When lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds too late that men betray--
Julian Avenel saw with surprise the demeanour of the reverend
stranger. "Beshrew me," he said, "these new-fashioned religioners have
fast-days, I warrant me--the old ones used to confer these blessings
chiefly on the laity."
"We acknowledge no such rule," said the preacher--"We hold that our
faith consists not in using or abstaining from special meats on special
days; and in fasting we rend our hearts, and not our garments."
"The better--the better for yourselves, and the worse for Tom Tailor,"
said the Baron; "but come, sit down, or, if thou needs must e'en give
us a cast of thy office, mutter thy charm."
"Sir Baron," said the preacher, "I am in a strange land, where neither
mine office nor my doctrine are known, and where, it would seem, both
are greatly misunderstood. It is my duty so to bear me, that in my
person, however unworthy, my Master's dignity may be respected, and
that sin may take not confidence from relaxation of the bonds of
"Ho la! halt there," said the Baron; "thou wert sent hither for thy
safety, but not, I think, to preach to me, or control me. What is it
thou wouldst have, Sir Preacher? Remember thou speakest to one
somewhat short of patience, who loves a short health and a long
"In a word, then," said Henry Warden, "that lady--"
"How?" said the Baron, starting--"what of her?--what hast thou to
say of that dame?"
"Is she thy house-dame?" said the preacher, after a moment's pause, in
which, he seemed to seek for the best mode of expressing what he had
to say--"Is she, in brief, thy wife?"
The unfortunate young woman pressed both her hands on her face, as if
to hide it, but the deep blush which crimsoned her brow and neck,
showed that her cheeks were also glowing; and the bursting tears,
which found their way betwixt her slender fingers, bore witness to her
sorrow, as well as to her shame.
"Now, by my father's ashes!" said the Baron, rising and spurning from
him his footstool with such violence, that it hit the wall on the
opposite side of the apartment--then instantly constraining himself,
he muttered, "What need to run myself into trouble for a fool's
word?"--then resuming his seat, he answered coldly and
scornfully--"No, Sir Priest or Sir Preacher, Catherine is not my
wife--Cease thy whimpering, thou foolish wench--she is not my wife,
but she is handfasted with me, and that makes her as honest a woman."
"Knowest thou not that rite, holy man?" said Avenel, in the same tone
of derision; "then I will tell thee. We Border-men are more wary than
your inland clowns of Fife and Lothian--no jump in the dark for us--no
clenching the fetters around our wrists till we know how they will
wear with us--we take our wives, like our horses, upon trial. When we
are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and
day--that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their
pleasure, may call the priest to marry them for life--and this we call
handfasting." [Footnote: This custom of handfasting actually prevailed
in the upland days. It arose partly from the want of priests. While
the convents subsisted, monks were detached on regular circuits
through the wilder districts, to marry those who had lived in this
species of connexion. A practice of the same kind existed in the Isle
"Then," said the preacher, "I tell thee, noble Baron, in brotherly
love to thy soul, it is a custom licentious, gross, and corrupted,
and, if persisted in, dangerous, yea, damnable. It binds thee to the
frailer being while she is the object of desire--it relieves thee when
she is most the subject of pity--it gives all to brutal sense, and
nothing to generous and gentle affection. I say to thee, that he who
can meditate the breach of such an engagement, abandoning the deluded
woman and the helpless offspring, is worse than the birds of prey; for
of them the males remain with their mates until the nestlings can take
wing. Above all, I say it is contrary to the pure Christian doctrine,
which assigns woman to man as the partner of his labour, the soother
of his evil, his helpmate in peril, his friend in affliction; not as
the toy of his looser hours, or as a flower, which, once cropped, he
may throw aside at pleasure."
"Now, by the Saints, a most virtuous homily!" said the Baron;
"quaintly conceived and curiously pronounced, and to a well-chosen
congregation. Hark ye, Sir Gospeller! trow ye to have a fool in hand?
