The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott

Chapter 29

How fares the man on whom good men would look

With eyes where scorn and censure combated,

But that kind Christian love hath taught the lesson —

That they who merit most contempt and hate,

Do most deserve our pity. —

Old Play.

It might have seemed natural that the visit of John Christie should have entirely diverted Nigel’s attention from his slumbering companion, and, for a time, such was the immediate effect of the chain of new ideas which the incident introduced; yet, soon after the injured man had departed, Lord Glenvarloch began to think it extraordinary that the boy should have slept so soundly, while they talked loudly in his vicinity. Yet he certainly did not appear to have stirred. Was he well — was he only feigning sleep? He went close to him to make his observations, and perceived that he had wept, and was still weeping, though his eyes were closed. He touched him gently on the shoulder — the boy shrunk from his touch, but did not awake. He pulled him harder, and asked him if he was sleeping.

“Do they waken folk in your country to know whether they are asleep or no?” said the boy, in a peevish tone.

“No, my young sir,” answered Nigel; “but when they weep in the manner you do in your sleep, they awaken them to see what ails them.”

“It signifies little to any one what ails me,” said the boy.

“True,” replied Lord Glenvarloch; “but you knew before you went to sleep how little I could assist you in your difficulties, and you seemed disposed, notwithstanding, to put some confidence in me.”

“If I did, I have changed my mind,” said the lad.

“And what may have occasioned this change of mind, I trow?” said Lord Glenvarloch. “Some men speak through their sleep — perhaps you have the gift of hearing in it?”

“No, but the Patriarch Joseph never dreamt truer dreams than I do.”

“Indeed!” said Lord Glenvarloch. “And, pray, what dream have you had that has deprived me of your good opinion; for that, I think, seems the moral of the matter?”

“You shall judge yourself,” answered the boy. “I dreamed I was in a wild forest, where there was a cry of hounds, and winding of horns, exactly as I heard in Greenwich Park.”

“That was because you were in the Park this morning, you simple child,” said Nigel.

“Stay, my lord,” said the youth. “I went on in my dream, till, at the top of a broad green alley, I saw a noble stag which had fallen into the toils; and methought I knew that he was the very stag which the whole party were hunting, and that if the chase came up, the dogs would tear him to pieces, or the hunters would cut his throat; and I had pity on the gallant stag, and though I was of a different kind from him, and though I was somewhat afraid of him, I thought I would venture something to free so stately a creature; and I pulled out my knife, and just as I was beginning to cut the meshes of the net, the animal started up in my face in the likeness of a tiger, much larger and fiercer than any you may have seen in the ward of the wild beasts yonder, and was just about to tear me limb from limb, when you awaked me.”

“Methinks,” said Nigel, “I deserve more thanks than I have got, for rescuing you from such a danger by waking you. But, my pretty master, methinks all this tale of a tiger and a stag has little to do with your change of temper towards me.”

“I know not whether it has or no,” said the lad; “but I will not tell you who I am.”

“You will keep your secret to yourself then, peevish boy,” said Nigel, turning from him, and resuming his walk through the room; then stopping suddenly, he said —“And yet you shall not escape from me without knowing that I penetrate your mystery.”

“My mystery!” said the youth, at once alarmed and irritated —“what mean you, my lord?”

“Only that I can read your dream without the assistance of a Chaldean interpreter, and my exposition is — that my fair companion does not wear the dress of her sex.”

“And if I do not, my lord,” said his companion, hastily starting up, and folding her cloak tight around her, “my dress, such as it is, covers one who will not disgrace it.”

“Many would call that speech a fair challenge,” said Lord Glenvarloch, looking on her fixedly; “women do not masquerade in men’s clothes, to make use of men’s weapons.”

“I have no such purpose,” said the seeming boy; “I have other means of protection, and powerful — but I would first know what is your purpose.”

“An honourable and a most respectful one,” said Lord Glenvarloch; “whatever you are — whatever motive may have brought you into this ambiguous situation, I am sensible — every look, word, and action of yours, makes me sensible, that you are no proper subject of importunity, far less of ill usage. What circumstances can have forced you into so doubtful a situation, I know not; but I feel assured there is, and can be, nothing in them of premeditated wrong, which should expose you to cold-blooded insult. From me you have nothing to dread.”

