The Fair Maid of Perth, by Walter Scott

Chapter 25

The course of true love never did run smooth.


The ominous anxiety of our armourer had not played him false. When the good glover parted with his intended son in law, after the judicial combat had been decided, he found what he indeed had expected, that his fair daughter was in no favourable disposition towards her lover. But although he perceived that Catharine was cold, restrained, collected, had cast away the appearance of mortal passion, and listened with a reserve, implying contempt, to the most splendid description he could give her of the combat in the Skinners’ Yards, he was determined not to take the least notice of her altered manner, but to speak of her marriage with his son Henry as a thing which must of course take place. At length, when she began, as on a former occasion, to intimate that her attachment to the armourer did not exceed the bounds of friendship, that she was resolved never to marry, that the pretended judicial combat was a mockery of the divine will, and of human laws, the glover not unnaturally grew angry.

“I cannot read thy thoughts, wench; nor can I pretend to guess under what wicked delusion it is that you kiss a declared lover, suffer him to kiss you, run to his house when a report is spread of his death, and fling yourself into his arms when you find him alone [alive]. All this shows very well in a girl prepared to obey her parents in a match sanctioned by her father; but such tokens of intimacy, bestowed on one whom a young woman cannot esteem, and is determined not to marry, are uncomely and unmaidenly. You have already been more bounteous of your favours to Henry Smith than your mother, whom God assoilzie, ever was to me before I married her. I tell thee, Catharine, this trifling with the love of an honest man is what I neither can, will, nor ought to endure. I have given my consent to the match, and I insist it shall take place without delay, and that you receive Henry Wynd tomorrow, as a man whose bride you are to be with all despatch.”

“A power more potent than yours, father, will say no,” replied Catharine.

“I will risk it; my power is a lawful one, that of a father over a child, and an erring child,” answered her father. “God and man allow of my influence.”

“Then, may Heaven help us,” said Catharine; “for, if you are obstinate in your purpose, we are all lost.”

“We can expect no help from Heaven,” said the glover, “when we act with indiscretion. I am clerk enough myself to know that; and that your causeless resistance to my will is sinful, every priest will inform you. Ay, and more than that, you have spoken degradingly of the blessed appeal to God in the combat of ordeal. Take heed! for the Holy Church is awakened to watch her sheepfold, and to extirpate heresy by fire and steel; so much I warn thee of.”

Catharine uttered a suppressed exclamation; and, with difficulty compelling herself to assume an appearance of composure, promised her father that, if he would spare her any farther discussion of the subject till tomorrow morning, she would then meet him, determined to make a full discovery of her sentiments.

With this promise Simon Glover was obliged to remain contented, though extremely anxious for the postponed explanation. It could not be levity or fickleness of character which induced his daughter to act with so much apparent inconsistency towards the man of his choice, and whom she had so lately unequivocally owned to be also the man of her own. What external force there could exist, of a kind powerful enough to change the resolutions she had so decidedly expressed within twenty-four hours, was a matter of complete mystery.

“But I will be as obstinate as she can be,” thought the glover, “and she shall either marry Henry Smith without farther delay or old Simon Glover will know an excellent reason to the contrary.”

The subject was not renewed during the evening; but early on the next morning, just at sun rising, Catharine knelt before the bed in which her parent still slumbered. Her heart sobbed as if it would burst, and her tears fell thick upon her father’s face. The good old man awoke, looked up, crossed his child’s forehead, and kissed her affectionately.

“I understand thee, Kate,” he said; “thou art come to confession, and, I trust, art desirous to escape a heavy penance by being sincere.”

Catharine was silent for an instant.

“I need not ask, my father, if you remember the Carthusian monk, Clement, and his preachings and lessons; at which indeed you assisted so often, that you cannot be ignorant men called you one of his converts, and with greater justice termed me so likewise?”

“I am aware of both,” said the old man, raising himself on his elbow; “but I defy foul fame to show that I ever owned him in any heretical proposition, though I loved to hear him talk of the corruptions of the church, the misgovernment of the nobles, and the wild ignorance of the poor, proving, as it seemed to me, that the sole virtue of our commonweal, its strength and its estimation, lay among the burgher craft of the better class, which I received as comfortable doctrine, and creditable to the town. And if he preached other than right doctrine, wherefore did his superiors in the Carthusian convent permit it? If the shepherds turn a wolf in sheep’s clothing into the flock, they should not blame the sheep for being worried.”

