The Abbot, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Eighteenth.

— The sky is clouded, Gaspard,

And the vexed ocean sleeps a troubled sleep,

Beneath a lurid gleam of parting sunshine.

Such slumber hangs o’er discontented lands,

While factions doubt, as yet, if they have strength

To front the open battle.

Albion — A poem.

The youthful page paused on the entrance of the court-yard, and implored his guide to give him a moment’s breathing space. “Let me but look around me, man,” said he; “you consider not I have never seen such a scene as this before. — And this is Holyrood — the resort of the gallant and gay, and the fair, and the wise, and the powerful!”

“Ay, marry, is it!” said Woodcock; “but I wish I could hood thee as they do the hawks, for thou starest as wildly as if you sought another fray or another fanfarona. I would I had thee safely housed, for thou lookest wild as a goss-hawk.”

It was indeed no common sight to Roland, the vestibule of a palace traversed by its various groups — some radiant with gaiety — some pensive, and apparently weighed down by affairs concerning the state, or concerning themselves. Here the hoary statesman, with his cautious yet commanding look, his furred cloak and sable pantoufles; there the soldier in buff and steel, his long sword jarring against the pavement, and his whiskered upper lip and frowning brow, looking an habitual defiance of danger, which perhaps was not always made good; there again passed my lord’s serving-man, high of heart, and bloody of hand, humble to his master and his master’s equals, insolent to all others. To these might be added, the poor suitor, with his anxious look and depressed mien — the officer, full of his brief authority, elbowing his betters, and possibly his benefactors, out of the road — the proud priest, who sought a better benefice — the proud baron, who sought a grant of church lands — the robber chief, who came to solicit a pardon for the injuries he had inflicted on his neighbors — the plundered franklin, who came to seek vengeance for that which he had himself received. Besides there was the mustering and disposition of guards and soldiers — the despatching of messengers, and the receiving them — the trampling and neighing of horses without the gate — the flashing of arms, and rustling of plumes, and jingling of spurs, within it. In short, it was that gay and splendid confusion, in which the eye of youth sees all that is brave and brilliant, and that of experience much that is doubtful, deceitful, false, and hollow — hopes that will never be gratified — promises which will never be fulfilled — pride in the disguise of humility — and insolence in that of frank and generous bounty.

As, tired of the eager and enraptured attention which the page gave to a scene so new to him, Adam Woodcock endeavoured to get him to move forward, before his exuberance of astonishment should attract the observation of the sharp-witted denizens of the court, the falconer himself became an object of attention to a gay menial in a dark-green bonnet and feather, with a cloak of a corresponding colour, laid down, as the phrase then went, by six broad bars of silver lace, and welted with violet and silver. The words of recognition burst from both at once. “What! Adam Woodcock at court!” and “What! Michael Wing-the-wind — and how runs the hackit greyhound bitch now?”

“The waur for the wear, like ourselves, Adam — eight years this grass — no four legs will carry a dog forever; but we keep her for the breed, and so she ‘scapes Border doom — But why stand you gazing there? I promise you my lord has wished for you, and asked for you.”

“My Lord of Murray asked for me, and he Regent of the kingdom too!” said Adam. “I hunger and thirst to pay my duty to my good lord; — but I fancy his good lordship remembers the day’s sport on Carnwath-moor; and my Drummelzier falcon, that beat the hawks from the Isle of Man, and won his lordship a hundred crowns from the Southern baron whom they called Stanley.”

“Nay, not to flatter thee, Adam,” said his court-friend, “he remembers nought of thee, or of thy falcon either. He hath flown many a higher flight since that, and struck his quarry too. But come, come hither away; I trust we are to be good comrades on the old score.”

“What!” said Adam, “you would have me crush a pot with you; but I must first dispose of my eyas, where he will neither have girl to chase, nor lad to draw sword upon.”

“Is the youngster such a one?” said Michael.

“Ay, by my hood, he flies at all game,” replied Woodcock.

“Then had he better come with us,” said Michael Wing-the-wind; “for we cannot have a proper carouse just now, only I would wet my lips, and so must you. I want to hear the news from Saint Mary’s before you see my lord, and I will let you know how the wind sits up yonder.”

