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Chapter 27

See on yon verdant lawn, the gathering crowd
Thickens amain; the buxom nymphs advance,
Usher'd by jolly clowns; distinctions cease,
Lost in the common joy, and the bold slave
Leans on his wealthy master unreproved.
Rural Games.--SOMERVILLLE.

The re-appearance of the dignified Chamberlain on the street of the
village was eagerly hailed by the revellers, as a pledge that the
play, or dramatic representation, which had been postponed owing to
his absence, was now full surely to commence. Any thing like an
approach to this most interesting of all amusements, was of recent
origin in Scotland, and engaged public attention in proportion. All
other sports were discontinued. The dance around the Maypole was
arrested--the ring broken up and dispersed, while the dancers, each
leading his partner by the hand, tripped, off to the silvan theatre. A
truce was in like manner achieved betwixt a huge brown bear and
certain mastiffs, who were tugging and pulling at his shaggy coat,
under the mediation of the bear-ward and half a dozen butchers and
yeomen, who, by dint of _staving and tailing_, as it was
technically termed, separated the unfortunate animals, whose fury had
for an hour past been their chief amusement. The itinerant minstrel
found himself deserted by the audience he had collected, even in the
most interesting passage of the romance which he recited, and just as
he was sending about his boy, with bonnet in hand, to collect their
oblations. He indignantly stopped short in the midst of _Rosewal and
Lilian_, and, replacing his three-stringed fiddle, or rebeck, in
its leathern case, followed the crowd, with no good-will, to the
exhibition which had superseded his own. The juggler had ceased his
exertions of emitting flame and smoke, and was content to respire in
the manner of ordinary mortals, rather than to play gratuitously the
part of a fiery dragon. In short, all other sports were suspended, so
eagerly did the revellers throng towards the place of representation.

They would err greatly, who should regulate their ideas of this
dramatic exhibition upon those derived from a modern theatre; for the
rude shows of Thespis were far less different from those exhibited by
Euripides on the stage of Athens, with all its magnificent decorations
and pomp of dresses and of scenery. In the present case, there were no
scenes, no stage, no machinery, no pit, box, and gallery, no
box-lobby; and, what might in poor Scotland be some consolation for
other negations, there was no taking of money at the door. As in the
devices of the magnanimous Bottom, the actors had a greensward plot
for a stage, and a hawthorn bush for a greenroom and tiring-house; the
spectators being accommodated with seats on the artificial bank which
had been raised around three-fourths of the playground, the remainder
being left open for the entrance and exit of the performers. Here
sate the uncritical audience, the Chamberlain in the centre, as the
person highest in office, all alive to enjoyment and admiration, and
all therefore dead to criticism.

The characters which appeared and disappeared before the amused and
interested audience, were those which fill the earlier stage in all
nations--old men, cheated by their wives and daughters, pillaged by
their sons, and imposed on by their domestics, a braggadocia captain,
a knavish pardoner or quaestionary, a country bumpkin and a wanton
city dame. Amid all these, and more acceptable than almost the whole
put together, was the all-licensed fool, the Gracioso of the Spanish
drama, who, with his cap fashioned into the resemblance of a coxcomb,
and his bauble, a truncheon terminated by a carved figure wearing a
fool's cap, in his hand, went, came, and returned, mingling in every
scene of the piece, and interrupting the business, without having any
share himself in the action, and ever and anon transferring his gibes
from the actors on the stage to the audience who sate around, prompt
to applaud the whole.

The wit of the piece, which was not of the most polished kind, was
chiefly directed against the superstitious practices of the Catholic
religion; and the stage artillery had on this occasion been levelled
by no less a person than Doctor Lundin, who had not only commanded the
manager of the entertainment to select one of the numerous satires
which had been written against the Papists, (several of which were
cast in a dramatic form,) but had even, like the Prince of Denmark,
caused them to insert, or according to his own phrase, to infuse here
and there, a few pleasantries of his own penning, on the same
inexhaustible subject, hoping thereby to mollify the rigour of the
Lady of Lochleven towards pastimes of this description. He failed not
to jog Roland's elbow, who was sitting in state behind him, and
recommend to his particular attention those favourite passages. As for
the page, to whom, the very idea of such an exhibition, simple as it
was, was entirely new, he beheld it with the undiminished and ecstatic
delight with which men of all ranks look for the first time on
dramatic representation, and laughed, shouted, and clapped his hands
as the performance proceeded. An incident at length took place, which
effectually broke off his interest in the business of the scene.