“They endured his preaching, nay, they encouraged it,” said Catharine, “while the vices of the laity, the contentions of the nobles, and the oppression of the poor were the subject of his censure, and they rejoiced in the crowds who, attracted to the Carthusian church, forsook those of the other convents. But the hypocrites — for such they are — joined with the other fraternities in accusing their preacher Clement, when, passing from censuring the crimes of the state, he began to display the pride, ignorance, and luxury of the churchmen themselves — their thirst of power, their usurpation over men’s consciences, and their desire to augment their worldly wealth.”

“For God’s sake, Catharine,” said her father, “speak within doors: your voice rises in tone and your speech in bitterness, your eyes sparkle. It is owing to this zeal in what concerns you no more than others that malicious persons fix upon you the odious and dangerous name of a heretic.”

“You know I speak no more than what is truth,” said Catharine, “and which you yourself have avouched often.”

“By needle and buckskin, no!” answered the glover, hastily. “Wouldst thou have me avouch what might cost me life and limb, land and goods? For a full commission hath been granted for taking and trying heretics, upon whom is laid the cause of all late tumults and miscarriages; wherefore, few words are best, wench. I am ever of mind with the old maker:

“Since word is thrall and thought is free,

Keep well thy tongue, I counsel thee.”

“The counsel comes too late, father,” answered Catharine, sinking down on a chair by her father’s bedside. “The words have been spoken and heard; and it is indited against Simon Glover, burgess in Perth, that he hath spoken irreverent discourses of the doctrines of Holy Church.”

“As I live by knife and needle,” interrupted Simon, “it is a lie! I never was so silly as to speak of what I understood not.”

“And hath slandered the anointed of the church, both regular and secular,” continued Catharine.

“Nay, I will never deny the truth,” said the glover: “an idle word I may have spoken at the ale bench, or over a pottle pot of wine, or in right sure company; but else, my tongue is not one to run my head into peril.”

“So you think, my dearest father; but your slightest language has been espied, your best meaning phrases have been perverted, and you are in dittay as a gross railer against church and churchmen, and for holding discourse against them with loose and profligate persons, such as the deceased Oliver Proudfute, the smith Henry of the Wynd, and others, set forth as commending the doctrines of Father Clement, whom they charge with seven rank heresies, and seek for with staff and spear, to try him to the death. But that,” said Catharine, kneeling, and looking upwards with the aspect of one of those beauteous saints whom the Catholics have given to the fine arts —“that they shall never do. He hath escaped from the net of the fowler; and, I thank Heaven, it was by my means.”

“Thy means, girl — art thou mad?” said the amazed glover.

“I will not deny what I glory in,” answered Catharine: “it was by my means that Conachar was led to come hither with a party of men and carry off the old man, who is now far beyond the Highland line.”

“Thou my rash — my unlucky child!” said the glover, “hast dared to aid the escape of one accused of heresy, and to invite Highlanders in arms to interfere with the administration of justice within burgh? Alas! thou hast offended both against the laws of the church and those of the realm. What — what would become of us, were this known?”

“It is known, my dear father,” said the maiden, firmly —“known even to those who will be the most willing avengers of the deed.”

“This must be some idle notion, Catharine, or some trick of those cogging priests and nuns; it accords not with thy late cheerful willingness to wed Henry Smith.”

“Alas! dearest father, remember the dismal surprise occasioned by his reported death, and the joyful amazement at finding him alive; and deem it not wonder if I permitted myself, under your protection, to say more than my reflection justified. But then I knew not the worst, and thought the danger exaggerated. Alas I was yesterday fearfully undeceived, when the abbess herself came hither, and with her the Dominican. They showed me the commission, under the broad seal of Scotland, for inquiring into and punishing heresy; they showed me your name and my own in a list of suspected persons; and it was with tears — real tears, that the abbess conjured me to avert a dreadful fate by a speedy retreat into the cloister, and that the monk pledged his word that you should not be molested if I complied.”

