We must return to the characters of our dramatic narrative whom we left at Perth, when we accompanied the glover and his fair daughter to Kinfauns, and from that hospitable mansion traced the course of Simon to Loch Tay; and the Prince, as the highest personage, claims our immediate attention.
This rash and inconsiderate young man endured with some impatience his sequestered residence with the Lord High Constable, with whose company, otherwise in every respect satisfactory, he became dissatisfied, from no other reason than that he held in some degree the character of his warder. Incensed against his uncle and displeased with his father, he longed, not unnaturally, for the society of Sir John Ramorny, on whom he had been so long accustomed to throw himself for amusement, and, though he would have resented the imputation as an insult, for guidance and direction. He therefore sent him a summons to attend him, providing his health permitted; and directed him to come by water to a little pavilion in the High Constable's garden, which, like that of Sir John's own lodgings, ran down to the Tay. In renewing an intimacy so dangerous, Rothsay only remembered that he had been Sir Join Ramorny's munificent friend; while Sir John, on receiving the invitation, only recollected, on his part, the capricious insults he had sustained from his patron, the loss of his hand, and the lightness with which he had treated the subject, and the readiness with which Rothsay had abandoned his cause in the matter of the bonnet maker's slaughter. He laughed bitterly when he read the Prince's billet.
"Eviot," he said, "man a stout boat with six trusty men--trusty men, mark me--lose not a moment, and bid Dwining instantly come hither.
"Heaven smiles on us, my trusty friend," he said to the mediciner. "I was but beating my brains how to get access to this fickle boy, and here he sends to invite me."
"Hem! I see the matter very clearly," said Dwining. "Heaven smiles on some untoward consequences--he! he! he!"
"No matter, the trap is ready; and it is baited, too, my friend, with what would lure the boy from a sanctuary, though a troop with drawn weapons waited him in the churchyard. Yet is it scarce necessary. His own weariness of himself would have done the job. Get thy matters ready--thou goest with us. Write to him, as I cannot, that we come instantly to attend his commands, and do it clerkly. He reads well, and that he owes to me."
"He will be your valiancie's debtor for more knowledge before he dies --he! he! he! But is your bargain sure with the Duke of Albany?"
"Enough to gratify my ambition, thy avarice, and the revenge of both. Aboard--aboard, and speedily; let Eviot throw in a few flasks of the choicest wine, and some cold baked meats."
"But your arm, my lord, Sir John? Does it not pain you?"
"The throbbing of my heart silences the pain of my wound. It beats as it would burst my bosom."
"Heaven forbid!" said Dwining; adding, in a low voice--"It would be a strange sight if it should. I should like to dissect it, save that its stony case would spoil my best instruments."
In a few minutes they were in the boat, while a speedy messenger carried the note to the Prince.
Rothsay was seated with the Constable, after their noontide repast. He was sullen and silent; and the earl had just asked whether it was his pleasure that the table should be cleared, when a note, delivered to the Prince, changed at once his aspect.
"As you will," he said. "I go to the pavilion in the garden-- always with permission of my Lord Constable--to receive my late master of the horse."
"My lord!" said Lord Errol.
"Ay, my lord; must I ask permission twice?"
"No, surely, my lord," answered the Constable; "but has your Royal Highness recollected that Sir John Ramorny--"
"Has not the plague, I hope?" replied the Duke of Rothsay. "Come, Errol, you would play the surly turnkey, but it is not in your nature; farewell for half an hour."
"A new folly!" said Errol, as the Prince, flinging open a lattice of the ground parlour in which they sat, stept out into the garden --"a new folly, to call back that villain to his counsels. But he is infatuated."
The Prince, in the mean time, looked back, and said hastily:
"Your lordship's good housekeeping will afford us a flask or two of wine and a slight collation in the pavilion? I love the al fresco of the river."
The Constable bowed, and gave the necessary orders; so that Sir John found the materials of good cheer ready displayed, when, landing from his barge, he entered the pavilion.
"It grieves my heart to see your Highness under restraint," said Ramorny, with a well executed appearance of sympathy.