One of the principal personages in the comic part of the drama was, as
we have already said, a quaestionary or pardoner, one of those
itinerants who hawked about from place to place relics, real or
pretended, with which he excited the devotion at once, and the charity
of the populace, and generally deceived both the one and the other.
The hypocrisy, impudence, and profligacy of these clerical wanderers,
had made them the subject of satire from the time of Chaucer down to
that of Heywood. Their present representative failed not to follow the
same line of humour, exhibiting pig's bones for relics, and boasting
the virtues of small tin crosses, which had been shaken in the holy
porringer at Loretto, and of cockleshells, which had been brought from
the shrine of Saint James of Compostella, all which he disposed of to
the devout Catholics at nearly as high a price as antiquaries are now
willing to pay for baubles of similar intrinsic value. At length the
pardoner pulled from his scrip a small phial of clear water, of which
he vaunted the quality in the following verses:--

Listneth, gode people, everiche one
For in the londe of Babylone,
Far eastward I wot it lyeth,
And is the first londe the sonne espieth,
Ther, as he cometh fro out the sé;
In this ilk londe, as thinketh me,
Right as holie legendes tell.
Snottreth from a roke a well,
And falleth into ane bath of ston,
Where chaste Susanne, in times long gon,

Wax wont to wash her bodie and lim
Mickle vertue hath that streme,
As ye shall se er that ye pas,
Ensample by this little glas--
Through nightés cold and dayés hote
Hiderward I have it brought;
Hath a wife made slip or side,
Or a maiden stepp'd aside,
Putteth this water under her nese,
Wold she nold she, she shall snese.

The jest, as the reader skilful in the antique language of the drama
must at once perceive, turned on the same pivot as in the old minstrel
tales of the Drinking Horn of King Arthur, and the Mantle made Amiss.
But the audience were neither learned nor critical enough to challenge
its want of originality. The potent relic was, after such grimace and
buffoonery as befitted the subject, presented successively to each of
the female personages of the drama, not one of whom sustained the
supposed test of discretion; but, to the infinite delight of the
audience, sneezed much louder and longer than perhaps they themselves
had counted on. The jest seemed at last worn threadbare, and the
pardoner was passing on to some new pleasantry, when the jester or
clown of the drama, possessing himself secretly of the phial which
contained the wondrous liquor, applied it suddenly to the nose of a
young woman, who, with her black silk muffler, or screen drawn over
her face, was sitting in the foremost rank of the spectators, intent
apparently upon the business of the stage. The contents of the phial,
well calculated to sustain the credit of the pardoner's legend, set
the damsel a-sneezing violently, an admission of frailty which was
received with shouts of rapture by the audience. These were soon,
however, renewed at the expense of the jester himself, when the
insulted maiden extricated, ere the paroxysm was well over, one hand
from the folds of her mantle, and bestowed on the wag a buffet, which
made him reel fully his own length from the pardoner, and then
acknowledge the favour by instant prostration.

No one pities a jester overcome in his vocation, and the clown met
with little sympathy, when, rising from the ground, and whimpering
forth his complaints of harsh treatment, he invoked the assistance and
sympathy of the audience. But the Chamberlain, feeling his own dignity
insulted, ordered two of his halberdiers to bring the culprit before
him. When these official persons first approached the virago, she
threw herself into an attitude of firm defiance, as if determined to
resist their authority; and from the sample of strength and spirit
which she had already displayed, they showed no alacrity at executing
their commission. But on half a minute's reflection, the damsel
changed totally her attitude and manner, folded her cloak around her
arms in modest and maiden-like fashion, and walked of her own accord
to the presence of the great man, followed and guarded by the two
manful satellites. As she moved across the vacant space, and more
especially as she stood at the footstool of the Doctor's
judgment-seat, the maiden discovered that lightness and elasticity of
step, and natural grace of manner, which connoisseurs in female beauty
know to be seldom divided from it. Moreover, her neat russet-coloured
jacket, and short petticoat of the same colour, displayed a handsome
form and a pretty leg. Her features were concealed by the screen; but
the Doctor, whose gravity did not prevent his pretensions to be a
connoisseur of the school we have hinted at, saw enough to judge
favourably of the piece by the sample.

He began, however, with considerable austerity of manner.--"And how
now, saucy quean!" said the medical man of office; "what have you to
say why I should not order you to be ducked in the loch, for lifting
your hand to the man in my presence?"

