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 30


In some breasts passion lies conceal'd and silent,
Like war's swart powder in a castle vault,
Until occasion, like the linstock, lights it:
Then comes at once the lightning--and the thunder,
And distant echoes tell that all is rent asunder.
OLD PLAY.

Roland Graeme, availing himself of a breach in the holly screen, and
of the assistance of the full moon, which was now arisen, had a
perfect opportunity, himself unobserved, to reconnoitre the persons
and the motions of those by whom his rest had been thus unexpectedly
disturbed; and his observations confirmed his jealous apprehensions.
They stood together in close and earnest conversation within four
yards of the place of his retreat, and he could easily recognize the
tall form and deep voice of Douglas, and the no less remarkable dress
and tone of the page at the hostelry of Saint Michael's.

"I have been at the door of the page's apartment," said Douglas, "but
he is not there, or he will not answer. It is fast bolted on the
inside, as is the custom, and we cannot pass through it--and what his
silence may bode I know not."

"You have trusted him too far," said the other; "a feather-headed
cox-comb, upon whose changeable mind and hot brain there is no making
an abiding impression."

"It was not I who was willing to trust him," said Douglas, "but I was
assured he would prove friendly when called upon--for----" Here he
spoke so low that Roland lost the tenor of his words, which was the
more provoking, as he was fully aware that he was himself the subject
of their conversation.

"Nay," replied the stranger, more aloud, "I have on my side put him
off with fair words, which make fools vain--but now, if you distrust
him at the push, deal with him with your dagger, and so make open
passage."

"That were too rash," said Douglas; "and besides, as I told you, the
door of his apartment is shut and bolted. I will essay again to waken
him."

Graeme instantly comprehended, that the ladies, having been somehow
made aware of his being in the garden, had secured the door of the
outer room in which he usually slept, as a sort of sentinel upon that
only access to the Queen's apartments. But then, how came Catherine
Seyton to be abroad, if the Queen and the other lady were still within
their chambers, and the access to them locked and bolted?--"I will be
instantly at the bottom of these mysteries," he said, "and then thank
Mistress Catherine, if this be really she, for the kind use which she
exhorted Douglas to make of his dagger--they seek me, as I comprehend,
and they shall not seek me in vain."

Douglas had by this time re-entered the castle by the wicket, which
was now open. The stranger stood alone in the garden walk, his arms
folded on his breast, and his eyes cast impatiently up to the moon, as
if accusing her of betraying him by the magnificence of her lustre. In
a moment Roland Graeme stood before him--"A goodly night," he said,
"Mistress Catherine, for a young lady to stray forth in disguise, and
to meet with men in an orchard!"

"Hush!" said the stranger page, "hush, thou foolish patch, and tell us
in a word if thou art friend or foe."

"How should I be friend to one who deceives me by fair words, and who
would have Douglas deal with me with his poniard?" replied Roland.

"The fiend receive George of Douglas and thee too, thou born madcap
and sworn marplot!" said the other; "we shall be discovered, and then
death is the word."

"Catherine," said the page, "you have dealt falsely and cruelly with
me, and the moment of explanation is now come--neither it nor you
shall escape me."

"Madman!" said the stranger, "I am neither Kate nor Catherine--the
moon shines bright enough surely to know the hart from the hind."

"That shift shall not serve you, fair mistress," said the page, laying
hold on the lap of the stranger's cloak; "this time, at least, I will
know with whom I deal."

"Unhand me," said she, endeavouring to extricate herself from his
grasp; and in a tone where anger seemed to contend with a desire to
laugh, "use you so little discretion towards a daughter of Seyton?"

But as Roland, encouraged perhaps by her risibility to suppose his
violence was not unpardonably offensive, kept hold on her mantle, she
said, in a sterner tone of unmixed resentment,--"Madman! let me
go!--there is life and death in this moment--I would not willingly
hurt thee, and yet beware!"