“The foul fiend take them both for weeping crocodiles!” said the glover.

“Alas!” replied Catharine, “complaint or anger will little help us; but you see I have had real cause for this present alarm.”

“Alarm! call it utter ruin. Alas! my reckless child, where was your prudence when you ran headlong into such a snare?”

“Hear me, father,” said Catharine; “there is still one mode of safety held out: it is one which I have often proposed, and for which I have in vain supplicated your permission.”

“I understand you — the convent,” said her father. “But, Catharine, what abbess or prioress would dare —”

“That I will explain to you, father, and it will also show the circumstances which have made me seem unsteady of resolution to a degree which has brought censure upon me from yourself and others. Our confessor, old Father Francis, whom I chose from the Dominican convent at your command —”

“Ay, truly,” interrupted the glover; “and I so counselled and commanded thee, in order to take off the report that thy conscience was altogether under the direction of Father Clement.”

“Well, this Father Francis has at different times urged and provoked me to converse on such matters as he judged I was likely to learn something of from the Carthusian preacher. Heaven forgive me my blindness! I fell into the snare, spoke freely, and, as he argued gently, as one who would fain be convinced, I even spoke warmly in defence of what I believed devoutly. The confessor assumed not his real aspect and betrayed not his secret purpose until he had learned all that I had to tell him. It was then that he threatened me with temporal punishment and with eternal condemnation. Had his threats reached me alone, I could have stood firm; for their cruelty on earth I could have endured, and their power beyond this life I have no belief in.”

“For Heaven’s sake!” said the glover, who was well nigh beside himself at perceiving at every new word the increasing extremity of his daughter’s danger, “beware of blaspheming the Holy Church, whose arms are as prompt to strike as her ears are sharp to hear.”

“To me,” said the Maid of Perth, again looking up, “the terrors of the threatened denunciations would have been of little avail; but when they spoke of involving thee, my father, in the charge against me, I own I trembled, and desired to compromise. The Abbess Martha, of Elcho nunnery, being my mother’s kinswoman, I told her my distresses, and obtained her promise that she would receive me, if, renouncing worldly love and thoughts of wedlock, I would take the veil in her sisterhood. She had conversation on the topic, I doubt not, with the Dominican Francis, and both joined in singing the same song.

“‘Remain in the world,’ said they, ‘and thy father and thou shall be brought to trial as heretics; assume the veil, and the errors of both shall be forgiven and cancelled.’ They spoke not even of recantation of errors of doctrine: all should be peace if I would but enter the convent.”

“I doubt not — I doubt not,” said Simon: “the old glover is thought rich, and his wealth would follow his daughter to the convent of Elcho, unless what the Dominicans might claim as their own share. So this was thy call to the veil, these thy objections to Henry Wynd?”

“Indeed, father, the course was urged on all hands, nor did my own mind recoil from it. Sir John Ramorny threatened me with the powerful vengeance of the young Prince, if I continued to repel his wicked suit; and as for poor Henry, it is but of late that I have discovered, to my own surprise — that — that I love his virtues more than I dislike his faults. Alas! the discovery has only been made to render my quitting the world more difficult than when I thought I had thee only to regret.”

She rested her head on her hand and wept bitterly.

“All this is folly,” said the glover. “Never was there an extremity so pinching, but what a wise man might find counsel if he was daring enough to act upon it. This has never been the land or the people over whom priests could rule in the name of Rome, without their usurpation being controlled. If they are to punish each honest burgher who says the monks love gold, and that the lives of some of them cry shame upon the doctrines they teach, why, truly, Stephen Smotherwell will not lack employment; and if all foolish maidens are to be secluded from the world because they follow the erring doctrines of a popular preaching friar, they must enlarge the nunneries and receive their inmates on slighter composition. Our privileges have been often defended against the Pope himself by our good monarchs of yore, and when he pretended to interfere with the temporal government of the kingdom, there wanted not a Scottish Parliament who told him his duty in a letter that should have been written in letters of gold. I have seen the epistle myself, and though I could not read it, the very sight of the seals of the right reverend prelates and noble and true barons which hung at it made my heart leap for joy. Thou shouldst not have kept this secret, my child — but it is no time to tax thee with thy fault. Go down, get me some food. I will mount instantly, and go to our Lord Provost and have his advice, and, as I trust, his protection and that of other true hearted Scottish nobles, who will not see a true man trodden down for an idle word.”

