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 21

Could valour aught avail or people's love,
France had not wept Navarre's brave Henry slain;
If wit or beauty could compassion move,
The rose of Scotland had not wept in vain.
Elegy in a Royal Mausoleum. LEWIS.

At the gate of the court-yard of Lochleven appeared the stately form
of the Lady Lochleven, a female whose early charms had captivated
James V., by whom she became mother of the celebrated Regent Murray.
As she was of noble birth (being a daughter of the house of Mar) and
of great beauty, her intimacy with James did not prevent her being
afterwards sought in honourable marriage by many gallants of the time,
among whom she had preferred Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. But
well has it been said


----"Our pleasant vices
Are made the whips to scourge us"---

The station which the Lady of Lochleven now held as the wife of a man
of high rank and interest, and the mother of a lawful family, did not
prevent her nourishing a painful sense of degradation, even while she
was proud of the talents, the power, and the station of her son, now
prime ruler of the state, but still a pledge of her illicit
intercourse. "Had James done to her," she said, in her secret heart,
"the justice he owed her, she had seen in her son, as a source of
unmixed delight and of unchastened pride, the lawful monarch of
Scotland, and one of the ablest who ever swayed the sceptre." The
House of Mar, not inferior in antiquity or grandeur to that of
Drummond, would then have also boasted a Queen among its daughters,
and escaped the stain attached to female frailty, even when it has a
royal lover for its apology. While such feelings preyed on a bosom
naturally proud and severe, they had a corresponding effect on her
countenance, where, with the remains of great beauty, were mingled
traits of inward discontent and peevish melancholy. It perhaps
contributed to increase this habitual temperament, that the Lady
Lochleven had adopted uncommonly rigid and severe views of religion,
imitating in her ideas of reformed faith the very worst errors of the
Catholics, in limiting the benefit of the gospel to those who profess
their own speculative tenets.

In every respect, the unfortunate Queen Mary, now the compulsory
guest, or rather prisoner, of this sullen lady, was obnoxious to her
hostess. Lady Lochleven disliked her as the daughter of Mary of
Guise, the legal possessor of those rights over James's heart and
hand, of which she conceived herself to have been injuriously
deprived; and yet more so as the professor of a religion which she
detested worse than Paganism.

Such was the dame, who, with stately mien, and sharp yet handsome
features, shrouded by her black velvet coif, interrogated the domestic
who steered her barge to the shore, what had become of Lindesay and
Sir Robert Melville. The man related what had passed, and she smiled
scornfully as she replied, "Fools must be flattered, not foughten
with.--Row back--make thy excuse as thou canst--say Lord Ruthven hath
already reached this castle, and that he is impatient for Lord
Lindesay's presence. Away with thee, Randal--yet stay--what galopin
is that thou hast brought hither?"

"So please you, my lady, he is the page who is to wait upon----"

"Ay, the new male minion," said the Lady Lochleven; "the female
attendant arrived yesterday. I shall have a well-ordered house with
this lady and her retinue; but I trust they will soon find some others
to undertake such a charge. Begone, Randal--and you" (to Roland
Graeme) "follow me to the garden."

She led the way with a slow and stately step to the small garden,
which, enclosed by a stone wall ornamented with statues, and an
artificial fountain in the centre, extended its dull parterres on the
side of the court-yard, with which it communicated by a low and arched
portal. Within the narrow circuit of its formal and limited walks,
Mary Stewart was now learning to perform the weary part of a prisoner,
which, with little interval, she was doomed to sustain during the
remainder of her life. She was followed in her slow and melancholy
exercise by two female attendants; but in the first glance which
Roland Graeme bestowed upon one so illustrious by birth, so
distinguished by her beauty, accomplishments, and misfortunes, he was
sensible of the presence of no other than the unhappy Queen of
Scotland.