"That grief of thine will grieve mine," said the Prince. "I am sure here has Errol, and a right true hearted lord he is, so tired me with grave looks, and something like grave lessons, that he has driven me back to thee, thou reprobate, from whom, as I expect nothing good, I may perhaps obtain something entertaining. Yet, ere we say more, it was foul work, that upon the Fastern's Even, Ramorny. I well hope thou gavest not aim to it."
"On my honour, my lord, a simple mistake of the brute Bonthron. I did hint to him that a dry beating would be due to the fellow by whom I had lost a hand; and lo you, my knave makes a double mistake. He takes one man for another, and instead of the baton he uses the axe."
"It is well that it went no farther. Small matter for the bonnet maker; but I had never forgiven you had the armourer fallen--there is not his match in Britain. But I hope they hanged the villain high enough?"
"If thirty feet might serve," replied Ramorny.
"Pah! no more of him," said Rothsay; "his wretched name makes the good wine taste of blood. And what are the news in Perth, Ramorny? How stands it with the bona robas and the galliards?"
"Little galliardise stirring, my lord," answered the knight. "All eyes are turned to the motions of the Black Douglas, who comes with five thousand chosen men to put us all to rights, as if he were bound for another Otterburn. It is said he is to be lieutenant again. It is certain many have declared for his faction."
"It is time, then, my feet were free," said Rothsay, "otherwise I may find a worse warder than Errol."
"Ah, my lord! were you once away from this place, you might make as bold a head as Douglas."
"Ramorny," said the Prince, gravely, "I have but a confused remembrance of your once having proposed something horrible to me. Beware of such counsel. I would be free--I would have my person at my own disposal; but I will never levy arms against my father, nor those it pleases him to trust."
"It was only for your Royal Highness's personal freedom that I was presuming to speak," answered Ramorny. "Were I in your Grace's place, I would get me into that good boat which hovers on the Tay, and drop quietly down to Fife, where you have many friends, and make free to take possession of Falkland. It is a royal castle; and though the King has bestowed it in gift on your uncle, yet surely, even if the grant were not subject to challenge, your Grace might make free with the residence of so near a relative."
"He hath made free with mine," said the Duke, "as the stewartry of Renfrew can tell. But stay, Ramorny--hold; did I not hear Errol say that the Lady Marjory Douglas, whom they call Duchess of Rothsay, is at Falkland? I would neither dwell with that lady nor insult her by dislodging her."
"The lady was there, my lord," replied Ramorny; "I have sure advice that she is gone to meet her father."
"Ha! to animate the Douglas against me? or perhaps to beg him to spare me, providing I come on my knees to her bed, as pilgrims say the emirs and amirals upon whom a Saracen soldan bestows a daughter in marriage are bound to do? Ramorny, I will act by the Douglas's own saying, 'It is better to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak.' I will keep both foot and hand from fetters."
"No place fitter than Falkland," replied Ramorny. "I have enough of good yeomen to keep the place; and should your Highness wish to leave it, a brief ride reaches the sea in three directions."
"You speak well. But we shall die of gloom yonder. Neither mirth, music, nor maidens--ha!" said the heedless Prince.
"Pardon me, noble Duke; but, though the Lady Marjory Douglas be departed, like an errant dame in romance, to implore succour of her doughty sire, there is, I may say, a lovelier, I am sure a younger, maiden, either presently at Falkland or who will soon be on the road thither. Your Highness has not forgotten the Fair Maid of Perth?"
"Forget the prettiest wench in Scotland! No--any more than thou hast forgotten the hand that thou hadst in the Curfew Street onslaught on St. Valentine's Eve."
"The hand that I had! Your Highness would say, the hand that I lost. As certain as I shall never regain it, Catharine Glover is, or will soon be, at Falkland. I will not flatter your Highness by saying she expects to meet you; in truth, she proposes to place herself under the protection of the Lady Marjory."
"The little traitress," said the Prince--"she too to turn against me? She deserves punishment, Ramorny."
"I trust your Grace will make her penance a gentle one," replied the knight.
"Faith, I would have been her father confessor long ago, but I have ever found her coy."
"Opportunity was lacking, my lord," replied Ramorny; "and time presses even now."
"Nay, I am but too apt for a frolic; but my father--"
"He is personally safe," said Ramorny, "and as much at freedom as ever he can be; while your Highness--"
"Must brook fetters, conjugal or literal--I know it. Yonder comes Douglas, with his daughter in his hand, as haughty and as harsh featured as himself, bating touches of age."