“Alas! my father,” said Catharine, “it was even this impetuosity which I dreaded. I knew if I made my plaint to you there would soon be fire and feud, as if religion, though sent to us by the Father of peace, were fit only to be the mother of discord; and hence I could now — even now — give up the world, and retire with my sorrow among the sisters of Elcho, would you but let me be the sacrifice. Only, father — comfort poor Henry when we are parted for ever; and do not — do not let him think of me too harshly. Say Catharine will never vex him more by her remonstrances, but that she will never forget him in her prayers.”

“The girl hath a tongue that would make a Saracen weep,” said her father, his own eyes sympathising with those of his daughter. “But I will not yield way to this combination between the nun and the priest to rob me of my only child. Away with you, girl, and let me don my clothes; and prepare yourself to obey me in what I may have to recommend for your safety. Get a few clothes together, and what valuables thou hast; also, take the keys of my iron box, which poor Henry Smith gave me, and divide what gold you find into two portions; put the one into a purse for thyself, and the other into the quilted girdle which I made on purpose to wear on journeys. Thus both shall be provided, in case fate should sunder us; in which event, God send the whirlwind may take the withered leaf and spare the green one! Let them make ready my horse instantly, and the white jennet that I bought for thee but a day since, hoping to see thee ride to St. John’s Kirk with maids and matrons, as blythe a bride as ever crossed the holy threshold. But it skills not talking. Away, and remember that the saints help those who are willing to help themselves. Not a word in answer; begone, I say — no wilfullness now. The pilot in calm weather will let a sea boy trifle with the rudder; but, by my soul, when winds howl and waves arise, he stands by the helm himself. Away — no reply.”

Catharine left the room to execute, as well as she might, the commands of her father, who, gentle in disposition and devotedly attached to his child, suffered her often, as it seemed, to guide and rule both herself and him; yet who, as she knew, was wont to claim filial obedience and exercise parental authority with sufficient strictness when the occasion seemed to require an enforcement of domestic discipline.

While the fair Catharine was engaged in executing her father’s behests, and the good old glover was hastily attiring himself, as one who was about to take a journey, a horse’s tramp was heard in the narrow street. The horseman was wrapped in his riding cloak, having the cape of it drawn up, as if to hide the under part of his face, while his bonnet was pulled over his brows, and a broad plume obscured his upper features. He sprung from the saddle, and Dorothy had scarce time to reply to his inquiries that the glover was in his bedroom, ere the stranger had ascended the stair and entered the sleeping apartment. Simon, astonished and alarmed, and disposed to see in this early visitant an apparitor or sumner come to attach him and his daughter, was much relieved when, as the stranger doffed the bonnet and threw the skirt of the mantle from his face, he recognised the knightly provost of the Fair City, a visit from whom at any time was a favour of no ordinary degree, but, being made at such an hour, had something marvellous, and, connected with the circumstances of the times, even alarming.

“Sir Patrick Charteris!” said the glover. “This high honour done to your poor beadsman —”

“Hush!” said the knight, “there is no time for idle civilities. I came hither because a man is, in trying occasions, his own safest page, and I can remain no longer than to bid thee fly, good glover, since warrants are to be granted this day in council for the arrest of thy daughter and thee, under charge of heresy; and delay will cost you both your liberty for certain, and perhaps your lives.”

“I have heard something of such a matter,” said the glover, “and was this instant setting forth to Kinfauns to plead my innocence of this scandalous charge, to ask your lordship’s counsel, and to implore your protection.”

