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Chapter 36


He mounted himself on a coal-black steed,
And her on a freckled gray,
With a bugelet horn hung down from his side,
And roundly they rode away.
OLD BALLAD.

The influence of the free air, the rushing of the horses over high and
low, the ringing of the bridles, the excitation at once arising from a
sense of freedom and of rapid motion, gradually dispelled the confused
and dejected sort of stupefaction by which Queen Mary was at first
overwhelmed. She could not at last conceal the change of her feelings
to the person who rode at her rein, and who she doubted not was the
Father Ambrosius; for Seyton, with all the heady impetuosity of a
youth, proud, and justly so, of his first successful adventure,
assumed all the bustle and importance of commander of the little
party, which escorted, in the language of the time, the Fortune of
Scotland. He now led the van, now checked his bounding steed till the
rear had come up, exhorted the leaders to keep a steady, though rapid
pace, and commanded those who were hindmost of the party to use their
spurs, and allow no interval to take place in their line of march; and
anon he was beside the Queen, or her ladies, inquiring how they
brooked the hasty journey, and whether they had any commands for him.
But while Seyton thus busied himself in the general cause with some
advantage to the regular order of the march, and a good deal of
personal ostentation, the horseman who rode beside the Queen gave her
his full and undivided attention, as if he had been waiting upon some
superior being. When the road was rugged and dangerous, he abandoned
almost entirely the care of his own horse, and kept his hand
constantly upon the Queen's bridle; if a river or larger brook
traversed their course, his left arm retained her in the saddle, while
his right held her palfrey's rein.

"I had not thought, reverend Father," said the Queen, when they
reached the other bank, "that the convent bred such good
horsemen."--The person she addressed sighed, but made no other
answer.--"I know not how it is," said Queen Mary, "but either the
sense of freedom, or the pleasure of my favourite exercise, from which
I have been so long debarred, or both combined, seem to have given
wings to me--no fish ever shot through the water, no bird through the
air, with the hurried feeling of liberty and rapture with which I
sweep through, this night-wind, and over these wolds. Nay, such is the
magic of feeling myself once more in the saddle, that I could almost
swear I am at this moment mounted on my own favourite Rosabelle, who
was never matched in Scotland for swiftness, for ease of motion, and
for sureness of foot."

"And if the horse which bears so dear a burden could speak," answered
the deep voice of the melancholy George of Douglas, "would she not
reply, who but Rosabelle ought at such an emergence as this to serve
her beloved mistress, or who but Douglas ought to hold her
bridle-rein?"

Queen Mary started; she foresaw at once all the evils like to arise to
herself and him from the deep enthusiastic passion of this youth; but
her feelings as a woman, grateful at once and compassionate, prevented
her assuming the dignity of a Queen, and she endeavoured to continue
the conversation in an indifferent tone.

"Methought," she said, "I heard that, at the division of my spoils,
Rosabelle had become the property of Lord Morton's paramour and
ladye-love Alice."

"The noble palfrey had indeed been destined to so base a lot,"
answered Douglas; "she was kept under four keys, and under the charge
of a numerous crew of grooms and domestics--but Queen Mary needed
Rosabelle, and Rosabelle is here."

"And was it well, Douglas," said Queen Mary, "when such fearful risks
of various kinds must needs be encountered, that you should augment
their perils to yourself for a subject of so little moment as a
palfrey?"

"Do you call that of little moment," answered Douglas, "which has
afforded you a moment's pleasure?--Did you not start with joy when I
first said you were mounted on Rosabelle?--And to purchase you that
pleasure, though it were to last no longer than the flash of lightning
doth, would not Douglas have risked his life a thousand times?"

"Oh, peace, Douglas, peace," said the Queen, "this is unfitting
language; and, besides, I would speak," said she, recollecting
herself, "with the Abbot of Saint Mary's--Nay, Douglas, I will not let
you quit my rein in displeasure."

