Now have you reft me from my staff, my guide,
Who taught my youth, as men teach untamed falcons,
To use my strength discreetly — I am reft
Of comrade and of counsel.
In the gray of the next morning’s dawn, there was a loud knocking at the gate of the hostelrie; and those without, proclaiming that they came in the name of the Regent, were instantly admitted. A moment or two afterwards, Michael Wing-the-wind stood by the bedside of our travellers.
“Up! up!” he said, “there is no slumber where Murray hath work ado.”
Both sleepers sprung up, and began to dress themselves.
“You, old friend,” said Wing-the-wind to Adam Woodcock, “must to horse instantly, with this packet to the Monks of Kennaquhair; and with this,” delivering them as he spoke, “to the Knight of Avenel.”
“As much as commanding the monks to annul their election, I’ll warrant me, of an Abbot,” quoth Adam Woodcock, as he put the packets into his bag, “and charging my master to see it done — To hawk at one brother with another, is less than fair play, methinks.”
“Fash not thy beard about it, old boy,” said Michael, “but betake thee to the saddle presently; for if these orders are not obeyed, there will be bare walls at the Kirk of Saint Mary’s, and it may be at the Castle of Avenel to boot; for I heard my Lord of Morton loud with the Regent, and we are at a pass that we cannot stand with him anent trifles.”
“But,” said Adam, “touching the Abbot of Unreason — what say they to that outbreak — An they be shrewishly disposed, I were better pitch the packets to Satan, and take the other side of the Border for my bield.”
“Oh, that was passed over as a jest, since there was little harm done. — But, hark thee, Adam,” continued his comrade, “if there was a dozen vacant abbacies in your road, whether of jest or earnest, reason or unreason, draw thou never one of their mitres over thy brows. — The time is not fitting, man! — besides, our Maiden longs to clip the neck of a fat churchman.”
“She shall never sheer mine in that capacity,” said the falconer, while he knotted the kerchief in two or three double folds around his sunburnt bull-neck, calling out at the same time, “Master Roland, Master Roland, make haste! we must back to perch and mew, and, thank Heaven, more than our own wit, with our bones whole, and without a stab in the stomach.”
“Nay, but,” said Wing-the-wind, “the page goes not back with you; the Regent has other employment for him.”
“Saints and sorrows!” exclaimed the falconer —“Master Roland Graeme to remain here, and I to return to Avenel! — Why, it cannot be — the child cannot manage himself in this wide world without me, and I question if he will stoop to any other whistle than mine own; there are times I myself can hardly bring him to my lure.”
It was at Roland’s tongue’s end to say something concerning the occasion they had for using mutually each other’s prudence, but the real anxiety which Adam evinced at parting with him, took away his disposition to such ungracious raillery. The falconer did not altogether escape, however, for, in turning his face towards the lattice, his friend Michael caught a glimpse of it, and exclaimed, “I prithee, Adam Woodcock, what hast thou been doing with these eyes of thine? They are swelled to the starting from the socket!”
“Nought in the world,” said he, after casting a deprecating glance at Roland Graeme, “but the effect of sleeping in this d — ned truckle without a pillow.”
“Why, Adam Woodcock, thou must be grown strangely dainty,” said his old companion; “I have known thee sleep all night with no better pillow than a bush of ling, and start up with the sun, as glegg as a falcon; and now thine eyes resemble ——”
“Tush, man, what signifies how mine eyes look now?” said Adam —“let us but roast a crab-apple, pour a pottle of ale on it, and bathe our throats withal, thou shalt see a change in me.”
“And thou wilt be in heart to sing thy jolly ballad about the Pope,” said his comrade.
“Ay, that I will,” replied the falconer, “that is, when we have left this quiet town five miles behind us, if you will take your hobby and ride so far on my way.”
“Nay, that I may not,” said Michael —“I can but stop to partake your morning draught, and see you fairly to horse — I will see that they saddle them, and toast the crab for thee, without loss of time.”
