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Chapter 24


'Tis a weary life this--
Vaults overhead, and grates and bars around me,
And my sad hours spent with as sad companions,
Whose thoughts are brooding: o'er their own mischances,
Far, far too deeply to take part in mine.
THE WOODSMAN.

The course of life to which Mary and her little retinue were doomed,
was in the last degree secluded and lonely, varied only as the weather
permitted or rendered impossible the Queen's usual walk in the garden
or on the battlements. The greater part of the morning she wrought
with her ladies at those pieces of needlework, many of which still
remain proofs of her indefatigable application. At such hours the page
was permitted the freedom of the castle and islet; nay, he was
sometimes invited to attend George Douglas when he went a-sporting
upon the lake, or on its margin; opportunities of diversion which were
only clouded by the remarkable melancholy which always seemed to brood
on that gentleman's brow, and to mark his whole demeanour,--a sadness
so profound, that Roland never observed him to smile, or to speak any
word unconnected with the immediate object of their exercise.

The most pleasant part of Roland's day, was the occasional space which
he was permitted to pass in personal attendance on the Queen and her
ladies, together with the regular dinner-time, which he always spent
with Dame Mary Fleming and Catharine Seyton. At these periods, he had
frequent occasion to admire the lively spirit and inventive
imagination of the latter damsel, who was unwearied in her
contrivances to amuse her mistress, and to banish, for a time at
least, the melancholy which preyed on her bosom. She danced, she sung,
she recited tales of ancient and modern times, with that heartfelt
exertion of talent, of which the pleasure lies not in the vanity of
displaying it to others, but in the enthusiastic consciousness that we
possess it ourselves. And yet these high accomplishments were mixed
with an air of rusticity and harebrained vivacity, which seemed rather
to belong to some village maid, the coquette of the ring around the
Maypole, than to the high-bred descendant of an ancient baron. A touch
of audacity, altogether short of effrontery, and far less approaching
to vulgarity, gave as it were a wildness to all that she did; and
Mary, while defending her from some of the occasional censures of her
grave companion, compared her to a trained singing-bird escaped from a
cage, which practises in all the luxuriance of freedom, and in full
possession of the greenwood bough, the airs which it had learned
during its earlier captivity.

The moments which the page was permitted to pass in the presence of
this fascinating creature, danced so rapidly away, that, brief as they
were, they compensated the weary dulness of all the rest of the day.
The space of indulgence, however, was always brief, nor were any
private interviews betwixt him and Catharine permitted, or even
possible. Whether it were some special precaution respecting the
Queen's household, or whether it were her general ideas of propriety,
Dame Fleming seemed particularly attentive to prevent the young people
from holding any separate correspondence together, and bestowed, for
Catharine's sole benefit in this matter, the full stock of prudence
and experience which she had acquired, when mother of the Queen's
maidens of honour, and by which she had gained their hearty hatred.
Casual meetings, however, could not be prevented, unless Catherine had
been more desirous of shunning, or Roland Graeme less anxious in
watching for them. A smile, a gibe, a sarcasm, disarmed of its
severity by the arch look with which it was accompanied, was all that
time permitted to pass between them on such occasions. But such
passing interviews neither afforded means nor opportunity to renew the
discussion of the circumstances attending their earlier acquaintance,
nor to permit Roland to investigate more accurately the mysterious
apparition of the page in the purple velvet cloak at the hostelrie of
Saint Michael's.

The winter months slipped heavily away, and spring was already
advanced, when Roland Graeme observed a gradual change in the manners
of his fellow-prisoners. Having no business of his own to attend to,
and being, like those of his age, education, and degree, sufficiently
curious concerning what passed around, he began by degrees to suspect,
and finally to be convinced, that there was something in agitation
among his companions in captivity, to which they did not desire that
he should be privy. Nay, he became almost certain that, by some means
unintelligible to him, Queen Mary held correspondence beyond the walls
and waters which surrounded her prison-house, and that she nourished
some secret hope of deliverance or escape. In the conversations
betwixt her and her attendants, at which he was necessarily present,
the Queen could not always avoid showing that she was acquainted with
the events which were passing abroad in the world, and which he only
heard through her report. He observed that she wrote more and worked
less than had been her former custom, and that, as if desirous to lull
suspicion asleep, she changed her manner towards the Lady Lochleven
into one more gracious, and which seemed to express a resigned
submission to her lot. "They think I am blind," he said to himself,
"and that I am unfit to be trusted because I am so young, or it may be
because I was sent hither by the Regent. Well!--be it so--they may be
glad to confide in me in the long run; and Catherine Seyton, for as
saucy as she is, may find me as safe a confidant as that sullen
Douglas, whom she is always running after. It may be they are angry
with me for listening to Master Elias Henderson; but it was their own
fault for sending me there, and if the man speaks truth and good
sense, and preaches only the word of God, he is as likely to be right
as either Pope or Councils."