"Marry," replied the culprit, "because I judge that your honour will
not think the cold bath necessary for my complaints."

"A pestilent jade," said the Doctor, whispering to Roland Graeme; "and
I'll warrant her a good one--her voice is as sweet as sirup.--But, my
pretty maiden," said he, "you show us wonderful little of that
countenance of yours--be pleased to throw aside your muffler."

"I trust your honour will excuse me till we are more private,"
answered the maiden; "for I have acquaintance, and I should like ill
to be known in the country as the poor girl whom that scurvy knave put
his jest upon."

"Fear nothing for thy good name, my sweet little modicum of candied
manna," replied the Doctor, "for I protest to you, as I am Chamberlain
of Lochleven, Kinross, and so forth, that the chaste Susanna herself
could not have snuffed that elixir without sternutation, being in
truth a curious distillation of rectified _acetum_, or vinegar of
the sun, prepared by mine own hands--Wherefore, as thou sayest thou
wilt come to me in private, and express thy contrition for the offence
whereof thou hast been guilty, I command that all for the present go
forward as if no such interruption of the prescribed course had taken

The damsel curtsied and tripped back to her place. The play proceeded,
but it no longer attracted the attention of Roland Graeme.

The voice, the figure, and what the veil permitted to be seen of the
neck and tresses of the village damsel, bore so strong a resemblance
to those of Catherine Seyton, that he felt like one bewildered in the
mazes of a changeful and stupifying dream. The memorable scene of the
hostelrie rushed on his recollection, with all its doubtful and
marvellous circumstances. Were the tales of enchantment which he had
read in romances realized in this extraordinary girl? Could she
transport herself from the walled and guarded Castle of Lochleven,
moated with its broad lake, (towards which he cast back a look as if
to ascertain it was still in existence,) and watched with such
scrupulous care as the safety of a nation demanded?--Could she
surmount all these obstacles, and make such careless and dangerous use
of her liberty, as to engage herself publicly in a quarrel in a
village fair? Roland was unable to determine whether the exertions
which it must have cost her to gain her freedom or the use to which
she had put it, rendered her the most unaccountable creature.

Lost in these meditations, he kept his gaze fixed on the subject of
them; and in every casual motion, discovered, or thought he
discovered, something which reminded him still more strongly of
Catherine Seyton. It occurred to him more than once, indeed, that he
might be deceiving himself by exaggerating some casual likeness into
absolute identity. But then the meeting at the hostelrie of Saint
Michael's returned to his mind, and it seemed in the highest degree
improbable, that, under such various circumstances, mere imagination
should twice have found opportunity to play him the selfsame trick.
This time, however, he determined to have his doubts resolved, and for
this purpose he sate during the rest of the play like a greyhound in
the slip, ready to spring upon the hare the instant that she was
started. The damsel, whom he watched attentively lest she should
escape in the crowd when the spectacle was closed, sate as if
perfectly unconscious that she was observed. But the worthy Doctor
marked the direction of his eyes, and magnanimously suppressed his own
inclination to become the Theseus to this Hippolyta, in deference to
the rights of hospitality, which enjoined him to forbear interference
with the pleasurable pursuits of his young friend. He passed one or
two formal gibes upon the fixed attention which the page paid to the
unknown, and upon his own jealousy; adding, however, that if both were
to be presented to the patient at once, he had little doubt she would
think the younger man the sounder prescription. "I fear me," he
added, "we shall have no news of the knave Auchtermuchty for some
time, since the vermin whom I sent after him seem to have proved
corbie-messengers. So you have an hour or two on your hands, Master
Page; and as the minstrels are beginning to strike up, now the play is
ended, why, an you incline for a dance, yonder is the green, and there
sits your partner--I trust you will hold me perfect in my diagnostics,
since I see with half an eye what disease you are sick of, and have
administered a pleasing remedy.

"_Discernit sapiens res_ (as Chambers hath it) _quas
confundit asellus_."

The page hardly heard the end of the learned adage, or the charge
which the Chamberlain gave him to be within reach, in case of the
wains arriving suddenly, and sooner than expected--so eager he was at
once to shake himself free of his learned associate, and to satisfy
his curiosity regarding the unknown damsel. Yet in the haste with
which he made towards her he found time to reflect, that, in order to
secure an opportunity of conversing with her in private, he must not
alarm her at first accosting her. He therefore composed his manner
and gait, and advancing with becoming self-confidence before three or
four country-fellows who were intent on the same design, but knew not
so well how to put their request into shape, he acquainted her that
he, as the deputy of the venerable Chamberlain, requested the honour
of her hand as a partner.

