The Abbot, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Twenty-First.

Could valour aught avail or people’s love,

France had not wept Navarre’s brave Henry slain;

If wit or beauty could compassion move,

The rose of Scotland had not wept in vain.

Elegy in a Royal Mausoleum. Lewis.

At the gate of the court-yard of Lochleven appeared the stately form of the Lady Lochleven, a female whose early charms had captivated James V., by whom she became mother of the celebrated Regent Murray. As she was of noble birth (being a daughter of the house of Mar) and of great beauty, her intimacy with James did not prevent her being afterwards sought in honourable marriage by many gallants of the time, among whom she had preferred Sir William Douglas of Lochleven. But well has it been said

——“Our pleasant vices

Are made the whips to scourge us”——

The station which the Lady of Lochleven now held as the wife of a man of high rank and interest, and the mother of a lawful family, did not prevent her nourishing a painful sense of degradation, even while she was proud of the talents, the power, and the station of her son, now prime ruler of the state, but still a pledge of her illicit intercourse. “Had James done to her,” she said, in her secret heart, “the justice he owed her, she had seen in her son, as a source of unmixed delight and of unchastened pride, the lawful monarch of Scotland, and one of the ablest who ever swayed the sceptre.” The House of Mar, not inferior in antiquity or grandeur to that of Drummond, would then have also boasted a Queen among its daughters, and escaped the stain attached to female frailty, even when it has a royal lover for its apology. While such feelings preyed on a bosom naturally proud and severe, they had a corresponding effect on her countenance, where, with the remains of great beauty, were mingled traits of inward discontent and peevish melancholy. It perhaps contributed to increase this habitual temperament, that the Lady Lochleven had adopted uncommonly rigid and severe views of religion, imitating in her ideas of reformed faith the very worst errors of the Catholics, in limiting the benefit of the gospel to those who profess their own speculative tenets.

In every respect, the unfortunate Queen Mary, now the compulsory guest, or rather prisoner, of this sullen lady, was obnoxious to her hostess. Lady Lochleven disliked her as the daughter of Mary of Guise, the legal possessor of those rights over James’s heart and hand, of which she conceived herself to have been injuriously deprived; and yet more so as the professor of a religion which she detested worse than Paganism.

Such was the dame, who, with stately mien, and sharp yet handsome features, shrouded by her black velvet coif, interrogated the domestic who steered her barge to the shore, what had become of Lindesay and Sir Robert Melville. The man related what had passed, and she smiled scornfully as she replied, “Fools must be flattered, not foughten with. — Row back — make thy excuse as thou canst — say Lord Ruthven hath already reached this castle, and that he is impatient for Lord Lindesay’s presence. Away with thee, Randal — yet stay — what galopin is that thou hast brought hither?”

“So please you, my lady, he is the page who is to wait upon ——”

“Ay, the new male minion,” said the Lady Lochleven; “the female attendant arrived yesterday. I shall have a well-ordered house with this lady and her retinue; but I trust they will soon find some others to undertake such a charge. Begone, Randal — and you” (to Roland Graeme) “follow me to the garden.”

She led the way with a slow and stately step to the small garden, which, enclosed by a stone wall ornamented with statues, and an artificial fountain in the centre, extended its dull parterres on the side of the court-yard, with which it communicated by a low and arched portal. Within the narrow circuit of its formal and limited walks, Mary Stewart was now learning to perform the weary part of a prisoner, which, with little interval, she was doomed to sustain during the remainder of her life. She was followed in her slow and melancholy exercise by two female attendants; but in the first glance which Roland Graeme bestowed upon one so illustrious by birth, so distinguished by her beauty, accomplishments, and misfortunes, he was sensible of the presence of no other than the unhappy Queen of Scotland.

