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Chapter 28

He is at liberty, I have ventured for him!
-----------------------------if the law
Find and condemn me for't, some living wenches,
Some honest-hearted maids will sing my dirge,
And tell to memory my death was noble,
Dying almost a martyr.
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN.


The Sub-Prior of Saint Mary's, in taking his departure from the spence
which Sir Piercie Shafton was confined, and in which some preparations
were made for his passing the night as the room which might be most
conveniently guarded, left more than one perplexed person behind him.
There was connected with this chamber, and opening into it, a small
_outshot_, or projecting part of the building, occupied by a
sleeping apartment, which upon ordinary occasions, was that of Mary
Avenel, and which, in the unusual number of guests who had come to the
tower on the former evening, had also accommodated Mysie Happer, the
Miller's daughter; for anciently, as well as in the present day, a
Scottish house was always rather too narrow and limited for the extent
of the owner's hospitality, and some shift and contrivance was
necessary, upon any unusual occasion, to ensure the accommodation of
all the guests.

The fatal news of Halbert Glendinning's death had thrown all former
arrangements into confusion. Mary Avenel, whose case required
immediate attention, had been transported into the apartment hitherto
occupied by Halbert and his brother, as the latter proposed to watch
all night, in order to prevent the escape of the prisoner. Poor Mysie
had been altogether overlooked, and had naturally enough betaken
herself to the little apartment which she had hitherto occupied,
ignorant that the spence, through which lay the only access to it, was
to be the sleeping chamber of Sir Piercie Shafton. The measures taken
for securing him there had been so sudden, that she was not aware of
it, until she found that the other females had been removed from the
spence by the Sub-Prior's direction, and having once missed the
opportunity of retreating along with them, bashfulness, and the high
respect which she was taught to bear to the monks, prevented her
venturing forth alone, and intruding herself on the presence of Father
Eustace, while in secret conference with the Southron. There appeared
no remedy but to wait till their interview was over; and, as the door
was thin, and did not shut very closely, she could hear every word
that passed betwixt them.

It thus happened, that without any intended intrusion on her part, she
became privy to the whole conversation of the Sub-Prior and the
English knight, and could also observe from the window of her little
retreat, that more than one of the young men summoned by Edward
arrived successively at the tower. These circumstances led her to
entertain most serious apprehension that the life of Sir Piercie
Shafton was in great and instant peril.

Woman is naturally compassionate, and not less willingly so when youth
and fair features are on the side of him who claims her sympathy. The
handsome presence, elaborate dress and address, of Sir Piercie
Shafton, which had failed to make any favorable impression on the
grave and lofty character of Mary Avenel, had completely dazzled and
bewildered the poor Maid of the Mill. The knight had perceived this
result, and, flattered by seeing that his merit was not universally
underrated, he had bestowed on Mysie a good deal more of his courtesy
than in his opinion her rank warranted. It was not cast away, but
received with a devout sense of his condescension, and with gratitude
for his personal notice, which, joined to her fears for his safety,
and the natural tenderness of her disposition, began to make wild work
in her heart.

"To be sure it was very wrong in him to slay Halbert Glendinning," (it
was thus she argued the case with herself,) "but then he was a
gentleman born, and a soldier, and so gentle and courteous withal,
that she was sure the quarrel had been all of young Glendinning's own
seeking; for it was well known that both these lads were so taken up
with that Mary Avenel, that they never looked at another lass in the
Halidome, more than if they were of a different degree. And then
Halbert's dress was as clownish as his manners were haughty; and this
poor young gentleman, (who was habited like any prince,) banished from
his own land, was first drawn into a quarrel by a rude brangler, and
then persecuted and like to be put to death by his kin and allies."

Mysie wept bitterly at the thought, and then her heart rising against
such cruelty and oppression to a defenceless stranger, who dressed
with so much skill, and spoke with so much grace, she began to
consider whether she could not render him some assistance in this
extremity.