As she spoke she made a sudden effort to escape, and, in doing so, a
pistol, which she carried in her hand or about her person, went off.

This warlike sound instantly awakened the well-warded castle. The
warder blew his horn, and began to toll the castle bell, crying out at
the same time, "Fie, treason! treason! cry all! cry all!"

The apparition of Catherine Seyton, which the page had let loose in
the first moment of astonishment, vanished in darkness; but the plash
of oars was heard, and, in a second or two, five or six harquebuses
and a falconet were fired from the battlements of the castle
successively, as if levelled at some object on the water. Confounded
with these incidents, no way for Catherine's protection (supposing her
to be in the boat which he had heard put from the shore) occurred to
Roland, save to have recourse to George of Douglas. He hastened for
this purpose towards the apartment of the Queen, whence he heard loud
voices and much trampling of feet. When he entered, he found himself
added to a confused and astonished group, which, assembled in that
apartment, stood gazing upon each other. At the upper end of the room
stood the Queen, equipped as for a journey, and--attended not only by
the Lady Fleming, but by the omnipresent Catherine Seyton, dressed in
the habit of her own sex, and bearing in her hand the casket in which
Mary kept such jewels as she had been permitted to retain. At the
other end of the hall was the Lady of Lochleven, hastily dressed, as
one startled from slumber by the sudden alarm, and surrounded by
domestics, some bearing torches, others holding naked swords,
partisans, pistols, or such other weapons as they had caught up in the
hurry of a night alarm. Betwixt these two parties stood George of
Douglas, his arms folded on his breast, his eyes bent on the ground,
like a criminal who knows not how to deny, yet continues unwilling to
avow, the guilt in which he has been detected.

"Speak, George of Douglas," said the Lady of Lochleven; "speak, and
clear the horrid suspicion which rests on thy name. Say, 'A Douglas
was never faithless to his trust, and I am a Douglas.' Say this, my
dearest son, and it is all I ask thee to say to clear thy name, even
under, such a foul charge. Say it was but the wile of these unhappy
women, and this false boy, which plotted an escape so fatal to
Scotland--so destructive to thy father's house."

"Madam," said old Dryfesdale the steward, "this much do I say for this
silly page, that he could not be accessary to unlocking the doors,
since I myself this night bolted him out of the castle. Whoever limned
this night-piece, the lad's share in it seems to have been small."

"Thou liest, Dryfesdale," said the Lady, "and wouldst throw the blame
on thy master's house, to save the worthless life of a gipsy boy."

"His death were more desirable to me than his life," answered the
steward, sullenly; "but the truth is the truth."

At these words Douglas raised his head, drew up his figure to its full
height, and spoke boldly and sedately, as one whose resolution was
taken. "Let no life be endangered for me. I alone----"

"Douglas," said the Queen, interrupting him, "art thou mad? Speak
not, I charge you."

"Madam," he replied, bowing with the deepest respect, "gladly would I
obey your commands, but they must have a victim, and let it be the
true one.--Yes, madam," he continued, addressing the Lady of
Lochleven, "I alone am guilty in this matter. If the word of a Douglas
has yet any weight with you, believe me that this boy is innocent; and
on your conscience I charge you, do him no wrong; nor let the Queen
suffer hardship for embracing the opportunity of freedom which sincere
loyalty--which a sentiment yet deeper--offered to her acceptance. Yes!
I had planned the escape of the most beautiful, the most persecuted of
women; and far from regretting that I, for a while, deceived the
malice of her enemies, I glory in it, and am most willing to yield up
life itself in her cause."

"Now may God have compassion on my age," said the Lady of Lochleven,
"and enable me to bear this load of affliction! O Princess, born in a
luckless hour, when will you cease to be the instrument of seduction
and of ruin to all who approach you? O ancient house of Lochleven,
famed so long for birth and honour, evil was the hour which brought
the deceiver under thy roof!"

"Say not so, madam," replied her grandson; "the old honours of the
Douglas line will be outshone, when one of its descendants dies for
the most injured of queens--for the most lovely of women."

