The Abbot, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Nineteenth.

It is and is not —’tis the thing I sought for,

Have kneel’d for, pray’d for, risk’d my fame and life for,

And yet it is not — no more than the shadow

Upon the hard, cold, flat, and polished mirror,

Is the warm, graceful, rounded, living substance

Which it presents in form and lineament.

Old play.

The usher, with gravity which ill concealed a jealous scowl, conducted Roland Graeme to a lower apartment, where he found his comrade the falconer. The man of office then briefly acquainted them that this would be their residence till his Grace’s farther orders; that they were to go to the pantry, to the buttery, to the cellar, and to the kitchen, at the usual hours, to receive the allowances becoming their station — instructions which Adam Woodcock’s old familiarity with the court made him perfectly understand —“For your beds,” he said, “you must go to the hostelry of Saint Michael’s, in respect the palace is now full of the domestics of the greater nobles.”

No sooner was the usher’s back turned than Adam exclaimed with all the glee of eager curiosity, “And now, Master Roland, the news — the news — come unbutton thy pouch, and give us thy tidings — What says the Regent? asks he for Adam Woodcock? — and is all soldered up, or must the Abbot of Unreason strap for it?”

“All is well in that quarter,” said the page; “and for the rest — But, hey-day, what! have you taken the chain and medal off from my bonnet?”

“And meet time it was, when yon usher, vinegar-faced rogue that he is, began to inquire what Popish trangam you were wearing. — By the mass, the metal would have been confiscated for conscience-sake, like your other rattle-trap yonder at Avenel, which Mistress Lilias bears about on her shoes in the guise of a pair of shoe-buckles — This comes of carrying Popish nicknackets about you.”

“The jade!” exclaimed Roland Graeme, “has she melted down my rosary into buckles for her clumsy hoofs, which will set off such a garnish nearly as well as a cow’s might? — But, hang her, let her keep them — many a dog’s trick have I played old Lilias, for want of having something better to do, and the buckles will serve for a remembrance. Do you remember the verjuice I put into the comfits, when old Wingate and she were to breakfast together on Easter morning?”

“In troth do I, Master Roland — the major-domo’s mouth was as crooked as a hawk’s beak for the whole morning afterwards, and any other page in your room would have tasted the discipline of the porter’s lodge for it. But my Lady’s favour stood between your skin and many a jerking — Lord send you may be the better for her protection in such matters!”

“I am least grateful for it, Adam! and I am glad you put me in mind of it.”

“Well, but the news, my young master,” said Woodcock, “spell me the tidings — what are we to fly at next? — what did the Regent say to you?”

“Nothing that I am to repeat again,” said Roland Graeme, shaking his head.

“Why, hey-day,” said Adam, “how prudent we are become all of a sudden! You have advanced rarely in brief space, Master Roland. You have well nigh had your head broken, and you have gained your gold chain, and you have made an enemy, Master Usher to wit, with his two legs like hawks’ perches, and you have had audience of the first man in the realm, and bear as much mystery in your brow, as if you had flown in the court-sky ever since you were hatched. I believe, in my soul, you would run with a piece of the egg-shell on your head like the curlews, which (I would we were after them again) we used to call whaups in the Halidome and its neighbourhood. But sit thee down, boy; Adam Woodcock was never the lad to seek to enter into forbidden secrets — sit thee down, and I will go and fetch the vivers — I know the butler and the pantler of old.”

The good-natured falconer set forth upon his errand, busying himself about procuring their refreshment; and, during his absence, Roland Graeme abandoned himself to the strange, complicated, and yet heart-stirring reflections, to which the events of the morning had given rise. Yesterday he was of neither mark nor likelihood; a vagrant boy, the attendant on a relative, of whose sane judgment he himself had not the highest opinion; but now he had become, he knew not why, or wherefore, or to what extent, the custodier, as the Scottish phrase went, of some important state secret, in the safe keeping of which the Regent himself was concerned. It did not diminish from, but rather added to the interest of a situation so unexpected, that Roland himself did not perfectly understand wherein he stood committed by the state secrets, in which he had unwittingly become participator. On the contrary, he felt like one who looks on a romantic landscape, of which he sees the features for the first time, and then obscured with mist and driving tempest. The imperfect glimpse which the eye catches of rocks, trees, and other objects around him, adds double dignity to these shrouded mountains and darkened abysses, of which the height, depth, and extent, are left to imagination.