"Displeasure, lady!" answered Douglas: "alas! sorrow is all that I can
feel for your well-warranted contempt--I should be as soon displeased
with Heaven for refusing the wildest wish which mortal can form."

"Abide by my rein, however," said Mary, "there is room for my Lord
Abbot on the other side; and, besides, I doubt if his assistance would
be so useful to Rosabelle and me as yours has been, should the road
again require it."

The Abbot came up on the other side, and she immediately opened a
conversation with him on the topic of the state of parties, and the
plan fittest for her to pursue inconsequence of her deliverance. In
this conversation Douglas took little share, and never but when
directly applied to by the Queen, while, as before, his attention
seemed entirely engrossed by the care of Mary's personal safety. She
learned, however, she had a new obligation to him, since, by his
contrivance, the Abbot, whom he had furnished with the family
pass-word, was introduced into the castle as one of the garrison.

Long before daybreak they ended their hasty and perilous journey
before the gates of Niddrie, a castle in West Lothian, belonging to
Lord Seyton. When the Queen was about to alight, Henry Seyton,
preventing Douglas, received her in his arms, and, kneeling down,
prayed her Majesty to enter the house of his father, her faithful
servant.

"Your Grace," he added, "may repose yourself here in perfect safety--
it is already garrisoned with good men for your protection; and I have
sent a post to my father, whose instant arrival, at the head of five
hundred men, may be looked for. Do not dismay yourself, therefore,
should your sleep be broken by the trampling of horse; but only think
that here are some scores more of the saucy Seytons come to attend
you."

"And by better friends than the Saucy Seytons, a Scottish Queen cannot
be guarded," replied Mary. "Rosabelle went fleet as the summer breeze,
and well-nigh as easy; but it is long since I have been a traveller,
and I feel that repose will be welcome.--Catherine, _ma mignone_,
you must sleep in my apartment to-night, and bid me welcome to your
noble father's castle.--Thanks, thanks to all my kind deliverers--
thanks, and a good night is all I can now offer; but if I climb once
more to the upper side of Fortune's wheel, I will not have her
bandage. Mary Stewart will keep her eyes open, and distinguish her
friends.--Seyton, I need scarcely recommend the venerable Abbot, the
Douglas, and my page, to your honour able care and hospitality."

Henry Seyton bowed, and Catherine and Lady Fleming attended the Queen
to her apartment; where, acknowledging to them that she should have
found it difficult in that moment to keep her promise of holding her
eyes open, she resigned herself to repose, and awakened not till the
morning was advanced.

Mary's first feeling when she awoke, was the doubt of her freedom; and
the impulse prompted her to start from bed, and hastily throwing her
mantle over her shoulders, to look out at the casement of her
apartment. Oh, sight of joy! instead of the crystal sheet of
Lochleven, unaltered save by the influence of the wind, a landscape of
wood and moorland lay before her, and the park around the castle was
occupied by the troops of her most faithful and most favourite nobles.

"Rise, rise, Catherine," cried the enraptured Princess; "arise and
come hither!--here are swords and spears in true hands, and glittering
armour on loyal breasts. Here are banners, my girl, floating in the
wind, as lightly as summer clouds--Great God! what pleasure to my
weary eyes to trace their devices--thine own brave father's--the
princely Hamilton's--the faithful Fleming's--See--see--they have
caught a glimpse of me, and throng towards the window!"

She flung the casement open, and with her bare head, from which the
tresses flew back loose and dishevelled, her fair arm slenderly veiled
by her mantle, returned by motion and sign the exulting shouts of the
warriors, which echoed for many a furlong around. When the first burst
of ecstatic joy was over, she recollected how lightly she was dressed,
and, putting her hands to her face, which was covered with blushes at
the recollection, withdrew abruptly from the window. The cause of her
retreat was easily conjectured, and increased the general enthusiasm
for a Princess, who had forgotten her rank in her haste to acknowledge
the services of her subjects. The unadorned beauties of the lovely
woman, too, moved the military spectators more than the highest
display of her regal state might; and what might have seemed too free
in her mode of appearing before them, was more than atoned for by the
enthusiasm of the moment and by the delicacy evinced in her hasty
retreat. Often as the shouts died away, as often were they renewed,
till wood and hill rung again; and many a deep path was made that
morning on the cross of the sword, that the hand should not part with
the weapon, till Mary Stewart was restored to her rights. But what
are promises, what the hopes of mortals? In ten days, these gallant
and devoted votaries were slain, were captives, or had fled.