Her face, her form, have been so deeply impressed upon the
imagination, that even at the distance of nearly three centuries, it
is unnecessary to remind the most ignorant and uninformed reader of
the striking traits which characterize that remarkable countenance,
which seems at once to combine our ideas of the majestic, the
pleasing, and the brilliant, leaving us to doubt whether they express
most happily the queen, the beauty, or the accomplished woman. Who is
there, that, at the very mention of Mary Stewart's name, has not her
countenance before him, familiar as that of the mistress of his youth,
or the favourite daughter of his advanced age? Even those who feel
themselves compelled to believe all, or much, of what her enemies laid
to her charge, cannot think without a sigh upon a countenance
expressive of anything rather than the foul crimes with which she was
charged when living, and which still continue to shade, if not to
blacken, her memory. That brow, so truly open and regal--those
eyebrows, so regularly graceful, which yet were saved from the charge
of regular insipidity by the beautiful effect of the hazel eyes which
they overarched, and which seem to utter a thousand histories--the
nose, with all its Grecian precision of outline--the mouth, so well
proportioned, so sweetly formed, as if designed to speak nothing but
what was delightful to hear--the dimpled chin--the stately swan-like
neck, form a countenance, the like of which we know not to have
existed in any other character moving in that class of life, where the
actresses as well as the actors command general and undivided
attention. It is in vain to say that the portraits which exist of this
remarkable woman are not like each other; for, amidst their
discrepancy, each possesses general features which the eye at once
acknowledges as peculiar to the vision which our imagination has
raised while we read her history for the first time, and which has
been impressed upon it by the numerous prints and pictures which we
have seen. Indeed we cannot look on the worst of them, however
deficient in point of execution, without saying that it is meant for
Queen Mary; and no small instance it is of the power of beauty, that
her charms should have remained the subject not merely of admiration,
but of warm and chivalrous interest, after the lapse of such a length
of time. We know that by far the most acute of those who, in latter
days, have adopted the unfavourable view of Mary's character, longed,
like the executioner before his dreadful task was performed, to kiss
the fair hand of her on whom he was about to perform so horrible a
duty.

Dressed, then, in a deep mourning robe, and with all those charms of
face, shape, and manner, with which faithful tradition has made each
reader familiar, Mary Stewart advanced to meet the Lady of Lochleven,
who, on her part, endeavoured to conceal dislike and apprehension
under the appearance of respectful indifference. The truth was, that
she had experienced repeatedly the Queen's superiority in that species
of disguised yet cutting sarcasm, with which women can successfully
avenge themselves, for real and substantial injuries. It may be well
doubted, whether this talent was not as fatal to its possessor as the
many others enjoyed by that highly gifted, but most unhappy female;
for, while it often afforded her a momentary triumph over her keepers,
it failed not to exasperate their resentment; and the satire and
sarcasm in which she had indulged were frequently retaliated by the
deep and bitter hardships which they had the power of inflicting. It
is well known that her death was at length hastened by a letter which
she wrote to Queen Elizabeth, in which she treated her jealous rival,
and the Countess of Shrewsbury, with the keenest irony and ridicule.

As the ladies met together, the Queen said, bending her head at the
same time, in return to the obeisance of the Lady Lochleven, "We are
this day fortunate--we enjoy the company of our amiable hostess at an
unusual hour, and during a period which we have hitherto been
permitted to give to our private exercise. But our good hostess knows
well she has at all times access to our presence, and need not observe
the useless ceremony of requiring our permission."

"I am sorry my presence is deemed an intrusion by your Grace," said
the Lady of Lochleven. "I came but to announce the arrival of an
addition to your train," motioning with her hand towards Roland
Graeme; "a circumstance to which ladies are seldom indifferent."

"Oh! I crave your ladyship's pardon; and am bent to the earth with
obligations for the kindness of my nobles--or my sovereigns, shall I
call them?--who have permitted me such a respectable addition to my
personal retinue."

"They have indeed studied, Madam," said the Lady of Lochleven, "to
show their kindness towards your Grace--something at the risk perhaps
of sound policy, and I trust their doings will not be misconstrued."