“I expected nothing less from your nobleness, my lord,” answered the female; “my adventure, though I feel it was both desperate and foolish, is not so very foolish, nor my safety here so utterly unprotected, as at first sight — and in this strange dress, it may appear to be. I have suffered enough, and more than enough, by the degradation of having been seen in this unfeminine attire, and the comments you must necessarily have made on my conduct — but I thank God that I am so far protected, that I could not have been subjected to insult unavenged.” When this extraordinary explanation had proceeded thus far, the warder appeared, to place before Lord Glenvarloch a meal, which, for his present situation, might be called comfortable, and which, if not equal to the cookery of the celebrated Chevalier Beaujeu, was much superior in neatness and cleanliness to that of Alsatia. A warder attended to do the honours of the table, and made a sign to the disguised female to rise and assist him in his functions. But Nigel, declaring that he knew the youth’s parents, interfered, and caused his companion to eat along with him. She consented with a sort of embarrassment, which rendered her pretty features yet more interesting. Yet she maintained with a natural grace that sort of good-breeding which belongs to the table; and it seemed to Nigel, whether already prejudiced in her favour by the extraordinary circumstances of their meeting, or whether really judging from what was actually the fact, that he had seldom seen a young person comport herself with more decorous propriety, mixed with ingenuous simplicity; while the consciousness of the peculiarity of her situation threw a singular colouring over her whole demeanour, which could be neither said to be formal, nor easy, nor embarrassed, but was compounded of, and shaded with, an interchange of all these three characteristics. Wine was placed on the table, of which she could not be prevailed on to taste a glass. Their conversation was, of course, limited by the presence of the warder to the business of the table: but Nigel had, long ere the cloth was removed, formed the resolution, if possible, of making himself master of this young person’s history, the more especially as he now began to think that the tones of her voice and her features were not so strange to him as he had originally supposed. This, however, was a conviction which he adopted slowly, and only as it dawned upon him from particular circumstances during the course of the repast.

At length the prison-meal was finished, and Lord Glenvarloch began to think how he might most easily enter upon the topic he meditated, when the warder announced a visitor.

“Soh!” said Nigel, something displeased, “I find even a prison does not save one from importunate visitations.”

He prepared to receive his guest, however, while his alarmed companion flew to the large cradle-shaped chair, which had first served her as a place of refuge, drew her cloak around her, and disposed herself as much as she could to avoid observation. She had scarce made her arrangements for that purpose when the door opened, and the worthy citizen, George Heriot, entered the prison-chamber.

He cast around the apartment his usual sharp, quick glance of observation, and, advancing to Nigel, said —“My lord, I wish I could say I was happy to see you.”

“The sight of those who are unhappy themselves, Master Heriot, seldom produces happiness to their friends — I, however, am glad to see you.”

He extended his hand, but Heriot bowed with much formal complaisance, instead of accepting the courtesy, which in those times, when the distinction of ranks was much guarded by etiquette and ceremony, was considered as a distinguished favour.

“You are displeased with me, Master Heriot,” said Lord Glenvarloch, reddening, for he was not deceived by the worthy citizen’s affectation of extreme reverence and respect.

“By no means, my lord,” replied Heriot; “but I have been in France, and have thought it is well to import, along with other more substantial articles, a small sample of that good-breeding which the French are so renowned for.”

“It is not kind of you,” said Nigel, “to bestow the first use of it on an old and obliged friend.”

Heriot only answered to this observation with a short dry cough, and then proceeded.

“Hem! hem! I say, ahem! My lord, as my French politeness may not carry me far, I would willingly know whether I am to speak as a friend, since your lordship is pleased to term me such; or whether I am, as befits my condition, to confine myself to the needful business which must be treated of between us.”

“Speak as a friend by all means, Master Heriot,” said Nigel; “I perceive you have adopted some of the numerous prejudices against me, if not all of them. Speak out, and frankly — what I cannot deny I will at least confess.”

“And I trust, my lord, redress,” said Heriot.

“So far as in my power, certainly,” answered Nigel.

“Ah I my lord,” continued Heriot, “that is a melancholy though a necessary restriction; for how lightly may any one do an hundred times more than the degree of evil which it may be within his power to repair to the sufferers and to society! But we are not alone here,” he said, stopping, and darting his shrewd eye towards the muffled figure of the disguised maiden, whose utmost efforts had not enabled her so to adjust her position as altogether to escape observation. More anxious to prevent her being discovered than to keep his own affairs private, Nigel hastily answered-

“’Tis a page of mine; you may speak freely before him. He is of France, and knows no English.”