Mary flung herself into the nearest seat, and still blushing, yet half
smiling, exclaimed, "_Ma mignone_, what will they think of
me?--to show myself to them with my bare feet hastily thrust into the
slippers--only this loose mantle about me--my hair loose on my
shoulders--my arms and neck so bare--Oh, the best they can suppose is,
that her abode in yonder dungeon has turned their Queen's brain! But
my rebel subjects saw me exposed when I was in the depth of
affliction, why should I hold colder ceremony with these faithful and
loyal men?--Call Fleming, however--I trust she has not forgotten the
little mail with my apparel--We must be as brave as we can,
_mignóne_."

"Nay, madam, our good Lady Fleming was in no case to remember any
thing."

"You jest, Catherine," said the Queen, somewhat offended; "it is not
in her nature surely, to forget her duty so far as to leave us without
a change of apparel?"

"Roland Graeme, madam, took care of that," answered Catherine; "for he
threw the mail, with your highness's clothes and jewels, into the
boat, ere he ran back to lock the gate--I never saw so awkward a page
as that youth--the packet well-nigh fell on my head."

"He shall make thy heart amends, my girl," said Queen Mary, laughing,
"for that and all other offences given. But call Fleming, and let us
put ourselves into apparel to meet our faithful lords."

Such had been the preparations, and such was the skill of Lady
Fleming, that the Queen appeared before her assembled nobles in such
attire as became, though it could not enhance, her natural dignity.
With the most winning courtesy, she expressed to each individual her
grateful thanks, and dignified not only every noble, but many of the
lesser barons by her particular attention.

"And whither now, my lords?" she said; "what way do your counsels
determine for us?"

"To Draphane Castle," replied Lord Arbroath, "if your Majesty is so
pleased; and thence to Dunbarton, to place your Grace's person in
safety, after which we long to prove if these traitors will abide us
in the field."

"And when do we journey?"

"We propose," said Lord Seyton, "if your Grace's fatigue will permit,
to take horse after the morning's meal."

"Your pleasure, my Lords, is mine," replied the Queen; "we will rule
our journey by your wisdom now, and hope hereafter to have the
advantage of governing by it our kingdom.--You will permit my ladies
and me, my good lords, to break our fasts along with you--We must be
half soldiers ourselves, and set state apart."

Low bowed many a helmeted head at this gracious proffer, when the
Queen, glancing her eyes through the assembled leaders, missed both
Douglas and Roland Graeme, and inquired for them in a whisper to
Catherine Seyton.

"They are in yonder oratory, madam, sad enough," replied Catherine;
and the Queen observed that her favourite's eyes were red with
weeping.

"This must not be," said the Queen. "Keep the company amused--I
will seek them, and introduce them myself."

She went into the oratory, where the first she met was George Douglas,
standing, or rather reclining, in the recess of a window, his back
rested against the wall, and his arms folded on his breast. At the
sight of the Queen he started, and his countenance showed, for an
instant, an expression of intense delight, which was instantly
exchanged for his usual deep melancholy.

"What means this?" she said; "Douglas, why does the first deviser and
bold executor of the happy scheme for our freedom, shun the company of
his fellow-nobles, and of the Sovereign whom he has obliged?"

"Madam," replied Douglas, "those whom you grace with your presence
bring followers to aid your cause, wealth to support your state,--can
offer you halls in which to feast, and impregnable castles for your
defence. I am a houseless and landless man--disinherited by my mother,
and laid under her malediction--disowned by my name and kindred--who
bring nothing to your standard but a single sword, and the poor life
of its owner."