"Impossible!" said the Queen; "the bounty which permits the daughter
of so many kings, and who yet is Queen of the realm, the attendance of
two waiting-women and a boy, is a grace which Mary Stewart can never
sufficiently acknowledge. Why! my train will be equal to that of any
country dame in this your kingdom of Fife, saving but the lack of a
gentleman-usher, and a pair or two of blue-coated serving-men. But I
must not forget, in my selfish joy, the additional trouble and charges
to which this magnificent augmentation of our train will put our kind
hostess, and the whole house of Lochleven. It is this prudent anxiety,
I am aware, which clouds your brows, my worthy lady. But be of good
cheer; the crown of Scotland has many a fair manor, and your
affectionate son, and my no less affectionate brother, will endow the
good knight your husband with the best of them, ere Mary should be
dismissed from this hospitable castle from your ladyship's lack of
means to support the charges."

"The Douglasses of Lochleven, madam," answered the lady, "have known
for ages how to discharge their duty to the State, without looking for
reward, even when the task was both irksome and dangerous."

"Nay! but, my dear Lochleven," said the Queen, "you are over
scrupulous--I pray you accept of a goodly manor; what should support
the Queen of Scotland in this her princely court, saving her own
crown-lands--and who should minister to the wants of a mother, save an
affectionate son like the Earl of Murray, who possesses so wonderfully
both the power and inclination?--Or said you it was the danger of the
task which clouded your smooth and hospitable brow?--No doubt, a page
is a formidable addition to my body-guard of females; and I bethink me
it must have been for that reason that my Lord of Lindesay refused
even now to venture within the reach of a force so formidable, without
being attended by a competent retinue."

The Lady Lochleven started, and looked something surprised; and Mary
suddenly changing her manner from the smooth ironical affectation of
mildness to an accent of austere command, and drawing up at the same
time her fine person, said, with the full majesty of her rank, "Yes!
Lady of Lochleven; I know that Ruthven is already in the castle, and
that Lindesay waits on the bank the return of your barge to bring him
hither along with Sir Robert Melville. For what purpose do these
nobles come--and why am I not in ordinary decency apprised of their
arrival?"'

"Their purpose, madam," replied the Lady of Lochleven, "they must
themselves explain--but a formal annunciation were needless, where
your Grace hath attendants who can play the espial so well."

"Alas! poor Fleming," said the Queen, turning to the elder of the
female attendants, "thou wilt be tried, condemned, and gibbeted, for a
spy in the garrison, because thou didst chance to cross the great hall
while my good Lady of Lochleven was parleying at the full pitch of her
voice with her pilot Randal. Put black wool in thy ears, girl, as you
value the wearing of them longer. Remember, in the Castle of
Lochleven, ears and tongues are matters not of use, but for show
merely. Our good hostess can hear, as well as speak, for us all. We
excuse your farther attendance, my lady hostess," she said, once more
addressing the object of her resentment, "and retire to prepare for an
interview with our rebel lords. We will use the ante-chamber of our
sleeping apartment as our hall of audience. You, young man," she
proceeded, addressing Roland Graeme, and at once softening the
ironical sharpness of her manner into good-humoured raillery, "you,
who are all our male attendance, from our Lord High Chamberlain down
to our least galopin, follow us to prepare our court."

She turned, and walked slowly towards the castle. The Lady of
Lochleven folded her arms, and smiled in bitter resentment, as she
watched her retiring steps.

"The whole male attendance!" she muttered, repeating the Queen's last
words, "and well for thee had it been had thy train never been
larger;" then turning to Roland, in whose way she had stood while
making this pause, she made room for him to pass, saying at the same
time, "Art thou already eaves-dropping? follow thy mistress, minion,
and, if thou wilt, tell her what I have now said."

