My native land, good night!
Many a bitter tear was shed, during the hasty flight of Queen Mary,
over fallen hopes, future prospects, and slaughtered friends. The
deaths of the brave Douglas, and of the fiery but gallant young
Seyton, seemed to affect the Queen as much as the fall from the
throne, on which she had so nearly been again seated. Catherine Seyton
devoured in secret her own grief, anxious to support the broken
spirits of her mistress; and the Abbot, bending his troubled thoughts
upon futurity, endeavoured in vain to form some plan which had a
shadow of hope. The spirit of young Roland--for he also mingled in the
hasty debates held by the companions of the Queen's flight--continued
unchecked and unbroken.
"Your Majesty," he said, "has lost a battle--Your ancestor, Bruce,
lost seven successively, ere he sat triumphant on the Scottish throne,
and proclaimed with the voice of a victor, in the field of
Bannockburn, the independence of his country. Are not these heaths,
which we may traverse at will, better than the locked, guarded, and
lake-moated Castle of Lochleven?--We are free--in that one word
there is comfort for all our losses."
He struck a bold note, but the heart of Mary made no response.
"Better," she said, "I had still been in Lochleven, than seen the
slaughter made by rebels among the subjects who offered themselves to
death for my sake. Speak not to me of farther efforts--they would only
cost the lives of you, the friends who recommend them! I would not
again undergo what I felt, when I saw from yonder mount the swords of
the fell horsemen of Morton raging among the faithful Seytons and
Hamiltons, for their loyalty to their Queen--I would not again feel
what I felt when Douglas's life-blood stained my mantle for his love
to Mary Stewart--not to be empress of all that Britain's seas enclose.
Find for me some place where I can hide my unhappy head, which brings
destruction on all who love it--it is the last favour that Mary asks
of her faithful followers."
In this dejected mood, but still pursuing her flight with unabated
rapidity, the unfortunate Mary, after having been joined by Lord
Herries and a few followers, at length halted, for the first time, at
the Abbey of Dundrennan, nearly sixty miles distant from the field of
battle. In this remote quarter of Galloway, the Reformation not having
yet been strictly enforced against the monks, a few still lingered in
their cells unmolested; and the Prior, with tears and reverence,
received the fugitive Queen at the gate of his convent.
"I bring you ruin, my good father," said the Queen, as she was lifted
from her palfrey.
"It is welcome," said the Prior, "if it comes in the train of duty."
Placed on the ground, and supported by her ladies, the Queen looked
for an instant at her palfrey, which, jaded and drooping its head,
seemed as if it mourned the distresses of its mistress.
"Good Roland," said the Queen, whispering, "let Rosabelle be cared for
--ask thy heart, and it will tell thee why I make this trifling
request even in this awful hour."
She was conducted to her apartment, and in the hurried consultation of
her attendants, the fatal resolution of the retreat to England was
finally adopted. In the morning it received her approbation, and a
messenger was despatched to the English warden, to pray him for
safe-conduct and hospitality, on the part of the Queen of Scotland. On
the next day the Abbot Ambrose walked in the garden of the Abbey with
Roland, to whom he expressed his disapprobation of the course pursued.
"It is madness and ruin," he said; "better commit herself to the
savage Highlanders or wild Bordermen, than to the faith of Elizabeth.
A woman to a rival woman--a presumptive successor to the keeping of a
jealous and childless Queen!--Roland, Herries is true and loyal, but
his counsel has ruined his mistress."
"Ay, ruin follows us every where," said an old man, with a spade in
his hand, and dressed like a lay-brother, of whose presence, in the
vehemence of his exclamation, the Abbot had not been aware--"Gaze not
on me with such wonder!--I am he who was the Abbot Boniface at
Kennaquhair, who was the gardener Blinkhoolie at Lochleven, hunted
round to the place in which I served my noviciate, and now ye are come
to rouse me up again!--A weary life I have had for one to whom peace
was ever the dearest blessing!"
"We will soon rid you of our company, good father," said the Abbot;
"and the Queen will, I fear, trouble your retreat no more."
"Nay, you said as much before," said the querulous old man, "and yet I
was put forth from Kinross, and pillaged by troopers on the
road.--They took from me the certificate that you wot of--that of the
Baron--ay, he was a moss-trooper like themselves--You asked me of it,
and I could never find it, but they found it--it showed the marriage
of--of--my memory fails me--Now see how men differ! Father Nicholas
would have told you an hundred tales of the Abbot Ingelram, on whose
soul God have mercy!--He was, I warrant you, fourscore and six, and I
am not more than--let me see----"
"Was not Avenel the name you seek, my good father?" said Roland,
impatiently, yet moderating his tone for fear of alarming or offending
the infirm old man.
