an honest woman again."

These suggestions, however reasonable in the common case, gave no
comfort to Lord Huntinglen, if indeed he fully comprehended them; but
the blubbering of his good-natured old master, which began to
accompany and interrupt his royal speech, produced more rapid effect.
The large tear gushed reluctantly from his eye, as he kissed the
withered hands, which the king, weeping with less dignity and
restraint, abandoned to him, first alternately and then both together,
until the feelings of the man getting entirely the better of the
Sovereign's sense of dignity, he grasped and shook Lord Huntinglen's
hands with the sympathy of an equal and a familiar friend."

"_Compone lachrymas_," said the Monarch; "be patient, man, be patient;
the council, and Baby Charles, and Steenie, may a' gang to the deevil-
-he shall not marry her since it moves you so deeply."

"He _shall_ marry her, by God!" answered the earl, drawing himself up,
dashing the tear from his eyes, and endeavouring to recover his
composure. "I pray your Majesty's pardon, but he shall marry her, with
her dishonour for her dowry, were she the veriest courtezan in all
Spain--If he gave his word, he shall make his word good, were it to
the meanest creature that haunts the streets--he shall do it, or my
own dagger shall take the life that I gave him. If he could stoop to
use so base a fraud, though to deceive infamy, let him wed infamy."

"No, no!" the Monarch continued to insinuate, "things are not so bad
as that--Steenie himself never thought of her being a streetwalker,
even when he thought the worst of her."

"If it can at all console my Lord of Huntinglen," said the citizen, "I
can assure him of this lady's good birth, and most fair and unspotted

"I am sorry for it," said Lord Huntinglen--then interrupting himself,
he said--"Heaven forgive me for being ungrateful for such comfort!--
but I am well-nigh sorry she should be as you represent her, so much
better than the villain deserves. To be condemned to wed beauty and
innocence and honest birth--"

"Ay, and wealth, my lord--wealth," insinuated the king, "is a better
sentence than his perfidy has deserved."

"It is long," said the embittered father, "since I saw he was selfish
and hardhearted; but to be a perjured liar--I never dreaded that such
a blot would have fallen on my race! I will never look on him again."

"Hoot ay, my lord, hoot ay," said the king; "ye maun tak him to task
roundly. I grant you should speak more in the vein of Demea than
Mitio, _vi nempe et via pervulgata patrum_; but as for not seeing him
again, and he your only son, that is altogether out of reason. I tell
ye, man, (but I would not for a boddle that Baby Charles heard me,)
that he might gie the glaiks to half the lasses of Lonnun, ere I could
find in my heart speak such harsh words as you have said of this deil
of a Dalgarno of yours."

"May it please your Majesty to permit me to retire," said Lord
Huntinglen, "and dispose of the case according to your own royal sense
of justice, for I desire no favour for him."

"Aweel, my lord, so be it; and if your lordship can think," added the
Monarch, "of any thing in our power which might comfort you--"

"Your Majesty's gracious sympathy," said Lord Huntinglen, "has already
comforted me as far as earth can; the rest must be from the King of

"To Him I commend you, my auld and faithful servant," said James with
emotion, as the earl withdrew from his presence. The king remained
fixed in thought for some time, and then said to Heriot, "Jingling
Geordie, ye ken all the privy doings of our Court, and have dune so
these thirty years, though, like a wise man, ye hear, and see, and say
nothing. Now, there is a thing I fain wad ken, in the way of
philosophical inquiry--Did you ever hear of the umquhile Lady
Huntinglen, the departed Countess of this noble earl, ganging a wee
bit gleed in her walk through the world; I mean in the way of slipping
a foot, casting a leglin-girth, or the like, ye understand me?"

[Footnote: A leglin-girth is the lowest hoop upon a _leglin_, or milk-
pail. Allan Ramsay applies the phrase in the same metaphorical sense.

"Or bairns can read, they first maun spell,
I learn'd this frae my mammy,
And cast a leglin-girth mysell,
Lang ere I married Tammy."
_Christ's Kirk On The Green_.]

"On my word as an honest man," said George Heriot, somewhat surprised
at the question, "I never heard her wronged by the slightest breath of
suspicion. She was a worthy lady, very circumspect in her walk, and
lived in great concord with her husband, save that the good Countess
was something of a puritan, and kept more company with ministers than
was altogether agreeable to Lord Huntinglen, who is, as your Majesty
well knows, a man of the old rough world, that will drink and swear."

