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Title: Bothwell - or, The Days of Mary Queen of Scots
Author: Grant, James, archaeologist
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              *BOTHWELL:*


                    THE DAYS OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.


                         BY JAMES GRANT, ESQ.,

                               AUTHOR OF

         "THE ROMANCE OF WAR," "MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH CASTLE,"
                   "THE SCOTTISH CAVALIER," &c., &c.



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                VOL. I.



                                LONDON:
                    PARRY & CO., LEADENHALL STREET.
                                MDCCCLI.



                M’CORQUODALE AND CO., PRINTERS, LONDON.
                             WORKS, NEWTON.



                               *PREFACE.*


The leading event upon which the following story hinges, will be found
in the illustrative notes at the end of the third volume, which will
show that the Magister Absalom (so frequently referred to) was a real
personage, who, in the days of Earl Bothwell, was a Protestant clergyman
at Bergen, and author of a Diary named _The Chapter Book_.

There is no style of reading more conducive to a good or evil result,
than the historical romance, according to the manner it is treated, by a
judicious or injudicious writer.  I have been studious in avoiding any
distortion of history, the tenor of which is so often misconstructed
wilfully by writers of romance; for there are bounds beyond which not
even they are entitled to go. The Scottish reader will find how closely
I have woven up the stirring events of 1567 with my own story, which, in
reality, contains much more that is veracious than fictitious.

Thus, Bothwell’s journey to Denmark—his conflict with John of Park—the
Queen’s visit to Hermitage—the assault on the house of Alison Craig—the
brawl and assistance given the Earl (in mistake for Arran) by the Abbot
of Kilwinning—and many other incidents, all occurred actually as
related.

With one or two exceptions, every character in the following pages was a
_bona fide_ personage "of flesh and blood," who existed at the time, and
was an actor in the scenes narrated.

In the general grouping, costume, and other dramatic accessaries, I have
endeavoured (as closely as I could) to draw a picture of the Scottish
court and metropolis in the year 1567, at a time when the splendour of
both was dimmed by the poverty which followed the wars and tumults of
the Reformation; and with what success, I may say with the old knights
of Cumbernauld—"Let the deed shaw!"

EDINBURGH, _September_, 1851.



                         *CONTENTS OF VOL. I.*


CHAPTER

      I. The Castle of Bergen
     II. Erick Rosenkrantz
    III. The Strangers
     IV. A Norse Supper
      V. The Earl and Hob Discourse
     VI. Anna
    VII. Konrad
   VIII. The Cock-of-the-Woods
     IX. Lord Huntly’s Letter
      X. The Hermit of Bergen
     XI. The Fleur-de-Lys
    XII. The Isle of Westeray
   XIII. Noltland
    XIV. The Separation
     XV. Doubt and Despair
    XVI. Blantyre Priory
   XVII. The Countess of Bothwell
  XVIII. The Rescue
    XIX. The Rejected and the Rival
     XX. Konrad and the Countess
    XXI. Disappointment
   XXII. The Countess Jane
  XXIII. The Pursuit
   XXIV. Mary, Queen of Scots



                              *BOTHWELL;*

                                 *OR,*

                   *THE DAYS OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                        *THE CASTLE Of BERGEN.*

    The stern old shepherd of the air,
    The spirit of the whistling hair,
    The wind has risen drearily
    In the northern evening sea,
    And is piping long and loud
    From many a heavy up-coming cloud.
      _Leigh Hunt._


It was the autumn of a bleak day in the September of 1566.

Enveloped in murky clouds, through which, at times, its red rays shot
along the crested waves, the Norwegian sun was verging to the westward.
From the frozen Baltic a cold wind swept down the Skager Rack, and,
urged by the whole force of the Atlantic ocean, the sullen waves poured
their foam upon the rocky bluffs and fissured crags that overhang the
fiord of Christiana.

In those days, a vessel in the fiord proved an object of the greatest
interest to the inhabitants of the hamlet; and it was with growing fears
that the anxious housewives and weatherwise fishermen of Bergen, a
little wooden town situated on the bay of Christiana, watched the
exertions made by the crew of a small crayer or brigantine, of some
eighty tons or so, that under bare poles, or having at least only her
great square spritsail and jib set, endeavoured to weather the rocky
headland to the east, and gain their little harbour, within which the
water lay smooth as a millpond, forming by its placidity a strong
contrast to the boiling and heaving ocean without.

The last rays of the September sun had died away on the pine-clad hills
of Christiana and the cathedral spire of Bergen. Night came on sooner
than usual, and the sky was rendered opaque by sable clouds, through
which the red streaks of lightning shot red and forklike; while the
hollow thunder reverberated afar off among the splintered summits of the
Silverbergen.

Then through the flying vapour, where, parted by the levin brand, the
misty rain poured down in torrents on the pathless sea, and the
goodwives of Bergen told their beads, and muttered a _Hail Mary!_ or a
prayer to Saint Erick the Martyr for the souls of the poor mariners,
who, they were assured, would find their graves at the bottom of the
deep Skager Rack ere morning brightened on the waters of the Sound.

The royal castle of Bergen, a great square tower of vast strength and
unknown antiquity, reared on a point of rock, still overlooks the town
that in the year of our story was little more than a fisher hamlet.
Swung in an iron grating on its battlement, a huge beacon fire had been
lighted by order of the governor to direct the struggling ship; and now
the flames from the blazing mass of tarred fagots and well-oiled flax
streamed like a torn banner on the stormy wind, and lit up the
weatherbeaten visages of a few Danish soldiers who were grouped on the
keep, glinting on their steel caps and mail shirts, and on the little
brass minions and iron drakes that peeped between the timeworn
embrasures.

Another group, which since sunset had been watching the strange ship,
was crowded under the sheltering arch of the castle gate, watching for
the dispersion of the clouds or the rising of the moon to reveal her
whereabouts.

"Hans Knuber," said a young man who appeared at the wicket, and whose
half military attire showed that he was captain of the king’s
crossbowmen at Bergen, "dost thou think she will weather the Devil’s
Nose on the next tack?"

"I doubt it much, Captain Konrad," replied the fisherman, removing his
right hand from the pocket of his voluminous red breeches to the front
of his fur cap, "unless they steer with the keep of Bergen and the spire
of the bishop’s church in a line; which I saw they did not do.  Ugh!
yonder she looms! and what a sea she shipped!  How heavily her fore and
after castles and all her top-hamper make her heel to leeward!"

"They who man her seem to have but small skill in pilot-craft," said
one.

"By Saint Olaus!" cried another, "unless some one boards and pilots her,
another quarter of an hour will see her run full plump on the reef; and
then God assoilzie both master and mariner!"

"Luff—luff—timoneer!" exclaimed the first seaman.  "Now keep her full!
Would I had my hands on thy tiller!"