It is probable that in this last conjecture, Roland Graeme had hit
upon the real cause why the ladies had not intrusted him with their
councils. He had of late had several conferences with Henderson on the
subject of religion, and had given him to understand that he stood in
need of his instructions, although he had not thought there was either
prudence or necessity for confessing that hitherto he had held the
tenets of the Church of Rome.

Elias Henderson, a keen propagator of the reformed faith, had sought
the seclusion of Lochleven Castle, with the express purpose and
expectation of making converts from Rome amongst the domestics of the
dethroned Queen, and confirming the faith of those who already held
the Protestant doctrines. Perhaps his hopes soared a little higher,
and he might nourish some expectation of a proselyte more
distinguished in the person of the deposed Queen. But the pertinacity
with which she and her female attendants refused to see or listen to
him, rendered such hope, if he nourished it, altogether abortive.

The opportunity, therefore, of enlarging the religious information of
Roland Graeme, and bringing him to a more due sense of his duties to
Heaven, was hailed by the good man as a door opened by Providence for
the salvation of a sinner. He dreamed not, indeed, that he was
converting a Papist, but such was the ignorance which Roland displayed
upon some material points of the reformed doctrine, that Master
Henderson, while praising his docility to the Lady Lochleven and her
grandson, seldom failed to add, that his venerable brother, Henry
Warden, must be now decayed in strength and in mind, since he found a
catechumen of his flock so ill-grounded in the principles of his
belief. For this, indeed, Roland Graeme thought it was unnecessary to
assign the true reason, which was his having made it a point of honour
to forget all that Henry Warden taught him, as soon as he was no
longer compelled to read it over as a lesson acquired by rote. The
lessons of his new instructor, if not more impressively delivered,
were received by a more willing ear, and a more awakened
understanding, and the solitude of Lochleven Castle was favourable to
graver thoughts than the page had hitherto entertained. He wavered
yet, indeed, as one who was almost persuaded; but his attention to the
chaplain's instructions procured him favour even with the stern old
dame herself; and he was once or twice, but under great precaution,
permitted to go to the neighbouring village of Kinross, situated on
the mainland, to execute some ordinary commission of his unfortunate
mistress.

For some time Roland Graeme might be considered as standing neuter
betwixt the two parties who inhabited the water-girdled Tower of
Lochleven; but, as he rose in the opinion of the Lady of the Castle
and her chaplain, he perceived, with great grief, that he lost ground
in that of Mary and her female allies.

He came gradually to be sensible that he was regarded as a spy upon
their discourse, and that, instead of the ease with which they had
formerly conversed in his presence, without suppressing any of the
natural feelings of anger, of sorrow, or mirth, which the chance topic
of the moment happened to call forth, their talk was now guardedly
restricted to the most indifferent subjects, and a studied reserve
observed even in their mode of treating these. This obvious want of
confidence was accompanied with a correspondent change in their
personal demeanor towards the unfortunate page. The Queen, who had at
first treated him with marked courtesy, now scarce spoke to him, save
to convey some necessary command for her service. The Lady Fleming
restricted her notice to the most dry and distant expressions of
civility, and Catherine Seyton became bitter in her pleasantries, and
shy, cross, and pettish, in any intercourse they had together. What
was yet more provoking, he saw, or thought he saw, marks of
intelligence betwixt George Douglas and the beautiful Catherine
Seyton; and, sharpened by jealousy, he wrought himself almost into a
certainty, that the looks which they exchanged, conveyed matters of
deep and serious import. "No wonder," he thought, "if, courted by the
son of a proud and powerful baron, she can no longer spare a word or
look to the poor fortuneless page."