“I am then to speak freely,” said Heriot, after a second glance at the chair; “perhaps my words may be more free than welcome.”

“Go on, sir,” said Nigel, “I have told you I can bear reproof.”

“In one word, then, my lord — why do I find you in this place, and whelmed with charges which must blacken a name rendered famous by ages of virtue?”

“Simply, then, you find me here,” said Nigel, “because, to begin from my original error, I would be wiser than my father.”

“It was a difficult task, my lord,” replied Heriot; “your father was voiced generally as the wisest and one of the bravest men of Scotland.”

“He commanded me,” continued Nigel, “to avoid all gambling; and I took upon me to modify this injunction into regulating my play according to my skill, means, and the course of my luck.”

“Ay, self opinion, acting on a desire of acquisition, my lord — you hoped to touch pitch and not to be defiled, “answered Heriot. “Well, my lord, you need not say, for I have heard with much regret, how far this conduct diminished your reputation. Your next error I may without scruple remind you of — My lord, my lord, in whatever degree Lord Dalgarno may have failed towards you, the son of his father should have been sacred from your violence.”

“You speak in cold blood, Master Heriot, and I was smarting under a thousand wrongs inflicted on me under the mask of friendship.”

“That is, he gave your lordship bad advice, and you,” said Heriot —

“Was fool enough to follow his counsel,” answered Nigel —“But we will pass this, Master Heriot, if you please. Old men and young men, men of the sword and men of peaceful occupation, always have thought, always will think, differently on such subjects.”

“I grant,” answered Heriot, “the distinction between the old goldsmith and the young nobleman — still you should have had patience for Lord Huntinglen’s sake, and prudence for your own. Supposing your quarrel just —”

“I pray you to pass on to some other charge,” said Lord Glenvarloch.

“I am not your accuser, my lord; but I trust in heaven, that your own heart has already accused you bitterly on the inhospitable wrong which your late landlord has sustained at your hand.”

“Had I been guilty of what you allude to,” said Lord Glenvarloch — “had a moment of temptation hurried me away, I had long ere now most bitterly repented it. But whoever may have wronged the unhappy woman, it was not I— I never heard of her folly until within this hour.”

“Come, my lord,” said Heriot, with some severity, “this sounds too much like affectation. I know there is among our modern youth a new creed respecting adultery as well as homicide — I would rather hear you speak of a revision of the Decalogue, with mitigated penalties in favour of the privileged orders — I would rather hear you do this than deny a fact in which you have been known to glory.”

“Glory! — I never did, never would have taken honour to myself from such a cause,” said Lord Glenvarloch. “I could not prevent other idle tongues, and idle brains, from making false inferences.”

“You would have known well enough how to stop their mouths, my lord,” replied Heriot, “had they spoke of you what was unpleasing to your ears, and what the truth did not warrant. — Come, my lord, remember your promise to confess; and, indeed, to confess is, in this case, in some slight sort to redress. I will grant you are young — the woman handsome — and, as I myself have observed, light-headed enough. Let me know where she is. Her foolish husband has still some compassion for her — will save her from infamy — perhaps, in time, receive her back; for we are a good-natured generation we traders. Do not, my lord, emulate those who work mischief merely for the pleasure of doing so — it is the very devil’s worst quality.”

“Your grave remonstrances will drive me mad,” said Nigel. “There is a show of sense and reason in what you say; and yet, it is positively insisting on my telling the retreat of a fugitive of whom I know nothing earthly.”

“It is well, my lord,” answered Heriot, coldly. “You have a right, such as it is, to keep your own secrets; but, since my discourse on these points seems so totally unavailing, we had better proceed to business. Yet your father’s image rises before me, and seems to plead that I should go on.”

“Be it as you will, sir,” said Glenvarloch; “he who doubts my word shall have no additional security for it.”

“Well, my lord. — In the Sanctuary at Whitefriars — a place of refuge so unsuitable to a young man of quality and character — I am told a murder was committed.”

“And you believe that I did the deed, I suppose?”

“God forbid, my lord!” said Heriot. “The coroner’s inquest hath sat, and it appeared that your lordship, under your assumed name of Grahame, behaved with the utmost bravery.”

“No compliment, I pray you,” said Nigel; “I am only too happy to find, that I did not murder, or am not believed to have murdered, the old man.”