"Ay, right--Avenel, Julian Avenel--You are perfect in the name--I kept
all the special confessions, judging it held with my vow to do so--I
could not find it when my successor, Ambrosius, spoke on't--but the
troopers found it, and the Knight who commanded the party struck his
breast, till the target clattered like an empty watering-can."
"Saint Mary!" said the Abbot, "in whom could such a paper excite
such interest! What was the appearance of the knight, his arms, his
"Ye distract me with your questions--I dared hardly look at him--they
charged me with bearing letters for the Queen, and searched my mail--
This was all along of your doings at Lochleven."
"I trust in God," said the Abbot to Roland, who stood beside him,
shivering and trembling "with impatience," the paper has fallen into
the hands of my brother--I heard he had been with his followers on the
scout betwixt Stirling and Glasgow.--Bore not the Knight a holly-bough
on his helmet?--Canst thou not remember?"
"Oh, remember--remember," said the old man pettishly; "count as many
years as I do, if your plots will let you, and see what, and how much,
you remember.--Why, I scarce remember the pear-mains which I graffed
here with my own hands some fifty years since."
At this moment a bugle sounded loudly from the beach.
"It is the death-blast to Queen Mary's royalty," said Ambrosius; "the
English warden's answer has been received, favourable doubtless, for
when was the door of the trap closed against the prey which it was set
for?--Droop not, Roland--this matter shall be sifted to the
bottom--but we must not now leave the Queen--follow me--let us do our
duty, and trust the issue with God--Farewell, good Father--I will
visit thee again soon."
He was about to leave the garden, followed by Roland, with
half-reluctant steps. The Ex-Abbot resumed his spade.
"I could be sorry for these men," he said, "ay, and for that poor
Queen, but what avail earthly sorrows to a man of fourscore?--and it
is a rare dropping morning for the early colewort."
"He is stricken with age," said Ambrosius, as he dragged Roland down
to the sea-beach; "we must let him take his time to collect
himself--nothing now can be thought on but the fate of the Queen."
They soon arrived where she stood, surrounded by her little train, and
by her side the sheriff of Cumberland, a gentleman of the house of
Lowther, richly dressed and accompanied by soldiers. The aspect of the
Queen exhibited a singular mixture of alacrity and reluctance to
depart. Her language and gestures spoke hope and consolation to her
attendants, and she seemed desirous to persuade even herself that the
step she adopted was secure, and that the assurance she had received
of kind reception was altogether satisfactory; but her quivering lip,
and unsettled eye, betrayed at once her anguish at departing from
Scotland, and her fears of confiding herself to the doubtful faith of
"Welcome, my Lord Abbot," she said, speaking to Ambrosius, "and you,
Roland Avenel, we have joyful news for you--our loving sister's
officer proffers us, in her name, a safe asylum from the rebels who
have driven us from our home--only it grieves me we must here part
from you for a short space."
"Part from us, madam!" said the Abbot. "Is your welcome in England,
then, to commence with the abridgment of your train, and dismissal of
"Take it not thus, good Father," said Mary; "the Warden and the
Sheriff, faithful servants of our Royal Sister, deem it necessary to
obey her instructions in the present case, even to the letter, and can
only take upon them to admit me with my female attendants. An express
will instantly be despatched from London, assigning me a place of
residence; and I will speedily send to all of you whenever my Court
shall be formed."
"Your Court formed in England! and while Elizabeth lives and reigns?"
said the Abbot--"that will be when we shall see two suns in one
"Do not think so," replied the Queen; "we are well assured of our
sister's good faith. Elizabeth loves fame--and not all that she has
won by her power and her wisdom will equal that which she will acquire
by extending her hospitality to a distressed sister!--not all that she
may hereafter do of good, wise, and great, would blot out the reproach
of abusing our confidence.--Farewell, my page--now my knight--farewell
for a brief season. I will dry the tears of Catherine, or I will weep
with her till neither of us can weep longer."--She held out her hand
to Roland, who flinging himself on his knees, kissed it with much
emotion. He was about to render the same homage to Catherine, when the
Queen, assuming an air of sprightliness, said, "Her lips, thou foolish
boy! and, Catherine, coy it not--these English gentlemen should see,
that, even in our cold clime, Beauty knows how to reward Bravery and
"We are not now to learn the force of Scottish beauty, or the mettle
of Scottish valour," said the Sheriff of Cumberland, courteously--"I
would it were in my power to bid these attendants upon her who is
herself the mistress of Scottish beauty, as welcome to England as my
poor cares would make them. But our Queen's orders are positive in
case of such an emergence, and they must not be disputed by her
subject.--May I remind your Majesty that the tide ebbs fast?"