During his absence the falconer took the page by the hand —“May I never hood hawk again,” said the good-natured fellow, “if I am not as sorry to part with you as if you were a child of mine own, craving pardon for the freedom — I cannot tell what makes me love you so much, unless it be for the reason that I loved the vicious devil of a brown galloway nag whom my master the Knight called Satan, till Master Warden changed his name to Seyton; for he said it was over boldness to call a beast after the King of Darkness ——”
“And,” said the page, “it was over boldness in him, I trow, to call a vicious brute after a noble family.”
“Well,” proceeded Adam, “Seyton or Satan, I loved that nag over every other horse in the stable —— There was no sleeping on his back — he was for ever fidgeting, bolting, rearing, biting, kicking, and giving you work to do, and maybe the measure of your back on the heather to the boot of it all. And I think I love you better than any lad in the castle, for the self-same qualities.”
“Thanks, thanks, kind Adam. I regard myself bound to you for the good estimation in which you hold me.”
“Nay, interrupt me not,” said the falconer —“Satan was a good nag — But I say I think I shall call the two eyases after you, the one Roland, and the other Graeme; and while Adam Woodcock lives, be sure you have a friend — Here is to thee, my dear son.”
Roland most heartily returned the grasp of the hand, and Woodcock, having taken a deep draught, continued his farewell speech.
“There are three things I warn you against, Roland, now that you art to tread this weary world without my experience to assist you. In the first place, never draw dagger on slight occasion — every man’s doublet is not so well stuffed as a certain abbot’s that you wot of. Secondly, fly not at every pretty girl, like a merlin at a thrush — you will not always win a gold chain for your labour — and, by the way, here I return to you your fanfarona — keep it close, it is weighty, and may benefit you at a pinch more ways than one. Thirdly, and to conclude, as our worthy preacher says, beware of the pottle-pot — it has drenched the judgment of wiser men than you. I could bring some instances of it, but I dare say it needeth not; for if you should forget your own mishaps, you will scarce fail to remember mine — And so farewell, my dear son.”
Roland returned his good wishes, and failed not to send his humble duty to his kind Lady, charging the falconer, at the same time, to express his regret that he should have offended her, and his determination so to bear him in the world that she would not be ashamed of the generous protection she had afforded him.
The falconer embraced his young friend, mounted his stout, round-made, trotting-nag, which the serving-man, who had attended him, held ready at the door, and took the road to the southward. A sullen and heavy sound echoed from the horse’s feet, as if indicating the sorrow of the good-natured rider. Every hoof-tread seemed to tap upon Roland’s heart as he heard his comrade withdraw with so little of his usual alert activity, and felt that he was once more alone in the world.
He was roused from his reverie by Michael Wing-the-wind, who reminded him that it was necessary they should instantly return to the palace, as my Lord Regent went to the Sessions early in the morning. They went thither accordingly, and Wing-the-wind, a favourite old domestic, who was admitted nearer to the Regent’s person and privacy, than many whose posts were more ostensible, soon introduced Graeme into a small matted chamber, where he had an audience of the present head of the troubled State of Scotland. The Earl of Murray was clad in a sad-coloured morning-gown, with a cap and slippers of the same cloth, but, even in this easy deshabillé, held his sheathed rapier in his hand, a precaution which he adopted when receiving strangers, rather in compliance with the earnest remonstrances of his friends and partisans, than from any personal apprehensions of his own. He answered with a silent nod the respectful obeisance of the page, and took one or two turns through the small apartment in silence, fixing his keen eye on Roland, as if he wished to penetrate into his very soul. At length he broke silence.
“Your name is, I think, Julian Graeme?”
“Roland Graeme, my lord, not Julian,” replied the page.
“Right — I was misled by some trick of my memory — Roland Graeme, from the Debateable Land. — Roland, thou knowest the duties which belong to a lady’s service?”
“I should know them, my lord,” replied Roland, “having been bred so near the person of my Lady of Avenel; but I trust never more to practise them, as the Knight hath promised ——”
“Be silent, young man,” said the Regent, “I am to speak, and you to hear and obey. It is necessary that, for some space at least, you shall again enter into the service of a lady, who, in rank, hath no equal in Scotland; and this service accomplished, I give thee my word as Knight and Prince, that it shall open to you a course of ambition, such as may well gratify the aspiring wishes of one whom circumstances entitle to entertain much higher views than thou. I will take thee into my household and near to my person, or, at your own choice, I will give you the command of a foot-company — either is a preferment which the proudest laird in the land might be glad to ensure for a second son.”