"Douglas," said the Queen, "must I at this moment--ay, even at this
moment, when I may lose a faithful subject for ever, chide thee for
forgetting what is due to me as thy Queen?"

"Wretched boy," said the distracted Lady of Lochleven, "hast thou
fallen even thus far into the snare of this Moabitish woman?--hast
thou bartered thy name, thy allegiance, thy knightly oath, thy duty to
thy parents, thy country, and thy God, for a feigned tear, or a sickly
smile, from lips which flattered the infirm Francis--lured to death
the idiot Darnley--read luscious poetry with the minion
Chastelar--mingled in the lays of love which were sung by the beggar
Rizzio--and which were joined in rapture to those of the foul and
licentious Bothwell?"

"Blaspheme not, madam!" said Douglas;--"nor you, fair Queen, and
virtuous as fair, chide at this moment the presumption of thy
vassal!--Think not that the mere devotion of a subject could have
moved me to the part I have been performing. Well you deserve that
each of your lieges should die for you; but I have done more--have
done that to which love alone could compel a Douglas--I have
dissembled. Farewell, then, Queen of all hearts, and Empress of that
of Douglas!--When you are freed from this vile bondage--as freed you
shall be, if justice remains in Heaven--and when you load with honours
and titles the happy man who shall deliver you, cast one thought on
him whose heart would have despised every reward for a kiss of your
hand--cast one thought on his fidelity, and drop one tear on his
grave." And throwing himself at her feet, he seized her hand, and
pressed it to his lips.

"This before my face!" exclaimed the Lady of Lochleven--"wilt thou
court thy adulterous paramour before the eyes of a parent?--Tear them
asunder, and put him under strict ward! Seize him, upon your lives!"
she added, seeing that her attendants looked at each other with
hesitation.

"They are doubtful," said Mary. "Save thyself, Douglas, I command
thee!"

He started up from the floor, and only exclaiming, "My life or death
are yours, and at your disposal!"--drew his sword, and broke through
those who stood betwixt him and the door. The enthusiasm of his onset
was too sudden and too lively to have been opposed by any thing short
of the most decided opposition; and as he was both loved and feared by
his father's vassals, none of them would offer him actual injury.

The Lady of Lochleven stood astonished at his sudden escape--"Am I
surrounded," she said, "by traitors? Upon him, villains!--pursue,
stab, cut him down."

"He cannot leave the island, madam," said Dryfesdale, interfering; "I
have the key of the boat-chain."

But two or three voices of those who pursued from curiosity, or
command of their mistress, exclaimed from below, that he had cast
himself into the lake.

"Brave Douglas still!" exclaimed the Queen--"Oh, true and noble heart,
that prefers death to imprisonment!"

"Fire upon him!" said the Lady of Lochleven; "if there be here a true
servant of his father, let him shoot the runagate dead, and let the
lake cover our shame!"

The report of a gun or two was heard, but they were probably shot
rather to obey the Lady, than with any purpose of hitting the mark;
and Randal immediately entering, said that Master George had been
taken up by a boat from the castle, which lay at a little distance.

"Man a barge, and pursue them!" said the Lady.

"It were quite vain," said Randal; "by this time they are half way to
shore, and a cloud has come over the moon."

"And has the traitor then escaped?" said the Lady, pressing her hands
against her forehead with a gesture of despair; "the honour of our
house is for ever gone, and all will be deemed accomplices in this
base treachery."

"Lady of Lochleven," said Mary, advancing towards her, "you have this
night cut off my fairest hopes--You have turned my expected freedom
into bondage, and dashed away the cup of joy in the very instant I was
advancing it to my lips--and yet I feel for your sorrow the pity that
you deny to mine--Gladly would I comfort you if I might; but as I may
not, I would at least part from you in charity."

"Away, proud woman!" said the Lady; "who ever knew so well as thou to
deal the deepest wounds under the pretence of kindness and
courtesy?--Who, since the great traitor, could ever so betray with a
kiss?"

