Youth! thou wear'st to manhood now,
Darker lip and darker brow,
Statelier step, more pensive mien,
In thy face and gate are seen:
Thou must now brook midnight watches,
Take thy food and sport by snatches;
For the gambol and the jest,
Thou wert wont to love the best,
Graver follies must thou follow,
But as senseless, false, and hollow.
LIFE, A POEM.
Young Roland Graeme now trotted gaily forward in the train of Sir
Halbert Glendinning. He was relieved from his most galling
apprehension,--the encounter of the scorn and taunt which might
possibly hail his immediate return to the Castle of Avenel. "There
will be a change ere they see me again," he thought to himself; "I
shall wear the coat of plate, instead of the green jerkin, and the
steel morion for the bonnet and feather. They will be bold that may
venture to break a gibe on the man-at-arms for the follies of the
page; and I trust, that ere we return I shall have done something more
worthy of note than hallooing a hound after a deer, or scrambling a
crag for a kite's nest." He could not, indeed, help marvelling that
his grandmother, with all her religious prejudices, leaning, it would
seem, to the other side, had consented so readily to his re-entering
the service of the House of Avenel; and yet more, at the mysterious
joy with which she took leave of him at the Abbey.
"Heaven," said the dame, as she kissed her young relation, and bade
him farewell, "works its own work, even by the hands of those of our
enemies who think themselves the strongest and the wisest. Thou, my
child, be ready to act upon the call of thy religion and country; and
remember, each earthly bond which thou canst form is, compared to the
ties which bind thee to them, like the loose flax to the twisted
cable. Thou hast not forgot the face or form of the damsel Catherine
Roland would have replied in the negative, but the word seemed to
stick in his throat and Magdalen continued her exhortations.
"Thou must not forget her, my son; and here I intrust thee with a
token, which I trust thou wilt speedily find an opportunity of
delivering with care and secrecy into her own hand."
She put here into Roland's hand a very small packet, of which she
again enjoined him to take the strictest care, and to suffer it to be
seen by no one save Catherine Seyton, who, she again (very
unnecessarily) reminded him, was the young lady he had met on the
preceding day. She then bestowed on him her solemn benediction, and
bade God speed him.
There was something in her manner and her conduct which implied
mystery; but Roland Graeme was not of an age or temper to waste much
time in endeavoring to decipher her meaning. All that was obvious to
his perception in the present journey, promised pleasure and novelty.
He rejoiced that he was travelling towards Edinburgh, in order to
assume the character of a man, and lay aside that of a boy. He was
delighted to think that he would have an opportunity of rejoining
Catherine Seyton, whose bright eyes and lively manners had made so
favourable an impression on his imagination; and, as an experienced,
yet high-spirited youth, entering for the first time upon active life,
his heart bounded at the thought, that he was about to see all those
scenes of courtly splendour and warlike adventures, of which the
followers of Sir Halbert used to boast on their occasional visits to
Avenel, to the wonderment and envy of those who, like Roland, knew
courts and camps only by hearsay, and were condemned to the solitary
sports and almost monastic seclusion of Avenel, surrounded by its
lonely lake, and embossed among its pathless mountains. "They shall
mention my name," he said to himself, "if the risk of my life can
purchase me opportunities of distinction, and Catherine Seyton's saucy
eye shall rest with more respect on the distinguished soldier, than
that with which she laughed to scorn the raw and inexperienced
page."--There was wanting but one accessary to complete the sense of
rapturous excitation, and he possessed it by being once more mounted
on the back of a fiery and active horse, instead of plodding along on
foot, as had been the case during the preceding days.
Impelled by the liveliness of his own spirits, which so many
circumstances tended naturally to exalt, Roland Graeme's voice and his
laughter were soon distinguished amid the trampling of the horses of
the retinue, and more than once attracted the attention of the leader,
who remarked with satisfaction, that the youth replied with
good-humoured raillery to such of the train as jested with him on his
dismissal and return to the service of the House of Avenel.
"I thought the holly-branch in your bonnet had been blighted, Master
Roland?" said one of the men-at-arms.
"Only pinched with half an hour's frost; you see it flourishes as
green as ever."
"It is too grave a plant to flourish on so hot a soil as that
headpiece of thine, Master Roland Graeme," retorted the other, who was
an old equerry of Sir Halbert Glendinning.
"If it will not flourish alone," said Roland, "I will mix it with the
laurel and the myrtle--and I will carry them so near the sky, that it
shall make amends for their stinted growth."
Thus speaking, he dashed his spurs into his horse's sides, and,
checking him at the same time, compelled him to execute a lofty
caracole. Sir Halbert Glendinning looked at the demeanour of his new
attendant with that sort of melancholy pleasure with which those who
have long followed the pursuits of life, and are sensible of their
vanity, regard the gay, young, and buoyant spirits to whom existence,
as yet, is only hope and promise.