"The venerable Chamberlain," said the damsel frankly, reaching the
page her hand, "does very well to exercise this part of his privilege
by deputy; and I suppose the laws of the revels leave me no choice but
to accept of his faithful delegate."

"Provided, fair damsel," said the page, "his choice of a delegate is
not altogether distasteful to you."

"Of that, fair sir," replied the maiden, "I will tell you more when we
have danced the first measure."

Catherine Seyton had admirable skill in gestic lore, and was sometimes
called on to dance for the amusement of her royal mistress. Roland
Graeme had often been a spectator of her skill, and sometimes, at the
Queen's command, Catherine's partner on such occasions. He was,
therefore, perfectly acquainted with Catherine's mode of dancing; and
observed that his present partner, in grace, in agility, in quickness
of ear, and precision of execution, exactly resembled her, save that
the Scottish jig, which he now danced with her, required a more
violent and rapid motion, and more rustic agility, than the stately
pavens, lavoltas, and courantoes, which he had seen her execute in the
chamber of Queen Mary. The active duties of the dance left him little
time for reflection, and none for conversation; but when their _pas
de deux_ was finished, amidst the acclamations of the villagers,
who had seldom witnessed such an exhibition, he took an opportunity,
when they yielded up the green to another couple, to use the privilege
of a partner and enter into conversation with the mysterious maiden,
whom he still held by the hand.

"Fair partner, may I not crave the name of her who has graced me
thus far?"

"You may," said the maiden; "but it is a question whether I shall
answer you."

"And why?" asked Roland.

"Because nobody gives anything for nothing--and you can tell me
nothing in return which I care to hear."

"Could I not tell you my name and lineage, in exchange for yours?"
returned Roland.

"No!" answered the maiden, "for you know little of either."

"How?" said the page, somewhat angrily.

"Wrath you not for the matter," said the damsel; "I will show you in
an instant that I know more of you than you do of yourself."

"Indeed," answered Graeme; "for whom then do you take me?"

"For the wild falcon," answered she, "whom a dog brought in his mouth
to a certain castle, when he was but an unfledged eyas--for the hawk
whom men dare not fly, lest he should check at game, and pounce on
carrion--whom folk must keep hooded till he has the proper light of
his eyes, and can discover good from evil."

"Well--be it so," replied Roland Graeme; "I guess at a part of your
parable, fair mistress mine--and perhaps I know as much of you as you
do of me, and can well dispense with the information which you are so
niggard in giving."

"Prove that," said the maiden, "and I will give you credit for more
penetration than I judged you to be gifted withal."

"It shall be proved instantly," said Roland Graeme. "The first letter
of your name is S, and the last N."

"Admirable," said his partner, "guess on."

"It pleases you to-day," continued Roland, "to wear the snood and
kirtle, and perhaps you may be seen to-morrow in hat and feather, hose
and doublet."

"In the clout! in the clout! you have hit the very white," said the
damsel, suppressing a great inclination to laugh.

"You can switch men's eyes out of their heads, as well as the heart
out of their bosoms."

These last words were uttered in a low and tender tone, which, to
Roland's great mortification, and somewhat to his displeasure, was so
far from allaying, that it greatly increased, his partner's
disposition to laughter. She could scarce compose herself while she
replied, "If you had thought my hand so formidable," extricating it
from his hold, "you would not have grasped it so hard; but I perceive
you know me so fully, that there is no occasion to show you my face."

"Fair Catherine," said the page, "he were unworthy ever to have seen
you, far less to have dwelt so long in the same service, and under the
same roof with you, who could mistake your air, your gesture, your
step in walking or in dancing, the turn of your neck, the symmetry of
your form--none could be so dull as not to recognize you by so many
proofs; but for me, I could swear even to that tress of hair that
escapes from under your muffler."

"And to the face, of course, which that muffler covers," said the
maiden, removing her veil, and in an instant endeavouring to replace
it. She showed the features of Catherine; but an unusual degree of
petulant impatience inflamed them, when, from some awkwardness in her
management of the muffler, she was unable again to adjust it with that
dexterity which was a principal accomplishment of the coquettes of the

"The fiend rive the rag to tatters!" said the damsel, as the veil
fluttered about her shoulders, with an accent so earnest and decided,
that it made the page start. He looked again at the damsel's face, but
the information which his eyes received, was to the same purport as
before. He assisted her to adjust her muffler, and both were for an
instant silent. The damsel spoke first, for Roland Graeme was
overwhelmed with surprise at the contrarieties which Catherine Seyton
seemed to include in her person and character.