“True, my lord, said Heriot; “but even in this affair there lacks explanation. Your lordship embarked this morning in a wherry with a female, and, it is said, an immense sum of money, in specie and other valuables — but the woman has not since been heard of.”

“I parted with her at Paul’s Wharf,” said Nigel, “where she went ashore with her charge. I gave her a letter to that very man, John Christie.”

“Ay, that is the waterman’s story; but John Christie denies that he remembers anything of the matter.”

“I am sorry to hear this,” said the young nobleman; “I hope in Heaven she has not been trepanned, for the treasure she had with her.”

“I hope not, my lord,” replied Heriot; “but men’s minds are much disturbed about it. Our national character suffers on all hands. Men remember the fatal case of Lord Sanquhar, hanged for the murder of a fencing-master; and exclaim, they will not have their wives whored, and their property stolen, by the nobility of Scotland.”

“And all this is laid to my door!” said Nigel; “my exculpation is easy.”

“I trust so, my lord,” said Heriot; —“nay, in this particular, I do not doubt it. — But why did you leave Whitefriars under such circumstances?”

“Master Reginald Lowestoffe sent a boat for me, with intimation to provide for my safety.”

“I am sorry to say,” replied Heriot, “that he denies all knowledge of your lordship’s motions, after having dispatched a messenger to you with some baggage.”

“The watermen told me they were employed by him.”

“Watermen!” said Heriot; “one of these proves to be an idle apprentice, an old acquaintance of mine — the other has escaped; but the fellow who is in custody persists in saying he was employed by your lordship, and you only.”

“He lies!” said Lord Glenvarloch, hastily; —“He told me Master Lowestoffe had sent him. — I hope that kind-hearted gentleman is at liberty?”

“He is,” answered Heriot; “and has escaped with a rebuke from the benchers, for interfering in such a matter as your lordship’s. The Court desire to keep well with the young Templars in these times of commotion, or he had not come off so well.”

“That is the only word of comfort I have heard from you,” replied Nigel. “But this poor woman — she and her trunk were committed to the charge of two porters.”

“So said the pretended waterman; but none of the fellows who ply at the wharf will acknowledge the employment. — I see the idea makes you uneasy, my lord; but every effort is made to discover the poor woman’s place of retreat — if, indeed, she yet lives. — And now, my lord, my errand is spoken, so far as it relates exclusively to your lordship; what remains, is matter of business of a more formal kind.”

“Let us proceed to it without delay,” said Lord Glenvarloch. “I would hear of the affairs of any one rather than of my own.”

“You cannot have forgotten, my lord,” said Heriot, “the transaction which took place some weeks since at Lord Huntinglen’s — by which a large sum of money was advanced for the redemption of your lordship’s estate?”

“I remember it perfectly,” said Nigel; “and your present austerity cannot make me forget your kindness on the occasion.”

Heriot bowed gravely, and went on. —“That money was advanced under the expectation and hope that it might be replaced by the contents of a grant to your lordship, under the royal sign-manual, in payment of certain monies due by the crown to your father. — I trust your lordship understood the transaction at the time — I trust you now understand my resumption of its import, and hold it to be correct?”

“Undeniably correct,” answered Lord Glenvarloch. “If the sums contained in the warrant cannot be recovered, my lands become the property of those who paid off the original holders of the mortgage, and now stand in their right.”

“Even so, my lord,” said Heriot. “And your lordship’s unhappy circumstances having, it would seem, alarmed these creditors, they are now, I am sorry to say, pressing for one or other of these alternatives — possession of the land, or payment of their debt.”

“They have a right to one or other,” answered Lord Glenvarloch; “and as I cannot do the last in my present condition, I suppose they must enter on possession.”

“Stay, my lord,” replied Heriot; “if you have ceased to call me a friend to your person, at least you shall see I am willing to be such to your father’s house, were it but for the sake of your father’s memory. If you will trust me with the warrant under the sign-manual, I believe circumstances do now so stand at Court, that I may be able to recover the money for you.”

“I would do so gladly,” said Lord Glenvarloch, “but the casket which contains it is not in my possession. It was seized when I was arrested at Greenwich.”

“It will be no longer withheld from you,” said Heriot; “for, I understand, my Master’s natural good sense, and some information which he has procured, I know not how, has induced him to contradict the whole charge of the attempt on his person. It is entirely hushed up; and you will only be proceeded against for your violence on Lord Dalgarno, committed within the verge of the Palace — and that you will find heavy enough to answer.”