But mortals, especially at the well-appetized age which precedes twenty years, are seldom so much engaged either by real or conjectural subjects of speculation, but that their earthly wants claim their hour of attention. And with many a smile did our hero, so the reader may term him if he will, hail the re-appearance of his friend Adam Woodcock, bearing on one platter a tremendous portion of boiled beef, and on another a plentiful allowance of greens, or rather what the Scotch call lang-kale. A groom followed with bread, salt, and the other means of setting forth a meal; and when they had both placed on the oaken table what they bore in their hands, the falconer observed, that since he knew the court, it had got harder and harder every day to the poor gentlemen and yeoman retainers, but that now it was an absolute flaying of a flea for the hide and tallow. Such thronging to the wicket, and such churlish answers, and such bare beef-bones, such a shouldering at the buttery-hatch and cellarage, and nought to be gained beyond small insufficient single ale, or at best with a single straike of malt to counterbalance a double allowance of water —“By the mass, though, my young friend,” said he, while he saw the food disappearing fast under Roland’s active exertions, “it is not so to well to lament for former times as to take the advantage of the present, else we are like to lose on both sides.”

So saying, Adam Woodcock drew his chair towards the table, unsheathed his knife, (for every one carried that minister of festive distribution for himself,) and imitated his young companion’s example, who for the moment had lost his anxiety for the future in the eager satisfaction of an appetite sharpened by youth and abstinence.

In truth, they made, though the materials were sufficiently simple, a very respectable meal, at the expense of the royal allowance; and Adam Woodcock, notwithstanding the deliberate censure which he had passed on the household beer of the palace, had taken the fourth deep draught of the black jack ere he remembered him that he had spoken in its dispraise. Flinging himself jollily and luxuriously back in an old danske elbow-chair, and looking with careless glee towards the page, extending at the same time his right leg, and stretching the other easily over it, he reminded his companion that he had not yet heard the ballad which he had made for the Abbot of Unreason’s revel. And accordingly he struck merrily up with

“The Pope, that pagan full of pride,

Has blinded us full lang.”———

Roland Graeme, who felt no great delight, as may be supposed, in the falconer’s satire, considering its subject, began to snatch up his mantle, and fling it around his shoulders, an action which instantly interrupted the ditty of Adam Woodcock.

“Where the vengeance are you going now,” he said, “thou restless boy? — Thou hast quicksilver in the veins of thee to a certainty, and canst no more abide any douce and sensible communing, than a hoodless hawk would keep perched on my wrist!”

“Why, Adam,” replied the page, “if you must needs know, I am about to take a walk and look at this fair city. One may as well be still mewed up in the old castle of the lake, if one is to sit the live-long night between four walls, and hearken to old ballads.”

“It is a new ballad — the Lord help thee!” replied Adam, “and that one of the best that ever was matched with a rousing chorus.”

“Be it so,” said the page, “I will hear it another day, when the rain is dashing against the windows, and there is neither steed stamping, nor spur jingling, nor feather waving in the neighbourhood to mar my marking it well. But, even now, I want to be in the world, and to look about me.”

“But the never a stride shall you go without me,” said the falconer, “until the Regent shall take you whole and sound off my hand; and so, if you will, we may go to the hostelrie of Saint Michael’s, and there you will see company enough, but through the casement, mark you me; for as to rambling through the street to seek Seytons and Leslies, and having a dozen holes drilled in your new jacket with rapier and poniard, I will yield no way to it.”

“To the hostelrie of Saint Michael’s, then, with all my heart,” said the page; and they left the palace accordingly, rendered to the sentinels at the gate, who had now taken their posts for the evening, a strict account of their names and business, were dismissed through a small wicket of the close-barred portal, and soon reached the inn or hostelrie of Saint Michael, which stood in a large court-yard, off the main street, close under the descent of the Calton-hill. The place, wide, waste, and uncomfortable, resembled rather an Eastern caravansary, where men found shelter indeed, but were obliged to supply themselves with every thing else, than one of our modern inns;

Where not one comfort shall to those be lost,

Who never ask, or never feel, the cost.

But still, to the inexperienced eye of Roland Graeme, the bustle and confusion of this place of public resort, furnished excitement and amusement. In the large room, into which they had rather found their own way than been ushered by mine host, travellers and natives of the city entered and departed, met and greeted, gamed or drank together, forming the strongest contrast to the stern and monotonous order and silence with which matters were conducted in the well-ordered household of the Knight of Avenel. Altercation of every kind, from brawling to jesting, was going on amongst the groups around them, and yet the noise and mingled voices seemed to disturb no one and indeed to be noticed by no others than by those who composed the group to which the speaker belonged.