“May I presume to ask, my lord,” said Roland, observing the Earl paused for a reply, “to whom my poor services are in the first place destined?”
“You will be told hereafter,” said the Regent; and then, as if overcoming some internal reluctance to speak farther himself, he added, “or why should I not myself tell you, that you are about to enter into the service of a most illustrious — most unhappy lady — into the service of Mary of Scotland.”
“Of the Queen, my lord!” said the page, unable to suppress his surprise.
“Of her who was the Queen!” said Murray, with a singular mixture of displeasure and embarrassment in his tone of voice. “You must be aware, young man, that her son reigns in her stead.”
He sighed from an emotion, partly natural, perhaps, and partly assumed.
“And am I to attend upon her Grace in her place of imprisonment, my lord?” again demanded the page, with a straightforward and hardy simplicity, which somewhat disconcerted the sage and powerful statesman.
“She is not imprisoned,” answered Murray, angrily; “God forbid she should — she is only sequestered from state affairs, and from the business of the public, until the world be so effectually settled, that she may enjoy her natural and uncontrolled freedom, without her royal disposition being exposed to the practices of wicked and designing men. It is for this purpose,” he added, “that while she is to be furnished, as right is, with such attendance as may befit her present secluded state, it becomes necessary that those placed around her, are persons on whose prudence I can have reliance. You see, therefore, you are at once called on to discharge an office most honourable in itself, and so to discharge it that you may make a friend of the Regent of Scotland. Thou art, I have been told, a singularly apprehensive youth; and I perceive by thy look, that thou dost already understand what I would say on this matter. In this schedule your particular points of duty are set down at length — but the sum required of you is fidelity — I mean fidelity to myself and to the state. You are, therefore, to watch every attempt which is made, or inclination displayed, to open any communication with any of the lords who have become banders in the west — with Hamilton, Seyton, with Fleming, or the like. It is true that my gracious sister, reflecting upon the ill chances that have happened to the state of this poor kingdom, from evil counsellors who have abused her royal nature in time past, hath determined to sequestrate herself from state affairs in future. But it is our duty, as acting for and in the name of our infant nephew, to guard against the evils which may arise from any mutation or vacillation in her royal resolutions. Wherefore, it will be thy duty to watch, and report to our lady mother, whose guest our sister is for the present, whatever may infer a disposition to withdraw her person from the place of security in which she is lodged, or to open communication with those without. If, however, your observation should detect any thing of weight, and which may exceed mere suspicion, fail not to send notice by an especial messenger to me directly, and this ring shall be thy warrant to order horse and men on such service. — And now begone. If there be half the wit in thy head that there is apprehension in thy look, thou fully comprehendest all that I would say — Serve me faithfully, and sure as I am belted earl, thy reward shall be great.”
Roland Graeme made an obeisance, and was about to depart.
The Earl signed to him to remain. “I have trusted thee deeply,” he said, “young man, for thou art the only one of her suite who has been sent to her by my own recommendation. Her gentlewomen are of her own nomination — it were too hard to have barred her that privilege, though some there were who reckoned it inconsistent with sure policy. Thou art young and handsome. Mingle in their follies, and see they cover not deeper designs under the appearance of female levity — if they do mine, do thou countermine. For the rest, bear all decorum and respect to the person of thy mistress — she is a princess, though a most unhappy one, and hath been a queen! though now, alas! no longer such! Pay, therefore, to her all honour and respect, consistent with thy fidelity to the King and me — and now, farewell. — Yet stay — you travel with Lord Lindesay, a man of the old world, rough and honest, though untaught; see that thou offend him not, for he is not patient of raillery, and thou, I have heard, art a crack-halter.” This he said with a smile, then added, “I could have wished the Lord Lindesay’s mission had been intrusted to some other and more gentle noble.”