"Every moment the night groweth darker," said the young man whom they
called Konrad, and whom they treated with marked respect: "as the clouds
darken the lightning brightens.  A foul shame it were to old Norway, to
have it said that so many of us—stout fellows all—stood idly and saw
yonder struggling ship lost for lack of a little pilot-craft: for as
thou sayest, Hans, if she runs so far again eastward on the next tack
she must strike on the sunken reefs."

"No boat could live in such a sea," muttered the fishermen as they drew
back, none appearing solicitous of the selection which they expected the
young man would make.

"The mists are coming down from the Arctic ocean—the west wind always
brings them," said Jans Thorson; "and we all know ’tis in these mists
that the spirits of the mountain and storm travel."

"Come hither, Hans Knuber," said the captain, whose plumed cap and rich
dress of scarlet velvet, trimmed with white fur, and braided with silver
like a hussar pelisse, were rapidly changing their hues under the
drenching rain that lashed the castle wall, and hissed through the
deep-mouthed archway.  "Come hither, thou great seahorse! Dost mean to
tell me thou art afraid?"

"Sir captain, I fear neither the storm nor the spirit of the mist; but
Zernebok the lord of evil may be abroad to-night, and he and the Hermit
of the Rock may chance to remember how once in my cups, like an ass as I
was, I reviled and mocked them both."

"Bah!" retorted Konrad, whose superstition did not go so far as that of
the seaman; "Jans Thorson, I will give thee this silver chain to launch
and put forth to yonder ship.  Come, man—away, for the honour of old
Norway!"

"Not for all the silver in yonder hills, sir captain, nor the copper in
the mines of Fahlun to boot, would I trust myself beyond the Devil’s
Nose to-night," said the old fisherman bluntly.  "I have just refused
Master Sueno, the chamberlain."

"Why, ’twas just in such a storm old Christian Alborg, and his stout
ship the Biornen, were blown away into the wide ocean," said another;
"and I marvel much, noble Konrad, that you would urge poor fellows like
us"——

"On a venture which I would not attempt myself!" exclaimed the young
man, whose dark blue eyes flashed at his own suggestion. "Now, Saint
Olaus forefend thou shouldst say so!"

"Nay, noble Konrad"——

"But thou dost think so?"

The fisherman was silent.

A flush crossed the handsome face of Konrad of Saltzberg.  He looked
seaward a moment.  The wind was roaring fearfully among the bare summits
of the cliffs that towered abruptly from the shore to the very
clouds—absolute mountains of rock rising peak above peak; and when the
blue lightning flashed among them, their granite tops were seen
stretching away in the distance, while the giant pines that flourished
in their clefts and gorges, were tossing like black ostrich feathers in
the storm.

At the harbour mouth the waves of snow-white foam were visible through
the gloom, as they lashed, and hissed, and burst in successive mountains
on the rocks of worn granite that fringed the entrance of the haven.

Konrad cast a rapid glance around him, and the appalling fury of the
northern storm made even his gallant heart waver for a moment in its
generous purpose; but a fair female face, that with all its waving
ringlets appeared at a little casement overlooking the portal, and a
kiss wafted to him from "a quick small hand," decided him.  His eyes
sparkled, and turning briskly round to the fishermen, he said,—

"By my honour, Sirs, though knowing less of pilot-craft than of handling
the boll of an arblast, I will prove to you that I require nothing of
any man that I dare not myself attempt—so thus will I put forth
alone—and even if I perish shame you all."

And, throwing aside his sword and short mantle, the young man rushed
down the steep pathway that led to the little pier, and leaped on board
one of the long light whaleboats that lay there; but ere his ready hand
had quite cast off the rope that bound it to a ringbolt on the mole,
both Hans Knuber and Jans Thorson, fired by his example, sprang on
board, and with more of the action of elephants, in their wide fur boots
and mighty breeches, than the agility of seamen, they seized each an
oar, and pushed off.

In Denmark and Norway, there were and are few titles of honour; but
there has always existed in the latter an untitled nobility, like our
Scottish lairds and English squires, consisting of very old families,
who are more highly revered than those ennobled by Norway’s Danish
rulers; and many of these can trace their blood back to those terrible
vikingr or ocean kings, who were so long the conquerors of the English
Saxons, and the scourge of the Scottish shores.

Konrad of the Saltzberg (for he had no other name than that which he
took from a solitary and half-ruined tower overlooking the fiord) was
the representative of one of those time-honoured races.

The fame his brave ancestors had won under the enchanted banner of
Regner Lodbrog, Erick with the bloody axe, and Sigwardis Ring, yet lived
in the songs and stories of the northern harpers; and Konrad was revered
for these old memories of Norway’s ancient days, while his own bravery,
affability, and handsome exterior, gained him the love of the Norse
burghers of Bergen, the Danish bowmen he commanded, the fishermen of the
fiord, and the huntsmen of the woods of Aggerhuis.

By the glare of the beacon on the castle wall, his boat was briefly seen
amid the deepening gloom as it rose on the heaving swell, and the
broad-bladed oars of his lusty companions flashed as they were dipped in
the sparkling water.  A moment, and a moment only, they were visible;
Konrad was seen to move his plumed cap, and his cheerful hallo was
heard; the next, they had vanished into obscurity.

The fishers gazed on the gloom with intensity, but could discover
nothing; and there was no other sound came on the bellowing wind, save
the roar of the resounding breakers as they broke on the impending
bluffs.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                          *ERICK ROSENKRANTZ.*

    Turn round, turn round, thou Scottish youth,
      Or loud thy sire shall mourn;
    For if thou touchest Norway’s strand,
      Thou never shalt return.
        _Vedder._


The hall of the castle of Bergen was a spacious but rude apartment,
spanned by a stone arch, ribbed with massive groins, that sprung from
the ponderous walls.

Its floor was composed of oak planks, and two clumsy stone columns,
surmounted by grotesque capitals, supported the round archway of the
fireplace, above which was a rudely carved, and still more rudely
painted, shield, bearing the golden lion of ancient Norway in a field
gules.  Piled within the arch lay a heap of roots and billets, blazing
and rumbling in the recesses of the great stone chimney.  Eight tall
candles, each like a small flambeau, flared in an iron candelabrum, and
sputtered in the currents of air that swept through the hall.

Various weapons hung on the rough walls of red sandstone; there were
heavy Danish ghisannas or battle-axes of steel, iron mauls, ponderous
maces, and deadly morglays, two-handed swords of enormous length, iron
bucklers, chain hauberks, and leathern surcoats, all of uncouth fashion,
and fully two hundred years behind the arms then used by the more
southern nations of Europe.

The long table occupying the centre of the hall was of wood that had
grown in the forests of Memel; it was black as ebony with age, and the
clumsy chairs and stools that were ranged against the walls were all of
the same homely material.  Several deerskins were spread before the
hearth, and thereon reposed a couple of shaggy wolf-hounds, that ever
and anon cocked their ears when a louder gust than usual shook the hall
windows, or when the rain swept the feathery soot down the wide chimney
to hiss in the sparkling fire.