"Do you mean to upbraid me, Douglas," replied the Queen, "by showing
what you have lost for my sake?"

"God forbid, madam!" interrupted the young man, eagerly; "were it to
do again, and had I ten times as much rank and wealth, and twenty
times as many friends to lose, my losses would be overpaid by the
first step you made, as a free princess, upon the soil of your native
kingdom."

"And what then ails you, that you will not rejoice with those who
rejoice upon the same joyful occasion?" said the Queen.

"Madam," replied the youth," though exheridated and disowned, I am yet
a Douglas: with most of yonder nobles my family have been in feud for
ages--a cold reception amongst them, were an insult, and a kind one
yet more humiliating."

"For shame, Douglas," replied the Queen, "shake off this unmanly
gloom!--I can make thee match for the best of them in title and
fortune, and, believe me, I will.--Go then amongst them, I command
you."

"That word," said Douglas, "is enough--I go. This only let me say,
that not for wealth or title would I have done that which I have
done--Mary Stewart will not, and the Queen cannot, reward me."

So saying, he left the oratory, mingled with the nobles, and placed
himself at the bottom of the table. The Queen looked after him, and
put her kerchief to her eyes.

"Now, Our Lady pity me," she said, "for no sooner are my prison cares
ended, than those which beset me as a woman and a Queen again thicken
around me.--Happy Elizabeth! to whom political interest is every
thing, and whose heart never betrays thy head.--And now must I seek
this other boy, if I would prevent daggers-drawing betwixt him and the
young Seyton."

Roland Graeme was in the same oratory, but at such a distance from
Douglas, that he could not overhear what passed betwixt the Queen and
him. He also was moody and thoughtful, but cleared his brow at the
Queen's question, "How now, Roland? you are negligent in your
attendance this morning. Are you so much overcome with your night's
ride?"

"Not so, gracious madam," answered Graeme; "but I am told the page of
Lochleven is not the page of Niddrie Castle; and so Master Henry
Seyton hath in a manner been pleased to supersede my attendance."

"Now, Heaven forgive me," said the Queen, "how soon these
cock-chickens begin to spar!--with children and boys, at least, I may
be a queen.--I will have you friends.--Some one send me Henry Seyton
hither." As she spoke the last words aloud, the youth whom she had
named entered the apartment. "Come hither," she said, "Henry Seyton--I
will have you give your hand to this youth, who so well aided in the
plan of my escape."

"Willingly, madam," answered Seyton, "so that the youth will grant
me, as a boon, that he touch not the hand of another Seyton whom he
knows of. My hand has passed current for hers with him before now--and
to win my friendship, he must give up thoughts of my sister's love."

"Henry Seyton," said the Queen, "does it become you to add any
condition to my command?"

"Madam," said Henry, "I am the servant of your Grace's throne, son to
the most loyal man in Scotland. Our goods, our castles, our blood, are
yours: Our honour is in our own keeping. I could say more, but--"

"Nay, speak on, rude boy," said the Queen; "what avails it that I am
released from Lochleven, if I am thus enthralled under the yoke of my
pretended deliverers, and prevented from doing justice to one who has
deserved as well of me as yourself?"

"Be not in this distemperature for me, sovereign Lady," said Roland;
"this young gentleman, being the faithful servant of your Grace, and
the brother of Catherine Seyton, bears that about him which will charm
down my passion at the hottest."

"I warn thee once more," said Henry Seyton, haughtily, "that you make
no speech which may infer that the daughter of Lord Seyton can be
aught to thee beyond what she is to every churl's blood in Scotland."