“And wherefore should you wish that, my lord?” said Morton, who even then entered the apartment; “the council have decided for the best — we have had but too many proofs of this lady’s stubbornness of mind, and the oak that resists the sharp steel axe, must be riven with the rugged iron wedge. — And this is to be her page? — My Lord Regent hath doubtless instructed you, young man, how you shall guide yourself in these matters; I will add but a little hint on my part. You are going to the castle of a Douglas, where treachery never thrives — the first moment of suspicion will be the last of your life. My kinsman, William Douglas, understands no raillery, and if he once have cause to think you false, you will waver in the wind from the castle battlements ere the sun set upon his anger. — And is the lady to have an almoner withal?”
“Occasionally, Douglas,” said the Regent; “it were hard to deny the spiritual consolation which she thinks essential to her salvation.”
“You are ever too soft hearted, my lord — What! a false priest to communicate her lamentations, not only to our unfriends in Scotland, but to the Guises, to Rome, to Spain, and I know not where!”
“Fear not,” said the Regent, “we will take such order that no treachery shall happen.”
“Look to it then.” said Morton; “you know my mind respecting the wench you have consented she shall receive as a waiting-woman — one of a family, which, of all others, has ever been devoted to her, and inimical to us. Had we not been wary, she would have been purveyed of a page as much to her purpose as her waiting-damsel. I hear a rumour that an old mad Romish pilgrimer, who passes for at least half a saint among them, was employed to find a fit subject.”
“We have escaped that danger at least,” said Murray, “and converted it into a point of advantage, by sending this boy of Glendinning’s — and for her waiting-damsel, you cannot grudge her one poor maiden instead of her four noble Marys and all their silken train?”
“I care not so much for the waiting-maiden,” said Morton, “but I cannot brook the almoner — I think priests of all persuasions are much like each other — Here is John Knox, who made such a noble puller-down, is ambitious of becoming a setter-up, and a founder of schools and colleges out of the Abbey lands, and bishops’ rents, and other spoils of Rome, which the nobility of Scotland have won with their sword and bow, and with which he would endow new hives to sing the old drone.”
“John is a man of God,” said the Regent, “and his scheme is a devout imagination.”
The sedate smile with which this was spoken, left it impossible to conjecture whether the words were meant in approbation, or in derision, of the plan of the Scottish Reformer. Turning then to Roland Graeme, as if he thought he had been long enough a witness of this conversation, he bade him get him presently to horse, since my Lord of Lindesay was already mounted. The page made his reverence, and left the apartment.
Guided by Michael Wing-the-wind, he found his horse ready saddled and prepared for the journey, in front of the palace porch, where hovered about a score of men-at-arms, whose leader showed no small symptoms of surly impatience.
“Is this the jackanape page for whom we have waited thus long?” said he to Wing-the-wind. —“And my Lord Ruthven will reach the castle long before us.”
Michael assented, and added, that the boy had been detained by the Regent to receive some parting instructions. The leader made an inarticulate sound in his throat, expressive of sullen acquiescence, and calling to one of his domestic attendants, “Edward,” said he, “take the gallant into your charge, and let him speak with no one else.”
He then addressed, by the title of Sir Robert, an elderly and respectable-looking gentleman, the only one of the party who seemed above the rank of a retainer or domestic, and observed, that they must get to horse with all speed.
During this discourse, and while they were riding slowly along the street of the suburb, Roland had time to examine more accurately the looks and figure of the Baron, who was at their head.
