Thou hast each secret of the household, Francis.
I dare be sworn thou hast been in the buttery,
Steeping thy curious humour in fat ale,
And in thy butler's tattle--ay, or chatting
With the glib waiting-woman o'er her comfits--
These bear the key to each domestic mystery.
"He is gone at last," said the abigail, sipping her glass; "and here
is to his good journey."
"Amen," answered the steward, gravely; "I wish the poor deserted lad
"And he is gone like a wild-duck, as he came," continued Mrs. Lilias;
"no lowering of drawbridges, or pacing along causeways, for him. My
master has pushed off in the boat which they call the little Herod,
(more shame to them for giving the name of a Christian to wood and
iron,) and has rowed himself by himself to the farther side of the
loch, and off and away with himself, and left all his finery strewed
about his room. I wonder who is to clean his trumpery out after
him--though the things are worth lifting, too."
"Doubtless, Mistress Lilias," answered the master of the household,
"in the which case, I am free to think, they will not long cumber the
"And now tell me, Master Wingate," continued the damsel, "do not the
very cockles of your heart rejoice at the house being rid of this
upstart whelp, that flung us all into shadow?"
"Why, Mistress Lilias," replied Wingate, "as to rejoicing--those who
have lived as long in great families as has been my lot, will be in no
hurry to rejoice at any thing. And for Roland Graeme, though he may be
a good riddance in the main, yet what says the very sooth proverb,
'Seldom comes a better.'"
"Seldom comes a better, indeed!" echoed Mrs. Lilias. "I say, never can
come a worse, or one half so bad. He might have been the ruin of our
poor dear mistress," (here she used her kerchief,) "body and soul, and
estate too; for she spent more coin on his apparel than on any four
servants about the house."
"Mistress Lilias," said the sage steward, "I do opine that our
mistress requireth not this pity at your hands, being in all respects
competent to take care of her own body, soul, and estate into the
"You would not mayhap have said so," answered the waiting-woman, "had
you seen how like Lot's wife she looked when young master took his
leave. My mistress is a good lady, and a virtuous, and a well-doing
lady, and a well-spoken of--but I would not Sir Halbert had seen her
last evening for two and a plack."
"Oh, foy! foy! foy!" reiterated the steward; "servants should hear and
see, and say nothing. Besides that, my lady is utterly devoted to Sir
Halbert, as well she may, being, as he is, the most renowned knight in
"Well, well," said the abigail, "I mean no more harm; but they that
seek least renown abroad, are most apt to find quiet at home, that's
all; and my Lady's lonesome situation is to be considered, that made
her fain to take up with the first beggar's brat that a dog brought
her out of the loch."
"And, therefore," said the steward, "I say, rejoice not too much, or
too hastily, Mistress Lilias; for if your Lady wished a favourite to
pass away the time, depend upon it, the time will not pass lighter now
that he is gone. So she will have another favourite to choose for
herself; and be assured, if she wishes such a toy, she will not lack
"And where should she choose one, but among her own tried and faithful
servants," said Mrs. Lilias, "who have broken her bread, and drunk her
drink, for so many years? I have known many a lady as high as she is,
that never thought either of a friend or favourite beyond their own
waiting-woman--always having a proper respect, at the same time, for
their old and faithful master of the household, Master Wingate."
"Truly, Mistress Lilias," replied the steward, "I do partly see the
mark at which you shoot, but I doubt your bolt will fall short.
Matters being with our Lady as it likes you to suppose, it will
neither be your crimped pinners, Mrs. Lilias, (speaking of them with
due respect,) nor my silver hair, or golden chain, that will fill up
the void which Roland Graeme must needs leave in our Lady's leisure.
There will be a learned young divine with some new doctrine--a learned
leech with some new drug--a bold cavalier, who will not be refused the
favour of wearing her colours at a running at the ring--a cunning
harper that could harp the heart out of woman's breast, as they say
Signer David Rizzio did to our poor Queen;--these are the sort of folk
who supply the loss of a well-favoured favourite, and not an old
steward, or a middle-aged waiting-woman."
"Well," replied Lilias, "you have experience, Master Wingate, and
truly I would my master would leave off his picking hither and
thither, and look better after the affairs of his household. There
will be a papestrie among us next, for what should I see among
master's clothes but a string of gold beads! I promise you,
_aves_ and _credos_ both!--I seized on them like a falcon."
"I doubt it not, I doubt it not," said the steward, sagaciously
nodding his head; "I have often noticed that the boy had strange
observances which savoured of popery, and that he was very jealous to
conceal them. But you will find the Catholic under the Presbyterian
cloak as often as the knave under the Friar's hood--what then? we are
all mortal--Right proper beads they are," he added, looking
attentively at them, "and may weigh four ounces of fine gold."
"And I will have them melted down presently," she said, "before they
be the misguiding of some poor blinded soul."
"Very cautious, indeed, Mistress Lilias," said the steward, nodding
his head in assent.