Her face, her form, have been so deeply impressed upon the imagination, that even at the distance of nearly three centuries, it is unnecessary to remind the most ignorant and uninformed reader of the striking traits which characterize that remarkable countenance, which seems at once to combine our ideas of the majestic, the pleasing, and the brilliant, leaving us to doubt whether they express most happily the queen, the beauty, or the accomplished woman. Who is there, that, at the very mention of Mary Stewart’s name, has not her countenance before him, familiar as that of the mistress of his youth, or the favourite daughter of his advanced age? Even those who feel themselves compelled to believe all, or much, of what her enemies laid to her charge, cannot think without a sigh upon a countenance expressive of anything rather than the foul crimes with which she was charged when living, and which still continue to shade, if not to blacken, her memory. That brow, so truly open and regal — those eyebrows, so regularly graceful, which yet were saved from the charge of regular insipidity by the beautiful effect of the hazel eyes which they overarched, and which seem to utter a thousand histories — the nose, with all its Grecian precision of outline — the mouth, so well proportioned, so sweetly formed, as if designed to speak nothing but what was delightful to hear — the dimpled chin — the stately swan-like neck, form a countenance, the like of which we know not to have existed in any other character moving in that class of life, where the actresses as well as the actors command general and undivided attention. It is in vain to say that the portraits which exist of this remarkable woman are not like each other; for, amidst their discrepancy, each possesses general features which the eye at once acknowledges as peculiar to the vision which our imagination has raised while we read her history for the first time, and which has been impressed upon it by the numerous prints and pictures which we have seen. Indeed we cannot look on the worst of them, however deficient in point of execution, without saying that it is meant for Queen Mary; and no small instance it is of the power of beauty, that her charms should have remained the subject not merely of admiration, but of warm and chivalrous interest, after the lapse of such a length of time. We know that by far the most acute of those who, in latter days, have adopted the unfavourable view of Mary’s character, longed, like the executioner before his dreadful task was performed, to kiss the fair hand of her on whom he was about to perform so horrible a duty.

Dressed, then, in a deep mourning robe, and with all those charms of face, shape, and manner, with which faithful tradition has made each reader familiar, Mary Stewart advanced to meet the Lady of Lochleven, who, on her part, endeavoured to conceal dislike and apprehension under the appearance of respectful indifference. The truth was, that she had experienced repeatedly the Queen’s superiority in that species of disguised yet cutting sarcasm, with which women can successfully avenge themselves, for real and substantial injuries. It may be well doubted, whether this talent was not as fatal to its possessor as the many others enjoyed by that highly gifted, but most unhappy female; for, while it often afforded her a momentary triumph over her keepers, it failed not to exasperate their resentment; and the satire and sarcasm in which she had indulged were frequently retaliated by the deep and bitter hardships which they had the power of inflicting. It is well known that her death was at length hastened by a letter which she wrote to Queen Elizabeth, in which she treated her jealous rival, and the Countess of Shrewsbury, with the keenest irony and ridicule.

As the ladies met together, the Queen said, bending her head at the same time, in return to the obeisance of the Lady Lochleven, “We are this day fortunate — we enjoy the company of our amiable hostess at an unusual hour, and during a period which we have hitherto been permitted to give to our private exercise. But our good hostess knows well she has at all times access to our presence, and need not observe the useless ceremony of requiring our permission.”

“I am sorry my presence is deemed an intrusion by your Grace,” said the Lady of Lochleven. “I came but to announce the arrival of an addition to your train,” motioning with her hand towards Roland Graeme; “a circumstance to which ladies are seldom indifferent.”

“Oh! I crave your ladyship’s pardon; and am bent to the earth with obligations for the kindness of my nobles — or my sovereigns, shall I call them? — who have permitted me such a respectable addition to my personal retinue.”

“They have indeed studied, Madam,” said the Lady of Lochleven, “to show their kindness towards your Grace — something at the risk perhaps of sound policy, and I trust their doings will not be misconstrued.”

“Impossible!” said the Queen; “the bounty which permits the daughter of so many kings, and who yet is Queen of the realm, the attendance of two waiting-women and a boy, is a grace which Mary Stewart can never sufficiently acknowledge. Why! my train will be equal to that of any country dame in this your kingdom of Fife, saving but the lack of a gentleman-usher, and a pair or two of blue-coated serving-men. But I must not forget, in my selfish joy, the additional trouble and charges to which this magnificent augmentation of our train will put our kind hostess, and the whole house of Lochleven. It is this prudent anxiety, I am aware, which clouds your brows, my worthy lady. But be of good cheer; the crown of Scotland has many a fair manor, and your affectionate son, and my no less affectionate brother, will endow the good knight your husband with the best of them, ere Mary should be dismissed from this hospitable castle from your ladyship’s lack of means to support the charges.”

“The Douglasses of Lochleven, madam,” answered the lady, “have known for ages how to discharge their duty to the State, without looking for reward, even when the task was both irksome and dangerous.”