In a word, Roland Graeme's situation became truly disagreeable, and
his heart naturally enough rebelled against the injustice of this
treatment, which deprived him of the only comfort which he had
received for submitting to a confinement in other respects irksome. He
accused Queen Mary and Catherine Seyton (for concerning the opinion of
Dame Fleming he was indifferent) of inconsistency in being displeased
with him on account of the natural consequences of an order of their
own. Why did they send him to hear this overpowering preacher? The
Abbot Ambrosius, he recollected, understood the weakness of their
Popish cause better, when he enjoined him to repeat within his own
mind, _aves_, and _credos_, and _paters_, all the while
old Henry Warden preached or lectured, that so he might secure himself
against lending even a momentary ear to his heretical doctrine. "But I
will endure this life no longer," said he to himself, manfully; "do
they suppose I would betray my mistress, because I see cause to doubt
of her religion?--that would be a serving, as they say, the devil for
God's sake. I will forth into the world--he that serves fair ladies,
may at least expect kind looks and kind words; and I bear not the mind
of a gentleman, to submit to cold treatment and suspicion, and a
life-long captivity besides. I will speak to George Douglas to-morrow
when we go out a-fishing."

A sleepless night was spent in agitating this magnanimous resolution,
and he arose in the morning not perfectly decided in his own mind
whether he should abide by it or not. It happened that he was summoned
by the Queen at an unusual hour, and just as he was about to go out
with George Douglas. He went to attend her commands in, the garden;
but as he had his angling-rod in his hand, the circumstance announced
his previous intention, and the Queen, turning to the Lady Fleming,
said, "Catherine must devise some other amusement for us, _ma bonnie
amie_; our discreet page has already made his party for the day's
pleasure."

"I said from the beginning," answered the Lady Fleming, "that your
Grace ought not to rely on being favoured with the company of a youth
who has so many Huguenot acquaintances, and has the means of amusing
himself far more agreeably than with us."

"I wish," said Catherine, her animated features reddening with
mortification, "that his friends would sail away with him for good,
and bring us in return a page (if such a thing can be found) faithful
to his Queen and to his religion."

"One part of your wishes may be granted, madam," said Roland Graeme,
unable any longer to restrain his sense of the treatment which he
received on all sides; and he was about to add, "I heartily wish you a
companion in my room, if such can be found, who is capable of enduring
women's caprices without going distracted." Luckily, he recollected
the remorse which he had felt at having given way to the vivacity of
his temper upon a similar occasion; and, closing his lips, imprisoned,
until it died on his tongue, a reproach so misbecoming the presence of
majesty.

"Why do you remain there," said the Queen, "as if you were rooted to
the parterre?"

"I but attend your Grace's commands," said the page.

"I have none to give you--Begone, sir."

As he left the garden to go to the boat, he distinctly heard Mary
upbraid one of her attendants in these words:--"You see to what you
have exposed us!"

This brief scene at once determined Roland Graeme's resolution to quit
the castle, if it were possible, and to impart his resolution to
George Douglas without loss of time. That gentleman, in his usual mood
of silence, sate in the stern of the little skiff which they used on
such occasions, trimming his fishing-tackle, and, from time to time,
indicating by signs to Graeme, who pulled the oars, which way he
should row. When they were a furlong or two from the castle, Roland
rested on the oars, and addressed his companion somewhat abruptly,--"I
have something of importance to say to you, under your pleasure, fair
sir."

The pensive melancholy of Douglas's countenance at once gave way to
the eager, keen, and startled look of one who expects to hear
something of deep and alarming import.

"I am wearied to the very death of this Castle of Lochleven,"
continued Roland.

"Is that all?" said Douglas; "I know none of its inhabitants who are
much better pleased with it."

"Ay, but I am neither a native of the house, nor a prisoner in it, and
so I may reasonably desire to leave it."

"You might desire to quit it with equal reason," answered Douglas, "if
you were both the one and the other."

"But," said Roland Graeme, "I am not only tired of living in Lochleven
Castle, but I am determined to quit it."

"That is a resolution more easily taken than executed," replied
Douglas.