"And at Falkland sits in solitude the fairest wench in Scotland," said Ramorny. "Here is penance and restraint, yonder is joy and freedom."
"Thou hast prevailed, most sage counsellor," replied Rothsay; "but mark you, it shall be the last of my frolics."
"I trust so," replied Ramorny; "for, when at liberty, you may make a good accommodation with your royal father."
"I will write to him, Ramorny. Get the writing materials. No, I cannot put my thoughts in words--do thou write."
"Your Royal Highness forgets," said Ramorny, pointing to his mutilated arm.
"Ah! that cursed hand of yours. What can we do?"
"So please your Highness," answered his counsellor, "if you would use the hand of the mediciner, Dwining--he writes like a clerk."
"Hath he a hint of the circumstances? Is he possessed of them?"
"Fully," said Ramorny; and, stepping to the window, he called Dwining from the boat.
He entered the presence of the Prince of Scotland, creeping as if he trode upon eggs, with downcast eyes, and a frame that seemed shrunk up by a sense of awe produced by the occasion.
"There, fellow, are writing materials. I will make trial of you; thou know'st the case--place my conduct to my father in a fair light."
Dwining sat down, and in a few minutes wrote a letter, which he handed to Sir John Ramorny.
"Why, the devil has aided thee, Dwining," said the knight. "Listen, my dear lord. 'Respected father and liege sovereign--Know that important considerations induce me to take my departure from this your court, purposing to make my abode at Falkland, both as the seat of my dearest uncle Albany, with whom I know your Majesty would desire me to use all familiarity, and as the residence of one from whom I have been too long estranged, and with whom I haste to exchange vows of the closest affection from henceforward.'"
The Duke of Rothsay and Ramorny laughed aloud; and the physician, who had listened to his own scroll as if it were a sentence of death, encouraged by their applause, raised his eyes, uttered faintly his chuckling note of "He! he!" and was again grave and silent, as if afraid he had transgressed the bounds of reverent respect.
"Admirable!" said the Prince--"admirable! The old man will apply all this to the Duchess, as they call her, of Rothsay. Dwining, thou shouldst be a secretis to his Holiness the Pope, who sometimes, it is said, wants a scribe that can make one word record two meanings. I will subscribe it, and have the praise of the device."
"And now, my lord," said Ramorny, sealing the letter and leaving it behind, "will you not to boat?"
"Not till my chamberlain attends with some clothes and necessaries, and you may call my sewer also."
"My lord," said Ramorny, "time presses, and preparation will but excite suspicion. Your officers will follow with the mails tomorrow. For tonight, I trust my poor service may suffice to wait on you at table and chamber."
"Nay, this time it is thou who forgets," said the Prince, touching the wounded arm with his walking rod. "Recollect, man, thou canst neither carve a capon nor tie a point--a goodly sewer or valet of the mouth!"
Ramorny grinned with rage and pain; for his wound, though in a way of healing, was still highly sensitive, and even the pointing a finger towards it made him tremble.
"Will your Highness now be pleased to take boat?"
"Not till I take leave of the Lord Constable. Rothsay must not slip away, like a thief from a prison, from the house of Errol. Summon him hither."
"My Lord Duke," said Ramorny, "it may be dangerous to our plan."
"To the devil with danger, thy plan, and thyself! I must and will act to Errol as becomes us both."
The earl entered, agreeable to the Prince's summons.
"I gave you this trouble, my lord," said Rothsay, with the dignified courtesy which he knew so well how to assume, "to thank you for your hospitality and your good company. I can enjoy them no longer, as pressing affairs call me to Falkland."
"My lord," said the Lord High Constable, "I trust your Grace remembers that you are--under ward."
"How!--under ward? If I am a prisoner, speak plainly; if not, I will take my freedom to depart."
"I would, my lord, your Highness would request his Majesty's permission for this journey. There will be much displeasure."
"Mean you displeasure against yourself, my lord, or against me?"
"I have already said your Highness lies in ward here; but if you determine to break it, I have no warrant--God forbid--to put force on your inclinations. I can but entreat your Highness, for your own sake--"
"Of my own interest I am the best judge. Good evening to you, my lord."