While he thus spoke, he led the way to a side door which opened into the court; and threading several dark passages with the air of one who knew the most secret recesses of the palace, conducted them to a small matted chamber, where he placed bread and cheese and a foaming flagon of ale before the falconer and his young companion, who immediately did justice to the latter in a hearty draught, which nearly emptied the measure. Having drawn his breath, and dashed the froth from his whiskers, he observed, that his anxiety for the boy had made him deadly dry.

“Mend your draught,” said his hospitable friend, again supplying the flagon from a pitcher which stood beside. “I know the way to the butterybar. And now, mind what I say — this morning the Earl of Morton came to my lord in a mighty chafe.”

“What! they keep the old friendship, then?” said Woodcock.

“Ay, ay, man, what else?” said Michael; “one hand must scratch the other. But in a mighty chafe was my Lord of Morton, who, to say truth, looketh on such occasions altogether uncanny, and, as it were, fiendish; and he says to my lord — for I was in the chamber taking orders about a cast of hawks that are to be fetched from Darnoway — they match your long-winged falcons, friend Adam.”

“I will believe that when I see them fly as high a pitch,” replied Woodcock, this professional observation forming a sort of parenthesis.

“However,” said Michael, pursuing his tale, “my Lord of Morton, in a mighty chafe, asked my Lord Regent whether he was well dealt with —‘for my brother,’ said he, ‘should have had a gift to be Commendator of Kennaqubair, and to have all the temporalities erected into a lordship of regality for his benefit; and here,’ said he, ‘the false monks have had the insolence to choose a new Abbot to put his claim in my brother’s way; and moreover, the rascality of the neighbourhood have burnt and plundered all that was left in the Abbey, so that my brother will not have a house to dwell in, when he hath ousted the lazy hounds of priests.’ And my lord, seeing him chafed, said mildly to him, ‘These are shrewd tidings, Douglas, but I trust they be not true; for Halbert Glendinning went southward yesterday, with a band of spears, and assuredly, had either of these chances happened, that the monks had presumed to choose an Abbot, or that the Abbey had been burnt, as you say, he had taken order on the spot for the punishment of such insolence, and had despatched us a messenger.’ And the Earl of Morton replied — now I pray you, Adam, to notice, that I say this out of love to you and your lord, and also for old comradeship, and also because Sir Halbert hath done me good, and may again — and also because I love not the Earl of Morton, as indeed more fear than like him — so then it were a foul deed in you to betray me. —‘But,’ said the Earl to the Regent, ‘take heed, my lord, you trust not this Glendinning too far — he comes of churl’s blood, which was never true to the nobles’— by Saint Andrew, these were his very words. —‘And besides,’ he said, ‘he hath a brother, a monk in Saint Mary’s, and walks all by his guidance, and is making friends on the Border with Buccleuch and with Ferniehirst, 25 and will join hand with them, were there likelihood of a new world.’ And my lord answered, like a free noble lord as he is; ‘Tush! my Lord of Morton, I will be warrant for Glendinning’s faith; and for his brother, he is a dreamer, that thinks of nought but book and breviary — and if such hap have chanced as you tell of, I look to receive from Glendinning the cowl of a hanged monk, and the head of a riotous churl, by way of sharp and sudden justice.’— And my Lord of Morton left the place, and, as it seemed to me, somewhat malecontent. But since that time, my lord has asked me more than once whether there has arrived no messenger from the Knight of Avenel. And all this I have told you, that you may frame your discourse to the best purpose, for it seems to me that my lord will not be well-pleased, if aught has happened like what my Lord of Morton said, and if your lord hath not ta’en strict orders with it.”

There was something in this communication which fairly blanked the bold visage of Adam Woodcock, in spite of the reinforcement which his natural hardihood had received from the berry-brown ale of Holyrood.

“What was it he said about a churl’s head, that grim Lord of Morton?” said the discontented falconer to his friend.

“Nay, it was my Lord Regent, who said that he expected, if the Abbey was injured, your Knight would send him the head of the ringleader among the rioters.”

“Nay, but is this done like a good Protestant,” said Adam Woodcock, “or a true Lord of the Congregation? We used to be their white-boys and darlings when we pulled down the convents in Fife and Perthshire.” “Ay, but that,” said Michael, “was when old mother Rome held her own, and our great folks were determined she should have no shelter for her head in Scotland. But, now that the priests are fled in all quarters, and their houses and lands are given to our grandees, they cannot see that we are working the work of reformation in destroying the palaces of zealous Protestants.”