The falconer passed through the apartment to a projecting latticed window, which formed a sort of recess from the room itself; and having here ensconced himself and his companion, he called for some refreshments; and a tapster, after he had shouted for the twentieth time, accommodated him with the remains of a cold capon and a neat’s tongue, together with a pewter stoup of weak French vin-depays. “Fetch a stoup of brandy-wine, thou knave — We will be jolly to-night, Master Roland,” said he, when he saw himself thus accommodated, “and let care come tomorrow.”

But Roland had eaten too lately to enjoy the good cheer; and feeling his curiosity much sharper than his appetite, he made it his choice to look out of the lattice, which overhung a large yard, surrounded by the stables of the hostelrie, and fed his eyes on the busy sight beneath, while Adam Woodcock, after he had compared his companion to the “Laird of Macfarlane’s geese, who liked their play better than their meat,” disposed of his time with the aid of cup and trencher, occasionally humming the burden of his birth-strangled ballad, and beating time to it with his fingers on the little round table. In this exercise he was frequently interrupted by the exclamations of his companion, as he saw something new in the yard beneath, to attract and interest him.

It was a busy scene, for the number of gentlemen and nobles who were now crowded into the city, had filled all spare stables and places of public reception with their horses and military attendants. There were some score of yeomen, dressing their own or their masters’ horses in the yard, whistling, singing, laughing, and upbraiding each other, in a style of wit which the good order of Avenel Castle rendered strange to Roland Graeme’s ears. Others were busy repairing their own arms, or cleaning those of their masters. One fellow, having just bought a bundle of twenty spears, was sitting in a corner, employed in painting the white staves of the weapons with yellow and vermillion. Other lacqueys led large stag-hounds, or wolf-dogs, of noble race, carefully muzzled to prevent accidents to passengers. All came and went, mixed together and separated, under the delighted eye of the page, whose imagination had not even conceived a scene so gaily diversified with the objects he had most pleasure in beholding; so that he was perpetually breaking the quiet reverie of honest Woodcock, and the mental progress which he was making in his ditty, by exclaiming, “Look here, Adam — look at the bonny bay horse — Saint Anthony, what, a gallant forehand he hath got! — and see the goodly gray, which yonder fellow in the frieze-jacket is dressing as awkwardly as if he had never touched aught but a cow — I would I were nigh him to teach him his trade! — And lo you, Adam, the gay Milan armour that the yeoman is scouring, all steel and silver, like our Knight’s prime suit, of which old Wingate makes such account — And see to yonder pretty wench, Adam, who comes tripping through them all with her milk-pail — I warrant me she has had a long walk from the loaning; she has a stammel waistcoat, like your favourite Cicely Sunderland, Master Adam!”

“By my hood, lad,” answered the falconer, “it is well for thee thou wert brought up where grace grew. Even in the Castle of Avenel thou wert a wild-blood enough, but hadst thou been nurtured here, within a flight-shot of the Court, thou hadst been the veriest crack-hemp of a page that ever wore feather in thy bonnet or steel by thy side: truly, I wish it may end well with thee.”

“Nay, but leave thy senseless humming and drumming, old Adam, and come to the window ere thou hast drenched thy senses in the pint-pot there. See here comes a merry minstrel with his crowd, and a wench with him, that dances with bells at her ankles; and see, the yeomen and pages leave their horses and the armour they were cleaning, and gather round, as is very natural, to hear the music. Come, old Adam, we will thither too.”

“You shall call me cutt if I do go down,” said Adam; “you are near as good minstrelsy as the stroller can make, if you had but the grace to listen to it.”

“But the wench in the stammel waistcoat is stopping too, Adam — by heaven, they are going to dance! Frieze-jacket wants to dance with stammel waistcoat, but she is coy and recusant.”

Then suddenly changing his tone of levity into one of deep interest and surprise, he exclaimed, “Queen of Heaven! what is it that I see!” and then remained silent.

The sage Adam Woodcock, who was in a sort of languid degree amused with the page’s exclamations, even while he professed to despise them, became at length rather desirous to set his tongue once more a-going, that he might enjoy the superiority afforded by his own intimate familiarity with all the circumstances which excited in his young companion’s mind so much wonderment.