"O Geordie!" exclaimed the king, "these are auld-warld frailties, of
whilk we dare not pronounce even ourselves absolutely free. But the
warld grows worse from day to day, Geordie. The juveniles of this age
may weel say with the poet--

'Aetas parentum, pejor avis, tulit
Nos nequiores--'

This Dalgarno does not drink so much, or swear so much, as his father;
but he wenches, Geordie, and he breaks his word and oath baith. As to
what you say of the leddy, and the ministers, we are a' fallible
creatures, Geordie, priests and kings, as weel as others; and wha kens
but what that may account for the difference between this Dalgarno and
his father? The earl is the vera soul of honour, and cares nae mair
for warld's gear than a noble hound for the quest of a foulmart; but
as for his son, he was like to brazen us a' out--ourselves, Steenie,
Baby Charles, and our council--till he heard of the tocher, and then,
by my kingly crown, he lap like a cock at a grossart! These are
discrepancies betwixt parent and son not to be accounted for
naturally, according to Baptista Porta, Michael Scott _de secretis_,
and others.--Ah, Jingling Geordie, if your clouting the caldron, and
jingling on pots, pans, and veshels of all manner of metal, hadna
jingled a' your grammar out of your head, I could have touched on that
matter to you at mair length."

Heriot was too plain-spoken to express much concern for the loss of
his grammar learning on this occasion; but after modestly hinting that
he had seen many men who could not fill their father's bonnet, though
no one had been suspected of wearing their father's nightcap, he
inquired "whether Lord Dalgarno had consented to do the Lady Hermione

"Troth, man, I have small doubt that he will," quoth the king; "I gave
him the schedule of her worldly substance, which you delivered to us
in the council, and we allowed him half-an-hour to chew the cud upon
that. It is rare reading for bringing him to reason. I left Baby
Charles and Steenie laying his duty before him; and if he can resist
doing what _they_ desire him--why, I wish he would teach _me_ the gate
of it. O Geordie, Jingling Geordie, it was grand to hear Baby Charles
laying down the guilt of dissimulation, and Steenie lecturing on the
turpitude of incontinence!"

"I am afraid," said George Heriot, more hastily than prudently, "I
might have thought of the old proverb of Satan reproving sin."

"Deil hae our saul, neighbour," said the king, reddening, "but ye are
not blate! I gie ye license to speak freely, and, by our saul, ye do
not let the privilege become lost _non utendo_--it will suffer no
negative prescription in your hands. Is it fit, think ye, that Baby
Charles should let his thoughts be publicly seen?--No--no--princes'
thoughts are _arcana imperii_--_Qui nescit dissimulare nescit
regnare_. Every liege subject is bound to speak the whole truth to the
king, but there is nae reciprocity of obligation--and for Steenie
having been whiles a dike-louper at a time, is it for you, who are his
goldsmith, and to whom, I doubt, he awes an uncomatable sum, to cast
that up to him?"

Heriot did not feel himself called on to play the part of Zeno and
sacrifice himself for upholding the cause of moral truth; he did not
desert it, however, by disavowing his words, but simply expressed
sorrow for having offended his Majesty, with which the placable king
was sufficiently satisfied.

"And now, Geordie, man," quoth he, "we will to this culprit, and hear
what he has to say for himself, for I will see the job cleared this
blessed day. Ye maun come wi' me, for your evidence may be wanted."

The king led the way, accordingly, into a larger apartment, where the
Prince, the Duke of Buckingham, and one or two privy counsellors were
seated at a table, before which stood Lord Dalgarno, in an attitude of
as much elegant ease and indifference as could be expressed,
considering the stiff dress and manners of the times.

All rose and bowed reverently, while the king, to use a north country
word, expressive of his mode of locomotion, _toddled_ to his chair or
throne, making a sign to Heriot to stand behind him.

"We hope," said his Majesty, "that Lord Dalgarno stands prepared to do
justice to this unfortunate lady, and to his own character and

"May I humbly inquire the penalty," said Lord Dalgarno,
"in case I should unhappily find compliance with your Majesty's
demands impossible?"

"Banishment frae our Court, my lord," said the king; "frae our Court
and our countenance."

"Unhappy exile that I may be!" said Lord Dalgarno, in a tone of
subdued irony--"I will at least carry your Majesty's picture with me,
for I shall never see such another king." "And banishment, my lord,"
said the Prince, sternly, "from these our dominions."

"That must be by form of law, please your Royal Highness," said
Dalgarno, with an affectation of deep respect; "and I have not heard
that there is a statute, compelling us, under such penalty, to marry
every woman we may play the fool with. Perhaps his Grace of Buckingham
can tell me?"

