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Chapter 28

Yes, it is he whose eyes look'd on thy childhood,
And watch'd with trembling hope thy dawn of youth,
That now, with these same eyeballs dimm'd with age,
And dimmer yet with tears, sees thy dishonour.

At the entrance of the principal, or indeed, so to speak, the only
street in Kinross, the damsel, whose steps were pursued by Roland
Graeme, cast a glance behind her, as if to be certain he had not lost
trace of her and then plunged down a very narrow lane which ran
betwixt two rows of poor and ruinous cottages. She paused for a second
at the door of one of those miserable tenements, again cast her eye up
the lane towards Roland, then lifted the latch, opened the door, and
disappeared from his view.

With whatever haste the page followed her example, the difficulty
which he found in discovering the trick of the latch, which did not
work quite in the usual manner, and in pushing open the door, which
did not yield to his first effort, delayed for a minute or two his
entrance into the cottage. A dark and smoky passage led, as usual,
betwixt the exterior wall of the house, and the _hallan_, or clay
wall, which served as a partition betwixt it and the interior. At the
end of this passage, and through the partition, was a door leading
into the _ben_, or inner chamber of the cottage, and when Roland
Graeme's hand was upon the latch of this door, a female voice
pronounced, "_Benedictus qui veniat in nomine Domini, damnandus qui
in nomine inimici._" On entering the apartment, he perceived the
figure which the chamberlain had pointed out to him as Mother
Nicneven, seated beside the lowly hearth. But there was no other
person in the room. Roland Graeme gazed around in surprise at the
disappearance of Catherine Seyton, without paying much regard to the
supposed sorceress, until she attracted and riveted his regard by the
tone in which she asked him--"What seekest thou here?"

"I seek," said the page, with much embarrassment; "I seek--"

But his answer was cut short, when the old woman, drawing her huge
gray eyebrows sternly together, with a frown which knitted her brow
into a thousand wrinkles, arose, and erecting herself up to her full
natural size, tore the kerchief from her head, and seizing Roland by
the arm, made two strides across the floor of the apartment to a small
window through which the light fell full on her face, and showed the
astonished youth the countenance of Magdalen Graeme.--"Yes, Roland,"
she said, "thine eyes deceive thee not; they show thee truly the
features of her whom thou hast thyself deceived, whose wine thou hast
turned into gall, her bread of joyfulness into bitter poison, her hope
into the blackest despair--it is she who now demands of thee, what
seekest thou here?--She whose heaviest sin towards Heaven hath been,
that she loved thee even better than the weal of the whole church, and
could not without reluctance surrender thee even in the cause of
God--she now asks you, what seekest thou here?"

While she spoke, she kept her broad black eye riveted on the youth's
face, with the expression with which the eagle regards his prey ere he
tears it to pieces. Roland felt himself at the moment incapable either
of reply or evasion. This extraordinary enthusiast had preserved over
him in some measure the ascendency which she had acquired during his
childhood; and, besides, he knew the violence of her passions and her
impatience of contradiction, and was sensible that almost any reply
which he could make, was likely to throw her into an ecstasy of rage.
He was therefore silent; and Magdalen Graeme proceeded with increasing
enthusiasm in her apostrophe--"Once more, what seek'st thou, false
boy?--seek'st thou the honour thou hast renounced, the faith thou hast
abandoned, the hopes thou hast destroyed?--Or didst thou seek me, the
sole protectress of thy youth, the only parent whom thou hast known,
that thou mayest trample on my gray hairs, even as thou hast already
trampled on the best wishes of my heart?"

"Pardon me, mother," said Roland Graeme; "but, in truth and reason, I
deserve not your blame. I have been treated amongst you--even by
yourself, my revered parent, as well as by others--as one who lacked
the common attributes of free-will and human reason, or was at least
deemed unfit to exercise them. A land of enchantment have I been led
into, and spells have been cast around me--every one has met me in
disguise--every one has spoken to me in parables--I have been like one
who walks in a weary and bewildering dream; and now you blame me that
I have not the sense, and judgment, and steadiness of a waking, and a
disenchanted, and a reasonable man, who knows what he is doing, and
wherefore he does it. If one must walk with masks and spectres, who
waft themselves from place to place as it were in vision rather than
reality, it might shake the soundest faith and turn the wisest head. I
sought, since I must needs avow my folly, the same Catherine Seyton
with whom you made me first acquainted, and whom I most strangely find
in this village of Kinross, gayest among the revellers, when I had but
just left her in the well-guarded castle of Lochleven, the sad
attendant of an imprisoned Queen-I sought her, and in her place I find
you, my mother, more strangely disguised than even she is."