The wilful Prince stepped into the boat with Dwining and Ramorny, and, waiting for no other attendance, Eviot pushed off the vessel, which descended the Tay rapidly by the assistance of sail and oar and of the ebb tide.
For some space the Duke of Rothsay appeared silent and moody, nor did his companions interrupt his reflections. He raised his head at length and said: "My father loves a jest, and when all is over he will take this frolic at no more serious rate than it deserves --a fit of youth, with which he will deal as he has with others. Yonder, my masters, shows the old hold of Kinfauns, frowning above the Tay. Now, tell me, John Ramorny, how thou hast dealt to get the Fair Maid of Perth out of the hands of yonder bull headed provost; for Errol told me it was rumoured that she was under his protection."
"Truly she was, my lord, with the purpose of being transferred to the patronage of the Duchess--I mean of the Lady Marjory of Douglas. Now, this beetle headed provost, who is after all but a piece of blundering valiancy, has, like most such, a retainer of some slyness and cunning, whom he uses in all his dealings, and whose suggestions he generally considers as his own ideas. Whenever I would possess myself of a landward baron, I address myself to such a confidant, who, in the present case, is called Kitt Henshaw, an old skipper upon the Tay, and who, having in his time sailed as far as Campvere, holds with Sir Patrick Charteris the respect due to one who has seen foreign countries. This his agent I have made my own, and by his means have insinuated various apologies in order to postpone the departure of Catharine for Falkland."
"But to what good purpose?"
"I know not if it is wise to tell your Highness, lest you should disapprove of my views. I meant the officers of the Commission for inquiry into heretical opinions should have found the Fair Maid at Kinfauns, for our beauty is a peevish, self willed swerver from the church; and certes, I designed that the knight should have come in for his share of the fines and confiscations that were about to be inflicted. The monks were eager enough to be at him, seeing he hath had frequent disputes with them about the salmon tithe."
"But wherefore wouldst thou have ruined the knight's fortunes, and brought the beautiful young woman to the stake, perchance?"
"Pshaw, my Lord Duke! monks never burn pretty maidens. An old woman might have been in some danger; and as for my Lord Provost, as they call him, if they had clipped off some of his fat acres, it would have been some atonement for the needless brave he put on me in St. John's church."
"Methinks, John, it was but a base revenge," said Rothsay.
"Rest ye contented, my lord. He that cannot right himself by the hand must use his head. Well, that chance was over by the tender hearted Douglas's declaring in favour of tender conscience; and then, my lord, old Henshaw found no further objections to carrying the Fair Maid of Perth to Falkland, not to share the dulness of the Lady Marjory's society, as Sir Patrick Charteris and she herself doth opine, but to keep your Highness from tiring when we return from hunting in the park."
There was again a long pause, in which the Prince seemed to muse deeply. At length he spoke. "Ramorny, I have a scruple in this matter; but if I name it to thee, the devil of sophistry, with which thou art possessed, will argue it out of me, as it has done many others. This girl is the most beautiful, one excepted, whom I ever saw or knew; and I like her the more that she bears some features of-- Elizabeth of Dunbar. But she, I mean Catharine Glover, is contracted, and presently to be wedded, to Henry the armourer, a craftsman unequalled for skill, and a man at arms yet unmatched in the barrace. To follow out this intrigue would do a good fellow too much wrong."
"Your Highness will not expect me to be very solicitous of Henry Smith's interest," said Ramorny, looking at his wounded arm.
"By St. Andrew with his shored cross, this disaster of thine is too much harped upon, John Ramorny! Others are content with putting a finger into every man's pie, but thou must thrust in thy whole gory hand. It is done, and cannot be undone; let it be forgotten."
"Nay, my lord, you allude to it more frequently than I," answered the knight--"in derision, it is true; while I--but I can be silent on the subject if I cannot forget it."
"Well, then, I tell thee that I have scruple about this intrigue. Dost thou remember, when we went in a frolic to hear Father Clement preach, or rather to see this fair heretic, that he spoke as touchingly as a minstrel about the rich man taking away the poor man's only ewe lamb?"
"A great matter, indeed," answered Sir John, "that this churl's wife's eldest son should be fathered by the Prince of Scotland! How many earls would covet the like fate for their fair countesses? and how many that have had such good luck sleep not a grain the worse for it?"