Her mind was now entirely altered from its original purpose. At first
her only anxiety had been to find the means of escaping from the
interior apartment, without being noticed by any one; but now she
began to think that Heaven had placed her there for the safety and
protection of the persecuted stranger. She was of a simple and
affectionate, but at the same time an alert and enterprising
character, possessing more than female strength of body, and more than
female courage, though with feelings as capable of being bewildered
with gallantry of dress and language, as a fine gentleman of any
generation would have desired to exercise his talents upon. "I will
save him," she thought, "that is the first thing to be resolved--and
then I wonder what he will say to the poor Miller's maiden, that has
done for him what all the dainty dames in London or Holyrood would
have been afraid to venture upon."

Prudence began to pull her sleeve as she indulged speculations so
hazardous, and hinted to her that the warmer Sir Piercie Shafton's
gratitude might prove, it was the more likely to be fraught with
danger to his benefactress. Alas! poor Prudence, thou mayest say with
our moral teacher,


"I preach for ever, but I preach in vain."

The Miller's maiden, while you pour your warning into her unwilling
bosom, has glanced her eye on the small mirror by which she has placed
her little lamp, and it returns to her a countenance and eyes, pretty
and sparkling at all times, but ennobled at present with the energy of
expression proper to those who have dared to form, and stand prepared
to execute, deeds of generous audacity. "Will these features--will
these eyes, joined to the benefit I am about to confer upon Sir
Piercie Shafton, do nothing towards removing the distance of rank
between us?"

Such was the question which female vanity asked of fancy; and though
even fancy dared not answer in a ready affirmative, a middle
conclusion was adopted--"Let me first succour the gallant youth, and
trust to fortune for the rest."

Banishing, therefore, from her mind every thing that was personal to
herself, the rash but generous girl turned her whole thoughts to the
means of executing this enterprise.

The difficulties which interposed were of no ordinary nature. The
vengeance of the men of that country, in cases of deadly feud, that
is, in cases of a quarrel excited by the slaughter of any of their
relations, was one of their most marked characteristics; and Edward,
however gentle in other respects, was so fond of his brother, that
there could be no doubt that he would be as signal in his revenge as
the customs of the country authorized. There were to be passed the
inner door of the apartment, the two gates of the tower itself, and
the gate of the court-yard, ere the prisoner was at liberty; and then
a guide and means of flight were to be provided, otherwise ultimate
escape was impossible. But where the will of woman is strongly bent on
the accomplishment of such a purpose, her wit is seldom baffled by
difficulties, however embarrassing.

The Sub-Prior had not long left the apartment, ere Mysie had devised a
scheme for Sir Piercie Shafton's freedom, daring, indeed, but likely
to be successful, if dexterously conducted. It was necessary, however,
that she should remain where she was till so late an hour, that all in
the tower should have betaken themselves to repose, excepting those
whose duty made them watchers. The interval she employed in observing
the movements of the person in whose service she was thus boldly a
volunteer.

She could hear Sir Piercie Shafton pace the floor to and fro, in
reflection doubtless on his own untoward fate and precarious
situation. By and by she heard him making a rustling among his trunks,
which, agreeable to the order of the Sub-Prior, had been placed in the
apartment to which he was confined, and which he was probably amusing
more melancholy thoughts by examining and arranging. Then she could
hear him resume his walk through the room, and, as if his spirits had
been somewhat relieved and elevated by the survey of his wardrobe, she
could distinguish that at one turn he half recited a sonnet, at
another half whistled a galliard, and at the third hummed a saraband.
At length she could understand that he extended himself on the
temporary couch which had been allotted to him, after muttering his
prayers hastily, and in a short time she concluded he must be fast
asleep.

She employed the moment which intervened in considering her enterprise
under every different aspect; and dangerous as it was, the steady
review which she took of the various perils accompanying her purpose,
furnished her with plausible devices for obviating them. Love and
generous compassion, which give singly such powerful impulse to the
female heart, were in this case united, and championed her to the last
extremity of hazard.