The Queen was again about to interfere, for Roland's complexion rose,
and it became somewhat questionable how long his love for Catherine
would suppress the natural fire of his temper. But the interposition
of another person, hitherto unseen, prevented Mary's interference,
There was in the oratory a separate shrine, enclosed with a high
screen of pierced oak, within which was placed an image of Saint
Bennet, of peculiar sanctity. From this recess, in which she had been
probably engaged in her devotions, issued suddenly Magdalen Graeme,
and addressed Henry Seyton, in reply to his last offensive
expressions,--"And of what clay, then, are they moulded these Seytons,
that the blood of the Graemes may not aspire to mingle with theirs?
Know, proud boy, that when I call this youth my daughter's child, I
affirm his descent from Malise Earl of Strathern, called Malise with
the Bright Brand; and I trow the blood of your house springs from no
higher source."

"Good mother," said Seyton, "methinks your sanctity should make you
superior to these worldly vanities; and indeed it seems to have
rendered you somewhat oblivious touching them, since, to be of gentle
descent, the father's name and lineage must be as well qualified as
the mother's."

"And if I say he comes of the blood of Avenel by the father's side,"
replied Magdalen Graeme, "name I not blood as richly coloured as thine
own?"

"Of Avenel?" said the Queen; "is my page descended of Avenel?"

"Ay, gracious Princess, and the last male heir of that ancient
house--Julian Avenel was his father, who fell in battle against the
Southron."

"I have heard the tale of sorrow," said the Queen; "it was thy
daughter, then, who followed that unfortunate baron to the field, and
died on his body? Alas! how many ways does woman's affection find to
work out her own misery! The tale has oft been told and sung in hall
and bower--And thou, Roland, art that child of misfortune, who was
left among the dead and dying? Henry Seyton, he is thine equal in
blood and birth."

"Scarcely so," said Henry Seyton, "even were he legitimate; but if the
tale be told and sung aright, Julian Avenel was a false knight, and
his leman a frail and credulous maiden."

"Now, by Heaven, thou liest!" said Roland Graeme, and laid his hand on
his sword. The entrance of Lord Seyton, however, prevented violence.

"Save me, my lord," said the Queen, "and separate these wild and
untamed spirits."

"How, Henry," said the Baron, "are my castle, and the Queen's
presence, no checks on thine insolence and impetuosity?--And with whom
art thou brawling?--unless my eyes spell that token false, it is with
the very youth who aided me so gallantly in the skirmish with the
Leslies--Let me look, fair youth, at the medal which thou wearest in
thy cap. By Saint Bennet, it is the same!--Henry, I command thee to
forbear him, as thou lovest my blessing----"

"And as you honour my command," said the Queen; "good service hath
he done me."

"Ay, madam," replied young Seyton, "as when he carried the billet
enclosed in the sword-sheath to Lochleven--marry, the good youth knew
no more than a pack-horse what he was carrying."

"But I who dedicated him to this great work," said Magdalen
Graeme--"I, by whose advice and agency this just heir hath been
unloosed from her thraldom--I, who spared not the last remaining hope
of a falling house in this great action--I, at least, knew and
counselled; and what merit may be mine, let the reward, most gracious
Queen, descend upon this youth. My ministry here is ended; you are
free--a sovereign Princess, at the head of a gallant army, surrounded
by valiant barons--My service could avail you no farther, but might
well prejudice you; your fortune now rests upon men's hearts and men's
swords. May they prove as trusty as the faith of women!"

"You will not leave us, mother," said the Queen--"you whose practices
in our favour were so powerful, who dared so many dangers, and wore so
many disguises, to blind our enemies and to confirm our friends--you
will not leave us in the dawn of our reviving fortunes, ere we have
time to know and to thank you?"

"You cannot know her," answered Magdalen Graeme, "who knows not
herself--there are times, when, in this woman's frame of mine, there
is the strength of him of Gath--in this overtoiled brain, the wisdom
of the most sage counsellor--and again the mist is on me, and my
strength is weakness, my wisdom folly. I have spoken before princes
and cardinals--ay, noble Princess, even before the princes of thine
own house of Lorraine; and I know not whence the words of persuasion
came which flowed from my lips, and were drunk in by their ears.--And
now, even when I most need words of persuasion, there is something
which chokes my voice, and robs me of utterance."

