The Abbot, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Twenty-Fourth.

’Tis a weary life this —

Vaults overhead, and grates and bars around me,

And my sad hours spent with as sad companions,

Whose thoughts are brooding: o’er their own mischances,

Far, far too deeply to take part in mine.

The Woodsman.

The course of life to which Mary and her little retinue were doomed, was in the last degree secluded and lonely, varied only as the weather permitted or rendered impossible the Queen’s usual walk in the garden or on the battlements. The greater part of the morning she wrought with her ladies at those pieces of needlework, many of which still remain proofs of her indefatigable application. At such hours the page was permitted the freedom of the castle and islet; nay, he was sometimes invited to attend George Douglas when he went a-sporting upon the lake, or on its margin; opportunities of diversion which were only clouded by the remarkable melancholy which always seemed to brood on that gentleman’s brow, and to mark his whole demeanour — a sadness so profound, that Roland never observed him to smile, or to speak any word unconnected with the immediate object of their exercise.

The most pleasant part of Roland’s day, was the occasional space which he was permitted to pass in personal attendance on the Queen and her ladies, together with the regular dinner-time, which he always spent with Dame Mary Fleming and Catharine Seyton. At these periods, he had frequent occasion to admire the lively spirit and inventive imagination of the latter damsel, who was unwearied in her contrivances to amuse her mistress, and to banish, for a time at least, the melancholy which preyed on her bosom. She danced, she sung, she recited tales of ancient and modern times, with that heartfelt exertion of talent, of which the pleasure lies not in the vanity of displaying it to others, but in the enthusiastic consciousness that we possess it ourselves. And yet these high accomplishments were mixed with an air of rusticity and harebrained vivacity, which seemed rather to belong to some village maid, the coquette of the ring around the Maypole, than to the high-bred descendant of an ancient baron. A touch of audacity, altogether short of effrontery, and far less approaching to vulgarity, gave as it were a wildness to all that she did; and Mary, while defending her from some of the occasional censures of her grave companion, compared her to a trained singing-bird escaped from a cage, which practises in all the luxuriance of freedom, and in full possession of the greenwood bough, the airs which it had learned during its earlier captivity.

The moments which the page was permitted to pass in the presence of this fascinating creature, danced so rapidly away, that, brief as they were, they compensated the weary dulness of all the rest of the day. The space of indulgence, however, was always brief, nor were any private interviews betwixt him and Catharine permitted, or even possible. Whether it were some special precaution respecting the Queen’s household, or whether it were her general ideas of propriety, Dame Fleming seemed particularly attentive to prevent the young people from holding any separate correspondence together, and bestowed, for Catharine’s sole benefit in this matter, the full stock of prudence and experience which she had acquired, when mother of the Queen’s maidens of honour, and by which she had gained their hearty hatred. Casual meetings, however, could not be prevented, unless Catherine had been more desirous of shunning, or Roland Graeme less anxious in watching for them. A smile, a gibe, a sarcasm, disarmed of its severity by the arch look with which it was accompanied, was all that time permitted to pass between them on such occasions. But such passing interviews neither afforded means nor opportunity to renew the discussion of the circumstances attending their earlier acquaintance, nor to permit Roland to investigate more accurately the mysterious apparition of the page in the purple velvet cloak at the hostelrie of Saint Michael’s.

The winter months slipped heavily away, and spring was already advanced, when Roland Graeme observed a gradual change in the manners of his fellow-prisoners. Having no business of his own to attend to, and being, like those of his age, education, and degree, sufficiently curious concerning what passed around, he began by degrees to suspect, and finally to be convinced, that there was something in agitation among his companions in captivity, to which they did not desire that he should be privy. Nay, he became almost certain that, by some means unintelligible to him, Queen Mary held correspondence beyond the walls and waters which surrounded her prison-house, and that she nourished some secret hope of deliverance or escape. In the conversations betwixt her and her attendants, at which he was necessarily present, the Queen could not always avoid showing that she was acquainted with the events which were passing abroad in the world, and which he only heard through her report. He observed that she wrote more and worked less than had been her former custom, and that, as if desirous to lull suspicion asleep, she changed her manner towards the Lady Lochleven into one more gracious, and which seemed to express a resigned submission to her lot. “They think I am blind,” he said to himself, “and that I am unfit to be trusted because I am so young, or it may be because I was sent hither by the Regent. Well! — be it so — they may be glad to confide in me in the long run; and Catherine Seyton, for as saucy as she is, may find me as safe a confidant as that sullen Douglas, whom she is always running after. It may be they are angry with me for listening to Master Elias Henderson; but it was their own fault for sending me there, and if the man speaks truth and good sense, and preaches only the word of God, he is as likely to be right as either Pope or Councils.”