“I will not shrink under the weight,” said Lord Glenvarloch. “But that is not the present point. — If I had that casket —”

“Your baggage stood in the little ante-room, as I passed,” said the citizen; “the casket caught my eye. I think you had it of me. It was my old friend Sir Faithful Frugal’s. Ay; he, too, had a son —”

Here he stopped short.

“A son who, like Lord Glenvarloch’s, did no credit to his father. — Was it not so you would have ended the sentence, Master Heriot?” asked the young nobleman.

“My lord, it was a word spoken rashly,” answered Heriot. “God may mend all in his own good time. This, however, I will say, that I have sometimes envied my friends their fair and flourishing families; and yet have I seen such changes when death has removed the head, so many rich men’s sons penniless, the heirs of so many knights and nobles acreless, that I think mine own estate and memory, as I shall order it, has a fair chance of outliving those of greater men, though God has given me no heir of my name. But this is from the purpose. — Ho! warder, bring in Lord Glenvarloch’s baggage.” The officer obeyed. Seals had been placed upon the trunk and casket, but were now removed, the warder said, in consequence of the subsequent orders from Court, and the whole was placed at the prisoner’s free disposal.

Desirous to bring this painful visit to a conclusion, Lord Glenvarloch opened the casket, and looked through the papers which it contained, first hastily, and then more slowly and accurately; but it was all in vain. The Sovereign’s signed warrant had disappeared.

“I thought and expected nothing better,” said George Heriot, bitterly. “The beginning of evil is the letting out of water. Here is a fair heritage lost, I dare say, on a foul cast at dice, or a conjuring trick at cards! — My lord, your surprise is well played. I give you full joy of your accomplishments. I have seen many as young brawlers and spendthrifts, but never as young and accomplished a dissembler. — Nay, man, never bend your angry brows on me. I speak in bitterness of heart, from what I remember of your worthy father; and if his son hears of his degeneracy from no one else, he shall hear it from the old goldsmith.”

This new suspicion drove Nigel to the very extremity of his patience; yet the motives and zeal of the good old man, as well as the circumstances of suspicion which created his displeasure, were so excellent an excuse for it, that they formed an absolute curb on the resentment of Lord Glenvarloch, and constrained him, after two or three hasty exclamations, to observe a proud and sullen silence. At length, Master Heriot resumed his lecture.

“Hark you, my lord,” he said, “it is scarce possible that this most important paper can be absolutely assigned away. Let me know in what obscure corner, and for what petty sum, it lies pledged — something may yet be done.”

“Your efforts in my favour are the more generous,” said Lord Glenvarloch, “as you offer them to one whom you believe you have cause to think hardly of — but they are altogether unavailing. Fortune has taken the field against me at every point. Even let her win the battle.”

“Zouns!” exclaimed Heriot, impatiently — “you would make a saint swear! Why, I tell you, if this paper, the loss of which seems to sit so light on you, be not found, farewell to the fair lordship of Glenvarloch — firth and forest — lea and furrow — lake and stream — all that has been in the house of Olifaunt since the days of William the Lion!”

“Farewell to them, then,” said Nigel — “and that moan is soon made.”

“‘Sdeath! my lord, you will make more moan for it ere you die,” said Heriot, in the same tone of angry impatience.

“Not I, my old friend,” said Nigel. “If I mourn, Master Heriot, it will be for having lost the good opinion of a worthy man, and lost it, as I must say, most undeservedly.”

“Ay, ay, young man,” said Heriot, shaking his head, “make me believe that if you can. — To sum the matter up,” he said, rising from his seat, and walking towards that occupied by the disguised female, “for our matters are now drawn into small compass, you shall as soon make me believe that this masquerading mummer, on whom I now lay the hand of paternal authority, is a French page, who understands no English.”

So saying, he took hold of the supposed page’s cloak, and, not without some gentle degree of violence, led into the middle of the apartment the disguised fair one, who in vain attempted to cover her face, first with her mantle, and afterwards with her hands; both which impediments Master Heriot removed something unceremoniously, and gave to view the detected daughter of the old chronologist, his own fair god-daughter, Margaret Ramsay.