"And if I might presume to speak," said the mediciner, "the ancient laws of Scotland assigned such a privilege to every feudal lord over his female vassals, though lack of spirit and love of money hath made many exchange it for gold."
"I require no argument to urge me to be kind to a pretty woman; but this Catharine has been ever cold to me," said the Prince.
"Nay, my lord," said Ramorny, "if, young, handsome, and a prince, you know not how to make yourself acceptable to a fine woman, it is not for me to say more."
"And if it were not far too great audacity in me to speak again, I would say," quoth the leech, "that all Perth knows that the Gow Chrom never was the maiden's choice, but fairly forced upon her by her father. I know for certain that she refused him repeatedly."
"Nay, if thou canst assure us of that, the case is much altered," said Rothsay. "Vulcan was a smith as well as Harry Wynd; he would needs wed Venus, and our chronicles tell us what came of it."
"Then long may Lady Venus live and be worshipped," said Sir John Ramorny, "and success to the gallant knight Mars who goes a-wooing to her goddess-ship!"
The discourse took a gay and idle turn for a few minutes; but the Duke of Rothsay soon dropped it. "I have left," he said, "yonder air of the prison house behind me, and yet my spirits scarce revive. I feel that drowsy, not unpleasing, yet melancholy mood that comes over us when exhausted by exercise or satiated with pleasure. Some music now, stealing on the ear, yet not loud enough to make us lift the eye, were a treat for the gods."
"Your Grace has but to speak your wishes, and the nymphs of the Tay are as favourable as the fair ones upon the shore. Hark! it is a lute."
"A lute!" said the Duke of Rothsay, listening; "it is, and rarely touched. I should remember that dying fall. Steer towards the boat from whence the music comes"
"It is old Henshaw," said Ramorny, "working up the stream. How, skipper!"
The boatman answered the hail, and drew up alongside of the Prince's barge.
"Oh, ho! my old friend!" said the Prince, recognising the figure as well as the appointments of the French glee woman, Louise. "I think I owe thee something for being the means of thy having a fright, at least, upon St. Valentine's Day. Into this boat with thee, lute, puppy dog, scrip and all; I will prefer thee to a lady's service who shall feed thy very cur on capons and canary."
"I trust your Highness will consider--" said Ramorny.
"I will consider nothing but my pleasure, John. Pray, do thou be so complying as to consider it also."
"Is it indeed to a lady's service you would promote me?" said the glee maiden. "And where does she dwell?"
"At Falkland," answered the Prince.
"Oh, I have heard of that great lady!" said Louise; "and will you indeed prefer me to your right royal consort's service?"
"I will, by my honour--whenever I receive her as such. Mark that reservation, John," said he aside to Ramorny.
The persons who were in the boat caught up the tidings, and, concluding a reconciliation was about to take place betwixt the royal couple, exhorted Louise to profit by her good fortune, and add herself to the Duchess of Rothsay's train. Several offered her some acknowledgment for the exercise of her talents.
During this moment of delay, Ramorny whispered to Dwining: "Make in, knave, with some objection. This addition is one too many. Rouse thy wits, while I speak a word with Henshaw."
"If I might presume to speak," said Dwining, "as one who have made my studies both in Spain and Arabia, I would say, my lord, that the sickness has appeared in Edinburgh, and that there may be risk in admitting this young wanderer into your Highness's vicinity."
"Ah! and what is it to thee," said Rothsay, "whether I choose to be poisoned by the pestilence or the 'pothecary? Must thou, too, needs thwart my humour?"
While the Prince thus silenced the remonstrances of Dwining, Sir John Ramorny had snatched a moment to learn from Henshaw that the removal of the Duchess of Rothsay from Falkland was still kept profoundly secret, and that Catharine Glover would arrive there that evening or the next morning, in expectation of being taken under the noble lady's protection.
The Duke of Rothsay, deeply plunged in thought, received this intimation so coldly, that Ramorny took the liberty of remonstrating. "This, my lord," he said, "is playing the spoiled child of fortune. You wish for liberty; it comes. You wish for beauty; it awaits you, with just so much delay as to render the boon more precious. Even your slightest desires seem a law to the Fates; for you desire music when it seems most distant, and the lute and song are at your hand. These things, so sent, should be enjoyed, else we are but like petted children, who break and throw from them the toys they have wept themselves sick for."