“Nay! but, my dear Lochleven,” said the Queen, “you are over scrupulous — I pray you accept of a goodly manor; what should support the Queen of Scotland in this her princely court, saving her own crown-lands — and who should minister to the wants of a mother, save an affectionate son like the Earl of Murray, who possesses so wonderfully both the power and inclination? — Or said you it was the danger of the task which clouded your smooth and hospitable brow? — No doubt, a page is a formidable addition to my body-guard of females; and I bethink me it must have been for that reason that my Lord of Lindesay refused even now to venture within the reach of a force so formidable, without being attended by a competent retinue.”

The Lady Lochleven started, and looked something surprised; and Mary suddenly changing her manner from the smooth ironical affectation of mildness to an accent of austere command, and drawing up at the same time her fine person, said, with the full majesty of her rank, “Yes! Lady of Lochleven; I know that Ruthven is already in the castle, and that Lindesay waits on the bank the return of your barge to bring him hither along with Sir Robert Melville. For what purpose do these nobles come — and why am I not in ordinary decency apprised of their arrival?”’

“Their purpose, madam,” replied the Lady of Lochleven, “they must themselves explain — but a formal annunciation were needless, where your Grace hath attendants who can play the espial so well.”

“Alas! poor Fleming,” said the Queen, turning to the elder of the female attendants, “thou wilt be tried, condemned, and gibbeted, for a spy in the garrison, because thou didst chance to cross the great hall while my good Lady of Lochleven was parleying at the full pitch of her voice with her pilot Randal. Put black wool in thy ears, girl, as you value the wearing of them longer. Remember, in the Castle of Lochleven, ears and tongues are matters not of use, but for show merely. Our good hostess can hear, as well as speak, for us all. We excuse your farther attendance, my lady hostess,” she said, once more addressing the object of her resentment, “and retire to prepare for an interview with our rebel lords. We will use the ante-chamber of our sleeping apartment as our hall of audience. You, young man,” she proceeded, addressing Roland Graeme, and at once softening the ironical sharpness of her manner into good-humoured raillery, “you, who are all our male attendance, from our Lord High Chamberlain down to our least galopin, follow us to prepare our court.”

She turned, and walked slowly towards the castle. The Lady of Lochleven folded her arms, and smiled in bitter resentment, as she watched her retiring steps.

“The whole male attendance!” she muttered, repeating the Queen’s last words, “and well for thee had it been had thy train never been larger;” then turning to Roland, in whose way she had stood while making this pause, she made room for him to pass, saying at the same time, “Art thou already eaves-dropping? follow thy mistress, minion, and, if thou wilt, tell her what I have now said.”

Roland Graeme hastened after his royal mistress and her attendants, who had just entered a postern-gate communicating betwixt the castle and the small garden. They ascended a winding-stair as high as the second story, which was in a great measure occupied by a suite of three rooms, opening into each other, and assigned as the dwelling of the captive Princess. The outermost was a small hall or ante-room, within which opened a large parlour, and from that again the Queen’s bedroom. Another small apartment, which opened into the same parlour, contained the beds of the gentlewomen in waiting.

Roland Graeme stopped, as became his station, in the outermost of these apartments, there to await such orders as might be communicated to him. From the grated window of the room he saw Lindesay, Melville, and their followers disembark; and observed that they were met at the castle gate by a third noble, to whom Lindesay exclaimed, in his loud harsh voice, “My Lord of Ruthven, you have the start of us!”

At this instant, the page’s attention was called to a burst of hysterical sobs from the inner apartment, and to the hurried ejaculations of the terrified females, which led him almost instantly to hasten to their assistance. When he entered, he saw that the Queen had thrown herself into the large chair which stood nearest the door, and was sobbing for breath in a strong fit of hysterical affection. The elder female supported her in her arms, while the younger bathed her face with water and with tears alternately.

“Hasten, young man!” said the elder lady, in alarm, “fly — call in assistance — she is swooning!”

But the Queen ejaculated in a faint and broken voice, “Stir not, I charge you! — call no one to witness — I am better — I shall recover instantly.” And, indeed, with an effort which seemed like that of one struggling for life, she sate up in her chair, and endeavoured to resume her composure, while her features yet trembled with the violent emotion of body and mind which she had undergone. “I am ashamed of my weakness, girls,” she said, taking the hands of her attendants; “but it is over — and I am Mary Stewart once more. The savage tone of that man’s voice — my knowledge of his insolence — the name which he named — the purpose for which they come — may excuse a moment’s weakness, and it shall be a moment’s only.” She snatched from her head the curch or cap, which had been disordered during her hysterical agony, shook down the thick clustered tresses of dark brown which had been before veiled under it — and, drawing her slender fingers across the labyrinth which they formed, she arose from the chair, and stood like the inspired image of a Grecian prophetess in a mood which partook at once of sorrow and pride, of smiles and of tears. “We are ill appointed,” she said, “to meet our rebel subjects; but, as far as we may, we will strive to present ourselves as becomes their Queen. Follow me, my maidens,” she said; “what says thy favourite song, my Fleming?