"If there be aught in my power to do thee pleasure," said the Queen,
"the barely naming it shall avail as well as all thine eloquence."

"Sovereign Lady," replied the enthusiast, "it shames me that at this
high moment something of human frailty should cling to one, whose vows
the saints have heard, whose labours in the rightful cause Heaven has
prospered. But it will be thus while the living spirit is shrined in
the clay of mortality--I will yield to the folly," she said, weeping
as she spoke, "and it shall be the last." Then seizing Roland's hand,
she led him to the Queen's feet, kneeling herself upon one knee, and
causing him to kneel on both. "Mighty Princess," she said, "look on
this flower--it was found by a kindly stranger on a bloody field of
battle, and long it was ere my anxious eyes saw, and my arms pressed,
all that was left of my only daughter. For your sake, and for that of
the holy faith we both profess, I could leave this plant, while it was
yet tender, to the nurture of strangers--ay, of enemies, by whom,
perchance, his blood would have been poured forth as wine, had the
heretic Glendinning known that he had in his house the heir of Julian
Avenel. Since then I have seen him only in a few hours of doubt and
dread, and now I part with the child of my love--for ever--for
ever!--Oh, for every weary step I have made in your rightful cause, in
this and in foreign lands, give protection to the child whom I must no
more call mine!"

"I swear to you, mother," said the Queen, deeply affected, "that, for
your sake and his own, his happiness and fortunes shall be our
charge!"

"I thank you, daughter of princes," said Magdalen, and pressed her
lips, first to the Queen's hand, then to the brow of her grandson.
"And now," she said, drying her tears, and rising with dignity, "Earth
has had its own, and Heaven claims the rest.--Lioness of Scotland, go
forth and conquer! and if the prayers of a devoted votaress can avail
thee, they will rise in many a land, and from many a distant shrine. I
will glide like a ghost from land to land, from temple to temple; and
where the very name of my country is unknown, the priests shall ask
who is the Queen of that distant northern land, for whom the aged
pilgrim was so fervent in prayer. Farewell! Honour be thine, and
earthly prosperity, if it be the will of God--if not, may the penance
thou shalt do here ensure thee happiness hereafter!--Let no one speak
or follow me--my resolution is taken--my vow cannot be cancelled."

She glided from their presence as she spoke, and her last look was
upon her beloved grandchild. He would have risen and followed, but the
Queen and Lord Seyton interfered.

"Press not on her now," said Lord Seyton, "if you would not lose her
for ever. Many a time have we seen the sainted mother, and often at
the most needful moment; but to press on her privacy, or to thwart her
purpose, is a crime which she cannot pardon. I trust we shall yet see
her at her need--a holy woman she is for certain, and dedicated wholly
to prayer and penance; and hence the heretics hold her as one
distracted, while true Catholics deem her a saint."

"Let me then hope," said the Queen, "that you, my lord, will aid me in
the execution of her last request."

"What! in the protection of my young second?--cheerfully--that is, in
all that your majesty can think it fitting to ask of me.--Henry, give
thy hand upon the instant to Roland Avenel, for so I presume he must
now be called."

"And shall be Lord of the Barony," said the Queen, "if God prosper
our rightful arms."

"It can only be to restore it to my kind protectress, who now holds
it," said young Avenel. "I would rather be landless, all my life, than
she lost a rood of ground by me."

"Nay," said the Queen, looking to Lord Seyton, "his mind matches his
birth--Henry, thou hast not yet given thy hand."

"It is his," said Henry, giving it with some appearance of courtesy,
but whispering Roland at the same time,--"For all this, thou hast not
my sister's."

"May it please your Grace," said Lord Seyton, "now that these passages
are over, to honour our poor meal. Time it were that our banners were
reflected in the Clyde. We must to horse with as little delay as may
be."


Sir Walter Scott