In the meanwhile, Adam Woodcock, the falconer, stripped of his
masquing habit, and attired, according to his rank and calling, in a
green jerkin, with a hawking-bag on the one side, and a short hanger
on the other, a glove on his left hand which reached half way up his
arm, and a bonnet and feather upon his head, came after the party as
fast as his active little galloway-nag could trot, and immediately
entered into parley with Roland Graeme.
"So, my youngster, you are once more under shadow of the
"And in case to repay you, my good friend," answered Roland, "your
ten groats of silver."
"Which, but an hour since," said the falconer, "you had nearly paid me
with ten inches of steel. On my faith, it is written in the book of
our destiny, that I must brook your dagger after all."
"Nay, speak not of that, my good friend," said the youth, "I would
rather have broached my own bosom than yours; but who could have
known you in the mumming dress you wore?"
"Yes," the falconer resumed,--for both as a poet and actor he had his
own professional share of self-conceit,--"I think I was as good a
Howleglas as ever played part at a Shrovetide revelry, and not a much
worse Abbot of Unreason. I defy the Old Enemy to unmask me when I
choose to keep my vizard on. What the devil brought the Knight on us
before we had the game out? You would have heard me hollo my own new
ballad with a voice should have reached to Berwick. But I pray you,
Master Roland, be less free of cold steel on slight occasions; since,
but for the stuffing of my reverend doublet, I had only left the kirk
to take my place in the kirkyard."
"Nay, spare me that feud," said Roland Graeme, "we shall have no time
to fight it out; for, by our lord's command, I am bound for
"I know it," said Adam Woodcock, "and even therefore we shall have
time to solder up this rent by the way, for Sir Halbert has appointed
me your companion and guide."
"Ay? and with what purpose?" said the page.
"That," said the falconer, "is a question I cannot answer; but I know,
that be the food of the eyases washed or unwashed, and, indeed,
whatever becomes of perch and mew, I am to go with you to Edinburgh,
and see you safely delivered to the Regent at Holyrood."
"How, to the Regent?" said Roland, in surprise.
"Ay, by my faith, to the Regent," replied Woodcock; "I promise you,
that if you are not to enter his service, at least you are to wait
upon him in the character of a retainer of our Knight of Avenel."
"I know no right," said the youth, "which the Knight of Avenel hath to
transfer my service, supposing that I owe it to himself."
"Hush, hush!" said the falconer; "that is a question I advise no one
to stir in until he has the mountain or the lake, or the march of
another kingdom, which is better than either, betwixt him and his
"But Sir Halbert Glendinning," said the youth, "is not my feudal
superior; nor has he aught of authority--"
"I pray you, my son, to rein your tongue," answered Adam Woodcock; "my
lord's displeasure, if you provoke it, will be worse to appease than
my lady's. The touch of his least finger were heavier than her hardest
blow. And, by my faith, he is a man of steel, as true and as pure,
but as hard and as pitiless. You remember the Cock of Capperlaw, whom
he hanged over his gate for a mere mistake--a poor yoke of oxen taken
in Scotland, when he thought he was taking them in English land? I
loved the Cock of Capperlaw; the Kerrs had not an honester man in
their clan, and they have had men that might have been a pattern to
the Border--men that would not have lifted under twenty cows at once,
and would have held themselves dishonoured if they had taken a drift
of sheep, or the like, but always managed their raids in full credit
and honour.--But see, his worship halts, and we are close by the
bridge. Ride up--ride up--we must have his last instructions."
It was as Adam Woodcock said. In the hollow way descending towards the
bridge, which was still in the guardianship of Peter Bridgeward, as he
was called, though he was now very old, Sir Halbert Glendinning halted
his retinue, and beckoned to Woodcock and Graeme to advance to the
head of the train.
"Woodcock," said he, "thou knowest to whom thou art to conduct this
youth. And thou, young man, obey discreetly and with diligence the
orders that shall be given thee. Curb thy vain and peevish temper. Be
just, true, and faithful; and there is in thee that which may raise
thee many a degree above thy present station. Neither shalt
thou--always supposing thine efforts to be fair and honest--want the
protection and countenance of Avenel."
Leaving them in front of the bridge, the centre tower of which now
began to cast a prolonged shade upon the river, the Knight of Avenel
turned to the left, without crossing the river, and pursued his way
towards the chain of hills within whose recesses are situated the Lake
and Castle of Avenel. There remained behind, the falconer, Roland
Graeme, and a domestic of the Knight, of inferior rank, who was left
with them to look after their horses while on the road, to carry their
baggage, and to attend to their convenience.
So soon as the more numerous body of riders had turned off to pursue
their journey westward, those whose route lay across the river, and
was directed towards the north, summoned the Bridgeward, and demanded
a free passage.
"I will not lower the bridge," answered Peter, in a voice querulous
with age and ill-humour.--"Come Papist, come Protestant, ye are all
the same. The Papist threatened us with Purgatory, and fleeched us
with pardons--the Protestant mints at us with his sword, and cuttles
us with the liberty of conscience; but never a one of either says,
'Peter, there is your penny.' I am well tired of all this, and for no
man shall the bridge fall that pays me not ready money; and I would
have you know I care as little for Geneva as for Rome--as little for
homilies as for pardons; and the silver pennies are the only passports
I will hear of."