"And what hadst thou to do with Catherine Seyton?" said the matron,
sternly; "is this a time or a world to follow maidens, or to dance
around a Maypole? When the trumpet summons every true-hearted Scotsman
around the standard of the true sovereign, shalt thou be found
loitering in a lady's bower?"

"No, by Heaven, nor imprisoned in the rugged walls of an island
castle!" answered Roland Graeme: "I would the blast were to sound even
now, for I fear that nothing less loud will dispel the chimerical
visions by which I am surrounded."

"Doubt not that it will be winded," said the matron, "and that so
fearfully loud, that Scotland will never hear the like until the last
and loudest blast of all shall announce to mountain and to valley that
time is no more. Meanwhile, be thou but brave and constant--Serve God
and honour thy sovereign--Abide by thy religion--I cannot--I will
not--I dare not ask thee the truth of the terrible surmises I have
heard touching thy falling away--perfect not that accursed
sacrifice--and yet, even at this late hour, thou mayest be what I have
hoped for the son of my dearest hope--what say I? the son of _my_
hope--thou shalt be the hope of Scotland, her boast and her
honour!--Even thy wildest and most foolish wishes may perchance be
fulfilled--I might blush to mingle meaner motives with the noble
guerdon I hold out to thee--It shames me, being such as I am, to
mention the idle passions of youth, save with contempt and the purpose
of censure. But we must bribe children to wholesome medicine by the
offer of cates, and youth to honourable achievement with the promise
of pleasure. Mark me, therefore, Roland. The love of Catherine Seyton
will follow him only who shall achieve the freedom of her mistress;
and believe, it may be one day in thine own power to be that happy
lover. Cast, therefore, away doubt and fear, and prepare to do what
religion calls for, what thy country demands of thee, what thy duty as
a subject and as a servant alike require at your hand; and be assured,
even the idlest or wildest wishes of thy heart will be most readily
attained by following the call of thy duty."

As she ceased speaking, a double knock was heard against the inner
door. The matron hastily adjusting her muffler, and resuming her chair
by the hearth, demanded who was there.

"_Salve in nomine sancto_," was answered from without.

"_Salvete et vos_," answered Magdalen Graeme.

And a man entered in the ordinary dress of a nobleman's retainer,
wearing at his girdle a sword and buckler--"I sought you," said he,
"my mother, and him whom I see with you." Then addressing himself to
Roland Graeme, he said to him, "Hast thou not a packet from George

"I have," said the page, suddenly recollecting that which had been
committed to his charge in the morning, "but I may not deliver it to
any one without some token that they have a right to ask it."

"You say well," replied the serving-man, and whispered into his ear,
"The packet which I ask is the report to his father--will this token

"It will," replied the page, and taking the packet from his bosom,
gave it to the man.

"I will return presently," said the serving-man, and left the cottage.

Roland had now sufficiently recovered his surprise to accost his
relative in turn, and request to know the reason why he found her in
so precarious a disguise, and a place so dangerous--"You cannot be
ignorant," he said, "of the hatred that the Lady of Lochleven bears to
those of your--that is of our religion--your present disguise lays you
open to suspicion of a different kind, but inferring no less hazard;
and whether as a Catholic, or as a sorceress, or as a friend to the
unfortunate Queen, you are in equal danger, if apprehended within the
bounds of the Douglas; and in the chamberlain who administers their
authority, you have, for his own reasons, an enemy, and a bitter one."

"I know it," said the matron, her eyes kindling with triumph; "I know
that, vain of his school-craft, and carnal wisdom, Luke Lundin views
with jealousy and hatred the blessings which the saints have conferred
on my prayers, and on the holy relics, before the touch, nay, before
the bare presence of which, disease and death have so often been known
to retreat.--I know he would rend and tear me; but there is a chain
and a muzzle on the ban dog that shall restrain his fury, and the
Master's servant shall not be offended by him until the Master's work
is wrought. When that hour comes, let the shadows of the evening
descend on me in thunder and in tempest; the time shall be welcome
that relieves my eyes from seeing guilt, and my ears from listening to
blasphemy. Do thou but be constant--play thy part as I have played and
will play mine, and my release shall be like that of a blessed martyr
whose ascent to heaven angels hail with psalm and song, while earth
pursues him with hiss and with execration."