Know I not that your sect rose by bluff Harry Tudor, merely because ye
aided him to change _his_ Kate; and wherefore should I not use
the same Christian liberty with _mine?_ Tush, man! bless the good
food, and meddle not with what concerns thee not--thou hast no gull in
"He hath gulled and cheated himself," said the preacher, "should he
even incline to do that poor sharer of his domestic cares the
imperfect justice that remains to him. Can he now raise her to the
rank of a pure and uncontaminated matron?--Can he deprive his child of
the misery of owing birth to a mother who has erred? He can indeed
give them both the rank, the state of married wife and of lawful son;
but, in public opinion, their names will be smirched and sullied with
a stain which his tardy efforts cannot entirely efface. Yet render it
to them, Baron of Avenel, render to them this late and imperfect
justice. Bid me bind you together for ever, and celebrate the day of
your bridal, not with feasting or wassail, but with sorrow for past
sin, and the resolution to commence a better life. Happy then will
have the chance been that has drawn me to this castle, though I come
driven by calamity, and unknowing where my course is bound, like a
leaf travelling on the north wind."
The plain, and even coarse features, of the zealous speaker, were
warmed at once and ennobled by the dignity of his enthusiasm; and the
wild Baron, lawless as he was, and accustomed to spurn at the control
whether of religious or moral law, felt, for the first time perhaps in
his life, that he was under subjection to a mind superior to his own.
He sat mute and suspended in his deliberations, hesitating betwixt
anger and shame, yet borne down by the weight of the just rebuke thus
boldly fulminated against him.
The unfortunate young woman, conceiving hopes from her tyrant's
silence and apparent indecision, forgot both her fear and shame in her
timid expectation that Avenel would relent; and fixing upon him her
anxious and beseeching eyes, gradually drew near and nearer to his
seat, till at length, laying a trembling hand on his cloak, she
ventured to utter, "O noble Julian, listen to the good man!"
The speech and the motion were ill-timed, and wrought on that proud and
wayward spirit the reverse of her wishes.
The fierce Baron started up in a fury, exclaiming, "What! thou foolish
callet, art thou confederate with this strolling vagabond, whom thou
hast seen beard me in my own hall! Hence with thee, and think that I
ana proof both to male and female hypocrisy!"
The poor girl started back, astounded at his voice of thunder and
looks of fury, and, turning pale as death, endeavoured to obey his
orders, and tottered towards the door. Her limbs failed in the
attempt, and she fell on the stone floor in a manner which her
situation might have rendered fatal--The blood gushed from her
face.--Halbert Glendinning brooked not a sight so brutal, but,
uttering a deep imprecation, started from his seat, and laid his hand
on his sword, under the strong impulse of passing it through the body
of the cruel and hard-hearted ruffian. But Christie of the Clinthill,
guessing his intention, threw his arms around him, and prevented him
from stirring to execute his purpose.
The impulse to such an act of violence was indeed but momentary, as it
instantly appeared that Avenel himself, shocked at the effects of his
violence, was lifting up and endeavouring to soothe in his own way the
"Peace," he said, "prithee, peace, thou silly minion--why, Kate,
though I listen not to this tramping preacher, I said not what might
happen an thou dost bear me a stout boy. There--there--dry thy
tears--Call thy women.--So ho!--where be these queans?--Christie--
Rowley--Hutcheon--drag them hither by the hair of the head!"
A half dozen of startled wild-looking females rushed into the room,
and bore out her who might be either termed their mistress or their
companion. She showed little sign of life, except by groaning faintly
and keeping her hand on her side.
No sooner had this luckless female been conveyed from the apartment,
than the Baron, advancing to the table, filled and drank a deep goblet
of wine; then, putting an obvious restraint on his passions, turned to
the preacher, who stood horror-struck at the scene he had witnessed,
and said, "You have borne too hard on us, Sir Preacher--but coming
with the commendations which you have brought me, I doubt not but your
meaning was good. But we are a wilder folk than you inland men of Fife
and Lothian. Be advised, therefore, by me--Spur not an unbroken
horse--put not your ploughshare too deep into new land--Preach to us
spiritual liberty, and we will hearken to you.--But we will give no
way to spiritual bondage.--Sit, therefore, down, and pledge me in old
sack, and we will talk over these matters."
"It is _from_ spiritual bondage," said the preacher, in the same
tone of admonitory reproof, "that I came to deliver you--it is from a
bondage more fearful than than that of the heaviest earthly gyves--it
is from your own evil passions."
"Sit down," said Avenel, fiercely; "sit down while the play is good--
else by my father's crest and my mother's honour!----"
"Now," whispered Christie of the Clinthill to Halbert, "if he refuse to
sit down, I would not give a gray groat for his head."