“Well, then,” he said at last, “what is it you do see, Master Roland, that you have become mute all of a sudden?”

Roland returned no answer.

“I say, Master Roland Graeme,” said the falconer, “it is manners in my country for a man to speak when he is spoken to.”

Roland Graeme remained silent.

“The murrain is in the boy,” said Adam Woodcock, “he has stared out his eyes, and talked his tongue to pieces, I think.”

The falconer hastily drank off his can of wine, and came to Roland, who stood like a statue, with his eyes eagerly bent on the court-yard, though Adam Woodcock was unable to detect amongst the joyous scenes which it exhibited aught that could deserve such devoted attention.

“The lad is mazed!” said the falconer to himself.

But Roland Graeme had good reasons for his surprise, though they were not such as he could communicate to his companion.

The touch of the old minstrel’s instrument, for he had already begun to play, had drawn in several auditors from the street when one entered the gate of the yard, whose appearance exclusively arrested the attention of Roland Graeme. He was of his own age, or a good deal younger, and from his dress and bearing might be of the same rank and calling, having all the air of coxcombry and pretension, which accorded with a handsome, though slight and low figure, and an elegant dress, in part hid by a large purple cloak. As he entered, he cast a glance up towards the windows, and, to his extreme astonishment, under the purple velvet bonnet and white feather, Roland recognized the features so deeply impressed on his memory, the bright and clustered tresses, the laughing full blue eyes, the well-formed eyebrows, the nose, with the slightest possible inclination to be aquiline, the ruby lip, of which an arch and half-suppressed smile seemed the habitual expression — in short, the form and face of Catherine Seyton; in man’s attire, however, and mimicking, as it seemed, not unsuccessfully, the bearing of a youthful but forward page.

“Saint George and Saint Andrew!” exclaimed the amazed Roland Graeme to himself, “was there ever such an audacious quean! — she seems a little ashamed of her mummery too, for she holds the lap of her cloak to her face, and her colour is heightened — but Santa Maria, how she threads the throng, with as firm and bold a step as if she had never tied petticoat round her waist! — Holy Saints! she holds up her riding-rod as if she would lay it about some of their ears, that stand most in her way — by the hand of my father! she bears herself like the very model of pagehood. — Hey! what! sure she will not strike frieze-jacket in earnest?” But he was not long left in doubt; for the lout whom he had before repeatedly noticed, standing in the way of the bustling page, and maintaining his place with clownish obstinacy or stupidity, the advanced riding-rod was, without a moment’s hesitation, sharply applied to his shoulders, in a manner which made him spring aside, rubbing the part of the body which had received so unceremonious a hint that it was in the way of his betters. The party injured growled forth an oath or two of indignation, and Roland Graeme began to think of flying down stairs to the assistance of the translated Catherine; but the laugh of the yard was against frieze-jacket, which indeed had, in those days, small chance of fair play in a quarrel with velvet and embroidery; so that the fellow, who was menial in the inn, slunk back to finish his task of dressing the bonny gray, laughed at by all, but most by the wench in the stammel waistcoat, his fellow-servant, who, to crown his disgrace, had the cruelty to cast an applauding smile upon the author of the injury, while, with a freedom more like the milk-maid of the town than she of the plains, she accosted him with —“Is there any one you want here, my pretty gentleman, that you seem in such haste?”

“I seek a sprig of a lad,” said the seeming gallant, “with a sprig of holly in his cap, black hair, and black eyes, green jacket, and the air of a country coxcomb — I have sought him through every close and alley in the Canongate, the fiend gore him!”

“Why, God-a-mercy, Nun!” muttered Roland Graeme, much bewildered.

“I will inquire him presently out for your fair young worship,” said the wench of the inn.

“Do,” said the gallant squire, “and if you bring me to him, you shall have a groat to-night, and a kiss on Sunday when you have on a cleaner kirtle.”

“Why, God-a-mercy, Nun!” again muttered Roland, “this is a note above E La.”

In a moment after, the servant entered the room, and ushered in the object of his surprise.

While the disguised vestal looked with unabashed brow, and bold and rapid glance of her eye, through the various parties in the large old room, Roland Graeme, who felt an internal awkward sense of bashful confusion, which he deemed altogether unworthy of the bold and dashing character to which he aspired, determined not to be browbeaten and put down by this singular female, but to meet her with a glance of recognition so sly, so penetrating, so expressively humorous, as should show her at once he was in possession of her secret and master of her fate, and should compel her to humble herself towards him, at least into the look and manner of respectful and deprecating observance.