It is probable that in this last conjecture, Roland Graeme had hit upon the real cause why the ladies had not intrusted him with their councils. He had of late had several conferences with Henderson on the subject of religion, and had given him to understand that he stood in need of his instructions, although he had not thought there was either prudence or necessity for confessing that hitherto he had held the tenets of the Church of Rome.

Elias Henderson, a keen propagator of the reformed faith, had sought the seclusion of Lochleven Castle, with the express purpose and expectation of making converts from Rome amongst the domestics of the dethroned Queen, and confirming the faith of those who already held the Protestant doctrines. Perhaps his hopes soared a little higher, and he might nourish some expectation of a proselyte more distinguished in the person of the deposed Queen. But the pertinacity with which she and her female attendants refused to see or listen to him, rendered such hope, if he nourished it, altogether abortive.

The opportunity, therefore, of enlarging the religious information of Roland Graeme, and bringing him to a more due sense of his duties to Heaven, was hailed by the good man as a door opened by Providence for the salvation of a sinner. He dreamed not, indeed, that he was converting a Papist, but such was the ignorance which Roland displayed upon some material points of the reformed doctrine, that Master Henderson, while praising his docility to the Lady Lochleven and her grandson, seldom failed to add, that his venerable brother, Henry Warden, must be now decayed in strength and in mind, since he found a catechumen of his flock so ill-grounded in the principles of his belief. For this, indeed, Roland Graeme thought it was unnecessary to assign the true reason, which was his having made it a point of honour to forget all that Henry Warden taught him, as soon as he was no longer compelled to read it over as a lesson acquired by rote. The lessons of his new instructor, if not more impressively delivered, were received by a more willing ear, and a more awakened understanding, and the solitude of Lochleven Castle was favourable to graver thoughts than the page had hitherto entertained. He wavered yet, indeed, as one who was almost persuaded; but his attention to the chaplain’s instructions procured him favour even with the stern old dame herself; and he was once or twice, but under great precaution, permitted to go to the neighbouring village of Kinross, situated on the mainland, to execute some ordinary commission of his unfortunate mistress.

For some time Roland Graeme might be considered as standing neuter betwixt the two parties who inhabited the water-girdled Tower of Lochleven; but, as he rose in the opinion of the Lady of the Castle and her chaplain, he perceived, with great grief, that he lost ground in that of Mary and her female allies.

He came gradually to be sensible that he was regarded as a spy upon their discourse, and that, instead of the ease with which they had formerly conversed in his presence, without suppressing any of the natural feelings of anger, of sorrow, or mirth, which the chance topic of the moment happened to call forth, their talk was now guardedly restricted to the most indifferent subjects, and a studied reserve observed even in their mode of treating these. This obvious want of confidence was accompanied with a correspondent change in their personal demeanor towards the unfortunate page. The Queen, who had at first treated him with marked courtesy, now scarce spoke to him, save to convey some necessary command for her service. The Lady Fleming restricted her notice to the most dry and distant expressions of civility, and Catherine Seyton became bitter in her pleasantries, and shy, cross, and pettish, in any intercourse they had together. What was yet more provoking, he saw, or thought he saw, marks of intelligence betwixt George Douglas and the beautiful Catherine Seyton; and, sharpened by jealousy, he wrought himself almost into a certainty, that the looks which they exchanged, conveyed matters of deep and serious import. “No wonder,” he thought, “if, courted by the son of a proud and powerful baron, she can no longer spare a word or look to the poor fortuneless page.”