‘My maids, come to my dressing-bower,

And deck my nut-brown hair;

Where’er ye laid a plait before,

Look ye lay ten times ‘mair.’

“Alas!” she added, when she had repeated with a smile these lines of an old ballad, “violence has already robbed me of the ordinary decorations of my rank; and the few that nature gave me have been destroyed by sorrow and by fear.” Yet while she spoke thus, she again let her slender fingers stray through the wilderness of the beautiful tresses which veiled her kingly neck and swelling bosom, as if, in her agony of mind, she had not altogether lost the consciousness of her unrivalled charms. Roland Graeme, on whose youth, inexperience, and ardent sense of what was dignified and lovely, the demeanour of so fair and high-born a lady wrought like the charm of a magician, stood rooted to the spot with surprise and interest, longing to hazard his life in a quarrel so fair as that which Mary Stewart’s must needs be. She had been bred in France — she was possessed of the most distinguished beauty — she had reigned a Queen and a Scottish Queen, to whom knowledge of character was as essential as the use of vital air. In all these capacities, Mary was, of all women on the earth, most alert at perceiving and using the advantages which her charms gave her over almost all who came within the sphere of their influence. She cast on Roland a glance which might have melted a heart of stone. “My poor boy,” she said, with a feeling partly real, partly politic, “thou art a stranger to us — sent to this doleful captivity from the society of some tender mother, or sister, or maiden, with whom you had freedom to tread a gay measure round the Maypole. I grieve for you; but you are the only male in my limited household — wilt thou obey my orders?”

“To the death, madam,” said Graeme, in a determined tone.

“Then keep the door of mine apartment,” said the Queen; “keep it till they offer actual violence, or till we shall be fitly arrayed to receive these intrusive visiters.”

“I will defend it till they pass over my body,” said Roland Graeme; any hesitation which he had felt concerning the line of conduct he ought to pursue being completely swept away by the impulse of the moment.

“Not so, my good youth,” answered Mary; “not so, I command. If I have one faithful subject beside me, much need, God wot, I have to care for his safety. Resist them but till they are put to the shame of using actual violence, and then give way, I charge you. Remember my commands.” And, with a smile expressive at once of favour and of authority, she turned from him, and, followed by her attendants, entered the bedroom.

The youngest paused for half a second ere she followed her companion, and made a signal to Roland Graeme with her hand. He had been already long aware that this was Catherine Seyton — a circumstance which could not much surprise a youth of quick intellects, who recollected the sort of mysterious discourse which had passed betwixt the two matrons at the deserted nunnery, and on which his meeting with Catherine in this place seemed to cast so much light. Yet such was the engrossing effect of Mary’s presence, that it surmounted for the moment even the feelings of a youthful lover; and it was not until Catherine Seyton had disappeared, that Roland began to consider in what relation they were to stand to each other. “She held up her hand to me in a commanding manner,” he thought; “perhaps she wanted to confirm my purpose for the execution of the Queen’s commands; for I think she could scarce purpose to scare me with the sort of discipline which she administered to the groom in the frieze-jacket, and to poor Adam Woodcock. But we will see to that anon; meantime, let us do justice to the trust reposed in us by this unhappy Queen. I think my Lord of Murray will himself own that it is the duty of a faithful page to defend his lady against intrusion on her privacy.”

Accordingly, he stepped to the little vestibule, made fast, with lock and bar, the door which opened from thence to the large staircase, and then sat himself down to attend the result. He had not long to wait — a rude and strong hand first essayed to lift the latch, then pushed and shook the door with violence, and, when it resisted his attempt to open it, exclaimed, “Undo the door there, you within!”

“Why, and at whose command,” said the page, “am I to undo the door of the apartments of the Queen of Scotland?”

Another vain attempt, which made hinge and bolt jingle, showed that the impatient applicant without would willingly have entered altogether regardless of his challenge; but at length an answer was returned.

“Undo the door, on your peril — the Lord Lindesay comes to speak with the Lady Mary of Scotland.”