"Not if yourself, sir, and your Lady Mother, choose to consent,"
answered the page.

"You mistake the matter, Roland," said Douglas; "you will find that
the consent of two other persons is equally essential--that of the
Lady Mary your mistress, and that of my uncle the Regent, who placed
you about her person, and who will not think it proper that she should
change her attendants so soon."

"And must I then remain whether I will or no?" demanded the page,
somewhat appalled at a view of the subject, which would have occurred
sooner to a person of more experience.

"At least," said George Douglas, "you must will to remain till my
uncle consents to dismiss you."

"Frankly," said the page, "and speaking to you as a gentleman who is
incapable of betraying me, I will confess, that if I thought myself a
prisoner here, neither walls nor water should confine me long."

"Frankly," said Douglas, "I could not much blame you for the attempt;
yet, for all that, my father, or uncle, or the earl, or any of my
brothers, or in short any of the king's lords into whose hands you
fell, would in such a case hang you like a dog, or like a sentinel who
deserts his post; and I promise you that you will hardly escape them.
But row towards Saint Serf's island--there is a breeze from the west,
and we shall have sport, keeping to windward of the isle, where the
ripple is strongest. We will speak more of what you have mentioned
when we have had an hour's sport."

Their fishing was successful, though never did two anglers pursue even
that silent and unsocial pleasure with less of verbal intercourse.

When their time was expired, Douglas took the oars in his turn, and by
his order Roland Graeme steered the boat, directing her course upon
the landing-place at the castle. But he also stopped in the midst of
his course, and, looking around him, said to Graeme, "There is a thing
which I could mention to thee; but it is so deep a secret, that even
here, surrounded as we are by sea and sky, without the possibility of
a listener, I cannot prevail on myself to speak it out."

"Better leave it unspoken, sir," answered Roland Graeme, "if you doubt
the honour of him who alone can hear it."

"I doubt not your honour," replied George Douglas; "but you are young,
imprudent, and changeful."

"Young," said Roland, "I am, and it may be imprudent--but who hath
informed you that I am changeful?"

"One that knows you, perhaps, better than you know yourself," replied
Douglas.

"I suppose you mean Catherine Seyton," said the page, his heart rising
as he spoke; "but she is herself fifty times more variable in her
humour than the very water which we are floating upon."

"My young acquaintance," said Douglas, "I pray you to remember that
Catherine Seyton is a lady of blood and birth, and must not be lightly
spoken of."

"Master George of Douglas," said Graeme, "as that speech seemed to be
made under the warrant of something like a threat, I pray you to
observe, that I value not the threat at the estimation of a fin of one
of these dead trouts; and, moreover, I would have you to know that the
champion who undertakes the defence of every lady of blood and birth,
whom men accuse of change of faith and of fashion, is like to have
enough of work on his hands."

"Go to," said the Seneschal, but in a tone of good-humour, "thou art a
foolish boy, unfit to deal with any matter more serious than the
casting of a net, or the flying of a hawk."

"If your secret concern Catherine Seyton," said the page, "I care not
for it, and so you may tell her if you will. I wot she can shape you
opportunity to speak with her, as she has ere now."

The flush which passed over Douglas's face, made the page aware that
he had alighted on a truth, when he was, in fact, speaking at random;
and the feeling that he had done so, was like striking a dagger into
his own heart. His companion, without farther answer, resumed the
oars, and pulled lustily till they arrived at the island and the
castle. The servants received the produce of their spoil, and the two
fishers, turning from each other in silence, went each to his several
apartment.

Roland Graeme had spent about an hour in grumbling against Catherine
Seyton, the Queen, the Regent, and the whole house of Lochleven, with
George Douglas at the head of it, when the time approached that his
duty called him to attend the meal of Queen Mary. As he arranged his
dress for this purpose, he grudged the trouble, which, on similar
occasions, he used, with boyish foppery, to consider as one of the
most important duties of his day; and when he went to take his place
behind the chair of the Queen, it was with an air of offended dignity,
which could not escape her observation, and probably appeared to her
ridiculous enough, for she whispered something in French to her
ladies, at which the lady Fleming laughed, and Catherine appeared half
diverted and half disconcerted. This pleasantry, of which the subject
was concealed from him, the unfortunate page received, of course, as a
new offence, and called an additional degree of sullen dignity into
his mien, which might have exposed him to farther raillery, but that
Mary appeared disposed to make allowance for and compassionate his
feelings.