In a word, Roland Graeme’s situation became truly disagreeable, and his heart naturally enough rebelled against the injustice of this treatment, which deprived him of the only comfort which he had received for submitting to a confinement in other respects irksome. He accused Queen Mary and Catherine Seyton (for concerning the opinion of Dame Fleming he was indifferent) of inconsistency in being displeased with him on account of the natural consequences of an order of their own. Why did they send him to hear this overpowering preacher? The Abbot Ambrosius, he recollected, understood the weakness of their Popish cause better, when he enjoined him to repeat within his own mind, aves, and credos, and paters, all the while old Henry Warden preached or lectured, that so he might secure himself against lending even a momentary ear to his heretical doctrine. “But I will endure this life no longer,” said he to himself, manfully; “do they suppose I would betray my mistress, because I see cause to doubt of her religion? — that would be a serving, as they say, the devil for God’s sake. I will forth into the world — he that serves fair ladies, may at least expect kind looks and kind words; and I bear not the mind of a gentleman, to submit to cold treatment and suspicion, and a life-long captivity besides. I will speak to George Douglas tomorrow when we go out a-fishing.”

A sleepless night was spent in agitating this magnanimous resolution, and he arose in the morning not perfectly decided in his own mind whether he should abide by it or not. It happened that he was summoned by the Queen at an unusual hour, and just as he was about to go out with George Douglas. He went to attend her commands in, the garden; but as he had his angling-rod in his hand, the circumstance announced his previous intention, and the Queen, turning to the Lady Fleming, said, “Catherine must devise some other amusement for us, ma bonnie amie; our discreet page has already made his party for the day’s pleasure.”

“I said from the beginning,” answered the Lady Fleming, “that your Grace ought not to rely on being favoured with the company of a youth who has so many Huguenot acquaintances, and has the means of amusing himself far more agreeably than with us.”

“I wish,” said Catherine, her animated features reddening with mortification, “that his friends would sail away with him for good, and bring us in return a page (if such a thing can be found) faithful to his Queen and to his religion.”

“One part of your wishes may be granted, madam,” said Roland Graeme, unable any longer to restrain his sense of the treatment which he received on all sides; and he was about to add, “I heartily wish you a companion in my room, if such can be found, who is capable of enduring women’s caprices without going distracted.” Luckily, he recollected the remorse which he had felt at having given way to the vivacity of his temper upon a similar occasion; and, closing his lips, imprisoned, until it died on his tongue, a reproach so misbecoming the presence of majesty.

“Why do you remain there,” said the Queen, “as if you were rooted to the parterre?”

“I but attend your Grace’s commands,” said the page.

“I have none to give you — Begone, sir.”

As he left the garden to go to the boat, he distinctly heard Mary upbraid one of her attendants in these words:—“You see to what you have exposed us!”

This brief scene at once determined Roland Graeme’s resolution to quit the castle, if it were possible, and to impart his resolution to George Douglas without loss of time. That gentleman, in his usual mood of silence, sate in the stern of the little skiff which they used on such occasions, trimming his fishing-tackle, and, from time to time, indicating by signs to Graeme, who pulled the oars, which way he should row. When they were a furlong or two from the castle, Roland rested on the oars, and addressed his companion somewhat abruptly — “I have something of importance to say to you, under your pleasure, fair sir.”

The pensive melancholy of Douglas’s countenance at once gave way to the eager, keen, and startled look of one who expects to hear something of deep and alarming import.

“I am wearied to the very death of this Castle of Lochleven,” continued Roland.

“Is that all?” said Douglas; “I know none of its inhabitants who are much better pleased with it.”

“Ay, but I am neither a native of the house, nor a prisoner in it, and so I may reasonably desire to leave it.”

“You might desire to quit it with equal reason,” answered Douglas, “if you were both the one and the other.”

“But,” said Roland Graeme, “I am not only tired of living in Lochleven Castle, but I am determined to quit it.”

“That is a resolution more easily taken than executed,” replied Douglas.