The Sheriff took the Queen's hand, and she had already placed her foot
on the gangway, by which she was to enter the skiff, when the Abbot,
starting from a trance of grief and astonishment at the words of the
Sheriff, rushed into the water, and seized upon her mantle.
"She foresaw it!--She foresaw it!"--he exclaimed--"she foresaw your
flight into her realm; and, foreseeing it, gave orders you should be
thus received. Blinded, deceived, doomed--Princess! your fate is
sealed when you quit this strand.--Queen of Scotland, thou shalt not
leave thine heritage!" he continued, holding a still firmer grasp upon
her mantle; "true men shall turn rebels to thy will, that they may
save thee from captivity or death. Fear not the bills and bows whom
that gay man has at his beck--we will withstand him by force. Oh, for
the arm of my warlike brother!--Roland Avenel, draw thy sword."
The Queen stood irresolute and frightened; one foot upon the plank,
the other on the sand of her native shore, which she was quitting for
"What needs this violence, Sir Priest?" said the Sheriff of
Cumberland; "I came hither at your Queen's command, to do her service;
and I will depart at her least order, if she rejects such aid as I can
offer. No marvel is it if our Queen's wisdom foresaw that such chance
as this might happen amidst the turmoils of your unsettled State; and,
while willing to afford fair hospitality to her Royal Sister, deemed
it wise to prohibit the entrance of a broken army of her followers
into the English frontier."
"You hear," said Queen Mary, gently unloosing her robe from the
Abbot's grasp, "that we exercise full liberty of choice in leaving
this shore; and, questionless, the choice will remain free to us in
going to France, or returning to our own dominions, as we shall
determine--Besides, it is too late--Your blessing, Father, and God
"May He have mercy on thee, Princess, and speed thee also!" said the
Abbot, retreating. "But my soul tells me I look on thee for the last
time!" The sails were hoisted, the oars were plied, the vessel went
freshly on her way through the firth, which divides the shores of
Cumberland from those of Galloway; but not till the vessel diminished
to the size of a child's frigate, did the doubtful, and dejected, and
dismissed followers of the Queen cease to linger on the sands; and
long, long could they discern the kerchief of Mary, as she waved the
oft-repeated signal of adieu to her faithful adherents, and to the
shores of Scotland.
If good tidings of a private nature could have consoled Roland for
parting with his mistress, and for the distresses of his sovereign, he
received such comfort some days subsequent to the Queen's leaving
Dundrennan. A breathless post--no other than Adam Woodcock--brought
despatches from Sir Halbert Glendinning to the Abbot, whom he found
with Roland, still residing at Dundrennan, and in vain torturing
Boniface with fresh interrogations. The packet bore an earnest
invitation to his brother to make Avenel Castle for a time his
residence. "The clemency of the Regent," said the writer, "has
extended pardon both to Roland and to you, upon condition of your
remaining a time under my wardship. And I have that to communicate
respecting the parentage of Roland, which not only you will willingly
listen to, but which will be also found to afford me, as the husband
of his nearest relative, some interest in the future course of his
The Abbot read this letter, and paused, as if considering what were
best for him to do. Meanwhile, Woodcock took Roland side, and
addressed him as follows:--"Now, look, Mr. Roland, that you do not let
any papestrie nonsense lure either the priest or you from the right
quarry. See you, you ever bore yourself as a bit of a gentleman. Read
that, and thank God that threw old Abbot Boniface in our way, as two
of the Seyton's men were conveying him towards Dundrennan here.--We
searched him for intelligence concerning that fair exploit of yours at
Lochleven, that has cost many a man his life, and me a set of sore
bones--and we found what is better for your purpose than ours."
The paper which he gave, was, indeed, an attestation by Father Philip,
subscribing himself unworthy Sacristan, and brother of the House of
Saint Mary's, stating, "that under a vow of secrecy he had united, in
the holy sacrament of marriage, Julian Avenel and Catherine Graeme;
but that Julian having repented of his union, he, Father Philip, had
been sinfully prevailed on by him to conceal and disguise the same,
according to a complot devised betwixt him and the said Julian Avenel,
whereby the poor damsel was induced to believe that the ceremony had
been performed by one not in holy orders, and having no authority to
that effect. Which sinful concealment the undersigned conceived to be
the cause why he was abandoned to the misguiding of a water-fiend,
whereby he had been under a spell, which obliged him to answer every
question, even touching the most solemn matters, with idle snatches of
old songs, besides being sorely afflicted with rheumatic pains ever
after. Wherefore he had deposited this testificate and confession with
the day and date of the said marriage, with his lawful superior
Boniface, Abbot of Saint Mary's, _sub sigillo confessionis_."