It was an hour past midnight. All in the tower slept sound but those
who had undertaken to guard the English prisoner; or if sorrow and
suffering drove sleep from the bed of Dame Glendinning and her
foster-daughter, they were too much wrapt in their own griefs to
attend to external sounds. The means of striking light were at hand
in the small apartment, and thus the Miller's maiden was enabled to
light and trim a small lamp. With a trembling step and throbbing
heart, she undid the door which separated her from the apartment in
which the Southron knight was confined, and almost flinched from her
fixed purpose, when she found herself in the same room with the
sleeping prisoner. She scarcely trusted herself to look upon him, as
he lay wrapped in his cloak, and fast asleep upon the pallet bed, but
turned her eyes away while she gently pulled his mantle with no more
force than was just equal to awaken him. He moved not until she had
twitched his cloak a second and a third time, and then at length
looking up, was about to make an exclamation in the suddenness of his
surprise.

Mysie's bashfulness was conquered by her fear. She placed her fingers
on her lips, in token that he must observe the most strict silence,
and then pointed to the door to intimate that it was watched.

Sir Piercie Shafton now collected himself and sat upright on his
couch. He gazed with surprise on the graceful figure of the young
woman who stood before him; her well-formed person, her flowing hair,
and the outline of her features, showed dimly, and yet to advantage,
by the partial and feeble light which she held in her hand. The
romantic imagination of the gallant would soon have coined some
compliment proper for the occasion, but Mysie left him not time.

"I come," she said, "to save your life, which is else in great
peril--if you answer me, speak as low as you can, for they have
sentinelled your door with armed men."

"Comeliest of miller's daughters," answered Sir Piercie, who by this
time was sitting upright on his couch, "dread nothing for my safety.
Credit me, that, as in very truth, I have not spilled the red puddle
(which these villagios call the blood) of their most uncivil relation,
so I am under no apprehension whatever for the issue of this
restraint, seeing that it cannot but be harmless to me. Natheless, to
thee, O most Molendinar beauty, I return the thanks which thy courtesy
may justly claim."

"Nay, but, Sir Knight," answered the maiden, in a whisper as low as it
was tremulous, "I deserve no thanks unless you will act by my counsel.
Edward Glendinning hath sent for Dan of the Howlet-hirst, and young
Adie of Aikenshaw, and they are come with three men more, and with
bow, and jack, and spear, and I heard them say to each other, and to
Edward, as they alighted in the court, that they would have amends for
the death of their kinsman, if the monk's cowl should smoke for
it--And the vassals are so wilful now, that the Abbot himself dare not
control them, for fear they turn heretics, and refuse to pay their
feu-duties."

"In faith," said Sir Piercie Shafton, "it may be a shrewd temptation,
and perchance the monks may rid themselves of trouble and cumber, by
handing me over the march to Sir John Foster or Lord Hundson, the
English wardens, and so make peace with their vassals and with England
at once. Fairest Molinara, I will for once walk by thy rede, and if
thou dost contrive to extricate me from this vile kennel, I will so
celebrate thy wit and beauty, that the Baker's nymph of Raphael
d'Urbino shall seem but a gipsey in comparison of my Molinara."

"I pray you, then, be silent," said the Miller's daughter; "for if your
speech betrays that you are awake, my scheme fails utterly, and it is
Heaven's mercy and Our Lady's that we are not already overheard and
discovered."

"I am silent," replied the Southron, "even as the starless night--but
yet--if this contrivance of thine should endanger thy safety, fair and
no less kind than fair damsel, it were utterly unworthy of me to
accept it at thy hand."

"Do not think of me," said Mysie, hastily; "I am safe--I will take
thought for myself, if I once saw you out of this dangerous
dwelling--if you would provide yourself with any part of your apparel
or goods, lose no time."