Roland Graeme hastened after his royal mistress and her attendants,
who had just entered a postern-gate communicating betwixt the castle
and the small garden. They ascended a winding-stair as high as the
second story, which was in a great measure occupied by a suite of
three rooms, opening into each other, and assigned as the dwelling of
the captive Princess. The outermost was a small hall or ante-room,
within which opened a large parlour, and from that again the Queen's
bedroom. Another small apartment, which opened into the same parlour,
contained the beds of the gentlewomen in waiting.

Roland Graeme stopped, as became his station, in the outermost of
these apartments, there to await such orders as might be communicated
to him. From the grated window of the room he saw Lindesay, Melville,
and their followers disembark; and observed that they were met at the
castle gate by a third noble, to whom Lindesay exclaimed, in his loud
harsh voice, "My Lord of Ruthven, you have the start of us!"

At this instant, the page's attention was called to a burst of
hysterical sobs from the inner apartment, and to the hurried
ejaculations of the terrified females, which led him almost instantly
to hasten to their assistance. When he entered, he saw that the Queen
had thrown herself into the large chair which stood nearest the door,
and was sobbing for breath in a strong fit of hysterical affection.
The elder female supported her in her arms, while the younger bathed
her face with water and with tears alternately.

"Hasten, young man!" said the elder lady, in alarm, "fly--call in
assistance--she is swooning!"

But the Queen ejaculated in a faint and broken voice, "Stir not, I
charge you!--call no one to witness--I am better--I shall
recover instantly." And, indeed, with an effort which seemed like that
of one struggling for life, she sate up in her chair, and endeavoured
to resume her composure, while her features yet trembled with the
violent emotion of body and mind which she had undergone. "I am
ashamed of my weakness, girls," she said, taking the hands of her
attendants; "but it is over--and I am Mary Stewart once more. The
savage tone of that man's voice--my knowledge of his insolence--
the name which he named--the purpose for which they come--may
excuse a moment's weakness, and it shall be a moment's only." She
snatched from her head the curch or cap, which had been disordered
during her hysterical agony, shook down the thick clustered tresses of
dark brown which had been before veiled under it--and, drawing her
slender fingers across the labyrinth which they formed, she arose from
the chair, and stood like the inspired image of a Grecian prophetess
in a mood which partook at once of sorrow and pride, of smiles and of
tears. "We are ill appointed," she said, "to meet our rebel subjects;
but, as far as we may, we will strive to present ourselves as becomes
their Queen. Follow me, my maidens," she said; "what says thy
favourite song, my Fleming?


'My maids, come to my dressing-bower,
And deck my nut-brown hair;
Where'er ye laid a plait before,
Look ye lay ten times 'mair.'

"Alas!" she added, when she had repeated with a smile these lines of an
old ballad, "violence has already robbed me of the ordinary
decorations of my rank; and the few that nature gave me have been
destroyed by sorrow and by fear." Yet while she spoke thus, she again
let her slender fingers stray through the wilderness of the beautiful
tresses which veiled her kingly neck and swelling bosom, as if, in her
agony of mind, she had not altogether lost the consciousness of her
unrivalled charms. Roland Graeme, on whose youth, inexperience, and
ardent sense of what was dignified and lovely, the demeanour of so
fair and high-born a lady wrought like the charm of a magician, stood
rooted to the spot with surprise and interest, longing to hazard his
life in a quarrel so fair as that which Mary Stewart's must needs be.
She had been bred in France--she was possessed of the most
distinguished beauty--she had reigned a Queen and a Scottish Queen, to
whom knowledge of character was as essential as the use of vital air.
In all these capacities, Mary was, of all women on the earth, most
alert at perceiving and using the advantages which her charms gave her
over almost all who came within the sphere of their influence. She
cast on Roland a glance which might have melted a heart of stone. "My
poor boy," she said, with a feeling partly real, partly politic, "thou
art a stranger to us--sent to this doleful captivity from the society
of some tender mother, or sister, or maiden, with whom you had freedom
to tread a gay measure round the Maypole. I grieve for you; but you
are the only male in my limited household--wilt thou obey my orders?"