"You are a villain, Dalgarno," said the haughty and vehement

"Fie, my lord, fie!--to a prisoner, and in presence of your royal and
paternal gossip!" said Lord Dalgarno. "But I will cut this
deliberation short. I have looked over this schedule of the goods and
effects of Erminia Pauletti, daughter of the late noble--yes, he is
called the noble, or I read wrong, Giovanni Pauletti, of the Houee of
Sansovino, in Genoa, and of the no less noble Lady Maud Olifaunt, of
the House of Glenvarloch--Well, I declare that I was pre-contracted in
Spain to this noble lady, and there has passed betwixt us some certain
_proelibatio matrimonii_; and now, what more does this grave assembly
require of me?"

"That you should repair the gross and infamous wrong you have done the
lady, by marrying her within this hour," said the Prince.

"O, may it please your Royal Highness," answered Dalgarno, "I have a
trifling relationship with an old Earl, who calls himself my father,
who may claim some vote in the matter. Alas! every son is not blessed
with an obedient parent!" He hazarded a slight glance towards the
throne, to give meaning to his last words.

"We have spoken ourselves with Lord Huntinglen," said the king, "and
are authorised to consent in his name."

"I could never have expected this intervention of a _proxaneta_, which
the vulgar translate blackfoot, of such eminent dignity," said
Dalgarno, scarce concealing a sneer. "And my father hath consented? He
was wont to say, ere we left Scotland, that the blood of Huntinglen
and of Glenvarloch would not mingle, were they poured into the same
basin. Perhaps he has a mind to try the experiment?"

"My lord," said James, "we will not be longer trifled with--Will you
instantly, and _sine mora_, take this lady to your wife, in our

"_Statim atque instanter_," answered Lord Dalgarno; "for I perceive by
doing so, I shall obtain power to render great services to the
commonwealth--I shall have acquired wealth to supply the wants of your
Majesty, and a fair wife to be at the command of his Grace of

The Duke rose, passed to the end of the table where Lord Dalgarno was
standing, and whispered in his ear, "You have placed a fair sister at
my command ere now."

This taunt cut deep through Lord Dalgarno's assumed composure. He
started as if an adder had stung him, but instantly composed himself,
and, fixing on the Duke's still smiling countenance an eye which spoke
unutterable hatred, he pointed the forefinger of his left hand to the
hilt of his sword, but in a manner which could scarce be observed by
any one save Buckingham. The Duke gave him another smile of bitter
scorn, and returned to his seat, in obedience to the commands of the
king, who continued calling out, "Sit down, Steenie, sit down, I
command ye--we will hae nae harnsbreaking here."

"Your Majesty needs not fear my patience," said Lord Dalgarno; "and
that I may keep it the better, I will not utter another word in this
presence, save those enjoined to me in that happy portion of the
Prayer-Book, which begins with _Dearly Beloved_, and ends with

"You are a hardened villain, Dalgarno," said the king; "and were I the
lass, by my father's saul, I would rather brook the stain of having
been your concubine, than run the risk of becoming your wife. But she
shall be under our special protection.--Come, my lords, we will
ourselves see this blithesome bridal." He gave the signal by rising,
and moved towards the door, followed by the train. Lord Dalgarno
attended, speaking to none, and spoken to by no one, yet seeming as
easy and unembarrassed in his gait and manner as if in reality a happy

They reached the Chapel by a private entrance, which communicated from
the royal apartment. The Bishop of Winchester, in his pontifical
dress, stood beside the altar; on the other side, supported by Monna
Paula, the colourless, faded, half-lifeless form of the Lady Hermione,
or Erminia Pauletti. Lord Dalgarno bowed profoundly to her, and the
Prince, observing the horror with which she regarded him, walked up,
and said to her, with much dignity,--"Madam, ere you put yourself
under the authority of this man, let me inform you, he hath in the
fullest degree vindicated your honour, so far as concerns your former
intercourse. It is for you to consider whether you will put your
fortune and happiness into the hands of one, who has shown himself
unworthy of all trust."

The lady, with much difficulty, found words to make reply. "I owe to
his Majesty's goodness," she said, "the care of providing me some
reservation out of my own fortune, for my decent sustenance. The rest
cannot be better disposed than in buying back the fair fame of which I
am deprived, and the liberty of ending my life in peace and

"The contract has been drawn up," said the king, "under our own eye,
specially discharging the _potestas maritalis_, and agreeing they
shall live separate. So buckle them, my Lord Bishop, as fast as you
can, that they may sunder again the sooner."