“But I tell you Saint Mary’s is not destroyed!” said Woodcock, in increasing agitation; “some trash of painted windows there were broken — things that no nobleman could have brooked in his house — some stone saints were brought on their marrow-bones, like old Widdrington at Chevy-Chase; but as for fire-raising, there was not so much as a lighted lunt amongst us, save the match which the dragon had to light the burning tow withal, which he was to spit against Saint George; nay, I had caution of that.”

“How! Adam Woodcock,” said his comrade, “I trust thou hadst no hand in such a fair work? Look you, Adam, I were loth to terrify you, and you just come from a journey; but I promise you, Earl Morton hath brought you down a Maiden from Halifax, you never saw the like of her — and she’ll clasp you round the neck, and your head will remain in her arms.”

“Pshaw!” answered Adam, “I am too old to have my head turned by any maiden of them all. I know my Lord of Morton will go as far for a buxom lass as anyone; but what the devil took him to Halifax all the way? and if he has got a gamester there, what hath she to do with my head?”

“Much, much!” answered Michael. “Herod’s daughter, who did such execution with her foot and ankle, danced not men’s heads off more cleanly than this maiden of Morton. 26 ’Tis an axe, man — an axe which falls of itself like a sash window, and never gives the headsmen the trouble to wield it.”

“By my faith, a shrewd device,” said Woodcock; “heaven keep us free on’t!”

The page, seeing no end to the conversation betwixt these two old comrades, and anxious from what he had heard, concerning the fate of the Abbot, now interrupted their conference.

“Methinks,” he said, “Adam Woodcock, thou hadst better deliver thy master’s letter to the Regent; questionless he hath therein stated what has chanced at Kennaquhair, in the way most advantageous for all concerned.”

“The boy is right,” said Michael Wing-the-wind, “my lord will be very impatient.”

“The child hath wit enough to keep himself warm,” said Adam Woodcock, producing from his hawking-bag his lord’s letter, addressed to the Earl of Murray, “and for that matter so have I. So, Master Roland, you will e’en please to present this yourself to the Lord Regent; his presence will be better graced by a young page than by an old falconer.”

“Well said, canny Yorkshire!” replied his friend; “and but now you were so earnest to see our good lord! — Why, wouldst thou put the lad into the noose that thou mayst slip tether thyself? — or dost thou think the maiden will clasp his fair young neck more willingly than thy old sunburnt weasand?”

“Go to,” answered the falconer; “thy wit towers high an it could strike the quarry. I tell thee, the youth has nought to fear — he had nothing to do with the gambol — a rare gambol it was, Michael, as mad-caps ever played; and I had made as rare a ballad, if we had had the luck to get it sung to an end. But mum for that — tace, as I said before, is Latin for a candle. Carry the youth to the presence, and I will remain here, with bridle in hand, ready to strike the spurs up to the rowel-heads, in case the hawk flies my way. — I will soon put Soltraedge, I trow, betwixt the Regent and me, if he means me less than fair play.”

“Come on then, my lad,” said Michael, “since thou must needs take the spring before canny Yorkshire.” So saying, he led the way through winding passages, closely followed by Roland Graeme, until they arrived at a large winding stone stair, the steps of which were so long and broad, and at the same time so low, as to render the ascent uncommonly easy. When they had ascended about the height of one story, the guide stepped aside, and pushed open the door of a dark and gloomy antechamber; so dark, indeed, that his youthful companion stumbled, and nearly fell down upon a low step, which was awkwardly placed on the very threshold.

“Take heed,” said Michael Wing-the-wind, in a very low tone of voice, and first glancing cautiously round to see if any one listened —“Take heed, my young friend, for those who fall on these boards seldom rise again — Seest thou that,” he added, in a still lower voice, pointing to some dark crimson stains on the floor, on which a ray of light, shot through a small aperture, and traversing the general gloom of the apartment, fell with mottled radiance —“Seest thou that, youth? — walk warily, for men have fallen here before you.”

“What mean you?” said the page, his flesh creeping, though he scarce knew why; “Is it blood?”

“Ay, ay,” said the domestic, in the same whispering tone, and dragging the youth on by the arm —“Blood it is — but this is no time to question, or even to look at it. Blood it is, foully and fearfully shed, as foully and fearfully avenged. The blood,” he added, in a still more cautious tone, “of Seignior David.”