"To the death, madam," said Graeme, in a determined tone.

"Then keep the door of mine apartment," said the Queen; "keep it till
they offer actual violence, or till we shall be fitly arrayed to
receive these intrusive visiters."

"I will defend it till they pass over my body," said Roland Graeme;
any hesitation which he had felt concerning the line of conduct he
ought to pursue being completely swept away by the impulse of the
moment.

"Not so, my good youth," answered Mary; "not so, I command. If I have
one faithful subject beside me, much need, God wot, I have to care for
his safety. Resist them but till they are put to the shame of using
actual violence, and then give way, I charge you. Remember my
commands." And, with a smile expressive at once of favour and of
authority, she turned from him, and, followed by her attendants,
entered the bedroom.

The youngest paused for half a second ere she followed her companion,
and made a signal to Roland Graeme with her hand. He had been already
long aware that this was Catherine Seyton--a circumstance which could
not much surprise a youth of quick intellects, who recollected the
sort of mysterious discourse which had passed betwixt the two matrons
at the deserted nunnery, and on which his meeting with Catherine in
this place seemed to cast so much light. Yet such was the engrossing
effect of Mary's presence, that it surmounted for the moment even the
feelings of a youthful lover; and it was not until Catherine Seyton
had disappeared, that Roland began to consider in what relation they
were to stand to each other. "She held up her hand to me in a
commanding manner," he thought; "perhaps she wanted to confirm my
purpose for the execution of the Queen's commands; for I think she
could scarce purpose to scare me with the sort of discipline which she
administered to the groom in the frieze-jacket, and to poor Adam
Woodcock. But we will see to that anon; meantime, let us do justice to
the trust reposed in us by this unhappy Queen. I think my Lord of
Murray will himself own that it is the duty of a faithful page to
defend his lady against intrusion on her privacy."

Accordingly, he stepped to the little vestibule, made fast, with lock
and bar, the door which opened from thence to the large staircase, and
then sat himself down to attend the result. He had not long to wait--a
rude and strong hand first essayed to lift the latch, then pushed and
shook the door with violence, and, when it resisted his attempt to
open it, exclaimed, "Undo the door there, you within!"

"Why, and at whose command," said the page, "am I to undo the door
of the apartments of the Queen of Scotland?"

Another vain attempt, which made hinge and bolt jingle, showed that
the impatient applicant without would willingly have entered
altogether regardless of his challenge; but at length an answer was
returned.

"Undo the door, on your peril--the Lord Lindesay comes to speak with
the Lady Mary of Scotland."

"The Lord Lindesay, as a Scottish noble," answered the page, "must
await his Sovereign's leisure."

An earnest altercation ensued amongst those without, in which Roland
distinguished the remarkable harsh voice of Lindesay in reply to Sir
Robert Melville, who appeared to have been using some soothing
language--"No! no! no! I tell thee, no! I will place a petard against
the door rather than be baulked by a profligate woman, and bearded by
an insolent footboy."

"Yet, at least," said Melville, "let me try fair means in the first
instance. Violence to a lady would stain your scutcheon for ever. Or
await till my Lord Ruthven comes."

"I will await no longer," said Lindesay; "it is high time the business
were done, and we on our return to the council. But thou mayest try
thy fair play, as thou callest it, while I cause my train to prepare
the petard. I came hither provided with as good gunpowder as blew up
the Kirk of Field."

"For God's sake, be patient," said Melville; and, approaching the
door, he said, as speaking to those within, "Let the Queen know, that
I, her faithful servant, Robert Melville, do entreat her, for her own
sake, and to prevent worse consequences, that she will undo the door,
and admit Lord Lindesay, who brings a mission from the Council of
State."

"I will do your errand to the Queen," said the page, "and report to
you her answer."