“The Lord Lindesay, as a Scottish noble,” answered the page, “must await his Sovereign’s leisure.”

An earnest altercation ensued amongst those without, in which Roland distinguished the remarkable harsh voice of Lindesay in reply to Sir Robert Melville, who appeared to have been using some soothing language —“No! no! no! I tell thee, no! I will place a petard against the door rather than be baulked by a profligate woman, and bearded by an insolent footboy.”

“Yet, at least,” said Melville, “let me try fair means in the first instance. Violence to a lady would stain your scutcheon for ever. Or await till my Lord Ruthven comes.”

“I will await no longer,” said Lindesay; “it is high time the business were done, and we on our return to the council. But thou mayest try thy fair play, as thou callest it, while I cause my train to prepare the petard. I came hither provided with as good gunpowder as blew up the Kirk of Field.”

“For God’s sake, be patient,” said Melville; and, approaching the door, he said, as speaking to those within, “Let the Queen know, that I, her faithful servant, Robert Melville, do entreat her, for her own sake, and to prevent worse consequences, that she will undo the door, and admit Lord Lindesay, who brings a mission from the Council of State.”

“I will do your errand to the Queen,” said the page, “and report to you her answer.”

He went to the door of the bedchamber, and tapping against it gently, it was opened by the elderly lady, to whom he communicated his errand, and returned with directions from the Queen to admit Sir Robert Melville and Lord Lindesay. Roland Graeme returned to the vestibule, and opened the door accordingly, into which the Lord Lindesay strode, with the air of a soldier who has fought his way into a conquered fortress; while Melville, deeply dejected, followed him more slowly.

“I draw you to witness, and to record,” said the page to this last, “that, save for the especial commands of the Queen, I would have made good the entrance, with my best strength, and my best blood, against all Scotland.”

“Be silent, young man,” said Melville, in a tone of grave rebuke; “add not brands to fire — this is no time to make a flourish of thy boyish chivalry.”

“She has not appeared even yet,” said Lindesay, who had now reached the midst of the parlour or audience-room; “how call you this trifling?”

“Patience, my lord,” replied Sir Robert, “time presses not — and Lord Ruthven hath not as yet descended.”

At this moment the door of the inner apartment opened, and Queen Mary presented herself, advancing with an air of peculiar grace and majesty, and seeming totally unruffled, either by the visit, or by the rude manner in which it had been enforced. Her dress was a robe of black velvet; a small ruff, open in front, gave a full view of her beautifully formed chin and neck, but veiled the bosom. On her head she wore a small cap of lace, and a transparent white veil hung from her shoulders over the long black robe, in large loose folds, so that it could be drawn at pleasure over the face and person. She wore a cross of gold around her neck, and had her rosary of gold and ebony hanging from her girdle. She was closely followed by her two ladies, who remained standing behind her during the conference. Even Lord Lindesay, though the rudest noble of that rude age, was surprised into something like respect by the unconcerned and majestic mien of her, whom he had expected to find frantic with impotent passion, or dissolved in useless and vain sorrow, or overwhelmed with the fears likely in such a situation to assail fallen royalty.

“We fear we have detained you, my Lord of Lindesay,” said the Queen, while she curtsied with dignity in answer to his reluctant obeisance; “but a female does not willingly receive her visiters without some minutes spent at the toilette. Men, my lord, are less dependant on such ceremonies.”

Lord Lindesay, casting his eye down on his own travel-stained and disordered dress, muttered something of a hasty journey, and the Queen paid her greeting to Sir Robert Melville with courtesy, and even, as it seemed, with kindness. There was then a dead pause, during which Lindesay looked towards the door, as if expecting with impatience the colleague of their embassy. The Queen alone was entirely unembarrassed, and, as if to break the silence, she addressed Lord Lindesay, with a glance at the large and cumbrous sword which he wore, as already mentioned, hanging from his neck.

“You have there a trusty and a weighty travelling companion, my lord. I trust you expected to meet with no enemy here, against whom such a formidable weapon could be necessary? it is, methinks, somewhat a singular ornament for a court, though I am, as I well need to be, too much of a Stuart to fear a sword.”

“It is not the first time, madam,” replied Lindesay, bringing round the weapon so as to rest its point on the ground, and leaning one hand on the huge cross-handle, “it is not the first time that this weapon has intruded itself into the presence of the House of Stewart.”