With the peculiar tact and delicacy which no woman possessed in
greater perfection, she began to soothe by degrees the vexed spirit of
her magnanimous attendant. The excellence of the fish which he had
taken in his expedition, the high flavour and beautiful red colour of
the trouts, which have long given distinction to the lake, led her
first to express her thanks to her attendant for so agreeable an
addition to her table, especially upon a _jour de jeune_; and
then brought on inquiries into the place where the fish had been
taken, their size, their peculiarities, the times when they were in
season, and a comparison between the Lochleven trouts and those which
are found in the lakes and rivers of the south of Scotland. The ill
humour of Roland Graeme was never of an obstinate character. It rolled
away like mist before the sun, and he was easily engaged in a keen and
animated dissertation about Lochleven trout, and sea trout, and river
trout, and bull trout, and char, which never rise to a fly, and par,
which some suppose infant salmon, and _herlings_, which frequent
the Nith, and _vendisses_, which are only found in the
Castle-Loch of Lochmaben; and he was hurrying on with the eager
impetuosity and enthusiasm of a young sportsman, when he observed that
the smile with which the Queen at first listened to him died languidly
away, and that, in spite of her efforts to suppress them, tears rose
to her eyes. He stopped suddenly short, and, distressed in his turn,
asked, "If he had the misfortune unwittingly to give displeasure to
her Grace?"

"No, my poor boy," replied the Queen; "but as you numbered up the
lakes and rivers of my kingdom, imagination cheated me, as it will do,
and snatched me from these dreary walls away to the romantic streams
of Nithsdale, and the royal towers of Lochmaben.--O land, which my
fathers have so long ruled! of the pleasures which you extend so
freely, your Queen is now deprived, and the poorest beggar, who may
wander free from one landward town to another, would scorn to change
fates with Mary of Scotland!"

"Your highness," said the Lady Fleming, "will do well to withdraw."

"Come with me, then, Fleming," said the Queen, "I would not burden
hearts so young as these are, with the sight of my sorrows."

She accompanied these words with a look of melancholy compassion
towards Roland and Catherine, who were now left alone together in the
apartment.

The page found his situation not a little embarrassing; for, as every
reader has experienced who may have chanced to be in such a situation,
it is extremely difficult to maintain the full dignity of an offended
person in the presence of a beautiful girl, whatever reason we may
have for being angry with her. Catherine Seyton, on her part, sate
still like a lingering ghost, which, conscious of the awe which its
presence imposes, is charitably disposed to give the poor confused
mortal whom it visits, time to recover his senses, and comply with the
grand rule of demonology by speaking first. But as Roland seemed in
no hurry to avail himself of her condescension, she carried it a step
farther, and herself opened the conversation.

"I pray you, fair sir, if it may be permitted me to disturb your
august reverie by a question so simple,--what may have become of your
rosary?"

"It is lost, madam--lost some time since," said Roland, partly
embarrassed and partly indignant.

"And may I ask farther, sir," said Catherine, "why you have not
replaced it with another?--I have half a mind," she said, taking from
her pocket a string of ebony beads adorned with gold, "to bestow one
upon yon, to keep for my sake, just to remind you of former
acquaintance."

There was a little tremulous accent in the tone with which these words
were delivered, which at once put to flight Roland Graeme's
resentment, and brought him to Catherine's side; but she instantly
resumed the bold and firm accent which was more familiar to her. "I
did not bid you," she said, "come and sit so close by me; for the
acquaintance that I spoke of, has been stiff and cold, dead and
buried, for this many a day."

"Now Heaven forbid!" said the page, "it has only slept, and now that
you desire it should awake, fair Catherine, believe me that a pledge
of your returning favour--"

"Nay, nay," said Catherine, withholding the rosary, towards which, as
he spoke, he extended his hand, "I have changed my mind on better
reflection. What should a heretic do with these holy beads, that have
been blessed by the father of the church himself?"