Roland Graeme’s heart throbbed when he found himself so unexpectedly in the scene of Rizzio’s slaughter, a catastrophe which had chilled with horror all even in that rude age, which had been the theme of wonder and pity through every cottage and castle in Scotland, and had not escaped that of Avenel. But his guide hurried him forward, permitting no farther question, and with the manner of one who has already tampered too much with a dangerous subject. A tap which he made at a low door at one end of the vestibule, was answered by a huissier or usher, who, opening it cautiously, received Michael’s intimation that a page waited the Regent’s leisure, who brought letters from the Knight of Avenel.

“The Council is breaking up,” said the usher; “but give me the packet; his Grace the Regent will presently see the messenger.”

“The packet,” replied the page, “must be delivered into the Regent’s own hands; such were the orders of my master.”

The usher looked at him from head to foot, as if surprised at his boldness, and then replied, with some asperity, “Say you so, my young master? Thou crowest loudly to be but a chicken, and from a country barn-yard too.”

“Were it a time or place,” said Roland, “thou shouldst see I can do more than crow; but do your duty, and let the Regent know I wait his pleasure.”

“Thou art but a pert knave to tell me of my duty,” said the courtier in office; “but I will find a time to show you you are out of yours; meanwhile, wait there till you are wanted.” So saying, he shut the door in Roland’s face.

Michael Wing-the-wind, who had shrunk from his youthful companion during this altercation, according to the established maxim of courtiers of all ranks, and in all ages, now transgressed their prudential line of conduct so far as to come up to him once more. “Thou art a hopeful young springald,” said he, “and I see right well old Yorkshire had reason in his caution. Thou hast been five minutes in the court, and hast employed thy time so well, as to make a powerful and a mortal enemy out of the usher of the council-chamber. Why, man, you might almost as well have offended the deputy butler!”

“I care not what he is,” said Roland Graeme; “I will teach whomever I speak with to speak civilly to me in return. I did not come from Avenel to be browbeaten in Holyrood.”

“Bravo, my lad!” said Michael; “it is a fine spirit if you can but hold it — but see, the door opens.”

The usher appeared, and, in a more civil tone of voice and manner, said, that his Grace the Regent would receive the Knight of Avenel’s message; and accordingly marshalled Roland Graeme the way into the apartment, from which the Council had been just dismissed, after finishing their consultations. There was in the room a long oaken table, surrounded by stools of the same wood, with a large elbow chair, covered with crimson velvet, at the head. Writing materials and papers were lying there in apparent disorder; and one or two of the privy counsellors who had lingered behind, assuming their cloaks, bonnets, and swords, and bidding farewell to the Regent, were departing slowly by a large door, on the opposite side to that through which the page entered. Apparently the Earl of Murray had made some jest, for the smiling countenances of the statesmen expressed that sort of cordial reception which is paid by courtiers to the condescending pleasantries of a prince.

The Regent himself was laughing heartily as he said, “Farewell, my lords, and hold me remembered to the Cock of the North.”

He then turned slowly round towards Roland Graeme, and the marks of gaiety, real or assumed, disappeared from his countenance, as completely as the passing bubbles leave the dark mirror of a still profound lake into which a traveller has cast a stone; in the course of a minute his noble features had assumed their natural expression of deep and even melancholy gravity.

This distinguished statesman, for as such his worst enemies acknowledged him, possessed all the external dignity, as well as almost all the noble qualities, which could grace the power that he enjoyed; and had he succeeded to the throne as his legitimate inheritance, it is probable he would have been recorded as one of Scotland’s wisest and greatest kings. But that he held his authority by the deposition and imprisonment of his sister and benefactress, was a crime which those only can excuse who think ambition an apology for ingratitude. He was dressed plainly in black velvet, after the Flemish fashion, and wore in his high-crowned hat a jewelled clasp, which looped it up on one side, and formed the only ornament of his apparel. He had his poniard by his side, and his sword lay on the council table.

Such was the personage before whom Roland Graeme now presented himself, with a feeling of breathless awe, very different from the usual boldness and vivacity of his temper. In fact, he was, from education and nature, forward, but not impudent, and was much more easily controlled by the moral superiority, arising from the elevated talents and renown of those with whom he conversed, than by pretensions founded only on rank or external show. He might have braved with indifference the presence of an earl, merely distinguished by his belt and coronet; but he felt overawed in that of the eminent soldier and statesman, the wielder of a nation’s power, and the leader of her armies. — The greatest and wisest are flattered by the deference of youth — so graceful and becoming in itself; and Murray took, with much courtesy, the letter from the hands of the abashed and blushing page, and answered with complaisance to the imperfect and half-muttered greeting, which he endeavoured to deliver to him on the part of Sir Halbert of Avenel. He even paused a moment ere he broke the silk with which the letter was secured, to ask the page his name — so much he was struck with his very handsome features and form.