“Possibly, my lord,” replied the Queen, “it may have done service to my ancestors — Your ancestors were men of loyalty”

“Ay, madam,” replied he, “service it hath done; but such as kings love neither to acknowledge nor to reward. It was the service which the knife renders to the tree when trimming it to the quick, and depriving it of the superfluous growth of rank and unfruitful suckers, which rob it of nourishment.”

“You talk riddles, my lord,” said Mary; “I will hope the explanation carries nothing insulting with it.”

“You shall judge, madam,” answered Lindesay. “With this good sword was Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, girded on the memorable day when he acquired the name of Bell-the-Cat, for dragging from the presence of your great grandfather, the third James of the race, a crew of minions, flatterers, and favourites whom he hanged over the bridge of Lauder, as a warning to such reptiles how they approach a Scottish throne. With this same weapon, the same inflexible champion of Scottish honour and nobility slew at one blow Spens of Kilspindie, a courtier of your grandfather, James the fourth, who had dared to speak lightly of him in the royal presence. They fought near the brook of Fala; and Bell-the-Cat, with this blade, sheared through the thigh of his opponent, and lopped the limb as easily as a shepherd’s boy slices a twig from a sapling.”

“My lord,” replied the Queen, reddening, “my nerves are too good to be alarmed even by this terrible history — May I ask how a blade so illustrious passed from the House of Douglas to that of Lindesay? — Methinks it should have been preserved as a consecrated relic, by a family who have held all that they could do against their king, to be done in favour of their country.”

“Nay, madam,” said Melville, anxiously interfering, “ask not that question of Lord Lindesay — And you, my lord, for shame — for decency — forbear to reply to it.”

“It is time that this lady should hear the truth,” replied Lindesay.

“And be assured,” said the Queen, “that she will be moved to anger by none that you can tell her, my lord. There are cases in which just scorn has always the mastery over just anger.”

“Then know,” said Lindesay, “that upon the field of Carberry-hill, when that false and infamous traitor and murderer, James, sometime Earl of Bothwell, and nicknamed Duke of Orkney, offered to do personal battle with any of the associated nobles who came to drag him to justice, I accepted his challenge, and was by the noble Earl of Morton gifted with his good sword that I might therewith fight it out — Ah! so help me Heaven, had his presumption been one grain more, or his cowardice one grain less, I should have done such work with this good steel on his traitorous corpse, that the hounds and carrion-crows should have found their morsels daintily carved to their use!”

The Queen’s courage well-nigh gave way at the mention of Bothwell’s name — a name connected with such a train of guilt, shame, and disaster. But the prolonged boast of Lindesay gave her time to rally herself, and to answer with an appearance of cold contempt —“It is easy to slay an enemy who enters not the lists. But had Mary Stewart inherited her father’s sword as well as his sceptre, the boldest of her rebels should not upon that day have complained that they had no one to cope withal. Your lordship will forgive me if I abridge this conference. A brief description of a bloody fight is long enough to satisfy a lady’s curiosity; and unless my Lord of Lindesay has something more important to tell us than of the deeds which old Bell-the-Cat achieved, and how he would himself have emulated them, had time and tide permitted, we will retire to our private apartment, and you, Fleming, shall finish reading to us yonder little treatise Des Rodomontades Espagnolles.”

“Tarry, madam,” said Lindesay, his complexion reddening in his turn, “I know your quick wit too well of old to have sought an interview that you might sharpen its edge at the expense of my honour. Lord Ruthven and myself, with Sir Robert Melville as a concurrent, come to your Grace on the part of the Secret Council, to tender to you what much concerns the safety of your own life and the welfare of the State.”

“The Secret Council?” said the Queen; “by what powers can it subsist or act, while I, from whom it holds its character, am here detained under unjust restraint? But it matters not — what concerns the welfare of Scotland shall be acceptable to Mary Stewart, come from whatever quarter it will — and for what concerns her own life, she has lived long enough to be weary of it, even at the age of twenty-five. — Where is your colleague, my lord? — why tarries he?”

“He comes, madam,” said Melville, and Lord Ruthven entered at the instant, holding in his hand a packet. As the Queen returned his salutation she became deadly pale, but instantly recovered herself by dint of strong and sudden resolution, just as the noble, whose appearance seemed to excite such emotions in her bosom, entered the apartment in company with George Douglas, the youngest son of the Knight of Lochleven, who, during the absence of his father and brethren, acted as Seneschal of the Castle, under the direction of the elder Lady Lochleven, his father’s mother.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00