Roland winced grievously, for he saw plainly which way the discourse
was now likely to tend, and felt that it must at all events be
embarrassing. "Nay, but," he said, "it was as a token of your own
regard that you offered them."

"Ay, fair sir, but that regard attended the faithful subject, the
loyal and pious Catholic, the individual who was so solemnly devoted
at the same time with myself to the same grand duty; which, you must
now understand, was to serve the church and Queen. To such a person,
if you ever heard of him, was my regard due, and not to him who
associates with heretics, and is about to become a renegado."

"I should scarce believe, fair mistress," said Roland, indignantly,
"that the vane of your favour turned only to a Catholic wind,
considering that it points so plainly to George Douglas, who, I think,
is both kingsman and Protestant."

"Think better of George Douglas," said Catherine, "than to believe--"
and then checking herself, as if she had spoken too much, she went on,
"I assure you, fair Master Roland, that all who wish you well are
sorry for you."

"Their number is very few, I believe," answered Roland, "and their
sorrow, if they feel any, not deeper than ten minutes' time will
cure."

"They are more numerous, and think more deeply concerning you, than
you seem to be aware," answered Catherine. "But perhaps they think
wrong--You are the best judge in your own affairs; and if you prefer
gold and church-lands to honour and loyalty, and the faith of your
fathers, why should you be hampered in conscience more than others?"

"May Heaven bear witness for me," said Roland, "that if I entertain
any difference of opinion--that is, if I nourish any doubts in point
of religion, they have been adopted on the conviction of my own mind,
and the suggestion of my own conscience!"

"Ay, ay, your conscience--your conscience!" repeated she with satiric
emphasis; "your conscience is the scape-goat; I warrant it an able
one--it will bear the burden of one of the best manors of the Abbey
of Saint Mary of Kennaquhair", lately forfeited to our noble Lord the
King, by the Abbot and community thereof, for the high crime of
fidelity to their religious vows, and now to be granted by the High
and Mighty Traitor, and so forth, James Earl of Murray, to the good
squire of dames Roland Graeme, for his loyal and faithful service as
under-espial, and deputy-turnkey, for securing the person of his
lawful sovereign, Queen Mary."

"You misconstrue me cruelly," said the page; "yes, Catherine, most
cruelly--God knows I would protect this poor lady at the risk of my
life, or with my life; but what can I do--what can any one do for
her?"

"Much may be done--enough may be done--all may be done--if men will be
but true and honourable, as Scottish men were in the days of Bruce and
Wallace. Oh, Roland, from what an enterprise you are now withdrawing
your heart and hand, through mere fickleness and coldness of spirit!"

"How can I withdraw," said Roland, "from an enterprise which has never
been communicated to me?--Has the Queen, or have you, or has any one,
communicated with me upon any thing for her service which I have
refused? Or have you not, all of you, held me at such distance from
your counsels, as if I were the most faithless spy since the days of
Ganelon?" [Footnote: Gan, Gano, or Ganelon of Mayence, is in the
Romances on the subject of Charlemagne and his Paladins, always
represented as the traitor by whom the Christian champions are
betrayed.]

"And who," said Catherine Seyton, "would trust the sworn friend, and
pupil, and companion, of the heretic preacher Henderson? ay--a proper
tutor you have chosen, instead of the excellent Ambrosius, who is now
turned out of house and homestead, if indeed he is not languishing in
a dungeon, for withstanding the tyranny of Morton, to whose brother
the temporalities of that noble house of God have been gifted away by
the Regent."

"Is it possible?" said the page; "and is the excellent Father Ambrose
in such distress?"

"He would account the news of your falling away from the faith of your
fathers," answered Catherine, "a worse mishap than aught that tyranny
can inflict on himself."

"But why," said Roland, very much moved, "why should you suppose
that--that--that it is with me as you say?"

"Do you yourself deny it?" replied Catherine; "do you not admit that
you have drunk the poison which you should have dashed from your lips?
--Do you deny that it now ferments in your veins, if it has not
altogether corrupted the springs of life?--Do you deny that you have
your doubts, as you proudly term them, respecting what popes and
councils have declared it unlawful to doubt of?--Is not your faith
wavering, if not overthrown?--Does not the heretic preacher boast his
conquest?--Does not the heretic woman of this prison-house hold up thy
example to others?--Do not the Queen and the Lady Fleming believe in
thy falling away?--And is there any except one--yes, I will speak it
out, and think as lightly as you please of my good-will--is there one
except myself that holds even a lingering hope that you may yet prove
what we once all believed of you?"