“Not if yourself, sir, and your Lady Mother, choose to consent,” answered the page.

“You mistake the matter, Roland,” said Douglas; “you will find that the consent of two other persons is equally essential — that of the Lady Mary your mistress, and that of my uncle the Regent, who placed you about her person, and who will not think it proper that she should change her attendants so soon.”

“And must I then remain whether I will or no?” demanded the page, somewhat appalled at a view of the subject, which would have occurred sooner to a person of more experience.

“At least,” said George Douglas, “you must will to remain till my uncle consents to dismiss you.”

“Frankly,” said the page, “and speaking to you as a gentleman who is incapable of betraying me, I will confess, that if I thought myself a prisoner here, neither walls nor water should confine me long.”

“Frankly,” said Douglas, “I could not much blame you for the attempt; yet, for all that, my father, or uncle, or the earl, or any of my brothers, or in short any of the king’s lords into whose hands you fell, would in such a case hang you like a dog, or like a sentinel who deserts his post; and I promise you that you will hardly escape them. But row towards Saint Serf’s island — there is a breeze from the west, and we shall have sport, keeping to windward of the isle, where the ripple is strongest. We will speak more of what you have mentioned when we have had an hour’s sport.”

Their fishing was successful, though never did two anglers pursue even that silent and unsocial pleasure with less of verbal intercourse.

When their time was expired, Douglas took the oars in his turn, and by his order Roland Graeme steered the boat, directing her course upon the landing-place at the castle. But he also stopped in the midst of his course, and, looking around him, said to Graeme, “There is a thing which I could mention to thee; but it is so deep a secret, that even here, surrounded as we are by sea and sky, without the possibility of a listener, I cannot prevail on myself to speak it out.”

“Better leave it unspoken, sir,” answered Roland Graeme, “if you doubt the honour of him who alone can hear it.”

“I doubt not your honour,” replied George Douglas; “but you are young, imprudent, and changeful.”

“Young,” said Roland, “I am, and it may be imprudent — but who hath informed you that I am changeful?”

“One that knows you, perhaps, better than you know yourself,” replied Douglas.

“I suppose you mean Catherine Seyton,” said the page, his heart rising as he spoke; “but she is herself fifty times more variable in her humour than the very water which we are floating upon.”

“My young acquaintance,” said Douglas, “I pray you to remember that Catherine Seyton is a lady of blood and birth, and must not be lightly spoken of.”

“Master George of Douglas,” said Graeme, “as that speech seemed to be made under the warrant of something like a threat, I pray you to observe, that I value not the threat at the estimation of a fin of one of these dead trouts; and, moreover, I would have you to know that the champion who undertakes the defence of every lady of blood and birth, whom men accuse of change of faith and of fashion, is like to have enough of work on his hands.”

“Go to,” said the Seneschal, but in a tone of good-humour, “thou art a foolish boy, unfit to deal with any matter more serious than the casting of a net, or the flying of a hawk.”

“If your secret concern Catherine Seyton,” said the page, “I care not for it, and so you may tell her if you will. I wot she can shape you opportunity to speak with her, as she has ere now.”

The flush which passed over Douglas’s face, made the page aware that he had alighted on a truth, when he was, in fact, speaking at random; and the feeling that he had done so, was like striking a dagger into his own heart. His companion, without farther answer, resumed the oars, and pulled lustily till they arrived at the island and the castle. The servants received the produce of their spoil, and the two fishers, turning from each other in silence, went each to his several apartment.

Roland Graeme had spent about an hour in grumbling against Catherine Seyton, the Queen, the Regent, and the whole house of Lochleven, with George Douglas at the head of it, when the time approached that his duty called him to attend the meal of Queen Mary. As he arranged his dress for this purpose, he grudged the trouble, which, on similar occasions, he used, with boyish foppery, to consider as one of the most important duties of his day; and when he went to take his place behind the chair of the Queen, it was with an air of offended dignity, which could not escape her observation, and probably appeared to her ridiculous enough, for she whispered something in French to her ladies, at which the lady Fleming laughed, and Catherine appeared half diverted and half disconcerted. This pleasantry, of which the subject was concealed from him, the unfortunate page received, of course, as a new offence, and called an additional degree of sullen dignity into his mien, which might have exposed him to farther raillery, but that Mary appeared disposed to make allowance for and compassionate his feelings.