It appeared by a letter from Julian, folded carefully up with the
certificate, that the Abbot Boniface had, in effect, bestirred himself
in the affair, and obtained from the Baron a promise to avow his
marriage; but the death of both Julian and his injured bride, together
with the Abbot's resignation, his ignorance of the fate of their
unhappy offspring, and above all, the good father's listless and
inactive disposition, had suffered the matter to become totally
forgotten, until it was recalled by some accidental conversation with
the Abbot Ambrosius concerning the fortunes of the Avenel family. At
the request of his successor, the quondam Abbot made search for it;
but as he would receive no assistance in looking among the few records
of spiritual experiences and important confessions, which he had
conscientiously treasured, it might have remained for ever hidden
amongst them, but for the more active researches of Sir Halbert
"So that you are like to be heir of Avenel at last, Master Roland,
after my lord and lady have gone to their place," said Adam; "and as I
have but one boon to ask, I trust you will not nick me with nay."
"Not if it be in my power to say yes, my trusty friend."
"Why then, I must needs, if I live to see that day, keep on feeding
the eyases with unwashed flesh," said Woodcock sturdily, as if
doubting the reception that his request might meet with.
"Thou shalt feed them with what you list for me," said Roland,
laughing; "I am not many months older than when I left the Castle, but
I trust I have gathered wit enough to cross no man of skill in his own
"Then I would not change places with the King's falconer," said Adam
Woodcock, "nor with the Queen's neither--but they say she will be
mewed up and never need one.--I see it grieves you to think of it, and
I could grieve for company; but what help for it?--Fortune will fly
her own flight, let a man hollo himself hoarse."
The Abbot and Roland journeyed to Avenel, where the former was
tenderly received by his brother, while the lady wept for joy to find
that in her favourite orphan she had protected the sole surviving
branch of her own family. Sir Halbert Glendinning and his household
were not a little surprised at the change which a brief acquaintance
with the world had produced in their former inmate, and rejoiced to
find, in the pettish, spoiled, and presuming page, a modest and
unassuming young man, too much acquainted with his own expectations
and character, to be hot or petulant in demanding the consideration
which was readily and voluntarily yielded to him. The old Major Domo
Wingate was the first to sing his praises, to which Mistress Lilias
bore a loud echo, always hoping that God would teach him the true
To the true gospel the heart of Roland had secretly long inclined, and
the departure of the good Abbot for France, with the purpose of
entering into some house of his order in that kingdom, removed his
chief objection to renouncing the Catholic faith. Another might have
existed in the duty which he owed to Magdalen Graeme, both by birth
and from gratitude. But he learned, ere he had been long a resident
in Avenel, that his grandmother had died at Cologne, in the
performance of a penance too severe for her age, which she had taken
upon herself in behalf of the Queen and Church of Scotland, as soon as
she heard of the defeat at Langside. The zeal of the Abbot Ambrosius
was more regulated; but he retired into the Scottish convent of
------, and so lived there, that the fraternity were inclined to claim
for him the honours of canonization. But he guessed their purpose, and
prayed them, on his death-bed, to do no honours to the body of one as
sinful as themselves; but to send his body and his heart to be buried
in Avenel burial-aisle, in the monastery of Saint Mary's, that the
last Abbot of that celebrated house of devotion might sleep among its
[Footnote: This was not the explanation of the incident of searching
for the heart, mentioned in the introduction to the tale, which the
author originally intended. It was designed to refer to the heart of
Robert Bruce. It is generally known that that great monarch, being on
his death-bed, bequeathed to the good Lord James of Douglas, the task
of carrying his heart to the Holy Land, to fulfil in a certain degree
his own desire to perform a crusade. Upon Douglas's death, fighting
against the Moors in Spain, a sort of military hors d'oeuvre to which
he could have pleaded no regular call of duty, his followers brought
back the Bruce's heart, and deposited it in the Abbey church of
Melrose, the Kennaquhair of the tale.
This Abbey has been always particularly favoured by the Bruce. We have
already seen his extreme anxiety that each of the reverend brethren
should be daily supplied with a service of boiled almonds, rice and
milk, pease, or the like, to be called the King's mess, and that
without the ordinary service of their table being either disturbed in
quantity or quality. But this was not the only mark of the benignity
of good King Robert towards the monks of Melrose, since, by a charter
of the dale 29th May, 1326, he conferred on the Abbot of Melrose the
sum of two thousand pounds sterling, for rebuilding: the church of St.