"Here is a proper old chuff!" said Woodcock to his companion; then
raising his voice, he exclaimed, "Hark thee, dog--Bridgeward, villain,
dost thou think we have refused thy namesake Peter's pence to Rome, to
pay thine at the bridge of Kennaquhair? Let thy bridge down instantly
to the followers of the house of Avenel, or by the hand of my father,
and that handled many a bridle rein, for he was a bluff
Yorkshireman--I say, by my father's hand, our Knight will blow thee
out of thy solan-goose's nest there in the middle of the water, with
the light falconet which we are bringing southward from Edinburgh
The Bridgeward heard, and muttered, "A plague on falcon and falconet,
on cannon and demicannon, and all the barking bull-dogs whom they
halloo against stone and lime in these our days! It was a merry time
when there was little besides handy blows, and it may be a flight of
arrows that harmed an ashler wall as little as so many hailstones. But
we must jouk and let the jaw gang by." Comforting himself in his state
of diminished consequence with this pithy old proverb, Peter
Bridgeward lowered the drawbridge, and permitted them to pass over. At
the sight of his white hair, albeit it discovered a visage equally
peevish through age and misfortune, Roland was inclined to give him an
alms, but Adam Woodcock prevented him. "E'en let him pay the penalty
of his former churlishness and greed," he said; "the wolf, when he has
lost his teeth, should be treated no better than a cur."
Leaving the Bridgeward to lament the alteration of times, which sent
domineering soldiers and feudal retainers to his place of passage,
instead of peaceful pilgrims, and reduced him to become the oppressed,
instead of playing the extortioner, the travellers turned them
northward; and Adam Woodcock, well acquainted with that part of the
country, proposed to cut short a considerable portion of the road, by
traversing the little vale of Glendearg, so famous for the adventures
which befell therein during the earlier part of the Benedictine's
manuscript. With these, and with the thousand commentaries,
representations, and misrepresentations, to which they had given rise,
Roland Graeme was, of course, well acquainted; for in the Castle of
Avenel, as well as in other great establishments, the inmates talked
of nothing so often, or with such pleasure, as of the private affairs
of their lord and lady. But while Roland was viewing with interest
these haunted scenes, in which things were said to have passed beyond
the ordinary laws of nature, Adam Woodcock was still regretting in his
secret soul the unfinished revel and the unsung ballad, and kept every
now and then, breaking out with some such verses as these:--
"The Friars of Fail drank berry-brown ale,
The best that e'er was tasted;
The Monks of Melrose made gude kale
On Fridays, when they fasted.
Saint Monance' sister.
The gray priest kist her--
Fiend save the company!
Sing hay trix, trim-go-trix.
Under the greenwood tree."
"A straw for your wandering spirits!" said Adam Woodcock; "I mind them
no more than an earn cares for a string of wild-geese--they have all
fled since the pulpits were filled with honest men, and the people's
ears with sound doctrine. Nay, I have a touch at them in my ballad, an
I had but had the good luck to have it sung to end;" and again he set
off in the same key:
From haunted spring and grassy ring,
Troop goblin, elf, and fairy;
And the kelpie must flit from the black bog-pit,
And the brownie must not tarry;
Their way they take,
With scarce the pith to flee.
Sing hay trix, trim-go-trix,
Under the greenwood tree.
"If it be all true that men tell of his early life," said Roland, "he
has less right to laugh at goblins than most men."
"Ay, _if_ it be all true," answered Adam Woodcock; "but who can
ensure us of that? Moreover, these were but tales the monks used to
gull us simple laymen withal; they knew that fairies and hobgoblins
brought aves and paternosters into repute; but, now we have given up
worship of images in wood and stone, methinks it were no time to be
afraid of bubbles in the water, or shadows in the air."
"However," said Roland Graeme, "as the Catholics say they do not
worship wood or stone, but only as emblems of the holy saints, and not
as things holy in themselves----"
"Pshaw! pshaw!" answered the falconer; "a rush for their prating.
They told us another story when these baptized idols of theirs brought
pike-staves and sandalled shoon from all the four winds, and whillied
the old women out of their corn and their candle ends, and their
butter, bacon, wool, and cheese, and when not so much as a gray groat
Roland Graeme had been long taught, by necessity, to consider his form
of religion as a profound secret, and to say nothing whatever in its
defence when assailed, lest he should draw on himself the suspicion of
belonging to the unpopular and exploded church. He therefore suffered
Adam Woodcock to triumph without farther opposition, marvelling in his
own mind whether any of the goblins, formerly such active agents,
would avenge his rude raillery before they left the valley of
Glendearg. But no such consequences followed. They passed the night
quietly in a cottage in the glen, and the next day resumed their route
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