This was extremely well planned; but just as Roland had called up the knowing glance, the suppressed smile, the shrewd intelligent look, which was to ensure his triumph, he encountered the bold, firm, and steady gaze of his brother or sister-page, who, casting on him a falcon glance, and recognizing him at once as the object of his search, walked up with the most unconcerned look, the most free and undaunted composure, and hailed him with “You, Sir Holly-top, I would speak with you.”

The steady coolness and assurance with which these words were uttered, although the voice was the very voice he had heard at the old convent, and although the features more nearly resembled those of Catharine when seen close than when viewed from a distance, produced, nevertheless, such a confusion in Roland’s mind, that he became uncertain whether he was not still under a mistake from the beginning; the knowing shrewdness which should have animated his visage faded into a sheepish bashfulness, and the half-suppressed but most intelligible smile, became the senseless giggle of one who laughs to cover his own disorder of ideas.

“Do they understand a Scotch tongue in thy country, Holly-top?” said this marvellous specimen of metamorphosis. “I said I would speak with thee.”

“What is your business with my comrade, my young chick of the game?” said Adam Woodcock, willing to step in to his companion’s assistance, though totally at a loss to account for the sudden disappearance of all Roland’s usual smartness and presence of mind.

“Nothing to you, my old cock of the perch,” replied the gallant; “go mind your hawk’s castings. I guess by your bag and your gauntlet that you are squire of the body to a sort of kites.”

He laughed as he spoke, and the laugh reminded Roland so irresistibly of the hearty fit of risibility, in which Catherine had indulged at his expense when they first met in the old nunnery, that he could scarce help exclaiming, “Catherine Seyton, by Heavens!”— He checked the exclamation, however, and only said, “I think, sir, we two are not totally strangers to each other.”

“We must have met in our dreams then” said the youth; “and my days are too busy to remember what I think on at nights.”

“Or apparently to remember upon one day those whom you may have seen on the preceding eve” said Roland Graeme.

The youth in his turn cast on him a look of some surprise, as he replied, “I know no more of what you mean than does the horse I ride on — if there be offence in your words, you shall find me ready to take it as any lad in Lothian.”

“You know well,” said Roland, “though it pleases you to use the language of a stranger, that with you I have no purpose to quarrel.”

“Let me do mine errand, then, and be rid of you,” said the page. “Step hither this way, out of that old leathern fist’s hearing.”

They walked into the recess of the window, which Roland had left upon the youth’s entrance into the apartment. The messenger then turned his back on the company, after casting a hasty and sharp glance around to see if they were observed. Roland did the same, and the page in the purple mantle thus addressed him, taking at the same time from under his cloak a short but beautifully wrought sword, with the hilt and ornaments upon the sheath of silver, massively chased and over-gilded —“I bring you this weapon from a friend, who gives it you under the solemn condition, that you will not unsheath it until you are commanded by your rightful Sovereign. For your warmth of temper is known, and the presumption with which you intrude yourself into the quarrels of others; and, therefore, this is laid upon you as a penance by those who wish you well, and whose hand will influence your destiny for good or for evil. This is what I was charged to tell you. So if you will give a fair word for a fair sword, and pledge your promise, with hand and glove, good and well; and if not, I will carry back Caliburn to those who sent it.”

“And may I not ask who these are?” said Roland Graeme, admiring at the same time the beauty of the weapon thus offered him.

“My commission in no way leads me to answer such a question,” said he of the purple mantle.

“But if I am offended” said Roland, “may I not draw to defend myself?”

“Not this weapon,” answered the sword-bearer; “but you have your own at command, and, besides, for what do you wear your poniard?”

“For no good,” said Adam Woodcock, who had now approached close to them, “and that I can witness as well as any one.”

“Stand back, fellow,” said the messenger, “thou hast an intrusive curious face, that will come by a buffet if it is found where it has no concern.”

“A buffet, my young Master Malapert?” said Adam, drawing back, however; “best keep down fist, or, by Our Lady, buffet will beget buffet!”

“Be patient, Adam Woodcock,” said Roland Graeme; “and let me pray you, fair sir, since by such addition you choose for the present to be addressed, may I not barely unsheathe this fair weapon, in pure simplicity of desire to know whether so fair a hilt and scabbard are matched with a befitting blade?”