The Bishop accordingly opened his book and commenced the marriage
ceremony, under circumstances so novel and so inauspicious. The
responses of the bride were only expressed by inclinations of the head
and body; while those of the bridegroom were spoken boldly and
distinctly, with a tone resembling levity, if not scorn. When it was
concluded, Lord Dalgarno advanced as if to salute the bride, but
seeing that she drew back in fear and abhorrence, he contented himself
with making her a low bow. He then drew up his form to its height, and
stretched himself as if examining the power of his limbs, but
elegantly, and without any forcible change of attitude. "I could caper
yet," he said "though I am in fetters--but they are of gold, and
lightly worn.--Well, I see all eyes look cold on me, and it is time I
should withdraw. The sun shines elsewhere than in England! But first I
must ask how this fair Lady Dalgarno is to be bestowed. Methinks it is
but decent I should know. Is she to be sent to the harem of my Lord
Duke? Or is this worthy citizen, as before--"

"Hold thy base ribald tongue!" said his father, Lord Huntinglen, who
had kept in the background during the ceremony, and now stepping
suddenly forward, caught the lady by the arm, and confronted her
unworthy husband.--"The Lady Dalgarno," he continued, "shall remain as
a widow in my house. A widow I esteem her, as much as if the grave had
closed over her dishonoured husband."

Lord Dalgarno exhibited momentary symptoms of extreme confusion, and
said, in a submissive tone, "If you, my lord, can wish me dead, I
cannot, though your heir, return the compliment. Few of the first-born
of Israel," he added, recovering himself from the single touch of
emotion he had displayed, "can say so much with truth. But I will
convince you ere I go, that I am a true descendant of a house famed
for its memory of injuries."

"I marvel your Majesty will listen to him longer," said Prince
Charles. "Methinks we have heard enough of his daring insolence."

But James, who took the interest of a true gossip in such a scene as
was now passing, could not bear to cut the controversy short, but
imposed silence on his son, with "Whisht, Baby Charles--there is a
good bairn, whisht!--I want to hear what the frontless loon can say."

"Only, sir," said Dalgarno, "that but for one single line in this
schedule, all else that it contains could not have bribed me to take
that woman's hand into mine."

"That line maun have been the SUMMA TOTALIS," said the king.

"Not so, sire," replied Dalgarno. "The sum total might indeed have
been an object for consideration even to a Scottish king, at no very
distant period; but it would have had little charms for me, save that
I see here an entry which gives me the power of vengeance over the
family of Glenvarloch; and learn from it that yonder pale bride, when
she put the wedding-torch into my hand, gave me the power of burning
her mother's house to ashes!"

"How is that?" said the king. "What is he speaking about, Jingling

"This friendly citizen, my liege," said Lord Dalgarno, "hath expended
a sum belonging to my lady, and now, I thank heaven, to me, in
acquiring a certain mortgage, or wanset, over the estate of
Glenvarloch, which, if it be not redeemed before to-morrow at noon,
will put me in possession of the fair demesnes of those who once
called themselves our house's rivals."

"Can this be true?" said the king.

"It is even but too true, please your Majesty," answered the citizen.
"The Lady Hermione having advanced the money for the original
creditor, I was obliged, in honour and honesty, to take the rights to
her; and doubtless, they pass to her husband."

"But the warrant, man," said the king--"the warrant on our Exchequer--
Couldna that supply the lad wi' the means of redemption?"

"Unhappily, my liege, he has lost it, or disposed of it--It is not to
be found. He is the most unlucky youth!"

"This is a proper spot of work!" said the king, beginning to amble
about and play with the points of his doublet and hose, in expression
of dismay. "We cannot aid him without paying our debts twice over, and
we have, in the present state of our Exchequer, scarce the means of
paying them once."

"You have told me news," said Lord Dalgarno, "but I will take no

"Do not," said his father, "be a bold villain, since thou must be one,
and seek revenge with arms, and not with the usurer's weapons."

"Pardon me, my lord," said Lord Dalgarno. "Pen and ink are now my
surest means of vengeance; and more land is won by the lawyer with the
ram-skin, than by the Andrea Ferrara with his sheepshead handle. But,
as I said before, I will take no advantages. I will await in town to-
morrow, near Covent Garden; if any one will pay the redemption-money
to my scrivener, with whom the deeds lie, the better for Lord
Glenvarloch; if not, I will go forward on the next day, and travel
with all dispatch to the north, to take possession."

"Take a father's malison with you, unhappy wretch!" said Lord

"And a king's, who is _pater patriae_," said James.

"I trust to bear both lightly," said Lord Dalgarno; and bowing around
him, he withdrew; while all present, oppressed, and, as it were,
overawed, by his determined effrontery, found they could draw breath
more freely, when he at length relieved them of his society. Lord
Huntinglen, applying himself to comfort his new daughter-in-law,
withdrew with her also; and the king, with his privy-council, whom he
had not dismissed, again returned to his council-chamber, though the
hour was unusually late. Heriot's attendance was still commanded, but
for what reason was not explained to him.

Sir Walter Scott