“Roland Graeme,” he said, repeating the words after the hesitating page. “What! of the Grahams of the Lennox?”

“No, my lord,” replied Roland; “my parents dwelt in the Debateable Land.”

Murray made no further inquiry, but proceeded to read his dispatches; during the perusal of which his brow began to assume a stern expression of displeasure, as that of one who found something which at once surprised and disturbed him. He sat down on the nearest seat, frowned till his eyebrows almost met together, read the letter twice over, and was then silent for several minutes. At length, raising his head, his eye encountered that of the usher, who in vain endeavoured to exchange the look of eager and curious observation with which he had been perusing the Regent’s features, for that open and unnoticing expression of countenance, which, in looking at all, seems as if it saw and marked nothing — a cast of look which may be practised with advantage by all those, of whatever degree, who are admitted to witness the familiar and unguarded hours of their superiors. Great men are as jealous of their thoughts as the wife of King Candaules was of her charms, and will as readily punish those who have, however involuntarily, beheld them in mental deshabille and exposure.

“Leave the apartment, Hyndman,” said the Regent, sternly, “and carry your observation elsewhere. You are too knowing, sir, for your post, which, by special order, is destined for men of blunter capacity. So! now you look more like a fool than you did,”—(for Hyndman, as may easily be supposed, was not a little disconcerted by this rebuke)—“keep that confused stare, and it may keep your office. Begone, sir!”

The usher departed in dismay, not forgetting to register, amongst his other causes of dislike to Roland Graeme, that he had been the witness of this disgraceful chiding. When he had left the apartment, the Regent again addressed the page.

“Your name, you say, is Armstrong?”

“No,” replied Roland, “my name is Graeme, so please you — Roland Graeme, whose forbears were designated of Heathergill, in the Debateable Land.”

“Ay, I knew it was a name from the Debateable Land. Hast thou any acquaintance in Edinburgh?”

“My lord,” replied Roland, willing rather to evade this question than to answer it directly, for the prudence of being silent with respect to Lord Seyton’s adventure immediately struck him, “I have been in Edinburgh scarce an hour, and that for the first time in my life.”

“What! and thou Sir Halbert Glendinning’s page?” said the Regent.

“I was brought up as my Lady’s page,” said the youth, “and left Avenel Castle for the first time in my life — at least since my childhood — only three days since.”

“My Lady’s page!” repeated the Earl of Murray, as if speaking to himself; “it was strange to send his Lady’s page on a matter of such deep concernment — Morton will say it is of a piece with the nomination of his brother to be Abbot; and yet in some sort an inexperienced youth will best serve the turn. — What hast thou been taught, young man, in thy doughty apprenticeship?”

“To hunt, my lord, and to hawk,” said Roland Graeme.

“To hunt coneys, and to hawk at ouzels!” said the Regent, smiling; “for such are the sports of ladies and their followers.”

Graeme’s cheek reddened deeply as he replied, not without some emphasis, “To hunt red-deer of the first head, and to strike down herons of the highest soar, my lord, which, in Lothian speech, may be termed, for aught I know, coneys and ouzels;-also I can wield a brand and couch a lance, according to our Border meaning; in inland speech these may be termed water-flags and bulrushes.”

“Thy speech rings like metal,” said the Regent, “and I pardon the sharpness of it for the truth. — Thou knowest, then, what belongs to the duty of a man-at-arms?”

“So far as exercise can teach — it without real service in the field,” answered Roland Graeme; “but our Knight permitted none of his household to make raids, and I never had the good fortune to see a stricken field.”

“The good fortune!” repeated the Regent, smiling somewhat sorrowfully, “take my word, young man, war is the only game from which both parties rise losers.”

“Not always, my lord!” answered the page, with his characteristic audacity, “if fame speaks truth.”

“How, sir?” said the Regent, colouring in his turn, and perhaps suspecting an indiscreet allusion to the height which he himself had attained by the hap of civil war.