Near the hearth stood a chair covered with gilded leather, and studded
with brass nails; and so different was its aspect from the rest of the
unornamented furniture, that there was no difficulty in recognising it
as the seat of state.  A long sword, the silver hilt of which was
covered with a curious network of steel, hung by an embroidered baldrick
on one knob thereof, balanced by a little velvet cap adorned with a long
scarlet feather, on the other.

The proprietor of these articles, a stout old man, somewhere about
sixty-five, whose rotundity had been considerably increased by good
living, was standing in the arched recess of a well-grated window,
peering earnestly out upon the blackness of the night, in hope to
discern some trace of that strange vessel, concerning which all Bergen
was agog.  His complexion was fair and florid, and though his head was
bald and polished, the long hair that hung from his temples and mingled
with his bushy beard and heavy mustaches, was, like them, of a decided
yellow; but his round visage was of the ruddiest and most weatherbeaten
brown. There was a bold and frank expression in his keen blue eye, that
with his air and aspect forcibly realized the idea of those Scandinavian
vikingr who were once the tyrants of Saxons, and the terror of the
Scots.

His flowing robe of scarlet cloth, trimmed with black fur and laced with
gold, his Norwayn anlace or dagger, sheathed in crimson leather sown
with pearls, and the large rowelled spurs that glittered on the heels of
his Muscovite leather boots, announced him one of Norway’s untitled
noblesse.  He was Erick Rosenkrantz of Welsöö, governor of the province
of Aggerhuis, castellan of Bergen, and knight of the Danish orders of
the Elephant and Dannebrog.

"Sueno Throndson," said he to a little old man who entered the hall,
muffled in a mantle of red deerskin, which was drenched with rain, "dost
thou think there is any chance of yonder strange bark weathering the
storm, and getting under the lee of our ramparts?"

"I know not, noble sir," replied Sueno, casting his drenched cloak on
the floor, and displaying his under attire, which (saith the Magister
Absalom Beyer, whose minute narrative we follow) consisted of a green
cloth gaberdine, trimmed with the fur of the black fox, and girt at the
waist by a broad belt, sustaining a black bugle-horn and short hunting
sword.  "I have serious doubts; for the waves of the fiord are combating
with the currents from the Skager Rack, and whirling like a maelstrom.
I have been through the whole town of Bergen; but neither offer nor
bribe—no, not even the bishop’s blessing, a hundred pieces of silver,
and thrice as many deer hides—will induce one of the knavish fishermen
or white-livered pilots to put forth a boat to pick up any of these
strangers, who must all drown the moment their ship strikes; and strike
she must, if the wind holds."

"The curse of Saint Olaus be on them!" grumbled the governor, glancing
at a rude image of Norway’s tutelary saint.

"Amen!" added Sueno, as he wrung the wet tails of his gaberdine.

"Didst thou try threats, then?"

"By my soul, I did so; and with equal success."

"Dost thou gibe me, Throndson?  This to me, the governor of Aggerhuis,
and captain of the king’s castle of Bergen!" muttered the portly
official, walking to and fro, and swelling with importance as he spoke.

"The oldest of our fishermen are ready to swear on the blessed gospels
that there has not been seen such a storm since Christian Alborg, in the
Biornen, was blown from his moorings."

"Under the ramparts of this, the king’s castle, by foul sorcery; and on
the vigil of Saint Erick the king, and martyr too!  I remember it well,
Sueno.  But what! is the old Norse spirit fallen so far, that these
villains have become so economical of their persons that they shrink
from a little salt water? and that none will launch a shallop in such to
save these poor strangers, who, unless they know the coast, will
assuredly run full tilt on the Devil’s Nose at the haven mouth?  By
Saint Olaus!  I can see the white surf curling over its terrible ridge,
through the gloom, even at this moment."

"I said all this, noble sir," replied Sueno, brushing the rain from his
fur bonnet; "but none attended to me save young Konrad of the Saltzberg,
the captain of our Danish crossbowmen, who cursed them for white-livered
coistrils, and launching a boat, with Hans Knuber and Jans Thorson the
pilot, pushed off from the mole, like brave hearts as they are, in the
direction of the labouring ship, which Konrad vowed to pilot round the
Devil’s Nose or perish."

"Fool! and thou only tellest me of this now!  Konrad—the boldest youth
and the best in all old Norway!" exclaimed the burly governor.  "Hah!
and hath the last of an ancient and gallant race to peril his life on
such a night as this, when these baseborn drawers of nets and fishers of
seals hang back?"

"His boat vanished into the gloom in a moment, and we heard but one
gallant blast from his bugle ring above the roar of the waves that boil
round that terrible promontory."

"The mother of God pray for him—brave lad!  What the devil!  Sueno, I
would not for all the ships on the northern seas, a hair of Konrad’s
head were injured; for though he is no kin to me, I love the lad as if
he were mine own and only son.  See that my niece Anna knoweth not of
this wild adventure till he returns safe.  She has seemed somewhat cold
to him of late; some lover’s pique"——

"I pray he _may_ return, Sir Erick."

"He must—he _shall_ return!" rejoined the impetuous old knight, stamping
his foot. "Yea, and in safety too, or I will sack Bergen, and scourge
every fisher in it.  From whence thought these knaves the stranger
came?"

"From Denmark."

"Malediction on Denmark!" said Rosenkrantz, feeling his old Norse
prejudices rising in his breast.  "Assure me that she is Danish, and I
will extinguish the beacon and let them all drown and be——!"

"Nay, nay, Sir Governor, they know her to be a good ship of Scotland,
commanded by a certain great lord of that country, who is on an embassy
to Frederick of Denmark, and hath been cruising in these seas."

"Then my double malediction on the Scots, too!" said the governor, as he
turned away from the hall window.

"And so say I, noble Sir," chimed in the obsequious chamberlain, as he
raised the skirts of his gaberdine, and warmed his voluminous trunk
hosen before the great fire.

"Right, Throndson! though eight of our monarchs are buried in Iona,
under the Ridge of the Kings, the death of Coelus of Norway, who is
graved in the Scottish Kyles, still lives in our songs; and the fatal
field of Largs, when aided by such a storm as this, the Scots laid
Haco’s enchanted banner in the waves."

"And the wars of Erick with the bloody axe."

"And of Harold Graafeldt, his son."

"And Magnus with the Barefeet," continued the old man, whose eyes
gleamed at the names of these savage kings of early Scandinavia.

"Enough, Sueno," said the governor, who was again peering from the
window into the darkness; "enough, or thou wilt fire my old Norse heart
in such wise by these fierce memories, that no remnant of Christian
feeling will remain in it.  After all, it matters not, Scots or Danes,
we ought to pray for the souls that are now perhaps, from yonder dark
abyss, ascending to the throne of God unblessed and unconfessed," added
the old knight, with a sudden burst of religious feeling.