With the peculiar tact and delicacy which no woman possessed in greater perfection, she began to soothe by degrees the vexed spirit of her magnanimous attendant. The excellence of the fish which he had taken in his expedition, the high flavour and beautiful red colour of the trouts, which have long given distinction to the lake, led her first to express her thanks to her attendant for so agreeable an addition to her table, especially upon a jour de jeune; and then brought on inquiries into the place where the fish had been taken, their size, their peculiarities, the times when they were in season, and a comparison between the Lochleven trouts and those which are found in the lakes and rivers of the south of Scotland. The ill humour of Roland Graeme was never of an obstinate character. It rolled away like mist before the sun, and he was easily engaged in a keen and animated dissertation about Lochleven trout, and sea trout, and river trout, and bull trout, and char, which never rise to a fly, and par, which some suppose infant salmon, and herlings, which frequent the Nith, and vendisses, which are only found in the Castle-Loch of Lochmaben; and he was hurrying on with the eager impetuosity and enthusiasm of a young sportsman, when he observed that the smile with which the Queen at first listened to him died languidly away, and that, in spite of her efforts to suppress them, tears rose to her eyes. He stopped suddenly short, and, distressed in his turn, asked, “If he had the misfortune unwittingly to give displeasure to her Grace?”

“No, my poor boy,” replied the Queen; “but as you numbered up the lakes and rivers of my kingdom, imagination cheated me, as it will do, and snatched me from these dreary walls away to the romantic streams of Nithsdale, and the royal towers of Lochmaben. — O land, which my fathers have so long ruled! of the pleasures which you extend so freely, your Queen is now deprived, and the poorest beggar, who may wander free from one landward town to another, would scorn to change fates with Mary of Scotland!”

“Your highness,” said the Lady Fleming, “will do well to withdraw.”

“Come with me, then, Fleming,” said the Queen, “I would not burden hearts so young as these are, with the sight of my sorrows.”

She accompanied these words with a look of melancholy compassion towards Roland and Catherine, who were now left alone together in the apartment.

The page found his situation not a little embarrassing; for, as every reader has experienced who may have chanced to be in such a situation, it is extremely difficult to maintain the full dignity of an offended person in the presence of a beautiful girl, whatever reason we may have for being angry with her. Catherine Seyton, on her part, sate still like a lingering ghost, which, conscious of the awe which its presence imposes, is charitably disposed to give the poor confused mortal whom it visits, time to recover his senses, and comply with the grand rule of demonology by speaking first. But as Roland seemed in no hurry to avail himself of her condescension, she carried it a step farther, and herself opened the conversation.

“I pray you, fair sir, if it may be permitted me to disturb your august reverie by a question so simple — what may have become of your rosary?”

“It is lost, madam — lost some time since,” said Roland, partly embarrassed and partly indignant.

“And may I ask farther, sir,” said Catherine, “why you have not replaced it with another? — I have half a mind,” she said, taking from her pocket a string of ebony beads adorned with gold, “to bestow one upon yon, to keep for my sake, just to remind you of former acquaintance.”

There was a little tremulous accent in the tone with which these words were delivered, which at once put to flight Roland Graeme’s resentment, and brought him to Catherine’s side; but she instantly resumed the bold and firm accent which was more familiar to her. “I did not bid you,” she said, “come and sit so close by me; for the acquaintance that I spoke of, has been stiff and cold, dead and buried, for this many a day.”

“Now Heaven forbid!” said the page, “it has only slept, and now that you desire it should awake, fair Catherine, believe me that a pledge of your returning favour —”

“Nay, nay,” said Catherine, withholding the rosary, towards which, as he spoke, he extended his hand, “I have changed my mind on better reflection. What should a heretic do with these holy beads, that have been blessed by the father of the church himself?”