“Because, my lord,” said Roland Graeme, without change of tone, “he who fights well, must have fame in life, or honour in death; and so war is a game from which no one can rise a loser.”

The Regent smiled and shook his head, when at that moment the door opened, and the Earl of Morton presented himself.

“I come somewhat hastily,” he said, “and I enter unannounced because my news are of weight — It is as I said; Edward Glendinning is named Abbot, and —”

“Hush, my lord!” said the Regent, “I know it, but —”

“And perhaps you knew it before I did, my Lord of Murray,” answered Morton, his dark red brow growing darker and redder as he spoke.

“Morton,” said Murray, “suspect me not — touch not mine honour — I have to suffer enough from the calumnies of foes, let me not have to contend with the unjust suspicions of my friends. — We are not alone,” said he, recollecting himself, “or I could tell you more.”

He led Morton into one of the deep embrasures which the windows formed in the massive wall, and which afforded a retiring place for their conversing apart. In this recess, Roland observed them speak together with much earnestness, Murray appearing to be grave and earnest, and Morton having a jealous and offended air, which seemed gradually to give way to the assurances of the Regent.

As their conversation grew more earnest, they became gradually louder in speech, having perhaps forgotten the presence of the page, the more readily as his position in the apartment placed him put of sight, so that he found himself unwillingly privy to more of their discourse than he cared to hear. For, page though he was, a mean curiosity after the secrets of others had never been numbered amongst Roland’s failings; and moreover, with all his natural rashness, he could not but doubt the safety of becoming privy to the secret discourse of these powerful and dreaded men. Still he could neither stop his ears, nor with propriety leave the apartment; and while he thought of some means of signifying his presence, he had already heard so much, that, to have produced himself suddenly would have been as awkward, and perhaps as dangerous, as in quiet to abide the end of their conference. What he overheard, however, was but an imperfect part of their communication; and although an expert politician, acquainted with the circumstances of the times, would have had little difficulty in tracing the meaning, yet Roland Graeme could only form very general and vague conjectures as to the import of their discourse.

“All is prepared,” said Murray, “and Lindsay is setting forward — She must hesitate no longer — thou seest I act by thy counsel, and harden myself against softer considerations.”

“True, my lord,” replied Morton, “in what is necessary to gain power, you do not hesitate, but go boldly to the mark. But are you as careful to defend and preserve what you have won? — Why this establishment of domestics around her? — has not your sister men and maidens enough to tend her, but you must consent to this superfluous and dangerous retinue?”

“For shame, Morton! — a Princess, and my sister, could I do less than allow her due attendance?”

“Ay,” replied Morton, “even thus fly all your shafts — smartly enough loosened from the bow, and not unskilfully aimed — but a breath of foolish affection ever crosses in the mid volley, and sways the arrow from the mark.”

“Say not so, Morton,” replied Murray, “I have both dared and done —”

“Yes, enough to gain, but not enough to keep — reckon not that she will think and act thus — you have wounded her deeply, both in pride and in power — it signifies nought, that you would tent now the wound with unavailing salves — as matters stand with you, you must forfeit the title of an affectionate brother, to hold that of a bold and determined statesman.”

“Morton!” said Murray, with some impatience, “I brook not these taunts — what I have done I have done — what I must farther do, I must and will — but I am not made of iron like thee, and I cannot but remember — Enough of this-my purpose holds.”

“And I warrant me,” said Morton, “the choice of these domestic consolations will rest with —”

Here he whispered names which escaped Roland Graeme’s ear. Murray replied in a similar tone, but so much raised towards the conclusion, of the sentence, that the page heard these words —“And of him I hold myself secure, by Glendinning’s recommendation.”

“Ay, which may be as much trustworthy as his late conduct at the Abbey of Saint Mary’s — you have heard that his brother’s election has taken place. Your favourite Sir Halbert, my Lord of Murray, has as much fraternal affection as yourself.”

“By heaven, Morton, that taunt demanded an unfriendly answer, but I pardon it, for your brother also is concerned; but this election shall be annulled. I tell you, Earl of Morton, while I hold the sword of state in my royal nephew’s name, neither Lord nor Knight in Scotland shall dispute my authority; and if I bear — with insults from my friends, it is only while I know them to be such, and forgive their follies for their faithfulness.”