As she concluded, the serving-man again entered the cottage, and said,
"All is well! the time holds for to-morrow night."

"What time? what holds?" exclaimed Roland Graeme; "I trust I have
given the Douglas's packet to no wrong--"

"Content yourself, young man," answered the serving-man; "thou hast
my word and token."

"I know not if the token be right," said the page; "and I care not
much for the word of a stranger."

"What," said the matron, "although thou mayest have given a packet
delivered to thy charge by one of the Queen's rebels into the hand of
a loyal subject--there were no great mistake in that, thou hot-brained

"By Saint Andrew, there were foul mistake, though," answered the page;
"it is the very spirit of my duty, in this first stage of chivalry, to
be faithful to my trust; and had the devil given me a message to
discharge, I would not (so I had plighted my faith to the contrary)
betray his counsel to an angel of light."

"Now, by the love I once bore thee," said the matron, "I could slay
thee with mine own hand, when I hear thee talk of a dearer faith being
due to rebels and heretics, than thou owest to thy church and thy

"Be patient, my good sister," said the serving-man; "I will give him
such reasons as shall counterbalance the scruples which beset
him---the spirit is honourable, though now it may be mistimed and
misplaced.--Follow me, young man."

"Ere I go to call this stranger to a reckoning," said the page to the
matron, "is there nothing I can do for your comfort and safety?"

"Nothing," she replied, "nothing, save what will lead more to thine
own honour;--the saints who have protected me thus far, will lend me
succour as I need it. Tread the path of glory that is before thee, and
only think of me as the creature on earth who will be most delighted
to hear of thy fame.--Follow the stranger--he hath tidings for you
that you little expect."

The stranger remained on the threshold as if waiting for Roland, and
as soon as he saw him put himself in motion, he moved on before at a
quick pace. Diving still deeper down the lane, Roland perceived that
it was now bordered by buildings upon the one side only, and that the
other was fenced by a high old wall, over which some trees extended
their branches. Descending a good way farther, they came to a small
door in the wall. Roland's guide paused, looked around an instant to
see if any one were within sight, then taking a key from his pocket,
opened the door and entered, making a sign to Roland Graeme to follow
him. He did so, and the stranger locked the door carefully on the
inside. During this operation the page had a moment to look around,
and perceived that he was in a small orchard very trimly kept.

The stranger led him through an alley or two, shaded by trees loaded
with summer-fruit, into a pleached arbour, where, taking the turf-seat
which was on the one side, he motioned to Roland to occupy that which
was opposite to him, and, after a momentary silence, opened the
conversation as follows: "You have asked a better warrant than the
word of a mere stranger, to satisfy you that I have the authority of
George of Douglas for possessing myself of the packet intrusted to
your charge."

"It is precisely the point on which I demand reckoning of you," said
Roland. "I fear I have acted hastily; if so, I must redeem my error as
I best may."

"You hold me then as a perfect stranger?" said the man. "Look at my
face more attentively, and see if the features do not resemble those
of a man much known to you formerly."

Roland gazed attentively; but the ideas recalled to his mind were so
inconsistent with the mean and servile dress of the person before him,
that he did not venture to express the opinion which he was
irresistibly induced to form.

"Yes, my son," said the stranger, observing his embarrassment, "you do
indeed see before you the unfortunate Father Ambrosius, who once
accounted his ministry crowned in your preservation from the snares of
heresy, but who is now condemned to lament thee as a castaway!"

Roland Graeme's kindness of heart was at least equal to his vivacity
of temper--he could not bear to see his ancient and honoured master
and spiritual guide in a situation which inferred a change of fortune
so melancholy, but throwing himself at his feet, grasped his knees and
wept aloud.