"To enjoy pleasure, Ramorny," said the Prince, "a man should have suffered pain, as it requires fasting to gain a good appetite. We, who can have all for a wish, little enjoy that all when we have possessed it. Seest thou yonder thick cloud, which is about to burst to rain? It seems to stifle me--the waters look dark and lurid--the shores have lost their beautiful form--"
"My lord, forgive your servant," said Ramorny. "You indulge a powerful imagination, as an unskilful horseman permits a fiery steed to rear until he falls back on his master and crushes him. I pray you shake off this lethargy. Shall the glee maiden make some music?"
"Let her; but it must be melancholy: all mirth would at this moment jar on my ear."
The maiden sung a melancholy dirge in Norman French; the words, of which the following is an imitation, were united to a tune as doleful as they are themselves:
Yes, thou mayst sigh, And look once more at all around, At stream and bank, and sky and ground. Thy life its final course has found, And thou must die.
Yes, lay thee down, And while thy struggling pulses flutter, Bid the grey monk his soul mass mutter, And the deep bell its death tone utter-- Thy life is gone.
Be not afraid. 'Tis but a pang, and then a thrill, A fever fit, and then a chill, And then an end of human ill, For thou art dead.
The Prince made no observation on the music; and the maiden, at Ramorny's beck, went on from time to time with her minstrel craft, until the evening sunk down into rain, first soft and gentle, at length in great quantities, and accompanied by a cold wind. There was neither cloak nor covering for the Prince, and he sullenly rejected that which Ramorny offered.
"It is not for Rothsay to wear your cast garments, Sir John; this melted snow, which I feel pierce me to the very marrow, I am now encountering by your fault. Why did you presume to put off the boat without my servants and apparel?"
Ramorny did not attempt an exculpation; for he knew the Prince was in one of those humours, when to enlarge upon a grievance was more pleasing to him than to have his mouth stopped by any reasonable apology. In sullen silence, or amid unsuppressed chiding, the boat arrived at the fishing village of Newburgh. The party landed, and found horses in readiness, which, indeed, Ramorny had long since provided for the occasion. Their quality underwent the Prince's bitter sarcasm, expressed to Ramorny sometimes by direct words, oftener by bitter gibes. At length they were mounted and rode on through the closing night and the falling rain, the Prince leading the way with reckless haste. The glee maiden, mounted by his express order, attended them and well for her that, accustomed to severe weather, and exercise both on foot and horseback, she supported as firmly as the men the fatigues of the nocturnal ride. Ramorny was compelled to keep at the Prince's rein, being under no small anxiety lest, in his wayward fit, he might ride off from him entirely, and, taking refuge in the house of some loyal baron, escape the snare which was spread for him. He therefore suffered inexpressibly during the ride, both in mind and in body.
At length the forest of Falkland received them, and a glimpse of the moon showed the dark and huge tower, an appendage of royalty itself, though granted for a season to the Duke of Albany. On a signal given the drawbridge fell. Torches glared in the courtyard, menials attended, and the Prince, assisted from horseback, was ushered into an apartment, where Ramorny waited on him, together with Dwining, and entreated him to take the leech's advice. The Duke of Rothsay repulsed the proposal, haughtily ordered his bed to be prepared, and having stood for some time shivering in his dank garments beside a large blazing fire, he retired to his apartment without taking leave of anyone.
"You see the peevish humour of this childish boy, now," said Ramorny to Dwining; "can you wonder that a servant who has done so much for him as I have should be tired of such a master?"
"No, truly," said Dwining, "that and the promised earldom of Lindores would shake any man's fidelity. But shall we commence with him this evening? He has, if eye and cheek speak true, the foundation of a fever within him, which will make our work easy while it will seem the effect of nature."
"It is an opportunity lost," said Ramorny; "but we must delay our blow till he has seen this beauty, Catharine Glover. She may be hereafter a witness that she saw him in good health, and master of his own motions, a brief space before--you understand me?"
Dwining nodded assent, and added:
"There is no time lost; for there is little difficulty in blighting a flower exhausted from having been made to bloom too soon."
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