"Lord Baron," said Warden, "thou hast placed me in extremity. But if
the question be, whether I am to hide the light which I am commanded
to show forth, or to lose the light of this world, my choice is made.
I say to thee, like the Holy Baptist to Herod, it is not lawful for
thee to have this woman; and I say it though bonds and death be the
consequence, counting my life as nothing in comparison of the ministry
to which I am called."
Julian Avenel, enraged at the firmness of this reply, flung from his
right hand the cup in which he was about to drink to his guest, and
from the other cast off the hawk, which flew wildly through the
apartment. His first motion was to lay hand upon his dagger. But,
changing his resolution, he exclaimed, "To the dungeon with this
insolent stroller!--I will hear no man speak a word for him----Look to
the falcon, Christie, thou fool--an she escape, I will despatch you
after her every man--Away with that hypocritical dreamer--drag him
hence if he resist!"
He was obeyed in both points. Christie of the Clinthill arrested the
hawk's flight, by putting his foot on her jesses, and so holding her
fast, while Henry Warden was led off, without having shown the
slightest symptoms of terror, by two of the Baron's satellites. Julian
Avenel walked the apartment for a short time in sullen silence, and
despatching one of his attendants with a whispered message, which
probably related to the health of the unfortunate Catherine, he said
aloud, "These rash and meddling priests--By Heaven! they make us worse
than we would be without them."
[Footnote: If it were necessary to name a prototype for this brutal,
licentious and cruel Border chief, in an age which showed but too many
such, the Laird of Black Ormiston might be selected for that purpose.
He was a friend and confidant of Bothwell, and an agent in Henry
Darnley's murder. At his last stage, he was, like other great
offenders, a seeming penitent; and, as his confession bears, divers
gentlemen and servants being in the chamber, he said, "For God's sake,
sit down and pray for me, for I have been a great sinner otherwise,"
(that is, besides his share in Darnley's death,) "for the which God is
this day punishing me; for of all men on the earth, I have been one of
the proudest, and most high-minded, and most unclean of my body. But
specially I have shed the innocent blood of one Michael Hunter with my
own hands. Alas, therefore! because the said Michael, having me lying
on my back, having a fork in his hand, might have slain me if he had
pleased, and did it not, which of all things grieves me most in
conscience. Also, in a rage, I hanged a poor man for a horse;--with
many other wicked deeds, for whilk I ask my God mercy. It is not
marvel I have been wicked, considering the wicked company that ever I
have been in, but specially within the seven years by-past, in which I
never saw two good men or one good deed, but all kind of wickedness,
and yet God would not suffer me to be lost."--See the whole confession
in the State Trials.
Another worthy of the Borders, called Geordy Bourne, of somewhat
subordinate rank, was a similar picture of profligacy. He had fallen
into the hands of Sir Robert Carey, then Warden of the English East
Marches, who gives the following account of his prisoner's
"When all things were quiet, and the watch set at night, after supper,
about ten of the clock, I took one of my men's liveries, and put it
about me, and took two other of my servants with me in their liveries;
and we three, as the Warden's men, came to the Provost Marshal's where
Bourne was, and were let into his chamber. We sate down by him, and
told him that we were desirous to see him, because we heard he was
stout and valiant, and true to his friend, and that we were sorry our
master could not be moved to save his life. He voluntarily of himself
said, that he had lived long enough to do so many villanies as he had
done; and withal told us, that he had lain with above forty men's
wives, what in England what in Scotland; and that he had killed seven
Englishmen with his own hands, cruelly murdering them; and that he had
spent his whole time in whoring, drinking, stealing, and taking deep
revenge for slight offences. He seemed to be very penitent, and much
desired a minister for the comfort of his soul. We promised him to let
our master know his desire, who, we knew would promptly grant it. We
took leave of him; and presently I took order that Mr Selby, a very
honest preacher, should go to him, and not stir from him till his
execution the next morning; for after I had heard his own confession,
I was resolved no conditions should save his life, and so took order,
that at the gates opening the next morning, he should be carried to
execution, which accordingly was performed."--_Memoirs of Sir
Robert Carey, Earl of Monmouth._]
The answer which he presently received seemed somewhat to pacify his
angry mood, and he took his place at the board, commanding his retinue
to the like. All sat down in silence, and began the repast.