"I will have them made," said Mrs. Lilias, "into a pair of
shoe-buckles; I would not wear the Pope's trinkets, or whatever has
once borne the shape of them, one inch above my instep, were they
diamonds instead of gold.--But this is what has come of Father Ambrose
coming about the castle, as demure as a cat that is about to steal
"Father Ambrose is our master's brother," said the steward gravely.
"Very true, Master Wingate," answered the Dame; "but is that a good
reason why he should pervert the king's liege subjects to papistrie?"
"Heaven forbid, Mistress Lilias," answered the sententious major-domo;
"but yet there are worse folk than the Papists."
"I wonder where they are to be found," said the waiting-woman, with
some asperity; "but I believe, Master Wingate, if one were to speak to
you about the devil himself, you would say there were worse people
"Assuredly I might say so," replied the steward, "supposing that I saw
Satan standing at my elbow."
The waiting-woman started, and having exclaimed, "God bless us I"
added, "I wonder, Master Wingate, you can take pleasure in frightening
"Nay, Mistress Lilias, I had no such purpose," was the reply; "but
look you here--the Papists are but put down for the present, but who
knows how long this word _present_ will last? There are two great
Popish earls in the north of England, that abominate the very word
reformation; I mean the Northumberland and Westmoreland Earls, men of
power enough to shake any throne in Christendom. Then, though our
Scottish king be, God bless him, a true Protestant, yet he is but a
boy; and here is his mother that was our queen--I trust there is no
harm to say, God bless her too--and she is a Catholic; and many begin
to think she has had but hard measure, such as the Hamiltons in the
west, and some of our Border clans here, and the Gordons in the north,
who are all wishing to see a new world; and if such a new world should
chance to come up, it is like that the Queen will take back her own
crown, and that the mass and the cross will come up, and then down go
pulpits, Geneva-gowns, and black silk skull-caps."
"And have you, Master Jasper Wingate, who have heard the word, and
listened unto pure and precious Mr. Henry Warden, have you, I say, the
patience to speak, or but to think, of popery coming down on us like a
storm, or of the woman Mary again making the royal seat of Scotland a
throne of abomination? No marvel that you are so civil to the cowled
monk, Father Ambrose, when he comes hither with his downcast eyes that
he never raises to my Lady's face, and with his low sweet-toned voice,
and his benedicites, and his benisons; and who so ready to take them
kindly as Master Wingate?"
"Mistress Lilias," replied the butler, with an air which was intended
to close the debate, "there are reasons for all things. If I received
Father Ambrose debonairly, and suffered him to steal a word now arid
then with this same Roland Graeme, it was not that I cared a brass
bodle for his benison or malison either, but only because I respected
my master's blood. And who can answer, if Mary come in again, whether
he may not be as stout a tree to lean to as ever his brother hath
proved to us? For down goes the Earl of Murray when the Queen comes by
her own again; and good is his luck if he can keep the head on his own
shoulders. And down goes our Knight, with the Earl, his patron; and
who so like to mount into his empty saddle as this same Father
Ambrose? The Pope of Rome can so soon dispense with his vows, and then
we should have Sir Edward the soldier, instead of Ambrose the priest."
Anger and astonishment kept Mrs. Lilias silent,--while her old friend,
in his self-complacent manner, was making known to her his political
speculations. At length her resentment found utterance in words of
great ire and scorn. "What, Master Wingate! have you eaten my
mistress's bread, to say nothing of my master's, so many years, that
you could live to think of her being dispossessed of her own Castle of
Avenel, by a wretched monk, who is not a drop's blood to her in the
way of relation? I, that am but a woman, would try first whether my
rock or his cowl was the better metal. Shame on you, Master Wingate! I
If I had not held you as so old an acquaintance, this should have gone
to my Lady's ears though I had been called pickthank and tale-pyet for
my pains, as when I told of Roland Graeme shooting the wild swan."
Master Wingate was somewhat dismayed at perceiving, that the details
which he had given of his far-sighted political views had produced
on his hearer rather suspicion of his fidelity, than admiration of his
wisdom, and endeavoured, as hastily as possible, to apologize and to
explain, although internally extremely offended at the unreasonable
view, as he deemed it, which it had pleased Mistress Lilias Bradbourne
to take of his expressions; and mentally convinced that her
disapprobation of his sentiments arose solely out of the
consideration, that though Father Ambrose, supposing him to become the
master of the castle, would certainly require the services of a
steward, yet those of a waiting-woman would, in the supposed
circumstances, be altogether superfluous.
After his explanation had been received as explanations usually are,
the two friends separated; Lilias to attend the silver whistle which
called her to her mistress's chamber, and the sapient major-domo to
the duties of his own department. They parted with less than their
usual degree of reverence and regard; for the steward felt that his
worldly wisdom was rebuked by the more disinterested attachment of the
waiting-woman, and Mistress Lilias Bradbourne was compelled to
consider her old friend as something little better than a time-server.
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