"God assoil them!" added Sueno crossing himself, and becoming pious too.

From the windows of the hall little else was seen but the dark masses of
cloud that flew hither and thither on the stormy wind; at times a red
star shot a tremulous ray through the openings, and was again hidden.
Far down, beneath the castle windows, boiled the fierce ocean, and its
white foam was visible when the lofty waves reared up their crested
heads to lash the impending cliffs; but we have said that the bosom of
the harbour was smooth as a summer lake when compared with the tumult of
the fiord of Christiana.  Overhead, showers of red sparks were swept
away through the gloom, from the beacon that blazed on the keep to
direct the waveworn ship.

"What led Hans Knuber and his brother knave of the net, to deem the
stranger was a Scot?  By her lumbering leeboard I would have sworn she
was a Lubecker."

"Nay, Sir, her high fore and after castles marked her Scottish build;
and both Hans Knuber and Jans Thorson, who have eyes for these matters,
and have traded to Kirkwall—yea, and even to that Scottish sea the fiord
of Forth—averred she bore Saint Andrew’s saltire flying at her
mizen-peak——I see nothing of her now," continued Sueno.

"See! why, ’tis so dark, one cannot see the length of one’s own nose.
They must have perished!"

At that moment the flash of a culverin glared amid the obscurity far
down below; but its report was borne away on the wind that roared down
the narrow fiord to bury its fury in the Skager Rack.

"God and St. Olaus be praised!" muttered the old knight, rubbing his
hands: "they are almost within the haven mouth; another moment, and they
will be safe."

"Thou forgettest, noble sir," said the chamberlain, "that the stranger’s
pilot may be unacquainted with the nooks and crooks of our harbour, the
rocks and reefs that fringe it, and that the water in some parts is two
hundred fathoms deep."

"Saidst thou not that Konrad and Hans Knuber had put off in a boat?"

"True, true!  A ray of light is shining on the water now."

"Whence comes it?"

"’Tis the hermit in the cavern under the rocks, who hath lit a beacon on
the beach to direct the benighted ship."

"Saint Olaf bless him!  Hoh! there goeth the culverin again.  We heard
the report this time.  They are saved!  ’Tis Konrad of Saltzberg hath
done this gallant deed, and heaven reward him! for many a poor fellow
had perished else.  Now that they are in safe anchorage, away Sueno
Throndson, take thy chamberlain’s staff and chain, man a boat, board
this seaworn ship, and invite this Scottish lord to Bergen; for a foul
shame it were in a knight of the Elephant, to permit the ambassador of a
queen, to remain on shipboard after such a storm, and within a bowshot
of his Danish majesty’s castle: we would be worse than Finns or
Muscovites. Away, Sueno! for now the storm is lulling, and under the lee
of its high hills the harbour is smooth as a mirror."

Thus commanded, Sueno unwillingly enveloped himself once more in the
before-mentioned fur mantle, and retired.

A blast of his horn was heard to ring in the yard as he summoned certain
followers, who grumbled and swore in guttural Norse as they scrambled
after him down the steep and winding pathway, that led from the castle
gate to the mole of Bergen.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                            *THE STRANGERS.*

    To tell the terrors of deep untried,
    What toils we suffer’d, and what storms defied;
    What mountain surges, mountain surges lash’d,
    What sudden hurricanes the canvass dash’d;
    To tell each horror in the deep reveal’d,
    Would ask an iron throat with tenfold vigour steel’d.
      _Lusiad of Camoens._


"How now, Anna! thou lookest as pale as if all the gnomes of the
Silverbergen, or Nippen and Zernebok to boot, had been about thee.  Art
thou affrighted by the storm, child?" asked Erick, pinching the soft
cheek of his niece, who at that moment had entered the hall, and glided
to his side in one of the great windows.

Her only reply was to clasp her hands upon his arm, and look up in his
face with a fond smile.

Anna Rosenkrantz was the only daughter of Svend of Aggerhuis, the
governor’s younger brother, who had fallen in battle with the
Holsteiners.  In stature she was rather under the middle height; and so
full and round was her outline, that many might have considered it too
much so, but for the exquisite fairness of her skin, the beauty of her
features, and the grace pervading every motion.  Norway is famed for its
fair beauties, but the lustre of Anna’s complexion was dazzling; her
neck and forehead were white as the unmelting snows of the Dovrefeldt.
From under the lappets of a little velvet cap, which was edged by a row
of Onslo pearls, her dark-brown ringlets flowed in heavy profusion, and
seemed almost black when contrasted with the neck on which they waved.
Her eyes were of a decided grey, dark, but clear and sparkling.  The
curve of her mouth and chin were very piquant and arch in expression;
her smile was ever one of surpassing sweetness, and at times of
coquetry.

A jacket of black velvet, fashioned like a Bohemian vest, trimmed with
narrow edgings of white fur, and studded with seed pearls, displayed the
full contour of her beautiful bust; but unhappily her skirt was one of
those enormous fardingales which were then becoming the rage over all
Europe.

"Have the roaring of the wind and the screaming of the water-sprite
scared thee, Anna?" continued the old man, who, like a true Nordlander,
believed every element to be peopled by unseen spirits and imps.  "By
the bones of Lodbrog!" he added, patting her soft cheek with his huge
bony hand, "my mind misgave me much that this last year’s sojourn at the
palace of Kiobenhafen would fairly undo thee."

"How, good uncle?" said Anna, blushing slightly.

"By tainting thine inbred hardiment of soul, my little damsel, and
making thee, instead of a fearless Norse maiden, and a dweller in the
land of hills and cataracts, like one of those sickly moppets whom I
have seen clustered round the tabouret of Frederick’s queen, when, for
my sins, I spent a summer at his court during the war with Christian
II., that tyrant and tool of the Dutch harlot, Sigiberta."

"Indeed, uncle mine, you mistake me," replied Anna, "though I will own
myself somewhat terrified by this unwonted storm."

"There now! said I not so?  Three years ago, would the screaming of the
eagles, the yelling of the wood-demon, the howl of the wind, or the
tumult of the ocean, when all the spirits of the Skager Rack are rolling
its billows on the rocks, have affrighted thee? Bah! what is there so
terrible in all that? Do not forget, my girl, that thou comest of a race
of sea-kings who trace their blood from O’Ivarre—he who with Andd and
Olaff ravaged all the Scottish shores from Thurso to the Clyde, and once
even placed the red lion of Norway on the double dun of Alcluyd.[*]  But
I warrant thou art only terrified for young Konrad, who, like a gallant
Norseman, hath run his life into such deadly peril."


[*] A.D. 870 (Note by Mag. Absalom Beyer.)


"Konrad—tush!" said Anna pettishly.