“Here is goodly gear!” he said; and, as he spoke, he could not prevent himself from giving her a slight shake, for we have elsewhere noticed that he was a severe disciplinarian. —“How comes it, minion, that I find you in so shameless a dress, and so unworthy a situation? Nay, your modesty is now mistimed — it should have come sooner. Speak, or I will —”

“Master Heriot,” said Lord Glenvarloch, “whatever right you may have over this maiden elsewhere, while in my apartment she is under my protection.”

“Your protection, my lord! — a proper protector! — and how long, mistress, have you been under my lord’s protection? Speak out forsooth!”

“For the matter of two hours, godfather,” answered the maiden, with a countenance bent to the ground, and covered with blushes, “but it was against my will.”

“Two hours!” repeated Heriot — “space enough for mischief. — My lord, this is, I suppose, another victim offered to your character of gallantry — another adventure to be boasted of at Beaujeu’s ordinary? Methinks the roof under which you first met this silly maiden should have secured her, at least, from such a fate.”

“On my honour, Master Heriot,” said Lord Glenvarloch, “you remind me now, for the first time, that I saw this young lady in your family. Her features are not easily forgotten, and yet I was trying in vain to recollect where I had last looked on them. For your suspicions, they are as false as they are injurious both to her and me. I had but discovered her disguise as you entered. I am satisfied, from her whole behaviour, that her presence here in this dress was involuntary; and God forbid that I have been capable of taking advantage of it to her prejudice.”

“It is well mouthed, my lord,” said Master Heriot; “but a cunning clerk can read the Apocrypha as loud as the Scripture. Frankly, my lord, you are come to that pass, where your words will not be received without a warrant.”

“I should not speak, perhaps,” said Margaret, the natural vivacity of whose temper could never be long suppressed by any situation, however disadvantageous, “but I cannot be silent. Godfather, you do me wrong — and no less wrong to this young nobleman. You say his words want a warrant. I know where to find a warrant for some of them, and the rest I deeply and devoutly believe without one.”

“And I thank you, maiden,” replied Nigel, “for the good opinion you have expressed. I am at that point, it seems, though how I have been driven to it I know not, where every fair construction of my actions and motives is refused me. I am the more obliged to her who grants me that right which the world denies me. For you, lady, were I at liberty, I have a sword and arm should know how to guard your reputation.”

“Upon my word, a perfect Amadis and Oriana!” said George Heriot. “I should soon get my throat cut betwixt the knight and the princess, I suppose, but that the beef-eaters are happily within halloo. — Come, come, Lady Light-o’-Love — if you mean to make your way with me, it must be by plain facts, not by speeches from romaunts and play-books. How, in Heaven’s name, came you here?”

“Sir,” answered Margaret, “since I must speak, I went to Greenwich this morning with Monna Paula, to present a petition to the king on the part of the Lady Hermione.”

“Mercy-a-gad!” exclaimed Heriot, “is she in the dance, too? Could she not have waited my return to stir in her affairs? But I suppose the intelligence I sent her had rendered her restless. Ah! woman, woman — he that goes partner with you, had need of a double share of patience, for you will bring none into the common stock. — Well, but what on earth had this embassy of Monna Paula’s to do with your absurd disguise? Speak out.”

“Monna Paula was frightened,” answered Margaret, “and did not know how to set about the errand, for you know she scarce ever goes out of doors — and so — and so — I agreed to go with her to give her courage; and, for the dress, I am sure you remember I wore it at a Christmas mumming, and you thought it not unbeseeming.”

“Yes, for a Christmas parlour,” said Heriot, “but not to go a-masking through the country in. I do remember it, minion, and I knew it even now; that and your little shoe there, linked with a hint I had in the morning from a friend, or one who called himself such, led to your detection.”— Here Lord Glenvarloch could not help giving a glance at the pretty foot, which even the staid citizen thought worth recollection — it was but a glance, for he saw how much the least degree of observation added to Margaret’s distress and confusion. “And tell me, maiden,” continued Master Heriot, for what we have observed was by-play — “did the Lady Hermione know of this fair work?” “I dared not have told her for the world,” said Margaret —“she thought one of our apprentices went with Monna Paula.”

It may be here noticed, that the words, “our apprentices,” seemed to have in them something of a charm to break the fascination with which Lord Glenvarloch had hitherto listened to the broken, yet interesting details of Margaret’s history.

“And wherefore went he not? — he had been a fitter companion for Monna Paula than you, I wot,” said the citizen.

“He was otherwise employed,” said Margaret, in a voice scarce audible.