“By no manner of means,” said the messenger; “at a word, you must take it under the promise that you never draw it until you receive the commands of your lawful Sovereign, or you must leave it alone.”

“Under that condition, and coming from your friendly hand, I accept of the sword,” said Roland, taking it from his hand; “but credit me, if we are to work together in any weighty emprise, as I am induced to believe, some confidence and openness on your part will be necessary to give the right impulse to my zeal — I press for no more at present, it is enough that you understand me.”

“I understand you!” said the page, exhibiting the appearance of unfeigned surprise in his turn — “Renounce me if I do! — here you stand jiggeting, and sniggling, and looking cunning, as if there were some mighty matter of intrigue and common understanding betwixt you and me, whom you never set your eyes on before!”

“What!” said Roland Graeme, “will you deny that we have met before?”

“Marry that I will, in any Christian court,” said the other page.

“And will you also deny,” said Roland, “that it was recommended to us to study each other’s features well, that in whatever disguise the time might impose upon us, each should recognize in the other the secret agent of a mighty work? Do not you remember, that Sister Magdalen and Dame Bridget ——”

The messenger here interrupted him, shrugging up his shoulders, with a look of compassion, “Bridget and Magdalen! why, this is madness and dreaming! Hark ye, Master Holly-top, your wits are gone on wool-gathering; comfort yourself with a caudle, and thatch your brain-sick noddle with a woollen night-cap, and so God be with you!”

As he concluded this polite parting address, Adam Woodcock, who was again seated by the table on which stood the now empty can, said to him, “Will you drink a cup, young man, in the way of courtesy, now you have done your errand, and listen to a good song?” and without waiting for an answer, he commenced his ditty —

“The Pope, that pagan full of pride,

Hath blinded us full lang —”

It is probable that the good wine had made some innovation in the falconer’s brain, otherwise he would have recollected the danger of introducing any thing like political or polemical pleasantry into a public assemblage at a time when men’s minds were in a state of great irritability. To do him justice, he perceived his error, and stopped short so soon as he saw that the word Pope had at once interrupted the separate conversations of the various parties which were assembled in the apartment; and that many began to draw themselves up, bridle, look big, and prepare to take part in the impending brawl; while others, more decent and cautious persons, hastily paid down their lawing, and prepared to leave the place ere bad should come to worse.

And to worse it was soon likely to come; for no sooner did Woodcock’s ditty reach the ear of the stranger page, than, uplifting his riding-rod, he exclaimed, “He who speaks irreverently of the Holy Father of the church in my presence, is the cub of a heretic wolf-bitch, and I will switch him as I would a mongrel-cur.”

“And I will break thy young pate,” said Adam, “if thou darest to lift a finger to me.” And then, in defiance of the young Drawcansir’s threats, with a stout heart and dauntless accent, he again uplifted the stave.

“The Pope, that pagan full of pride.

Hath blinded —”

But Adam was able to proceed no farther, being himself unfortunately blinded by a stroke of the impatient youth’s switch across his eyes. Enraged at once by the smart and the indignity, the falconer started up, and darkling as he was, for his eyes watered too fast to permit his seeing any thing, he would soon have been at close grips with his insolent adversary, had not Roland Graeme, contrary to his nature, played for once the prudent man and the peacemaker, and thrown himself betwixt them, imploring Woodcock’s patience. “You know not,” he said, “with whom you have to do. — And thou,” addressing the messenger, who stood scornfully laughing at Adam’s rage, “get thee gone, whoever thou art; if thou be’st what I guess thee, thou well knowest there are earnest reasons why thou shouldst.”

“Thou hast hit it right for once, Holly-top,” said the gallant, “though I guess you drew your bow at a venture. — Here, host, let this yeoman have a bottle of wine to wash the smart out of his eyes — and there is a French crown for him.” So saying, he threw the piece of money on the table, and left the apartment, with a quick yet steady pace, looking firmly at right and left, as if to defy interruption: and snapping his fingers at two or three respectable burghers, who, declaring it was a shame that any one should be suffered to rant and ruffle in defence of the Pope, were labouring to find the hilts of their swords, which had got for the present unhappily entangled in the folds of their cloaks. But, as the adversary was gone ere any of them had reached his weapon, they did not think it necessary to unsheath cold iron, but merely observed to each other, “This is more than masterful violence, to see a poor man stricken in the face just for singing a ballad against the whore of Babylon! If the Pope’s champions are to be bangsters in our very change-houses, we shall soon have the old shavelings back again.”