"Ay, Konrad!" reiterated Erick testily; "which way doth the wind blow
now?  By my soul, damosel, thou takest very quietly the danger in which
the finest young fellow in all Norway has thrust himself—when even the
boldest of our fishers drew back.  He departed in a poor shallop to
guide yonder devilish ship round the dangerous promontory, and if the
blessed saints have not prevailed over the spirits of evil, who make
their bourne in the caverns of that dark ocean—then I say, God help
thee, Konrad of Saltzberg!  But fear not, Anna," continued the old man
kindly, perceiving that she turned away as if to conceal tears; "for thy
lover is stout of heart and strong of hand—and—there now!—the devil’s in
my old gossiping tongue—pest upon it!—I have made thee weep."

Anna’s breast heaved very perceptibly, and she covered her face, not to
conceal her tears, but the smile that spread over her features.

"Come, damosel—away to thy toilet; for know there is in yonder ship
which we have watched the livelong day, and which has escaped
destruction so narrowly, a certain great lord, who this night shall sup
with us; for I have sent Sueno with a courteous message, inviting him to
abide, so long as it pleases him, in the king’s castle of Bergen. Be
gay, Anna; for I doubt not thou wilt be dying to hear tidings of what is
astir in the great world around Aggerhuis; for, during the last month
since thy return here, thou hast moped like some melancholy oyster on
the frozen cape yonder."

"A great lord, saidst thou, uncle?" asked Anna with sudden animation.

"Of Scotland—so said Sueno."

Anna blushed scarlet; but the momentary expression of confusion was
replaced by one of pride and triumph.

"Did thou hear of any such at Frederick’s court, little one?"

"Yes—oh yes! there were two on an embassy concerning the isles of
Shetland."

"Ah! which that fool, Christian of Oldenburg, gave to the Scottish king
with his daughter Margaret?  Their names?"

"I marked them not," replied Anna with hesitation; "for thou knowest,
uncle mine, I bear no good-will unto these rough-footed Scots."

"Keep all thy good-will for the lad who loves thee so well," said the
old man smiling, as he pressed his wiry mustaches against her white
forehead.  "I see thou hast still the old Norse spirit, Anna.  Though
three centuries have come and gone since the field of Largs was lost by
Haco and his host, we have not forgotten it; and vengeance for that
day’s slaughter and defeat still forms no small item in our oaths of
fealty and of knighthood.  But hark! the horn of Sueno!  There are
torches flashing on the windows, and strange voices echoing, in the
court.  Away, girl! and bring me my sword and collars of knighthood from
yonder cabinet; for I must receive these guests as becomes the king’s
representative at Aggerhuis, and captain of his castle of Bergen."

Anna glided from his side, and in a minute returned with a casket from
the cabinet, and the long heavy sword that lay on the chair at the
fireplace.  She clasped the rich waistbelt round the old man’s burly
figure, and drawing from the casket the gold chain with the diamond
_Elephant_, having under its feet the enamelled motto,

                          "Trew is Wildbrat,"—

and the woven collar bearing the red cross of the Dannebrog, she placed
them round Sir Brick’s neck, and the jewels sparkled brightly among the
red hair of his bushy beard.

She then glanced hurriedly at her own figure in an opposite mirror;
adjusted the jaunty little cap before mentioned; ran her slender fingers
through her long dark ringlets; smiled with satisfaction at her own
beauty; and took her seat on a low tabouret near the great stuffed
chair, between the gilded arms of which the pompous old governor wedged
his rotund figure, with an energy that made his visage flush scarlet to
the temples; and he had barely time to assume his most imposing aspect
of official dignity, when the light of several flambeaux flashed through
the dark doorway at the lower end of the hall, and the handsome
commander of his crossbowmen, Konrad of Saltzberg, with his features
pale from fatigue, and his long locks, like his furred pelisse, damp
with salt water, and Sueno wearing his gold chain and key, having his
white wand uplifted, and attended by several torch-bearers in the king’s
livery, preceded the strangers.

The first who approached was a tall and handsome man, in whose strong
figure there was a certain jaunty air, that suited well the peculiar
daredevil expression of his deep dark eye, which bespoke the confirmed
man of pleasure.  He seemed to be about thirty years of age, and was
clad in a shining doublet of cloth of gold, over which he wore a cuirass
of the finest steel, attached to the backplate by braces of burnished
silver.  His mantle was of purple velvet lined with white satin; his
trunk breeches were of the latter material slashed with scarlet silk,
and were of that enormous fashion then so much in vogue, being so
preposterously stuffed with tow, hair, or bombast, as to render even
greaves useless in battle.  He wore a long sword and Scottish dagger.
His blue velvet bonnet was adorned by a diamond aigrette, from which
sprung three tall white ostrich feathers.  His eyes were keen, dark, and
proud, and their brows nearly met over his nose, which was straight; he
wore little beard, but his mustaches were thick and pointed upward.  His
page, a saucy-looking lad of sixteen, whom he jocularly called Nick (for
his name was Nicholas Hubert), came close behind him; he was richly
attired, and bore a very handsome salade of polished steel.

His companion, who deferentially remained a few paces behind, was also
richly clad in the same extravagant fashion.  His complexion was swarthy
and dark as that of a Spanish Moor.  His peaked beard, his enormous
mustaches and short curly hair, were of the deepest black, and his dark
hazel eyes were fierce, keen, and restless in expression. In addition to
his sword and dagger, which were of unusual length, he carried at his
glittering baldrick a short wheelock caliver or dague; and in lieu of a
corselet wore a pyne doublet, calculated to resist sword-cuts. He had a
gorget of fine steel under his thick ruff; and we must not omit to add
that his bulk and stature were gigantic, for he stood six foot eight in
his boots.

"My lord, Sir Erick," began the chamberlain, "allow me to introduce
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, a noble peer, ambassador from Mary,
queen of the Scots, to his Danish majesty."

The portly governor of Aggerhuis bowed profoundly, each time reversing
the hilt of the long toledo that hung by his voluminous trunk hose;
while the graceful Earl, with a courtesy that, to a close observer,
might have seemed a little overdone, swept the hall floor with his
ostrich plumes as he bowed and shook the hand of the bluff old
Norwegian.

"Hark you, master chamberlain," said he, "please to introduce my
friend."

"My lord, Sir Erick," began Sueno.

"Cock and pie!  Bothwell! he can introduce himself without the aid of
chamberlain or chambercheild," said the dark man with a bravo air.  "My
good lord governor, thou seest in me Hob Ormiston of that Ilk, otherwise
Black Hob of Teviotdale, very much at your service; and, by the holy
rood!"——

"Stuff!" interrupted the Earl; "know, we swear by nought but the staff
of John Knox now."

"Foul fell thee, Bothwell!" said Black Hob ironically; "art thou growing
profane?"

"Art thou turning preacher?" whispered the Earl with a laugh; "but
prithee act gravely before this old Norland bear, or ill may come of it.
We thank you for your gracious hospitality, fair Sir," he added aloud;
"and with gratitude will exchange for this noble hall, the narrow cabin
of my half sinking galliot, and the black tumbling waves of yonder
devilish sea."