Mary's, ruined by the English; and there is little or no doubt that
the principal part of the remains which now display such exquisite
specimens of Gothic architecture, at its very purest period, had their
origin in this munificent donation. The money was to be paid out of
crown lands, estates forfeited to the King, and other property or
demesnes of the crown.
A very curious letter written to his son about three weeks before his
death, has been pointed out to me by my friend Mr. Thomas Thomson,
Deputy-Register for Scotland. It enlarges so much on the love of the
royal writer to the community of Melrose, that it is well worthy of
being inserted in a work connected in some degree with Scottish
LITERA DOMINI REGIS ROBERTI AD FILIUM SUUM DAVID.
"Robertius dei gratia Rex Scottorum, David precordialissimo filio suo,
ac ceteris successoribus suis; Salutem, et sic ejus precepta tenere,
ut cum sua benedictione possint regnare. Fili carissime, digne censeri
videtur filius, qui, paternos in bonis mores imitans, piam ejus
nititur exequi voluntatem; nec proprie sibi sumit nomen heredis, qui
salubribus predecessoris affectibus non adherit: Cupientes igitur, ut
piam affectionem et scinceram delectionem, quam erga monasterium de
Melros, ubi cor nostrum ex speciali devotione disposuimus tumularidum,
et erga Religiosos ibidem Deo servientes, ipsorum vita sanctissima nos
ad hoc excitante, concepimus; Tu ceterique successores mei pia
scinceritate prosequarimi, ut, ex vestre dilectionis affectu dictis
Religiosis nostri causa post mortem nostrum ostenso, ipsi pro nobis ad
orandum ferveucius et forcius animentur: Vobis precipimus quantum
possumus, instanter supplicamus, et ex toto corde injungimus, Quatinus
assignacionibus quas eisdem yiris Religiosis et fabrica Ecclesie sue
de novo fecimus ac eciam omnibus aliis donacionibus nostris, ipsos
libere gaudere permittatis, Easdem potius si necesse fuerit
augmentantes quam diminuentes, ipsorum peticiones auribus benevolis
admittentes, ac ipsos contra suos invasores et emuios pia defensione
protegentes. Hanc autem exhortacionem supplicacionem et preceptum tu,
fili ceterique successores nostri prestanti animo complere curetis,
si nostram benedictionem habere velitis, una cum benedictione filii
summi Regis, qui filios docuit patrum voluntates in bono perficere,
asserens in mundum se venisse non ut suam voluntatem faceret sed
paternam. In testimonium autem nostre devotionis ergra locum predictum
sic a nobis dilectum et electum concepte, presentem literam Religiosis
predictis dimittimus, nostris successoribus in posterum ostendendam.
Data apud Cardros, undecimo die Maij, Anno Regni nostri vicesimo
If this charter be altogether genuine, and there is no appearance of
forgery, it gives rise to a curious doubt in Scottish History. The
letter announces that the King had already destined his heart to be
deposited at Melrose. The resolution to send it to Palestine, under
the charge of Douglas, must have been adopted betwixt 11th May 1329,
the date of the letter, and 7th June of the same year, when the Bruce
died; or else we must suppose that the commission of Douglas extended
not only to taking the Bruce's heart to Palestine, but to bring it
safe back to its final place of deposit in the Abbey of Melrose.
It would not be worth inquiring: by what caprice the author was
induced to throw the incident of the Bruce's heart entirely out of the
story, save merely to say, that he found himself unable to fill up the
canvass he had sketched, and indisposed to prosecute the management of
the supernatural machinery with which his plan, when it was first
rough-hewn, was connected and combined.]
Long before that period arrived, Roland Avenel was wedded to Catherine
Seyton, who, after two years' residence with her unhappy mistress, was
dismissed upon her being subjected to closer restraint than had been
at first exercised. She returned to her father's house, and as Roland
was acknowledged for the successor and lawful heir of the ancient
house of Avenel, greatly increased as the estate was by the providence
of Sir Halbert Gleninning, there occurred no objections to the match
on the part of her family. Her mother was recently dead when she first
entered the convent; and her father, in the unsettled times which
followed Queen Mary's flight to England, was not averse to an alliance
with a youth, who, himself loyal to Queen Mary, still held some
influence, through means of Sir Halbert Glendinning, with the party in
Roland and Catherine, therefore, were united, spite of their differing
faiths; and the White Lady, whose apparition had been infrequent when
the house of Avenel seemed verging to extinction, was seen to sport by
her haunted well, with a zone of gold around her bosom as broad as the
baldrick of an Earl.
END OF THE ABBOT.
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