Master George darted a hasty glance at Nigel, and when he saw his features betoken no consciousness, he muttered to himself — “It must be better than I feared. — And so this cursed Spaniard, with her head full, as they all have, of disguises, trap-doors, rope-ladders, and masks, was jade and fool enough to take you with her on this wild goose errand? — And how sped you, I pray?”

“Just as we reached the gate of the Park,” replied Margaret, “the cry of treason was raised. I know not what became of Monna, but I ran till I fell into the arms of a very decent serving-man, called Linklater; and I was fain to tell him I was your god-daughter, and so he kept the rest of them from me, and got me to speech of his Majesty, as I entreated him to do.”

“It is the only sign you showed in the whole matter that common sense had not utterly deserted your little skull,” said Heriot.

“His Majesty,” continued the damsel, “was so gracious as to receive me alone, though the courtiers cried out against the danger to his person, and would have searched me for arms, God help me, but the king forbade it. I fancy he had a hint from Linklater how the truth stood with me.”

“Well, maiden, I ask not what passed,” said Heriot; “it becomes not me to pry into my Master’s secrets. Had you been closeted with his grandfather the Red Tod of Saint Andrews, as Davie Lindsay used to call him, by my faith, I should have had my own thoughts of the matter; but our Master, God bless him, is douce and temperate, and Solomon in every thing, save in the chapter of wives and concubines.”

“I know not what you mean, sir,” answered Margaret. “His Majesty was most kind and compassionate, but said I must be sent hither, and that the Lieutenant’s lady, the Lady Mansel, would have a charge of me, and see that I sustained no wrong; and the king promised to send me in a tilted barge, and under conduct of a person well known to you; and thus I come to be in the Tower.”

“But how, or why, in this apartment, nymph?” said George Heriot — “Expound that to me, for I think the riddle needs reading.”

“I cannot explain it, sir, further, than that the Lady Mansel sent me here, in spite of my earnest prayers, tears, and entreaties. I was not afraid of any thing, for I knew I should be protected. But I could have died then — could die now — for very shame and confusion!”

“Well, well, if your tears are genuine,” said Heriot, “they may the sooner wash out the memory of your fault — Knows your father aught of this escape of yours?”

“I would not for the world he did,” replied she; “he believes me with the Lady Hermione.”

“Ay, honest Davy can regulate his horologes better than his family. — Come, damsel, now I will escort you back to the Lady Mansel, and pray her, of her kindness, that when she is again trusted with a goose, she will not give it to the fox to keep. — The warders will let us pass to my lady’s lodgings, I trust.”

“Stay but one moment,” said Lord Glenvarloch. “Whatever hard opinion you may have formed of me, I forgive you, for time will show that you do me wrong; and you yourself, I think, will be the first to regret the injustice you have done me. But involve not in your suspicions this young person, for whose purity of thought angels themselves should be vouchers. I have marked every look, every gesture; and whilst I can draw breath, I shall ever think of her with —”

“Think not at all of her, my lord,” answered George Heriot, interrupting him; “it is, I have a notion, the best favour you can do her; — or think of her as the daughter of Davy Ramsay, the clockmaker, no proper subject for fine speeches, romantic adventures, or high-flown Arcadian compliments. I give you god-den, my lord. I think not altogether so harshly as my speech may have spoken. If I can help — that is, if I saw my way clearly through this labyrinth — but it avails not talking now. I give your lordship god-den. — Here, warder! Permit us to pass to the Lady Hansel’s apartment.” The warder said he must have orders from the Lieutenant; and as he retired to procure them, the parties remained standing near each other, but without speaking, and scarce looking at each other save by stealth, a situation which, in two of the party at least, was sufficiently embarrassing. The difference of rank, though in that age a consideration so serious, could not prevent Lord Glenvarloch from seeing that Margaret Ramsay was one of the prettiest young women he had ever beheld — from suspecting, he could scarce tell why, that he himself was not indifferent to her — from feeling assured that he had been the cause of much of her present distress — admiration, self-love, and generosity, acting in favour of the same object; and when the yeoman returned with permission to his guests to withdraw, Nigel’s obeisance to the beautiful daughter of the mechanic was marked with an expression, which called up in her cheeks as much colour as any incident of the eventful day had hitherto excited. She returned the courtesy timidly and irresolutely — clung to her godfather’s arm, and left the apartment, which, dark as it was, had never yet appeared so obscure to Nigel, as when the door closed behind her.

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