"The king’s castle of Bergen is ever at the service of the subjects of
her fair Scottish majesty; and, in the name of Frederick of Zeeland, I
bid you welcome to its poor accommodation."

"And now, brave youth! by whose valour we have been saved, let me thank
you," said the Scottish earl, turning suddenly with generous gratitude
to Konrad of Saltzberg, who had remained a little behind.  "Had you not
gained our ship at that desperate crisis, and directed our wavering
timoneer, it had assuredly been dashed to pieces on yonder promontory."

"Yes—noble sir—the Devil’s Nose," said Sueno.

"To venture in that frail shallop through the fierce surf of yonder
boiling sea, was the bravest deed I ever saw man do; and remember I come
from a land of brave hearts and gallant deeds."

The Earl warmly shook the hand of Konrad, who endeavoured to gain one
glance from Anna, but she was too intently regarding the strangers.

In the dusky shadow formed by the projecting mantelpiece, she had stood
a little apart, but now caught the eye of the Earl, who, with an air in
which exquisite grace was curiously blended with assurance, advanced and
kissed her hand.

"’Tis my niece," said Rosenkrantz; but the moment the light fell full
upon her blushing face and beautiful figure, Bothwell started—his colour
heightened, and his eyes sparkled.

"Anna—Lady Anna!"—he exclaimed; "art _thou_ here?"

"Welcome, my lord, to Bergen," she replied with a bright smile; "then
you have not forgotten me?"

"Forgotten thee!" exclaimed the Earl, as half kneeling he again kissed
her hand; "ah! how could I ever forget?  This is joy indeed! How little
I dreamt of meeting thee here, fair Anna; for when we parted at the
palace of King Frederick, I feared it was to meet no more."

"Thou seest, my lord," she replied gaily; "that Fate never meant to
separate us altogether."

"Then I will rail at Fate no more."

"When I prayed the blessed Mary to intercede for the poor ship, which
all this live-long day we saw tossing on the waves of the Fiord, how
little did I deem my prayers were offered up for you!"

"A thousand thanks, dear lady!  I too prayed, now and then; but I doubt
not the blessed Virgin hath rather hearkened to thee, who in purity,
beauty, and innocence may so nearly approach herself."

"Cock and pie!" muttered Ormiston through his black beard, as he yawned
and stretched his stalwart form before the blazing fire; "he is at his
old trade of love-making again.  When a-God’s name will he ever learn
sense!"

"What art thou grumbling at now, Hob Ormiston?" said the Earl laughing,
"when our poor crayer went surging headlong down into the dark trough of
yonder angry sea, by Saint Paul!  I could not choose but laugh, to hear
thee alternately praying like a devout Christian, and swearing like a
rascally Pagan!"

"And all because of that enchanted rope with its three damnable knots,
which, despite my warnings, your lordship purchased for a rose-noble
from that villanous necromancer at Cronenborg.  S’death! were I now
within arm’s length of him, I would tie such a knot under his left ear
as would cure him of wizard wit for the future."

"How, fair sirs," asked the Castellan, whose capacity for the marvellous
was quite Norwegian; "this is marvel upon marvel!  I deemed ye
strangers, and find that you my Lord Earl of Bothwell, and Anna my niece
and ward, are quite old friends—of that I will learn anon; but mean time
would fein hear more of this same enchanted cord, for which it seems we
are indebted for the honour of this visit to the king’s"——

"Why, Sir Governor, it brought on that infernal storm, which nearly sent
us all to the bottom of the sea; and as for the base minion who sold
it"——

"Harkee, Hob of Ormiston," said the Earl gaily while glancing at Anna;
"I will hear nothing disrespectful said of my master of the black art,
whose spells have driven me within the circle of charms a thousand
degrees more powerful and enchanting."

"Cock and pie!" muttered Black Hob between his teeth.

"My lords," said the Castellan, who was bursting with impatience; "about
this rope"——

"At the castle of Cronenborg," replied Bothwell, "despite the reiterated
warnings of my friend, our stout skipper ventured ashore to bargain with
a certain necromancer who dwelleth at the promontory, and sells fair
winds to the passing ships.  For a rose-noble, this knave gave him a
rope three Danish ells in length, whereon were three knots, each of
which he solemnly avowed would produce a favourable breeze.  On the
first being untied, we certainly had one that carried us out of the
Sound; but thereafter it died away.  Our skipper cursed the wizard for
his short measure, and untied the second knot, when, lo! another
friendly gale rippled over the sea, and bore us to Helmstadt, off which
it again fell a dead calm."

"Three handsful of salt should have been thrown into the sea," said
Sueno.

"For what?" asked Bothwell with a smile.

"Sueno is right," said Rosenkrantz; "one as an offering to Nippen, a
second for the water spirit, and a third for the demon of the wind."

"Our skipper contented himself by blaspheming like a Turk," continued
the Earl, "and untied the third knot, when, lo! there blew a perfect
storm.  The wind and the waves rose—the rain fell, the lightning flashed
among the seething breakers, and—we are here."

"I will write to the king," said the governor, striking his long sword
energetically on the hall floor; "I will, by Saint Erick! and learn
whether this dark-dealing villain is to be permitted to trifle with the
lives of nobles and ambassadors by selling charms of evil under the
windows of his very palace."

"By my soul!  Sir Governor, if I had him in bonny Teviotdale, I would
hang him on my dule-tree, where many a better man hath swung, and make
my enquiries thereafter."

"’Tis the second time this false son of darkness hath so tricked the
mariner.  He sold an enchanted cord to my kinsman, Christian Alborg,
captain of the Biornen, a king’s ship, which, on the untying of the
third knot, was blown right out into the North Sea—yea, unto the very
verge of those dangerous currents that run downhill to regions under the
polar star, frozen and desolate shores, from whence there can be no
return.  But enough of this matter.  Hark you, Sueno Throndson—and thou,
Van Dribbel the butler—see what the larder and cellar contain: order up
supper for our noble guests, and see that it be such as befits well the
king’s castle of Bergen."



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                           *A NORSE SUPPER.*

    How goodly seems it ever to employ,
    Man’s social days in union and in joy;
    The plenteous board high-heaped with oates divine,
    And o’er the foaming bowl the laughing wine.
      _Odyssey_, Book ix.


Bothwell surveyed the hall with a rapid glance, and then his eyes met
those of his friend and vassal, Hob of Ormiston, who had been making a
similar scrutiny, and he slightly shrugged his shoulders; for mentally
he had been reverting to his noble castle of Crichton, that

    ——"rises on the steep
    Above the vale of Tyne;"

his lordly towers of Bothwell, that still, magnificent in their ruins,
overlook the beautiful Clyde, and therefrom he drew comparisons very
disadvantageous to "the king’s castle of Bergen," as the old castellan
thereof was so fond of styling his residence.