"You are surprised," said the damsel to him, "at what you see and hear
--But the times which make females men, are least of all fitted for
men to become women; yet you yourself are in danger of such a change."

"I in danger of becoming effeminate!" said the page.

"Yes, you, for all the boldness of your reply," said the damsel. "When
you should hold fast your religion, because it is assailed on all
sides by rebels, traitors, and heretics, you let it glide out of your
breast like water grasped in the hand. If you are driven from the
faith of your fathers from fear of a traitor, is not that
womanish?--If you are cajoled by the cunning arguments of a trumpeter
of heresy, or the praises of a puritanic old woman, is not that
womanish?--If you are bribed by the hope of spoil and preferment, is
not that womanish?--And when you wonder at my venting a threat or an
execration, should you not wonder at yourself, who, pretending to a
gentle name and aspiring to knighthood, can be at the same time
cowardly, silly, and self-interested!"

"I would that a man would bring such a charge," said the page; "he
should see, ere his life was a minute older, whether he had cause to
term me coward or no."

"Beware of such big words," answered the maiden; "you said but anon
that I sometimes wear hose and doublet."

"But remain still Catharine Seyton, wear what you list," said the
page, endeavouring again to possess himself of her hand.

"You indeed are pleased to call me so," replied the maiden, evading
his intention, "but I have many other names besides."

"And will you not reply to that," said the page, "by which you are
distinguished beyond every other maiden in Scotland?"

The damsel, unallured by his praises, still kept aloof, and sung with
gaiety a verse from an old ballad,

"Oh, some do call me Jack, sweet love,
And some do call me Gill;
But when I ride to Holyrood,
My name is Wilful Will."

"Wilful Will" exclaimed the page, impatiently; "say rather Will o' the
Wisp--Jack with the Lantern--for never was such a deceitful or
wandering meteor!"

"If I be such," replied the maiden, "I ask no fools to follow me--If
they do so, it is at their own pleasure, and must be on their own
proper peril."

"Nay, but, dearest Catherine," said Roland Graeme, "be for one instant

"If you will call me your dearest Catherine, when I have given you so
many names to choose upon," replied the damsel, "I would ask you how,
supposing me for two or three hours of my life escaped from yonder
tower, you have the cruelty to ask me to be serious during the only
merry moments I have seen perhaps for months?"

"Ay, but, fair Catherine, there are moments of deep and true feeling,
which are worth ten thousand years of the liveliest mirth; and such
was that of yesterday, when you so nearly--"

"So nearly what?" demanded the damsel, hastily.

"When you approached your lips so near to the sign you had traced on
my forehead."

"Mother of Heaven!" exclaimed she, in a yet fiercer tone, and with a
more masculine manner than she had yet exhibited,-"Catherine Seyton
approach her lips to a man's brow, and thou that man!--vassal, thou

The page stood astonished; but, conceiving he had alarmed the damsel's
delicacy by alluding to the enthusiasm of a moment, and the manner in
which she had expressed it, he endeavoured to falter forth an apology.
His excuses, though he was unable to give them any regular shape, were
accepted by his companion, who had indeed suppressed her indignation
after its first explosion--"Speak no more on't," she said. "And now
let us part; our conversation may attract more notice than is
convenient for either of us."

"Nay, but allow me at least to follow you to some sequestered place."

"You dare not," replied the maiden.

"How," said the youth, "dare not? where is it you dare go, where I
dare not follow?"

"You fear a Will o' the Wisp," said the damsel; "how would you face a
fiery dragon, with an enchantress mounted on its back?"

"Like Sir Eger, Sir Grime, or Sir Greysteil," said the page; "but be
there such toys to be seen here?"

"I go to Mother Nicneven's," answered the maid; "and she is witch
enough to rein the horned devil, with a red silk thread for a bridle,
and a rowan-tree switch for a whip."

"I will follow you," said the page.

"Let it be at some distance," said the maiden.

And wrapping her mantle round her with more success than on her former
attempt, she mingled with the throng, and walked towards the village,
heedfully followed by Roland Graeme at some distance, and under every
precaution which he could use to prevent his purpose from being

Sir Walter Scott