“The provost should look to it,” said another, “and have some five or six armed with partisans, to come in upon the first whistle, to teach these gallants their lesson. For, look you, neighbour Lugleather, it is not for decent householders like ourselves to be brawling with the godless grooms and pert pages of the nobles, that are bred up to little else save bloodshed and blasphemy.”

“For all that, neighbour,” said Lugleather, “I would have curried that youngster as properly as ever I curried a lamb’s hide, had not the hilt of my bilbo been for the instant beyond my grasp; and before I could turn my girdle, gone was my master!”

“Ay,” said the others, “the devil go with him, and peace abide with us — I give my rede, neighbours, that we pay the lawing, and be stepping homeward, like brother and brother; for old Saint Giles’s is tolling curfew, and the street grows dangerous at night.”

With that the good burghers adjusted their cloaks, and prepared for their departure, while he that seemed the briskest of the three, laying his hand on his Andrea Ferrara, observed, “that they that spoke in the praise of the Pope on the High-gate of Edinburgh, had best bring the sword of Saint Peter to defend them.”

While the ill-humour excited by the insolence of the young aristocrat was thus evaporating in empty menace, Roland Graeme had to control the far more serious indignation of Adam Woodcock. “Why, man, it was but a switch across the mazzard — blow your nose, dry your eyes, and you will see all the better for it.”

“By this light, which I cannot see,” said Adam Woodcock, “thou hast been a false friend to me, young man — neither taking up my rightful quarrel, nor letting me fight it out myself.”

“Fy for shame, Adam Woodcock,” replied the youth, determined to turn the tables on him, and become in turn the counsellor of good order and peaceable demeanour —“I say, fy for shame! — Alas, that you will speak thus! Here are you sent with me, to prevent my innocent youth getting into snares ——”

“I wish your innocent youth were cut short with a halter, with all my heart,” said Adam, who began to see which way the admonition tended.

—“And instead of setting before me,” continued Roland, “an example of patience and sobriety becoming the falconer of Sir Halbert Glendinning, you quaff me off I know not how many flagons of ale, besides a gallon of wine, and a full measure of strong waters.”

“It was but one small pottle,” said poor Adam, whom consciousness of his own indiscretion now reduced to a merely defensive warfare.

“It was enough to pottle you handsomely, however,” said the page —“And then, instead of going to bed to sleep off your liquor, must you sit singing your roistering songs about popes and pagans, till you have got your eyes almost switched out of your head; and but for my interference, whom your drunken ingratitude accuses of deserting you, yon galliard would have cut your throat, for he was whipping out a whinger as broad as my hand, and as sharp as a razor — And these are lessons for an inexperienced youth! — Oh, Adam! out upon you! out upon you!”

“Marry, amen, and with all my heart,” said Adam; “out upon my folly for expecting any thing but impertinent raillery from a page like thee, that if he saw his father in a scrape, would laugh at him, instead of lending him aid.

“Nay, but I will lend you aid,” said the page, still laughing, “that is, I will lend thee aid to thy chamber, good Adam, where thou shalt sleep off wine and ale, ire and indignation, and awake the next morning with as much fair wit as nature has blessed thee withal. Only one thing I will warn thee, good Adam, that henceforth and for ever, when thou railest at me for being somewhat hot at hand, and rather too prompt to out with poniard or so, thy admonition shall serve as a prologue to the memorable adventure of the switching of Saint Michael’s.”

With such condoling expressions he got the crest-fallen falconer to his bed, and then retired to his own pallet, where it was some time ere he could fall asleep. If the messenger whom he had seen were really Catherine Seyton, what a masculine virago and termagant must she be! and stored with what an inimitable command of insolence and assurance! — The brass on her brow would furbish the front of twenty pages; “and I should know,” thought Roland, “what that amounts to — And yet, her features, her look, her light gait, her laughing eye, the art with which she disposed the mantle to show no more of her limbs than needs must be seen — I am glad she had at least that grace left — the voice, the smile — it must have been Catherine Seyton, or the devil in her likeness! One thing is good, I have silenced the eternal predications of that ass, Adam Woodcock, who has set up for being a preacher and a governor, over me, so soon as he has left the hawks’ mew behind him.”

And with this comfortable reflection, joined to the happy indifference which youth hath for the events of the morrow, Roland Graeme fell fast asleep.

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