He went to the door of the bedchamber, and tapping against it gently,
it was opened by the elderly lady, to whom he communicated his errand,
and returned with directions from the Queen to admit Sir Robert
Melville and Lord Lindesay. Roland Graeme returned to the vestibule,
and opened the door accordingly, into which the Lord Lindesay strode,
with the air of a soldier who has fought his way into a conquered
fortress; while Melville, deeply dejected, followed him more slowly.

"I draw you to witness, and to record," said the page to this last,
"that, save for the especial commands of the Queen, I would have made
good the entrance, with my best strength, and my best blood, against
all Scotland."

"Be silent, young man," said Melville, in a tone of grave rebuke; "add
not brands to fire--this is no time to make a flourish of thy boyish
chivalry."

"She has not appeared even yet," said Lindesay, who had now reached
the midst of the parlour or audience-room; "how call you this
trifling?"

"Patience, my lord," replied Sir Robert, "time presses not--and Lord
Ruthven hath not as yet descended."

At this moment the door of the inner apartment opened, and Queen Mary
presented herself, advancing with an air of peculiar grace and
majesty, and seeming totally unruffled, either by the visit, or by the
rude manner in which it had been enforced. Her dress was a robe of
black velvet; a small ruff, open in front, gave a full view of her
beautifully formed chin and neck, but veiled the bosom. On her head
she wore a small cap of lace, and a transparent white veil hung from
her shoulders over the long black robe, in large loose folds, so that
it could be drawn at pleasure over the face and person. She wore a
cross of gold around her neck, and had her rosary of gold and ebony
hanging from her girdle. She was closely followed by her two ladies,
who remained standing behind her during the conference. Even Lord
Lindesay, though the rudest noble of that rude age, was surprised into
something like respect by the unconcerned and majestic mien of her,
whom he had expected to find frantic with impotent passion, or
dissolved in useless and vain sorrow, or overwhelmed with the fears
likely in such a situation to assail fallen royalty.

"We fear we have detained you, my Lord of Lindesay," said the Queen,
while she curtsied with dignity in answer to his reluctant obeisance;
"but a female does not willingly receive her visiters without some
minutes spent at the toilette. Men, my lord, are less dependant on
such ceremonies."

Lord Lindesay, casting his eye down on his own travel-stained and
disordered dress, muttered something of a hasty journey, and the Queen
paid her greeting to Sir Robert Melville with courtesy, and even, as
it seemed, with kindness. There was then a dead pause, during which
Lindesay looked towards the door, as if expecting with impatience the
colleague of their embassy. The Queen alone was entirely
unembarrassed, and, as if to break the silence, she addressed Lord
Lindesay, with a glance at the large and cumbrous sword which he wore,
as already mentioned, hanging from his neck.

"You have there a trusty and a weighty travelling companion, my lord.
I trust you expected to meet with no enemy here, against whom such a
formidable weapon could be necessary? it is, methinks, somewhat a
singular ornament for a court, though I am, as I well need to be, too
much of a Stuart to fear a sword."

"It is not the first time, madam," replied Lindesay, bringing round
the weapon so as to rest its point on the ground, and leaning one hand
on the huge cross-handle, "it is not the first time that this weapon
has intruded itself into the presence of the House of Stewart."

"Possibly, my lord," replied the Queen, "it may have done service to
my ancestors--Your ancestors were men of loyalty"

"Ay, madam," replied he, "service it hath done; but such as kings love
neither to acknowledge nor to reward. It was the service which the
knife renders to the tree when trimming it to the quick, and depriving
it of the superfluous growth of rank and unfruitful suckers, which rob
it of nourishment."

"You talk riddles, my lord," said Mary; "I will hope the explanation
carries nothing insulting with it."