"’Tis but a poor-looking hold this, my lord," said Hob in French; "yet I
dare swear we may put over the night in it very well."

A shade crossed the brow of Lady Anna, as with a gentle air of pique,
and in the same language, she said—

"I am grieved, noble sirs, that the accommodation of our poor house
displeases you."

"Cogsbones!" muttered Black Hob with confusion, but the Earl laughed.

"Ah, you know French!" he exclaimed with pleasure; "’tis delightful!  I
will be able to converse with you so much more fluently than in the
broken Norse of the Shetlanders."

"You have been in France, doubtless?" said Anna.

"Frequently, on embassies from our late queen regent, Mary of Guise and
Lorraine, to the court of the magnificent Francis. Ah! some of the
happiest days of my life—yes, and some of the saddest too—have been
spent in the palace of the Tournelles."

A momentary frown gathered on the Earl’s brow, but was immediately
replaced by a smile.

"And has your embassy from Mary of Scotland to Frederick of Denmark been
accomplished happily?"

"Not as yet, fair Anna," replied Bothwell hurriedly, while his brow
flushed; "for his Danish majesty lacks much the spirit of his
Scandinavian ancestors.  Yet, dear madam, I cannot but deem my sojourn
in this northern clime a happy one, since it ends here," and he slightly
touched her hand.

While with open mouth the old governor of Bergen had been turning
alternately from his niece to the stranger, surprised to hear them
conversing so fluently in a language quite unknown to him, several
servants in red gaberdines and voluminous trunk breeches laid supper on
the long central table; while the warmth of the hall was increased by a
number of torches placed in grotesque stone brackets, projecting from
the walls, on the red masonry of which they shed a ruddy glow.

The Earl courteously handed the young lady to a seat, and placed himself
beside her.

Konrad had been in the act of advancing to assume his usual chair by her
side; but finding himself anticipated, and feeling instinctively and
sadly that perhaps he was not missed, he retired to the other end of the
table, and seated himself beside the strong and swarthy knight of
Ormiston.

"Twice hath he kissed her hand this night!" thought the young man with a
bitter sigh; "that hand which I have scarcely dared to touch—and twice
she seemed pleased by the attention; for her cheek flushed, and her eye
sparkled with the brightness of her joy."

The evening repast was somewhat plain and coarse, as the governor made
it his boast and pride to have every thing after the ancient Norwegian
fashion, and would as readily have permitted poison as any foreign
luxury or innovation to invade his board.

Reindeer meat, purchased from the wandering Lapps, and a trencher of
pickled herrings, occupied one end of the table; a venison pie the
other.  There was a platter of ryemeal pudding, another of sharke, or
meat cut into thin slices, sprinkled with spices, and dried in the wind;
there were rye-loaves baked so hard that they would have required King
Erick’s axe to split them, and crisped pancakes and rolls made of meal,
mixed with bark of the pine, dried and ground.  There were preserved
wild-fruits and cloud-berries, floating in thick cream; but the only
liquors were Norwegian ale, and the native dricka, a decoction of barley
and juniper-tree.

Bothwell, who, as we have said, had seated himself beside the Lady Anna,
and was wholly occupied with her, scarcely remarked the rudeness of the
repast; but hungry Hob of Ormiston, whose whole and undivided affections
were about to be lavished on the table, looked exceedingly blank, and
the aspect of the venison pie, and trencher of purple cloudberries,
swimming in thick yellow cream, alone prevented him from exhibiting some
very marked signs of disdain.

Supper proceeded, and was partaken of with due Scandinavian voracity.
The portly governor of Aggerhuis wedged himself in his gilded chair at
the head of the table; Sueno the chamberlain seated himself at the foot.
Cornelius Van Dribbel, the bulbous-shaped Dutch butler of Bergen,
overlooked the cups and tankards; and to the company already mentioned
who occupied seats above the salt, were added a few Danish crossbowmen
in the scarlet livery of King Frederick, with Hans Knuber, Jans Thorson,
and the servants of the fortress, who devoured vast quantities of sharke
and oatmeal bread, drenching their red mustaches in the muddy ale, as
deeply as their ancestors, the fair-haired warriors of Olaff and of
Ivarre, could have done.

This motley company were assisted to whatever they required by four
pages, who bore the king’s cipher embossed on the breasts of their
crimson doublets, which had those of Erick Rosenkrantz similarly wrought
on the back.

Bothwell, who had been accustomed to all those continental luxuries,
which the long and close intercourse with France had introduced among
the Scottish noblesse, exchanged but one furtive glance of scorn with
the tall knight of Teviotdale, and then proceeded at once to gain the
heart of the honest and unsophisticated governor, by draining a long
horn of ale, to the standard toast of the Nordlanders—"Old Norway!"

"_Gammle Norgé!_" cried the old governor, and all present emptied their
cups with enthusiasm, not excepting the Danes; for the keen eye of
Rosenkrantz was fixed upon them in particular.

Oblivious of the presence of the burly governor, of young Konrad’s
changing cheek and kindling eye, of bearded Ormiston’s louring visage,
and all others around the board, the Earl of Bothwell, with all the
nonchalance of a soldier united to the suavity of a courtier, and the
air of a man who habitually pleased himself without valuing a jot the
ideas of others, was soon seen to make himself quite at home, to lounge
on the stuffed chair, and to stoop his head so close to Anna’s, that at
times his black locks mingled with her glossier curls as they conversed
softly in French, but with a rapidity and gaiety that astonished even
themselves.

She was thus enabled to coquette, and he to make love with impunity,
under the very eyes of Konrad and her uncle.  The former was painfully
watchful, but the latter divided his attention between a dish of savoury
sharke and a great pewter flagon of dricka; for, like a true old
Norseman, he was capable of eating any thing and in any quantity; and he
paused at times only to impress upon Sueno Throndson the necessity of
having the necromancer of Cronenborg strung up in one of his own cords.

"Holy Hansdag!" said he; "such things cannot be permitted.  Vessels will
never pass the Sound, and the toll will go to the devil! Konrad of
Saltzberg, thou art a bold lad, and hast done gallant things in these
seas against the Lubeckers, and to thee will I commit the charge of
conveying this knave in fetters to King Frederick."

"If he sells fair winds, Sir Erick," began Konrad.

"Ah! but the dark son of Zernebok selleth foul as well."

"But only to strangers, and when he has none other in hand, perhaps,"
said Konrad with a smile; for he cordially wished that the enchanted
cord had blown the Scottish earl to the Arctic regions.

"Tush, Konrad! dost thou deem my kinsman, stout Christian Alborg of the
Biornen, a stranger?"