Lord Lindesay of the Byres was rather touched than stricken with years. His upright stature and strong limbs, still showed him fully equal to all the exertions and fatigues of war. His thick eyebrows, now partially grizzled, lowered over large eyes full of dark fire, which seemed yet darker from the uncommon depth at which they were set in his head. His features, naturally strong and harsh, had their sternness exaggerated by one or two scars received in battle. These features, naturally calculated to express the harsher passions, were shaded by an open steel cap, with a projecting front, but having no visor, over the gorget of which fell the black and grizzled beard of the grim old Baron, and totally hid the lower part of his face. The rest of his dress was a loose buff-coat, which had once been lined with silk and adorned with embroidery, but which seemed much stained with travel, and damaged with cuts, received probably in battle. It covered a corslet, which had once been of polished steel, fairly gilded, but was now somewhat injured with rust. A sword of antique make and uncommon size, framed to be wielded with both hands, a kind of weapon which was then beginning to go out of use, hung from his neck in a baldrick, and was so disposed as to traverse his whole person, the huge hilt appearing over his left shoulder, and the point reaching well-nigh to the right heel, and jarring against his spur as he walked. This unwieldy weapon could only be unsheathed by pulling the handle over the left shoulder — for no human arm was long enough to draw it in the usual manner. The whole equipment was that of a rude warrior, negligent of his exterior even to misanthropical sullenness; and the short, harsh, haughty tone, which he used towards his attendants, belonged to the same unpolished character.
The personage who rode with Lord Lindesay, at the head of the party, was an absolute contrast to him, in manner, form, and features. His thin and silky hair was already white, though he seemed not above forty-five or fifty years old. His tone of voice was soft and insinuating — his form thin, spare, and bent by an habitual stoop — his pale cheek was expressive of shrewdness and intelligence — his eye was quick though placid, and his whole demeanour mild and conciliatory. He rode an ambling nag, such as were used by ladies, clergymen, or others of peaceful professions — wore a riding habit of black velvet, with a cap and feather of the same hue, fastened up by a golden medal — and for show, and as a mark of rank rather than for use, carried a walking-sword, (as the short light rapiers were called,) without any other arms, offensive or defensive.
The party had now quitted the town, and proceeded, at a steady trot, towards the west. — As they prosecuted their journey, Roland Graeme would gladly have learned something of its purpose and tendency, but the countenance of the personage next to whom he had been placed in the train, discouraged all approach to familiarity. The Baron himself did not look more grim and inaccessible than his feudal retainer, whose grisly beard fell over his mouth like the portcullis before the gate of a castle, as if for the purpose of preventing the escape of any word, of which absolute necessity did not demand the utterance. The rest of the train seemed under the same taciturn influence, and journeyed on without a word being exchanged amongst them — more like a troop of Carthusian friars than a party of military retainers. Roland Graeme was surprised at this extremity of discipline; for even in the household of the Knight of Avenel, though somewhat distinguished for the accuracy with which decorum was enforced, a journey was a period of license, during which jest and song, and every thing within the limits of becoming mirth and pastime were freely permitted. This unusual silence was, however, so far acceptable, that it gave him time to bring any shadow of judgment which he possessed to council on his own situation and prospects, which would have appeared to any reasonable person in the highest degree dangerous and perplexing.
It was quite evident that he had, through various circumstances not under his own control, formed contradictory connexions with both the contending factions, by whose strife the kingdom was distracted, without being properly an adherent of either. It seemed also clear, that the same situation in the household of the deposed Queen, to which he was now promoted by the influence of the Regent, had been destined to him by his enthusiastic grandmother, Magdalen Graeme; for on this subject, the words which Morton had dropped had been a ray of light; yet it was no less clear that these two persons, the one the declared enemy, the other the enthusiastic votary, of the Catholic religion — the one at the head of the King’s new government, the other, who regarded that government as a criminal usurpation — must have required and expected very different services from the individual whom they had thus united in recommending. It required very little reflection to foresee that these contradictory claims on his services might speedily place him in a situation where his honour as well as his life might be endangered. But it was not in Roland Graeme’s nature to anticipate evil before it came, or to prepare to combat difficulties before they arrived. “I will see this beautiful and unfortunate Mary Stewart,” said he, “of whom we have heard so much, and then there will be time enough to determine whether I will be kingsman or queensman. None of them can say I have given word or promise to either of their factions; for they have led me up and down like a blind Billy, without giving me any light into what I was to do. But it was lucky that grim Douglas came into the Regent’s closet this morning, otherwise I had never got free of him without plighting my troth to do all the Earl would have me, which seemed, after all, but foul play to the poor imprisoned lady, to place her page as an espial on her.”