"What mean these tears, my son?" said the Abbot; "if they are shed for
your own sins and follies, surely they are gracious showers, and may
avail thee much--but weep not, if they fall on my account. You indeed
see the Superior of the community of Saint Mary's in the dress of a
poor sworder, who gives his master the use of his blade and buckler,
and, if needful, of his life, for a coarse livery coat and four marks
by the year. But such a garb suits the time, and, in the period of
the church militant, as well becomes her prelates, as staff, mitre,
and crosier, in the days of the church's triumph."

"By what fate," said the page--"and yet why," added he, checking
himself, "need I ask? Catherine Seyton in some sort prepared me for
this. But that the change should be so absolute--the destruction so

"Yes, my son," said the Abbot Ambrosius, "thine own eyes beheld, in my
unworthy elevation to the Abbot's stall, the last especial act of holy
solemnity which shall be seen in the church of Saint Mary's, until it
shall please Heaven to turn back the captivity of the church. For the
present, the shepherd is smitten--ay, well-nigh to the earth--the
flock are scattered, and the shrines of saints and martyrs, and pious
benefactors to the church, are given to the owls of night, and the
satyrs of the desert."

"And your brother, the Knight of Avenel--could he do nothing for your

"He himself hath fallen under the suspicion of the ruling powers,"
said the Abbot, "who are as unjust to their friends as they are cruel
to their enemies. I could not grieve at it, did I hope it might
estrange him from his cause; but I know the soul of Halbert, and I
rather fear it will drive him to prove his fidelity to their unhappy
cause, by some deed which may be yet more destructive to the church,
and more offensive to Heaven. Enough of this; and now to the business
of our meeting.--I trust you will hold it sufficient if I pass my word
to you that the packet of which you were lately the bearer, was
designed for my hands by George of Douglas?"

"Then," said the page, "is George of Douglas----"

"A true friend to his Queen, Roland; and will soon, I trust, have his
eyes opened to the errors of his (miscalled) church."

"But what is he to his father, and what to the Lady of Lochleven, who
has been as a mother to him?" said the page impatiently.

"The best friend to both, in time and through eternity," said the
Abbot, "if he shall prove the happy instrument for redeeming the evil
they have wrought, and are still working."

"Still," said the page, "I like not that good service which begins in
breach of trust."

"I blame not thy scruples, my son," said the Abbot; "but the time
which has wrenched asunder the allegiance of Christians to the church,
and of subjects to their king, has dissolved all the lesser bonds of
society; and, in such days, mere human ties must no more restrain our
progress, than the brambles and briers which catch hold of his
garments, should delay the path of a pilgrim who travels to pay his

"But, my father,"--said the youth, and then stopt short in a
hesitating manner.

"Speak on, my son," said the Abbot; "speak without fear."

"Let me not offend you then," said Roland, "when I say, that it is
even this which our adversaries charge against us; when they say that,
shaping the means according to the end, we are willing to commit great
moral evil in order that we may work out eventual good."

"The heretics have played their usual arts on you, my son," said the
Abbot; "they would willingly deprive us of the power of acting wisely
and secretly, though their possession of superior force forbids our
contending with them on terms of equality. They have reduced us to a
state of exhausted weakness, and now would fain proscribe the means by
which weakness, through all the range of nature, supplies the lack of
strength and defends itself against its potent enemies. As well might
the hound say to the hare, use not these wily turns to escape me, but
contend with me in pitched battle, as the armed and powerful heretic
demand of the down-trodden and oppressed Catholic to lay aside the
wisdom of the serpent, by which alone they may again hope to raise up
the Jerusalem over which they weep, and which it is their duty to
rebuild--But more of this hereafter. And now, my son, I command thee
on thy faith to tell me truly and particularly what has chanced to
thee since we parted, and what is the present state of thy conscience.
Thy relation, our sister Magdalen, is a woman of excellent gifts,
blessed with a zeal which neither doubt nor danger can quench; but yet
it is not a zeal altogether according to knowledge; wherefore, my son,
I would willingly be myself thy interrogator, and thy counsellor, in
these days of darkness and stratagem."