Roland winced grievously, for he saw plainly which way the discourse was now likely to tend, and felt that it must at all events be embarrassing. “Nay, but,” he said, “it was as a token of your own regard that you offered them.”

“Ay, fair sir, but that regard attended the faithful subject, the loyal and pious Catholic, the individual who was so solemnly devoted at the same time with myself to the same grand duty; which, you must now understand, was to serve the church and Queen. To such a person, if you ever heard of him, was my regard due, and not to him who associates with heretics, and is about to become a renegado.”

“I should scarce believe, fair mistress,” said Roland, indignantly, “that the vane of your favour turned only to a Catholic wind, considering that it points so plainly to George Douglas, who, I think, is both kingsman and Protestant.”

“Think better of George Douglas,” said Catherine, “than to believe —” and then checking herself, as if she had spoken too much, she went on, “I assure you, fair Master Roland, that all who wish you well are sorry for you.”

“Their number is very few, I believe,” answered Roland, “and their sorrow, if they feel any, not deeper than ten minutes’ time will cure.”

“They are more numerous, and think more deeply concerning you, than you seem to be aware,” answered Catherine. “But perhaps they think wrong — You are the best judge in your own affairs; and if you prefer gold and church-lands to honour and loyalty, and the faith of your fathers, why should you be hampered in conscience more than others?”

“May Heaven bear witness for me,” said Roland, “that if I entertain any difference of opinion — that is, if I nourish any doubts in point of religion, they have been adopted on the conviction of my own mind, and the suggestion of my own conscience!”

“Ay, ay, your conscience — your conscience!” repeated she with satiric emphasis; “your conscience is the scape-goat; I warrant it an able one — it will bear the burden of one of the best manors of the Abbey of Saint Mary of Kennaquhair”, lately forfeited to our noble Lord the King, by the Abbot and community thereof, for the high crime of fidelity to their religious vows, and now to be granted by the High and Mighty Traitor, and so forth, James Earl of Murray, to the good squire of dames Roland Graeme, for his loyal and faithful service as under-espial, and deputy-turnkey, for securing the person of his lawful sovereign, Queen Mary.”

“You misconstrue me cruelly,” said the page; “yes, Catherine, most cruelly — God knows I would protect this poor lady at the risk of my life, or with my life; but what can I do — what can any one do for her?”

“Much may be done — enough may be done — all may be done — if men will be but true and honourable, as Scottish men were in the days of Bruce and Wallace. Oh, Roland, from what an enterprise you are now withdrawing your heart and hand, through mere fickleness and coldness of spirit!”

“How can I withdraw,” said Roland, “from an enterprise which has never been communicated to me? — Has the Queen, or have you, or has any one, communicated with me upon any thing for her service which I have refused? Or have you not, all of you, held me at such distance from your counsels, as if I were the most faithless spy since the days of Ganelon?” 28

“And who,” said Catherine Seyton, “would trust the sworn friend, and pupil, and companion, of the heretic preacher Henderson? ay — a proper tutor you have chosen, instead of the excellent Ambrosius, who is now turned out of house and homestead, if indeed he is not languishing in a dungeon, for withstanding the tyranny of Morton, to whose brother the temporalities of that noble house of God have been gifted away by the Regent.”

“Is it possible?” said the page; “and is the excellent Father Ambrose in such distress?”

“He would account the news of your falling away from the faith of your fathers,” answered Catherine, “a worse mishap than aught that tyranny can inflict on himself.”

“But why,” said Roland, very much moved, “why should you suppose that — that — that it is with me as you say?”

“Do you yourself deny it?” replied Catherine; “do you not admit that you have drunk the poison which you should have dashed from your lips? — Do you deny that it now ferments in your veins, if it has not altogether corrupted the springs of life? — Do you deny that you have your doubts, as you proudly term them, respecting what popes and councils have declared it unlawful to doubt of? — Is not your faith wavering, if not overthrown? — Does not the heretic preacher boast his conquest? — Does not the heretic woman of this prison-house hold up thy example to others? — Do not the Queen and the Lady Fleming believe in thy falling away? — And is there any except one — yes, I will speak it out, and think as lightly as you please of my good-will — is there one except myself that holds even a lingering hope that you may yet prove what we once all believed of you?”