During the meal Christie in vain attempted to engage his youthful
companion in carousal, or, at least, in conversation. Halbert
Glendinning pleaded fatigue, and expressed himself unwilling to take
any liquor stronger than the heather ale, which was at that time
frequently used at meals. Thus every effort at jovialty died away,
until the Baron, striking his hand against the table, as if impatient
of the long unbroken silence, cried out aloud, "What, ho! my
masters--are ye Border-riders, and sit as mute over your meal as a
mess of monks and friars?--Some one sing, if no one list to speak.
Much eaten without either mirth or music is ill of digestion.--Louis,"
he added, speaking to one of the youngest of his followers, "thou art
ready enough to sing when no one bids thee."
The young man looked first at his master, then up to the arched roof
of the hall, then drank off the horn of ale, or wine, which stood
beside him, and with a rough, yet not unmelodious voice, sung the
following ditty to the ancient air of "Blue bonnets over the Border."
March, march, Ettrick and Teviotdale,
Why the deil dinna ye march forward in order?
March, march, Eskdale and Liddesdale,
All the Blue Bonnets are bound for the Border
Many a banner spread,
Flutters above your head,
Many a crest that is famous in story;
Mount and make ready then,
Sons of the mountain glen,
Fight for the Queen and the old Scottish glory!
Come from the hills where the hirsels are grazing,
Come from the glen of the buck and the roe;
Come to the crag where the beacon is blazing,
Come with the buckler, the lance, and the bow.
Trumpets are sounding,
War-steeds are bounding,
Stand to your arms then, and march in good order;
England shall many a day
Tell of the bloody fray,
When the Blue Bonnets came over the Border!
No sooner did he find himself in undisturbed solitude, than he ran
rapidly over the events of the day in his recollection, and to his
surprise found that his own precarious fate, and even the death of
Piercie Shafton, made less impression on him than the singularly bold
and determined conduct of his companion, Henry Warden. Providence,
which suits its instruments to the end they are to achieve, had
awakened in the cause of Reformation in Scotland, a body of preachers
of more energy than refinement, bold in spirit, and strong in faith,
contemners of whatever stood betwixt them and their principal object,
and seeking the advancement of the great cause in which they laboured
by the roughest road, provided it were the shortest. The soft breeze
may wave the willow, but it requires the voice of the tempest to
agitate the boughs of the oak; and, accordingly, to milder hearers,
and in a less rude age, their manners would have been ill-adapted, but
they were singularly successful in their mission to the rude people to
whom it was addressed.
Owing to these reasons, Halbert Glendinning, who had resisted and
repelled the arguments of the preacher, was forcibly struck by the
firmness of his demeanour in the dispute with Julian Avenel. It might
be discourteous, and most certainly it was incautious, to choose such
a place and such an audience, for upbraiding with his transgressions a
baron, whom both manners and situation placed in full possession of
independent power. But the conduct of the preacher was uncompromising,
firm, manly, and obviously grounded upon the deepest conviction which
duty and principle could afford; and Glendinning, who had viewed the
conduct of Avenel with the deepest abhorrence, was proportionally
interested in the brave old man, who had ventured life rather than
withhold the censure due to guilt. This pitch of virtue seemed to him
to be in religion what was demanded by chivalry of her votaries in
war; an absolute surrender of all selfish feelings, and a combination
of every energy proper to the human mind, to discharge the task which
Halbert was at the period when youth was most open to generous
emotions, and knows best how to appreciate them in others, and he
felt, although he hardly knew why, that, whether catholic or heretic,
the safety of this man deeply interested him. Curiosity mingled with
the feeling, and led him to wonder what the nature of those doctrines
could be, which stole their votary so completely from himself, and
devoted him to chains or to death as their sworn champion. He had
indeed been told of saints and martyrs of former days, who had braved
for their religious faith the extremity of death and torture. But
their spirit of enthusiastic devotion had long slept in the ease and
indolent habits of their successors, and their adventures, like those
of knights-errant, were rather read for amusement than for
edification. A new impulse had been necessary to rekindle the energies
of religious zeal, and that impulse was now operating in favour of a
purer religion, with one of whose steadiest votaries the youth had now
met for the first time.