With the respect which he owed to his first instructor, Roland Graeme
went rapidly through the events which the reader is acquainted with;
and while he disguised not from the prelate the impression which had
been made on his mind by the arguments of the preacher Henderson, he
accidentally and almost involuntarily gave his Father Confessor to
understand the influence which Catherine Seyton had acquired over his

"It is with joy I discover, my dearest son," replied the Abbot, "that
I have arrived in time to arrest thee on the verge of the precipice to
which thou wert approaching. These doubts of which you complain, are
the weeds which naturally grow up in a strong soil, and require the
careful hand of the husbandman to eradicate them. Thou must study a
little volume, which I will impart to thee in fitting time, in which,
by Our Lady's grace, I have placed in somewhat a clearer light than
heretofore, the points debated betwixt us and these heretics, who sow
among the wheat the same tares which were formerly privily mingled
with the good seed by the Albigenses and the Lollards. But it is not
by reason alone that you must hope to conquer these insinuations of
the enemy: It is sometimes by timely resistance, but oftener by timely
flight. You must shut your ears against the arguments of the
heresiarch, when circumstances permit you not to withdraw the foot
from his company. Anchor your thoughts upon the service of Our Lady,
while he is expending in vain his heretical sophistry. Are you unable
to maintain your attention on heavenly objects--think rather on thine
own earthly pleasures, than tempt Providence and the Saints by giving
an attentive ear to the erring doctrine--think of thy hawk, thy hound,
thine angling rod, thy sword and buckler--think even of Catherine
Seyton, rather than give thy soul to the lessons of the tempter. Alas!
my son, believe not that, worn out with woes, and bent more by
affliction than by years, I have forgotten the effect of beauty over
the heart of youth. Even in the watches of the night, broken by
thoughts of an imprisoned Queen, a distracted kingdom, a church laid
waste and ruinous, come other thoughts than these suggest, and
feelings which belonged to an earlier and happier course of life. Be
it so--we must bear our load as we may: and not in vain are these
passions implanted in our breast, since, as now in thy case, they may
come in aid of resolutions founded upon higher grounds. Yet beware, my
son--this Catherine Seyton is the daughter of one of Scotland's
proudest, as well as most worthy barons; and thy state may not suffer
thee, as yet, to aspire so high. But thus it is--Heaven works its
purposes through human folly; and Douglas's ambitious affection, as
well as thine, shall contribute alike to the desired end."

"How, my father," said the page, "my suspicions are then
true!--Douglas loves----"

"He does; and with a love as much misplaced as thine own; but beware
of him--cross him not--thwart him not."

"Let him not cross or thwart me," said the page; "for I will not yield
him an inch of way, had he in his body the soul of every Douglas that
has lived since the time of the Dark Gray Man." [Footnote: By an
ancient, though improbable tradition, the Douglasses are said to have
derived their name from a champion who had greatly distinguished
himself in an action. When the king demanded by whom the battle had
been won, the attendants are said to have answered, "Sholto Douglas,
sir;" which is said to mean, "Yonder dark gray man." But the name is
undoubtedly territorial, and taken from Douglas river and vale.]

"Nay, have patience, idle boy, and reflect that your suit can never
interfere with his.--But a truce with these vanities, and let us
better employ the little space which still remains to us to spend
together. To thy knees, my son, and resume the long-interrupted duty
of confession, that, happen what may, the hour may find in thee a
faithful Catholic, relieved from the guilt of his sins by authority of
the Holy Church. Could I but tell thee, Roland, the joy with which I
see thee once more put thy knee to its best and fittest use! _Quid
dicis, mi fili?_"

"_Culpas meas_" answered the youth; and according to the ritual
of the Catholic Church, he confessed and received absolution, to which
was annexed the condition of performing certain enjoined penances.

When this religious ceremony was ended, an old man, in the dress of a
peasant of the better order, approached the arbour, and greeted the
Abbot.--"I have waited the conclusion of your devotions," he said, "to
tell you the youth is sought after by the chamberlain, and it were
well he should appear without delay. Holy Saint Francis, if the
halberdiers were to seek him here, they might sorely wrong my
garden-plot--they are in office, and reck not where they tread, were
each step on jessamine and clovegilly-flowers."

"We will speed him forth, my brother," said the Abbot; "but alas! is
it possible that such trifles should live in your mind at a crisis so
awful as that which is now impending?"

"Reverend father," answered the proprietor of the garden, for such he
was, "how oft shall I pray you to keep your high counsel for high
minds like your own? What have you required of me, that I have not
granted unresistingly, though with an aching heart?"

"I would require of you to be yourself, my brother," said the Abbot
Ambrosius; "to remember what you were, and to what your early vows
have bound you."