“I know not,” said our poor page, much embarrassed by the view which was thus presented to him of the conduct he was expected to pursue, and by a person in whom he was not the less interested that, though long a resident in Lochleven Castle, with no object so likely to attract his undivided attention, no lengthened interview had taken place since they had first met — “I know not what you expect of me, or fear from me. I was sent hither to attend Queen Mary, and to her I acknowledge the duty of a servant through life and death. If any one had expected service of another kind, I was not the party to render it. I neither avow nor disclaim the doctrines of the reformed church. — Will you have the truth? — It seems to me that the profligacy of the Catholic clergy has brought this judgment on their own heads, and, for aught I know, it may be for their reformation. But, for betraying this unhappy Queen, God knows I am guiltless of the thought. Did I even believe worse of her, than as her servant I wish — as her subject I dare to do — I would not betray her — far from it — I would aid her in aught which could tend to a fair trial of her cause.”

“Enough! enough!” answered Catherine, clasping her hands together; “then thou wilt not desert us if any means are presented, by which, placing our Royal Mistress at freedom, this case may be honestly tried betwixt her and her rebellious subjects?”

“Nay — but, fair Catherine,” replied the page, “hear but what the Lord of Murray said when he sent me hither.”—

“Hear but what the devil said,” replied the maiden, “rather than what a false subject, a false brother, a false counsellor, a false friend, said! A man raised from a petty pensioner on the crown’s bounty, to be the counsellor of majesty, and the prime distributor of the bounties of the state; — one with whom rank, fortune, title, consequence, and power, all grew up like a mushroom, by the mere warm good-will of the sister, whom, in requital, he hath mewed up in this place of melancholy seclusion — whom, in farther requital, he has deposed, and whom, if he dared, he would murder!”

“I think not so ill of the Earl of Murray,” said Roland Graeme; “and sooth to speak,” he added, with a smile, “it would require some bribe to make me embrace, with firm and desperate resolution, either one side or the other.”

“Nay, if that is all,” replied Catherine Seyton, in a tone of enthusiasm, “you shall be guerdoned with prayers from oppressed subjects — from dispossessed clergy — from insulted nobles — with immortal praise by future ages — with eager gratitude by the present — with fame on earth, and with felicity in heaven! Your country will thank you — your Queen will be debtor to you — you will achieve at once the highest from the lowest degree in chivalry — all men will honour, all women will love you — and I, sworn with you so early to the accomplishment of Queen Mary’s freedom, will — yes, I will — love you better than — ever sister loved brother!” “Say on — say on!” whispered Roland, kneeling on one knee, and taking her hand, which, in the warmth of exhortation, Catherine held towards him.

“Nay,” said she, pausing, “I have already said too much — far too much, if I prevail not with you — far too little if I do. But I prevail,” she continued, seeing that the countenance of the youth she addressed returned the enthusiasm of her own —“I prevail; or rather the good cause prevails through its own strength — thus I devote thee to it.” And as she spoke she approached her finger to the brow of the astonished youth, and, without touching it, signed the cross over his forehead — stooped her face towards him, and seemed to kiss the empty space in which she had traced the symbol; then starting up, and extricating herself from his grasp, darted into the Queen’s apartment.

Roland Graeme remained as the enthusiastic maiden had left him, kneeling on one knee, with breath withheld, and with eyes fixed upon the space which the fairy form of Catherine Seyton had so lately occupied. If his thoughts were not of unmixed delight, they at least partook of that thrilling and intoxicating, though mingled sense of pain and pleasure, the most over-powering which life offers in its blended cup. He rose and retired slowly; and although the chaplain Mr. Henderson preached on that evening his best sermon against the errors of Popery, I would not engage that he was followed accurately through the train of his reasoning by the young proselyte, with a view to whose especial benefit he had handled the subject.

28 Gan, Gano, or Ganelon of Mayence, is in the Romances on the subject of Charlemagne and his Paladins, always represented as the traitor by whom the Christian champions are betrayed.

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