"Lady Douglas of Lochleven," said the Queen, "in this moment thou
canst not offend me--no, not even by thy coarse and unwomanly
language, held to me in the presence of menials and armed retainers. I
have this night owed so much to one member of the house of Lochleven,
as to cancel whatever its mistress can do or say in the wildness of
her passion."

"We are bounden to you, Princess," said Lady Lochleven, putting a
strong constraint on herself, and passing from her tone of violence to
that of bitter irony; "our poor house hath been but seldom graced with
royal smiles, and will hardly, with my choice, exchange their rough
honesty for such court-honour as Mary of Scotland has now to bestow."

"They," replied Mary, "who knew so well how to _take_, may think
themselves excused from the obligation implied in receiving. And that
I have now little to offer, is the fault of the Douglasses and their
allies."

"Fear nothing, madam," replied the Lady of Lochleven, in the same
bitter tone, "you retain an exchequer which neither your own
prodigality can drain, nor your offended country deprive you of. While
you have fair words and delusive smiles at command, you need no other
bribes to lure youth to folly."

The Queen cast not an ungratified glance on a large mirror, which,
hanging on one side of the apartment, and illuminated by the
torch-light, reflected her beautiful face and person. "Our hostess
grows complaisant," she said, "my Fleming; we had not thought that
grief and captivity had left us so well stored with that sort of
wealth which ladies prize most dearly."

"Your Grace will drive this severe woman frantic," said Fleming, in a
low tone. "On my knees I implore you to remember she is already
dreadfully offended, and that we are in her power."

"I will not spare her, Fleming," answered the Queen; "it is against my
nature. She returned my honest sympathy with insult and abuse, and I
will gall her in return,--if her words are too blunt for answer, let
her use her poniard if she dare!"

"The Lady Lochleven," said the Lady Fleming aloud, "would surely do
well now to withdraw, and to leave her Grace to repose."

"Ay," replied the Lady, "or to leave her Grace, and her Grace's
minions, to think what silly fly they may next wrap their meshes
about. My eldest son is a widower--were he not more worthy the
flattering hopes with which you have seduced his brother?--True, the
yoke of marriage has been already thrice fitted on--but the church of
Rome calls it a sacrament, and its votaries may deem it one in which
they cannot too often participate."

"And the votaries of the church of Geneva," replied Mary, colouring
with indignation, "as they deem marriage _no_ sacrament, are said
at times to dispense with the holy ceremony."--Then, as if afraid of
the consequences of this home allusion to the errors of Lady
Lochleven's early life, the Queen added, "Come, my Fleming, we grace
her too much by this altercation; we will to our sleeping apartment.
If she would disturb us again to-night, she must cause the door to be
forced." So saying, she retired to her bed-room, followed by her two
women.

Lady Lochleven, stunned as it were by this last sarcasm, and not the
less deeply incensed that she had drawn it upon herself, remained like
a statue on the spot which she had occupied when she received an
affront so flagrant. Dryfesdale and Randal endeavoured to rouse her
to recollection by questions.

"What is your honourable Ladyship's pleasure in the premises?"

"Shall we not double the sentinels, and place one upon the boats and
another in the garden?" said Randal.

"Would you that despatches were sent to Sir William at Edinburgh, to
acquaint him with what has happened?" demanded Dryfesdale; "and ought
not the place of Kinross to be alarmed, lest there be force upon the
shores of the lake?"

"Do all as thou wilt," said the Lady, collecting herself, and about to
depart. "Thou hast the name of a good soldier, Dryfesdale, take all
precautions.--Sacred Heaven! that I should be thus openly insulted!"

"Would it be your pleasure," said Dryfesdale, hesitating, "that this
person--this Lady--be more severely restrained?"

"No, vassal!" answered the Lady, indignantly, "my revenge stoops not
to so low a gratification. But I will have more worthy vengeance, or
the tomb of my ancestors shall cover my shame!"