"I tell thee, Father Ambrosius," replied the gardener, "the patience
of the best saint that ever said pater-noster, would be exhausted by
the trials to which you have put mine--What I have been, it skills not
to speak at present-no one knows better than yourself, father, what I
renounced, in hopes to find ease and quiet during the remainder of my
days--and no one better knows how my retreat has been invaded, my
fruit-trees broken, my flower-beds trodden down, my quiet frightened
away, and my very sleep driven from my bed, since ever this poor
Queen, God bless her, hath been sent to Lochleven.--I blame her not;
being a prisoner, it is natural she should wish to get out from so
vile a hold, where there is scarcely any place even for a tolerable
garden, and where the water-mists, as I am told, blight all the early
blossoms--I say, I cannot blame her for endeavouring for her freedom;
but why I should be drawn into the scheme--why my harmless arbours,
that I planted with my own hands, should become places of privy
conspiracy-why my little quay, which I built for my own fishing boat,
should have become a haven for secret embarkations--in short, why I
should be dragged into matters where both heading and hanging are like
to be the issue, I profess to you, reverend father, I am totally

"My brother," answered the Abbot, "you are wise, and ought to

"I am not--I am not--I am not wise," replied the horticulturist,
pettishly, and stopping his ears with his fingers--"I was never called
wise but when men wanted to engage me in some action of notorious

"But, my good brother," said the Abbot--

"I am not good neither," said the peevish gardener; "I am neither good
nor wise--Had I been wise, you would not have been admitted here; and
were I good, methinks I should send you elsewhere to hatch plots for
destroying the quiet of the country. What signifies disputing about
queen or king,--when men may sit at peace--_sub umbra vitis sui?_
and so would I do, after the precept of Holy Writ, were I, as you term
me, wise or good. But such as I am, my neck is in the yoke, and you
make me draw what weight you list.--Follow me, youngster. This
reverend father, who makes in his jackman's dress nearly as reverend a
figure as I myself, will agree with me in one thing at least, and that
is, that you have been long enough here."

"Follow the good father, Roland," said the Abbot, "and remember my
words--a day is approaching that will try the temper of all true
Scotsmen--may thy heart prove faithful as the steel of thy blade!"

The page bowed in silence, and they parted; the gardener,
notwithstanding his advanced age, walking on before him very briskly,
and muttering as he went, partly to himself, partly to his companion,
after the manner of old men of weakened intellects--"When I was
great," thus ran his maundering, "and had my mule and my ambling
palfrey at command, I warrant you I could have as well flown through
the air as have walked at this pace. I had my gout and my rheumatics,
and an hundred things besides, that hung fetters on my heels; and,
now, thanks to Our Lady, and honest labour, I can walk with any good
man of my age in the kingdom of Fife--Fy upon it, that experience
should be so long in coming!"

As he was thus muttering, his eye fell upon the branch of a pear-tree
which drooped down for want of support, and at once forgetting his
haste, the old man stopped and set seriously about binding it up.
Roland Graeme had both readiness, neatness of hand, and good nature in
abundance; he immediately lent his aid, and in a minute or two the
bough was supported, and tied up in a way perfectly satisfactory to
the old man, who looked at it with great complaisance. "They are
bergamots," he said, "and if you will come ashore in autumn, you shall
taste of them--the like are not in Lochleven Castle--the garden there
is a poor pin-fold, and the gardener, Hugh Houkham, hath little skill
of his craft--so come ashore, Master Page, in autumn, when you would
eat pears. But what am I thinking of--ere that time come, they may
have given thee sour pears for plums. Take an old man's advice, youth,
one who hath seen many days, and sat in higher places than thou canst
hope for--bend thy sword into a pruning-hook, and make a dibble of thy
dagger--thy days shall be the longer, and thy health the better for
it,--and come to aid me in my garden, and I will teach thee the real
French fashion of _imping_, which the Southron call graffing. Do
this, and do it without loss of time, for there is a whirlwind coming
over the land, and only those shall escape who lie too much beneath
the storm to have their boughs broken by it."

So saying, he dismissed Roland Graeme, through a different door from
that by which he had entered, signed a cross, and pronounced a
benedicite as they parted, and then, still muttering to himself,
retired into the garden, and locked the door on the inside.

Sir Walter Scott