The sense that he himself was a prisoner, under the power of this
savage chieftain, by no means diminished Halbert's interest in the
fate of his fellow sufferer, while he determined at the same time so
far to emulate his fortitude, that neither threats nor suffering
should compel him to enter into the service of such a master. The
possibility of escape next occurred to him, and though with little
hope of effecting it in that way, Glendinning proceeded to examine
more particularly the window of the apartment. The apartment was
situated in the first story of the castle; and was not so far from the
rock, on which it was founded, but that an active and bold man might
with little assistance descend to a shelf of rock which was
immediately below the window, and from thence either leap or drop
himself down into the lake which lay before his eye, clear and blue in
the placid light of a full summer's moon.--"Were I once placed on that
ledge," thought Glendinning, "Julian Avenel and Christie had seen the
last of me." The size of the window favoured such an attempt, but the
stanchions or iron bars seemed to form an insurmountable obstacle.
While Halbert Glendinning gazed from the window with that eagerness of
hope which was prompted by the energy of his character and his
determination not to yield to circumstances, his ear caught some
sounds from below, and listening with more attention, he could
distinguish the voice of the preacher engaged in his solitary
devotions. To open a correspondence with him became immediately his
object, and failing to do so by less marked sounds, he at length
ventured to speak, and was answered from beneath--"Is it thou, my
son?" The voice of the prisoner now sounded more distinctly than when
it was first heard, for Warden had approached the small aperture,
which, serving his prison for a window, opened just betwixt the wall
and the rock, and admitted a scanty portion of light through a wall of
immense thickness. This _soupirait_ being placed exactly under
Halbert's window, the contiguity permitted the prisoners to converse
in a low tone, when Halbert declared his intention to escape, and the
possibility he saw of achieving his purpose, but for the iron
stanchions of the window--"Prove thy strength, my son, in the name of
God" said the preacher. Halbert obeyed him more in despair than hope,
but to his great astonishment, and somewhat to his terror, the bar
parted asunder near the bottom, and the longer part being easily bent
outwards, and not secured with lead in the upper socket, dropt out
into Halbert's hand. He immediately whispered, but as energetically as
a whisper could be expressed--"By Heaven, the bar has given way in my
"Thank Heaven, my son, instead of swearing by it," answered Warden
from his dungeon.
With little effort Halbert Glendinning forced himself through the
opening thus wonderfully effected, and using his leathern sword-belt
as a rope to assist him, let himself safely drop on the shelf of rock
upon which the preacher's window opened. But through this no passage
could be effected, being scarce larger than a loop-hole for musketry,
and apparently constructed for that purpose.
"Are there no means by which I can assist your escape, my father?"
"There are none, my son," answered the preacher; "but if thou wilt
ensure my safety, that may be in thy power."
"I will labour earnestly for it," said the youth.
"Take then a letter which I will presently write, for I have the means
of light and writing materials in my scrip--Hasten towards Edinburgh,
and on the way thou wilt meet a body of horse marching
southwards--Give this to their leader, and acquaint him of the state
in which thou hast left me. It may hap that thy doing so will
In a minute or two the light of a taper gleamed through the shot-hole,
and very shortly after, the preacher, with the assistance of his
staff, pushed a billet to Glendinning through the window.
"God bless thee, my son," said the old man, "and complete the
marvellous work which he has begun."
"Amen!" answered Halbert, with solemnity, and proceeded on his
He hesitated a moment whether he should attempt to descend to the edge
of the water; but the steepness of the rock, and darkness of the
night, rendered the enterprise too dangerous. He clasped his hands
above his head and boldly sprung from the precipice, shooting himself
forward into the air as far as he could for fear of sunken rocks, and
alighted on the lake, head foremost, with such force as sunk him for a
minute below the surface. But strong, long-breathed, and accustomed to
such exercise, Halbert, even though encumbered with his sword, dived
and rose like a seafowl, and swam across the lake in the northern
direction. When he landed and looked back on the castle, he could
observe that the alarm had been given, for lights glanced from window
to window, and he heard the drawbridge lowered, and the tread of
horses' feet upon the causeway. But, little alarmed for the
consequence of a pursuit during the darkness, he wrung the water from
his dress, and, plunging into the moors, directed his course to the
north-east by the assistance of the polar star.
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