"And you shall have it, madam," replied Dryfesdale--"ere two suns go
down, you shall term yourself amply revenged."

The Lady made no answer--perhaps did not hear his words, as she
presently left the apartment. By the command of Dryfesdale, the rest
of the attendants were dismissed, some to do the duty of guard, others
to their repose. The steward himself remained after they had all
departed; and Roland Graeme, who was alone in the apartment, was
surprised to see the old soldier advance towards him with an air of
greater cordiality than he had ever before assumed to him, but which
sat ill on his scowling features.

"Youth," he said, "I have done thee some wrong--it is thine own fault,
for thy behaviour hath seemed as light to me as the feather thou
wearest in thy hat; and surely thy fantastic apparel, and idle humour
of mirth and folly, have made me construe thee something harshly. But
I saw this night from my casement, (as I looked out to see how thou
hadst disposed of thyself in the garden,) I saw, I say, the true
efforts which thou didst make to detain the companion of the perfidy
of him who is no longer worthy to be called by his father's name, but
must be cut off from his house like a rotten branch. I was just about
to come to thy assistance when the pistol went off; and the warder (a
false knave, whom I suspect to be bribed for the nonce) saw himself
forced to give the alarm, which, perchance, till then he had wilfully
withheld. To atone, therefore, for my injustice towards you, I would
willingly render you a courtesy, if you would accept of it from my
hands."

"May I first crave to know what it is?" replied the page.

"Simply to carry the news of this discovery to Holyrood, where thou
mayest do thyself much grace, as well with the Earl of Morton and the
Regent himself, as with Sir William Douglas, seeing thou hast seen the
matter from end to end, and borne faithful part therein. The making
thine own fortune will be thus lodged in thine own hand, when I trust
thou wilt estrange thyself from foolish vanities, and learn to walk in
this world as one who thinks upon the next."

"Sir Steward," said Roland Graeme, "I thank you for your courtesy, but
I may not do your errand. I pass that I am the Queen's sworn servant,
and may not be of counsel against her. But, setting this apart,
methinks it were a bad road to Sir William of Lochleven's favour, to
be the first to tell him of his son's defection--neither would the
Regent be over well pleased to hear the infidelity of his vassal, nor
Morton to learn the falsehood of his kinsman."

"Um!" said the steward, making that inarticulate sound which expresses
surprise mingled with displeasure. "Nay, then, even fly where ye list;
for, giddy-pated as ye may be, you know how to bear you in the world."

"I will show you my esteem is less selfish than ye think for," said
the page; "for I hold truth and mirth to be better than gravity and
cunning--ay, and in the end to be a match for them.--You never loved
me less, Sir Steward, than you do at this moment. I know you will give
me no real confidence, and I am resolved to accept no false
protestations as current coin. Resume your old course--suspect me as
much and watch me as closely as you will, I bid you defiance--you have
met with your match."

"By Heaven, young man," said the steward, with a look of bitter
malignity, "if thou darest to attempt any treachery towards the House
of Lochleven, thy head shall blacken in the sun from the warder's
turret!"

"He cannot commit treachery who refuses trust," said the page; "and
for my head, it stands as securely on my shoulders, as on any turret
that ever mason built."

"Farewell, thou prating and speckled pie," said Dryfesdale, "that art
so vain of thine idle tongue and variegated coat! Beware trap and
lime-twig."

"And fare thee well, thou hoarse old raven," answered the page; "thy
solemn flight, sable hue, and deep croak, are no charms against
bird-bolt or hail-shot, and that thou mayst find--it is open war
betwixt us, each for the cause of our mistress, and God show the
right!"

"Amen, and defend his own people!" said the steward. "I will let my
mistress know what addition thou hast made to this mess of traitors.
Good night, Monsieur Featherpate."

"Good-night, Seignior Sowersby," replied the page; and, when the old
man departed, he betook himself to rest.


Sir Walter Scott