Skipping thus lightly over a matter of such consequence, the thoughts of the hare-brained boy went a wool-gathering after more agreeable topics. Now he admired the Gothic towers of Barnbougle, rising from the seabeaten rock, and overlooking one of the most glorious landscapes in Scotland — and now he began to consider what notable sport for the hounds and the hawks must be afforded by the variegated ground over which they travelled — and now he compared the steady and dull trot at which they were then prosecuting their journey, with the delight of sweeping over hill and dale in pursuit of his favourite sports. As, under the influence of these joyous recollections, he gave his horse the spur, and made him execute a gambade, he instantly incurred the censure of his grave neighbour, who hinted to him to keep the pace, and move quietly and in order, unless he wished such notice to be taken of his eccentric movements as was likely to be very displeasing to him.
The rebuke and the restraint under which the youth now found himself, brought back to his recollection his late good-humoured and accommodating associate and guide, Adam Woodcock; and from that topic his imagination made a short flight to Avenel Castle, to the quiet and unconfined life of its inhabitants, the goodness of his early protectress, not forgetting the denizens of its stables, kennels, and hawk-mews. In a brief space, all these subjects of meditation gave way to the resemblance of that riddle of womankind, Catherine Seyton, who appeared before the eye of his mind — now in her female form, now in her male attire — now in both at once — like some strange dream, which presents to us the same individual under two different characters at the same instant. Her mysterious present also recurred to his recollection — the sword which he now wore at his side, and which he was not to draw save by command of his legitimate Sovereign! But the key of this mystery he judged he was likely to find in the issue of his present journey.
With such thoughts passing through his mind, Roland Graeme accompanied the party of Lord Lindesay to the Queen’s-Ferry, which they passed in vessels that lay in readiness for them. They encountered no adventure whatever in their passage, excepting one horse being lamed in getting into the boat, an accident very common on such occasions, until a few years ago, when the ferry was completely regulated. What was more peculiarly characteristic of the olden age, was the discharge of a culverin at the party from the battlements of the old castle of Rosythe, on the north side of the Ferry, the lord of which happened to have some public or private quarrel with the Lord Lindesay, and took this mode of expressing his resentment. The insult, however, as it was harmless, remained unnoticed and unavenged, nor did any thing else occur worth notice until the band had come where Lochleven spread its magnificent sheet of waters to the beams of a bright summer’s sun.
The ancient castle, which occupies an island nearly in the centre of the lake, recalled to the page that of Avenel, in which he had been nurtured. But the lake was much larger, and adorned with several islets besides that on which the fortress was situated; and instead of being embosomed in hills like that of Avenel, had upon the southern side only a splendid mountainous screen, being the descent of one of the Lomond hills, and on the other was surrounded by the extensive and fertile plain of Kinross. Roland Graeme looked with some degree of dismay on the water-girdled fortress, which then, as now, consisted only of one large donjon-keep, surrounded with a court-yard, with two round flanking-towers at the angles, which contained within its circuit some other buildings of inferior importance. A few old trees, clustered together near the castle, gave some relief to the air of desolate seclusion; but yet the page, while he gazed upon a building so sequestrated, could not but feel for the situation of a captive Princess doomed to dwell there, as well as for his own. “I must have been born,” he thought, “under the star that presides over ladies and lakes of water, for I cannot by any means escape from the service of the one, or from dwelling in the other. But if they allow me not the fair freedom of my sport and exercise, they shall find it as hard to confine a wild-drake, as a youth who can swim like one.”
The band had now reached the edge of the water, and one of the party advancing displayed Lord Lindesay’s pennon, waving it repeatedly to and fro, while that Baron himself blew a clamorous blast on his bugle. A banner was presently displayed from the roof of the castle in reply to these signals, and one or two figures were seen busied as if unmooring a boat which lay close to the islet.
“It will be some time ere they can reach us with the boat,” said the companion of Lord Lindesay; “should we not do well to proceed to the town, and array ourselves in some better order, ere we appear before ——”
“You may do as you list, Sir Robert,” replied Lindesay, “I have neither time nor temper to waste on such vanities. She has cost me many a hard ride, and must not now take offence at the threadbare cloak and soiled doublet that I am arrayed in. It is the livery to which she has brought all Scotland.”