The knight _did_, however, lose some time, ere he could settle in
his own mind what to take and what to abandon of his wardrobe, each
article of which seemed endeared to him by recollection of the feasts
and revels at which it had been exhibited. For some little while Mysie
left him to make his selections at leisure, for she herself had also
some preparations to make for flight. But when, returning from the
chamber into which she had retired, with a small bundle in her hand,
she found him still indecisive, she insisted in plain terms, that he
should either make up his baggage for the enterprise, or give it up
entirely. Thus urged, the disconsolate knight hastily made up a few
clothes into a bundle, regarded his trunk-mails with a mute expression
of parting sorrow, and intimated his readiness to wait upon his kind
guide.

She led the way to the door of the apartment, having first carefully
extinguished her lamp, and motioning to the knight to stand close
behind her, tapped once or twice at the door. She was at length
answered by Edward Glendinning, who demanded to know who knocked
within, and what was desired.

"Speak low," said Mysie Happer, "or you will awaken the English
knight. It is I, Mysie Happer, who knock--I wish to get out--you have
locked me up--and I was obliged to wait till the Southron slept."

"Locked you up!" replied Edward, in surprise.

"Yes," answered the Miller's daughter, "you have locked me up into this
room--I was in Mary Avenel's sleeping apartment."

"And can you not remain there till morning," replied Edward, "since it
has so chanced?"

"What!" said the Miller's daughter, in a tone of offended delicacy, "I
remain here a moment longer than I can get out without discovery!--I
would not, for all the Halidome of St. Mary's, remain a minute longer
in the neighbourhood of a man's apartment than I can help it--For
whom, or for what do you hold me? I promise you my father's daughter
has been better brought up than to put in peril her good name."

"Come forth then, and get to thy chamber in silence," said Edward. So
saying, he undid the bolt. The staircase without was in utter
darkness, as Mysie had before ascertained. So soon as she stept out,
she took hold of Edward as if to support herself, thus interposing her
person betwixt him and Sir Piercie Shaffcon, by whom she was closely
followed. Thus screened from observation, the Englishman slipped past
on tiptoe, unshod and in silence, while the damsel complained to
Edward that she wanted a light.

"I cannot get you a light," said he, "for I cannot leave this post; but
there is a fire below."

"I will sit below till morning," said the Maid of the Mill; and,
tripping down stairs, heard Edward bolt and bar the door of the now
tenantless apartment with vain caution.

At the foot of the stair which she descended, she found the object of
her care waiting her farther directions. She recommended to him the
most absolute silence, which, for once in his life, he seemed not
unwilling to observe, conducted him, with as much caution as if he
were walking on cracked ice, to a dark recess, used for depositing
wood, and instructed him to ensconce himself behind the fagots. She
herself lighted her lamp once more at the kitchen fire, and took her
distaff and spindle, that she might not seem to be unemployed, in case
any one came into the apartment.

From time to time, however, she stole towards the window on tiptoe, to
catch the first glance of the dawn, for the farther prosecution of her
adventurous project. At length she saw, to her great joy, the first
peep of the morning brighten upon the gray clouds of the east, and,
clasping her hands together, thanked Our Lady for the sight, and
implored protection during the remainder of her enterprise. Ere she
had finished her prayer, she started at feeling a man's arm across her
shoulder, while a rough voice spoke in her ear--"What! menseful Mysie
of the Mill so soon at her prayers?--now, benison on the bonny eyes
that open so early!--I'll have a kiss for good morrow's sake."

Dan of the Howlet-hirst, for he was the gallant who paid Mysie this
compliment, suited the action with the word, and the action, as is
usual in such cases of rustic gallantry, was rewarded with a cuff,
which Dan received as a fine gentleman receives a tap with a fan, but
which, delivered by the energetic arm of the Miller's maiden, would
have certainly astonished a less robust gallant.

"How now, Sir Coxcomb!" said she, "and must you be away from your
guard over the English knight, to plague quiet folks with your
horse-tricks!"

"Truly you are mistaken, pretty Mysie," said the clown, "for I have
not yet relieved Edward at his post; and were it not a shame to let
him stay any longer, by my faith, I could find it in my heart not to
quit you these two hours."