"You shall judge, madam," answered Lindesay. "With this good sword was
Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, girded on the memorable day when he
acquired the name of Bell-the-Cat, for dragging from the presence of
your great grandfather, the third James of the race, a crew of
minions, flatterers, and favourites whom he hanged over the bridge of
Lauder, as a warning to such reptiles how they approach a Scottish
throne. With this same weapon, the same inflexible champion of
Scottish honour and nobility slew at one blow Spens of Kilspindie, a
courtier of your grandfather, James the fourth, who had dared to speak
lightly of him in the royal presence. They fought near the brook of
Fala; and Bell-the-Cat, with this blade, sheared through the thigh of
his opponent, and lopped the limb as easily as a shepherd's boy slices
a twig from a sapling."

"My lord," replied the Queen, reddening, "my nerves are too good to be
alarmed even by this terrible history--May I ask how a blade so
illustrious passed from the House of Douglas to that of
Lindesay?--Methinks it should have been preserved as a consecrated
relic, by a family who have held all that they could do against their
king, to be done in favour of their country."

"Nay, madam," said Melville, anxiously interfering, "ask not that
question of Lord Lindesay--And you, my lord, for shame--for decency--
forbear to reply to it."

"It is time that this lady should hear the truth," replied Lindesay.

"And be assured," said the Queen, "that she will be moved to anger by
none that you can tell her, my lord. There are cases in which just
scorn has always the mastery over just anger."

"Then know," said Lindesay, "that upon the field of Carberry-hill,
when that false and infamous traitor and murderer, James, sometime
Earl of Bothwell, and nicknamed Duke of Orkney, offered to do personal
battle with any of the associated nobles who came to drag him to
justice, I accepted his challenge, and was by the noble Earl of Morton
gifted with his good sword that I might therewith fight it out--Ah! so
help me Heaven, had his presumption been one grain more, or his
cowardice one grain less, I should have done such work with this good
steel on his traitorous corpse, that the hounds and carrion-crows
should have found their morsels daintily carved to their use !"

The Queen's courage well-nigh gave way at the mention of Bothwell's
name--a name connected with such a train of guilt, shame, and
disaster. But the prolonged boast of Lindesay gave her time to rally
herself, and to answer with an appearance of cold contempt--"It is
easy to slay an enemy who enters not the lists. But had Mary Stewart
inherited her father's sword as well as his sceptre, the boldest of
her rebels should not upon that day have complained that they had no
one to cope withal. Your lordship will forgive me if I abridge this
conference. A brief description of a bloody fight is long enough to
satisfy a lady's curiosity; and unless my Lord of Lindesay has
something more important to tell us than of the deeds which old
Bell-the-Cat achieved, and how he would himself have emulated them,
had time and tide permitted, we will retire to our private apartment,
and you, Fleming, shall finish reading to us yonder little treatise
_Des Rodomontades Espagnolles_."

"Tarry, madam," said Lindesay, his complexion reddening in his turn,
"I know your quick wit too well of old to have sought an interview
that you might sharpen its edge at the expense of my honour. Lord
Ruthven and myself, with Sir Robert Melville as a concurrent, come to
your Grace on the part of the Secret Council, to tender to you what
much concerns the safety of your own life and the welfare of the
State."

"The Secret Council?" said the Queen; "by what powers can it subsist
or act, while I, from whom it holds its character, am here detained
under unjust restraint? But it matters not--what concerns the welfare
of Scotland shall be acceptable to Mary Stewart, come from whatever
quarter it will--and for what concerns her own life, she has lived
long enough to be weary of it, even at the age of twenty-five.--Where
is your colleague, my lord?--why tarries he?"

"He comes, madam," said Melville, and Lord Ruthven entered at the
instant, holding in his hand a packet. As the Queen returned his
salutation she became deadly pale, but instantly recovered herself by
dint of strong and sudden resolution, just as the noble, whose
appearance seemed to excite such emotions in her bosom, entered the
apartment in company with George Douglas, the youngest son of the
Knight of Lochleven, who, during the absence of his father and
brethren, acted as Seneschal of the Castle, under the direction of the
elder Lady Lochleven, his father's mother.

Sir Walter Scott