Morton muttered what seemed to be some excuse, and the Regent answered him in a milder tone, and then subjoined, “Besides, I have another pledge than Glendinning’s recommendation, for this youth’s fidelity — his nearest relative has placed herself in my hands as his security, to be dealt withal as his doings shall deserve.”

“That is something,” replied Morton; “but yet in fair love and goodwill, I must still pray you to keep on your guard. The foes are stirring again, as horse-flies and hornets become busy so soon as the storm-blast is over. George of Seyton was crossing the causeway this morning with a score of men at his back, and had a ruffle with my friends of the house of Leslie — they met at the Tron, and were fighting hard, when the provost, with his guard of partisans, came in thirdsman, and staved them asunder with their halberds, as men part dog and bear.”

“He hath my order for such interference,” said the Regent —“Has any one been hurt?”

“George of Seyton himself, by black Ralph Leslie — the devil take the rapier that ran not through from side to side! Ralph has a bloody coxcomb, by a blow from a messan-page whom nobody knew — Dick Seyton of Windygowl is run through the arm, and two gallants of the Leslies have suffered phlebotomy. This is all the gentle blood which has been spilled in the revel; but a yeoman or two on both sides have had bones broken and ears chopped. The ostlere-wives, who are like to be the only losers by their miscarriage, have dragged the knaves off the street, and are crying a drunken coronach over them.”

“You take it lightly, Douglas,” said the Regent; “these broils and feuds would shame the capital of the great Turk, let alone that of a Christian and reformed state. But, if I live, this gear shall be amended; and men shall say, when they read my story, that if it were my cruel hap to rise to power by the dethronement of a sister, I employed it, when gained, for the benefit of the commonweal.”

“And of your friends,” replied Morton; “wherefore I trust for your instant order annulling the election of this lurdane Abbot, Edward Glendinning.”

“You shall be presently satisfied.” said the Regent; and stepping forward, he began to call, “So ho, Hyndman!” when suddenly his eye lighted on Roland Graeme —“By my faith, Douglas,” said he, turning to his friend, “here have been three at counsel!”

“Ay, but only two can keep counsel,” said Morton; “the galliard must be disposed of.”

“For shame, Morton — an orphan boy! — Hearken thee, my child — Thou hast told me some of thy accomplishments — canst thou speak truth?” “Ay, my lord, when it serves my turn,” replied Graeme.

“It shall serve thy turn now,” said the Regent; “and falsehood shall be thy destruction. How much hast thou heard or understood of what we two have spoken together?”

“But little, my lord,” replied Roland Graeme boldly, “which met my apprehension, saving that it seemed to me as if in something you doubted the faith of the Knight of Avenel, under whose roof I was nurtured.”

“And what hast thou to say on that point, young man?” continued the Regent, bending his eyes upon him with a keen and strong expression of observation.

“That,” said the page, “depends on the quality of those who speak against his honour whose bread I have long eaten. If they be my inferiors, I say they lie, and will maintain what I say with my baton; if my equals, still I say they lie, and will do battle in the quarrel, if they list, with my sword; if my superiors”— he paused.

“Proceed boldly,” said the Regent —“What if thy superiors said aught that nearly touched your master’s honour?”

“I would say,” replied Graeme, “that he did ill to slander the absent, and that my master was a man who could render an account of his actions to any one who should manfully demand it of him to his face.”

“And it were manfully said,” replied the Regent —“what thinkest thou, my Lord of Morton?”

“I think,” replied Morton, “that if the young galliard resemble a certain ancient friend of ours, as much in the craft of his disposition as he does in eye and in brow, there may be a wide difference betwixt what he means and what he speaks.”

“And whom meanest thou that he resembles so closely?” said Murray.

“Even the true and trusty Julian Avenel,” replied Morton.

“But this youth belongs to the Debateable Land,” said Murray.

“It may be so; but Julian was an outlaying striker of venison, and made many a far cast when he had a fair doe in chase.”

“Pshaw!” said the Regent, “this is but idle talk — Here, thou Hyndman — thou curiosity,” calling to the usher, who now entered — “conduct this youth to his companion — You will both,” he said to Graeme, “keep yourselves in readiness to travel on short notice.”— And then motioning to him courteously to withdraw, he broke up the interview.

25 Both these Border Chieftains were great friends of Queen Mary.

26 Maiden of Morton — a species of Guillotine which the Regent Morton brought down from Halifax, certainly at a period considerably later than intimated in the tale. He was himself the first who suffered by the engine.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29