"Oh, you have hours and hours enough to see any one," said Mysie; "but
you must think of the distress of the household even now, and get Edward
to sleep for a while, for he has kept watch this whole night."

"I will have another kiss first," answered Dan of the Howlet-hirst.

But Mysie was now on her guard, and, conscious of the vicinity of the
wood-hole, offered such strenuous resistance, that the swain cursed
the nymph's bad humour with very unpastoral phrase and emphasis, and
ran up stairs to relieve the guard of his comrade. Stealing to the
door, she heard the new sentinel hold a brief conversation with
Edward, after which the latter withdrew, and the former entered upon
the duties of his watch.

Mysie suffered him to walk there a little while undisturbed, until the
dawning became more general, by which time she supposed he might have
digested her coyness, and then presenting herself before the watchful
sentinel, demanded of him "the keys of the outer tower, and of the
courtyard gate."

"And for what purpose?" answered the warder.

"To milk the cows, and drive them out to their pasture," said Mysie;
"you would not have the poor beasts kept in the byre a' morning, and
the family in such distress, that there is na ane fit to do a turn but
the byre-woman and myself?"

"And where is the byre-woman?" said Dan.

"Sitting with me in the kitchen, in case these distressed folks want any
thing."

"There are the keys, then, Mysie Dorts," said the sentinel.

"Many thanks, Dan Ne'er-do-weel," answered the Maid of the Mill, and
escaped down stairs in a moment.

To hasten to the wood-hole, and there to robe the English knight in a
short gown and petticoat, which she had provided for the purpose, was
the work of another moment. She then undid the gates of the tower, and
made towards the byre, or cow-house, which stood in one corner of the
courtyard. Sir Piercie Shafton remonstrated against the delay which
this would occasion.

"Fair and generous Molinara," he said, "had we not better undo the
outward gate, and make the best of our way hence, even like a pair of
sea-mews who make towards shelter of the rocks as the storm waxes
high?"

"We must drive out the cows first," said Mysie, "for a sin it were to
spoil the poor widow's cattle, both for her sake and the poor beasts'
own; and I have no mind any one shall leave the tower in a hurry to
follow us. Besides, you must have your horse, for you will need a
fleet one ere all be done."

So saying, she locked and double-locked both the inward and outward
door of the tower, proceeded to the cow-house, turned out the cattle,
and, giving the knight his own horse to lead, drove them before her
out at the court-yard gate, intending to return for her own palfrey.
But the noise attending the first operation caught the wakeful
attention of Edward, who, starting to the bartizan, called to know
what the matter was.

Mysie answered with great readiness, that "she was driving out the cows,
for that they would be spoiled for want of looking to."

"I thank thee, kind maiden," said Edward--"and yet," he added, after
a moment's pause, "what damsel is that thou hast with thee?"

Mysie was about to answer, when Sir Piercie Shafton, who apparently
did not desire that the great work of his liberation should be
executed without the interposition of his own ingenuity, exclaimed
from beneath, "I am she, O most bucolical juvenal, under whose charge
are placed the milky mothers of the herd."

"Hell and darkness!" exclaimed Edward, in a transport of fury and
astonishment, "it is Piercie Shafton--What! treason!
treason!--ho!--Dan--Jasper--Martin--the villain escapes!"

"To horse! to horse!" cried Mysie, and in an instant mounted behind
the knight, who was already in the saddle.

Edward caught up a cross-bow, and let fly a bolt, which whistled so
near Mysie's ear, that she called to her companion,--"Spur--spur, Sir
Knight!--the next will not miss us.--Had it been Halbert instead of
Edward who bent that bow, we had been dead."

The knight pressed his horse, which dashed past the cows, and down the
knoll on which the tower was situated. Then taking the road down the
valley, the gallant animal, reckless of its double burden, soon
conveyed them out of hearing of the tumult and alarm with which their
departure filled the Tower of Glendearg.

Thus it strangely happened, that two men were flying in different
directions at the same time, each accused of being the other's murderer.

Sir Walter Scott