“Do not speak so harshly,” said Sir Robert; “if she hath done wrong, she hath dearly abied it; and in losing all real power, one would not deprive her of the little external homage due at once to a lady and a princess.”
“I say to you once more, Sir Robert Melville,” replied Lindesay, “do as you will — for me, I am now too old to dink myself as a gallant to grace the bower of dames.”
“The bower of dames, my lord!” said Melville, looking at the rude old tower —“is it yon dark and grated castle, the prison of a captive Queen, to which you give so gay a name?”
“Name it as you list,” replied Lindesay; “had the Regent desired to send an envoy capable to speak to a captive Queen, there are many gallants in his court who would have courted the occasion to make speeches out of Amadis of Gaul, or the Mirror of Knighthood. But when he sent blunt old Lindesay, he knew he would speak to a misguided woman, as her former misdoings and her present state render necessary. I sought not this employment — it has been thrust upon me; and I will not cumber myself with more form in the discharge of it, than needs must be tacked to such an occupation.”
So saying, Lord Lindesay threw himself from horseback, and wrapping his riding-cloak around him, lay down at lazy length upon the sward, to await the arrival of the boat, which was now seen rowing from the castle towards the shore. Sir Robert Melville, who had also dismounted, walked at short turns to and fro upon the bank, his arms crossed on his breast, often looking to the castle, and displaying in his countenance a mixture of sorrow and of anxiety. The rest of the party sate like statues on horseback, without moving so much as the points of their lances, which they held upright in the air.
As soon as the boat approached a rude quay or landing-place, near to which they had stationed themselves, Lord Lindesay started up from his recumbent posture, and asked the person who steered, why he had not brought a larger boat with him to transport his retinue.
“So please you,” replied the boatman, “because it is the order of our lady, that we bring not to the castle more than four persons.”
“Thy lady is a wise woman,” said Lindesay, “to suspect me of treachery! — Or, had I intended it, what was to hinder us from throwing you and your comrades into the lake, and filling the boat with my own fellows?”
The steersman, on hearing this, made a hasty signal to his men to back their oars, and hold off from the shore which they were approaching.
“Why, thou ass,” said Lindesay, “thou didst not think that I meant thy fool’s head serious harm? Hark thee, friend — with fewer than three servants I will go no whither — Sir Robert Melville will require at least the attendance of one domestic; and it will be at your peril and your lady’s to refuse us admission, come hither as we are, on matters of great national concern.”
The steersman answered with firmness, but with great civility of expression, that his orders were positive to bring no more than four into the island, but he offered to row back to obtain a revisal of his orders.
“Do so, my friend,” said Sir Robert Melville, after he had in vain endeavoured to persuade his stubborn companion to consent to a temporary abatement of his train, “row back to the castle, sith it will be no better, and obtain thy lady’s orders to transport the Lord Lindesay, myself, and our retinue hither.”
“And hearken,” said Lord Lindesay, “take with you this page, who comes as an attendant on your lady’s guest. — Dismount, sirrah,” said he, addressing Roland, “and embark with them in that boat.”
“And what is to become of my horse?” said Graeme; “I am answerable for him to my master.”
“I will relieve you of the charge,” said Lindesay; “thou wilt have little enough to do with horse, saddle, or bridle, for ten years to come — Thou mayst take the halter an thou wilt — it may stand thee in a turn.”
“If I thought so,” said Roland — but he was interrupted by Sir Robert Melville, who said to him good-humouredly, “Dispute it not, young friend — resistance can do no good, but may well run thee into danger.”
Roland Graeme felt the justice of what he said, and, though neither delighted with the matter or manner of Lindesay’s address, deemed it best to submit to necessity, and to embark without farther remonstrance. The men plied their oars. The quay, with the party of horse stationed near it, receded from the page’s eyes — the castle and the islet seemed to draw near in the same proportion, and in a brief space he landed under the shadow of a huge old tree which overhung the landing place. The steersman and Graeme leaped ashore; the boatmen remained lying on their oars ready for farther service.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00