“Thy innocence, friend Simon, will avail thee but little before prejudiced judges; my advice is, in one word, to fly, and wait for happier times. As for my protection, we must tarry till the tide turns ere it will in any sort avail thee. But if thou canst lie concealed for a few days or weeks, I have little doubt that the churchmen, who, by siding with the Duke of Albany in court intrigue, and by alleging the decay of the purity of Catholic doctrine as the sole cause of the present national misfortunes, have, at least for the present hour, an irresistible authority over the King, will receive a check. In the mean while, however, know that King Robert hath not only given way to this general warrant for inquisition after heresy, but hath confirmed the Pope’s nomination of Henry Wardlaw to be Archbishop of St. Andrews and Primate of Scotland; thus yielding to Rome those freedoms and immunities of the Scottish Church which his ancestors, from the time of Malcolm Canmore, have so boldly defended. His brave fathers would have rather subscribed a covenant with the devil than yielded in such a matter to the pretensions of Rome.”

“Alas, and what remedy?”

“None, old man, save in some sudden court change,” said Sir Patrick. “The King is but like a mirror, which, having no light itself, reflects back with equal readiness any which is placed near to it for the time. Now, although the Douglas is banded with Albany, yet the Earl is unfavourable to the high claims of those domineering priests, having quarrelled with them about the exactions which his retinue hath raised on the Abbot of Arbroath. He will come back again with a high hand, for report says the Earl of March hath fled before him. When he returns we shall have a changed world, for his presence will control Albany; especially as many nobles, and I myself, as I tell you in confidence, are resolved to league with him to defend the general right. Thy exile, therefore, will end with his return to our court. Thou hast but to seek thee some temporary hiding place.”

“For that, my lord,” said the glover, “I can be at no loss, since I have just title to the protection of the high Highland chief, Gilchrist MacIan, chief of the Clan Quhele.”

“Nay, if thou canst take hold of his mantle thou needs no help of any one else: neither Lowland churchman nor layman finds a free course of justice beyond the Highland frontier.”

“But then my child, noble sir — my Catharine?” said the glover.

“Let her go with thee, man. The graddan cake will keep her white teeth in order, the goat’s whey will make the blood spring to her cheek again, which these alarms have banished and even the Fair Maiden of Perth may sleep soft enough on a bed of Highland breckan.”

“It is not from such idle respects, my lord, that I hesitate,” said the glover. “Catharine is the daughter of a plain burgher, and knows not nicety of food or lodging. But the son of MacIan hath been for many years a guest in my house, and I am obliged to say that I have observed him looking at my daughter, who is as good as a betrothed bride, in a manner that, though I cared not for it in this lodging in Curfew Street, would give me some fear of consequences in a Highland glen, where I have no friend and Conachar many.”

The knightly provost replied by a long whistle. “Whew! whew! Nay, in that case, I advise thee to send her to the nunnery at Elcho, where the abbess, if I forget not, is some relation of yours. Indeed, she said so herself, adding, that she loved her kinswoman well, together with all that belongs to thee, Simon.”

“Truly, my lord, I do believe that the abbess hath so much regard for me, that she would willingly receive the trust of my daughter, and my whole goods and gear, into her sisterhood. Marry, her affection is something of a tenacious character, and would be loth to unloose its hold, either upon the wench or her tocher.”

“Whew — whew!” again whistled the Knight of Kinfauns; “by the Thane’s Cross, man, but this is an ill favoured pirn to wind: Yet it shall never be said the fairest maid in the Fair City was cooped up in a convent, like a kain hen in a cavey, and she about to be married to the bold burgess Henry Wynd. That tale shall not be told while I wear belt and spurs, and am called Provost of Perth.”

“But what remede, my lord?” asked the glover.

“We must all take our share of the risk. Come, get you and your daughter presently to horse. You shall ride with me, and we’ll see who dare gloom at you. The summons is not yet served on thee, and if they send an apparitor to Kinfauns without a warrant under the King’s own hand, I make mine avow, by the Red Rover’s soul! that he shall eat his writ, both wax and wether skin. To horse — to horse! and,” addressing Catharine, as she entered at the moment, “you too, my pretty maid —

“To horse, and fear not for your quarters;

They thrive in law that trust in Charters.”

In a minute or two the father and daughter were on horseback, both keeping an arrow’s flight before the provost, by his direction, that they might not seem to be of the same company. They passed the eastern gate in some haste, and rode forward roundly until they were out of sight. Sir Patrick followed leisurely; but, when he was lost to the view of the warders, he spurred his mettled horse, and soon came up with the glover and Catharine, when a conversation ensued which throws light upon some previous passages of this history.

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