"I know not," said our poor page, much embarrassed by the view which
was thus presented to him of the conduct he was expected to pursue,
and by a person in whom he was not the less interested that, though
long a resident in Lochleven Castle, with no object so likely to
attract his undivided attention, no lengthened interview had taken
place since they had first met,--"I know not what you expect of me,
or fear from me. I was sent hither to attend Queen Mary, and to her I
acknowledge the duty of a servant through life and death. If any one
had expected service of another kind, I was not the party to render
it. I neither avow nor disclaim the doctrines of the reformed
church.--Will you have the truth?--It seems to me that the profligacy
of the Catholic clergy has brought this judgment on their own heads,
and, for aught I know, it may be for their reformation. But, for
betraying this unhappy Queen, God knows I am guiltless of the thought.
Did I even believe worse of her, than as her servant I wish--as her
subject I dare to do--I would not betray her--far from it--I would aid
her in aught which could tend to a fair trial of her cause."

"Enough! enough!" answered Catherine, clasping her hands together;
"then thou wilt not desert us if any means are presented, by which,
placing our Royal Mistress at freedom, this case may be honestly tried
betwixt her and her rebellious subjects?"

"Nay--but, fair Catherine," replied the page, "hear but what the Lord
of Murray said when he sent me hither."--

"Hear but what the devil said," replied the maiden, "rather than what
a false subject, a false brother, a false counsellor, a false friend,
said! A man raised from a petty pensioner on the crown's bounty, to be
the counsellor of majesty, and the prime distributor of the bounties
of the state;--one with whom rank, fortune, title, consequence, and
power, all grew up like a mushroom, by the mere warm good-will of the
sister, whom, in requital, he hath mewed up in this place of
melancholy seclusion--whom, in farther requital, he has deposed, and
whom, if he dared, he would murder!"

"I think not so ill of the Earl of Murray," said Roland Graeme; "and
sooth to speak," he added, with a smile, "it would require some bribe
to make me embrace, with firm and desperate resolution, either one
side or the other."

"Nay, if that is all," replied Catherine Seyton, in a tone of
enthusiasm, "you shall be guerdoned with prayers from oppressed
subjects--from dispossessed clergy--from insulted nobles--with
immortal praise by future ages--with eager gratitude by the
present--with fame on earth, and with felicity in heaven! Your country
will thank you--your Queen will be debtor to you--you will achieve at
once the highest from the lowest degree in chivalry--all men will
honour, all women will love you--and I, sworn with you so early to the
accomplishment of Queen Mary's freedom, will--yes, I will--love you
better than--ever sister loved brother!" "Say on--say on!" whispered
Roland, kneeling on one knee, and taking her hand, which, in the
warmth of exhortation, Catherine held towards him.

"Nay," said she, pausing, "I have already said too much--far too
much, if I prevail not with you--far too little if I do. But I
prevail," she continued, seeing that the countenance of the youth she
addressed returned the enthusiasm of her own--"I prevail; or rather
the good cause prevails through its own strength--thus I devote thee
to it." And as she spoke she approached her finger to the brow of the
astonished youth, and, without touching it, signed the cross over his
forehead--stooped her face towards him, and seemed to kiss the empty
space in which she had traced the symbol; then starting up, and
extricating herself from his grasp, darted into the Queen's apartment.

Roland Graeme remained as the enthusiastic maiden had left him,
kneeling on one knee, with breath withheld, and with eyes fixed upon
the space which the fairy form of Catherine Seyton had so lately
occupied. If his thoughts were not of unmixed delight, they at least
partook of that thrilling and intoxicating, though mingled sense of
pain and pleasure, the most over-powering which life offers in its
blended cup. He rose and retired slowly; and although the chaplain Mr.
Henderson preached on that evening his best sermon against the errors
of Popery, I would not engage that he was followed accurately through
the train of his reasoning by the young proselyte, with a view to
whose especial benefit he had handled the subject.

Sir Walter Scott