"We Scots have an old saw among us—That ’tis an ill wind that blows
nobody gude," said Hob Ormiston, as he once more assailed the crisp roof
of the venison pie with his long Scottish dagger; for it was not then
the fashion to furnish guests with knives, and forks were the invention
of a century later. "By the mass!" thought he; "the rascal Cupid will
assuredly mar thy fortune, my stout Lord Bothwell; for thou fallest in
love with every pretty woman, and art ever in some infernal scrape.  Thy
health, Sir Governor," and bowing to Rosenkrantz, who warmly accorded,
Ormiston raised to his lips a great flagon of ale, the creamy froth of
which whitened the thick bristles of his black mustaches.

Bothwell and Anna still continued to converse in French.

"And so monsieur grew tired of the court of Denmark?" said Anna, with a
pretty lisp in her voice.

"When you left it I soon found that little remained to detain me there.
For me the sun had set—the glory had departed.  I was _ennuyéed_ to
death, for there are no amusements such as I have been accustomed to.  I
marvel that so warlike a prince as Frederick holds not at times a
passage of arms, or even a grand hunting party, among his knights and
peers.  The greasy counts and ale-swilling barons who wear the crosses
of the Elephant and Dannebrog, throng the chambers of his great wooden
palace; but never one among them rouses a deer in the woods of Amack,
brings a boar to bay, or breaks a spear at the barriers."

"You should have set them an example, my lord," said Anna, with a half
pout which she assumed at times.

"These drunken Danes would have laughed me to scorn, for they were much
too wary to trust their fools’ costards under steel casques for such a
purpose.  They never in any age knew much of chivalry; and now the new
doctrines of Luther and of Calvin, like a cold blast, are laying it with
other and holier institutions in the dust.  I regret that I did not hang
on Frederick’s palace gate, my red shield, with the blue cheveron of
Hepburn, as a bravado to all comers," continued the flattering Earl in
his softest and most insinuating French; while he took in his the white
hand of the blushing girl, "in maintenance that Anna of Aggerhuis was
the fairest flower in Norway and in Denmark."

"By cock and pie! it might have hung there ’till doomsday for aught that
I would have cared anent the matter," muttered Hob Ormiston.

The eyes of Anna lighted up with that vanity which the language of the
Earl was so well calculated to feed, as she laughed, and said in a low
and almost breathless voice—

"And would you indeed have maintained this?"

"At the point of this sword, which my good-sire drew by Pinkie-burn, I
would have upheld it, madam—yea, to the last gasp!"

"I thank your courtesy, my Lord Bothwell; but," she asked in a manner
that seemed perfectly artless, "what could inspire so much bravery and
enthusiasm in my behalf?"

"Ah, what but love!" whispered the handsome Earl, while his dark eyes
filled with the softest languor.  Anna blushed crimson, and a pause
ensued.

A shade perceptibly crossed the brow of Konrad.  He had picked up a
smattering of French while commanding his band of crossbowmen in the
Lubeck war, and knew enough to perceive how dangerous to the love he had
so long borne Anna, was the tendency of this discourse.

"My lord," said he, with an anger which he could not entirely conceal,
"with an intent so foolish, I fear your red shield would have hung on
Frederick’s gate like the wood-demon’s annual axe—till it rusted away,
ere any man would have touched it."

"Sir Konrad," replied the Earl haughtily, "you may be right, for none
will dare to dispute the beauty of Lady Anna."

"Why not?" asked Konrad with blunt honesty.  "Beauty exists often in the
mind of a lover alone; and all men cannot love the same woman."

The Earl smiled, and twirled his mustaches.

"Noble Sir, though I can very well perceive how you secretly scorn our
northern barbarism, there are those among us who could achieve feats
that the bravest and gayest of the French and Scottish knights would
shrink from attempting."

Bothwell raised his eyebrows slightly, and a very unmistakeable frown
gathered on tall Ormiston’s swarthy brow; but here very opportunely old
Rosenkrantz, pausing in the midst of some enthusiastic speech, shouted
_Gammle Norgé!_ and struck his empty flagon on the table.

"Ho!" said the Earl, "my brave friend, thou seemest a tall fellow, and
art used, I doubt not, to mail and arms?"

"A little to the use of the salade, steel hauberk, crossbow, and
dagger."

"And art a good horseman, both at the baresse and on the battle-field?"
added Bothwell, with a slight tinge of scorn in his manner.

"He knows not what you mean by _baresse_," said Anna with a laugh, that
stung Konrad to the soul.  The Earl joined in it; and then, fired by
sudden anger and energy, the blood mounted to Konrad’s open brow, as he
replied—

"Whatever a man will dare without the aid of spell or charm, that will I
dare, and perhaps achieve; and though, Sir Scot, I can perceive by thine
undisguised hauteur that thou scornest our rude Norse fashions and
primitive simplicity, I cannot forget that there are spirits bred among
these stupendous cliffs and pine-clad valleys, these boiling maelstroms
and foaming torrents, second to none in the world for bravery, for
honour, and for worth.  I, who am the least among them in strength of
heart and limb, can climb a rock that hangs eight hundred feet above the
dashing surf, to win the down of the eider-duck or the eggs of the owl
and eagle. With a handful of salt I can train a wild-deer from the
solitary dens of the Silverbergen, or drag a white bear from its bourne
on the banks of the Agger.  With a single bolt from my arblast, I can
pierce the swiftest eagle in full flight, and the fiercest boar with one
thrust of my hunting-spear.  On midsummer eve, when Nippen and all the
spirits of evil are abroad, I have sought the Druid’s circle in the most
savage depths of the Dovrefeldt, to hang the wood-demon’s yearly gift on
the great oak where our pagan ancestors worshipped Thor of old, and
offered up the blood of captives taken in battle.  And, in pursuit of
the seal and the seahorse, I have dashed my boat right through the mist
of the Fiord, even while the shriek of Uldra, the spirit of the vapour,
arose from its dusky bosom."

Though superstitious to a degree, Bothwell could not repress a smile on
hearing what Konrad deemed a climax to the assertion of his spirit and
courage.  The eyes of Anna sparkled with something of admiration as he
spoke; but the Earl laughed with provoking good-nature as he replied—

"I doubt not thy courage, my friend, since to it I owe my seat at this
hospitable board, instead of being, perhaps, at the bottom of yonder
deep fiord; but the white bear—ha! ha!  I would give a score of gold
unicorns to see thee, Black Hob, engaging such a denizen of old Norway."

"Nordland bear or boor, what the foul fiend care I?" replied Ormiston,
whose mouth was still crammed with paste.  "God’s death! many a time and
oft, in bonny Teviotdale and Ettrickshaws, I have driven a tough
Scottish spear through a brave English heart, piercing acton, jack, and
corselet of Milan, like a gossamer web.  But enow of this pitiful
boasting, which better beseemeth schulebairns than bearded men."

Now the night waxed late, the great wooden clock at the end of the hall
had struck the hour for retiring, and sliced sweetcake and spiced ale
were served round.

Then all the company, after the Norwegian fashion, bowed to each other,
and saying, "Much good may the supper do you," prepared to separate.
The Earl and Ormiston were conducted, by Sueno Throndson and two
torchbearers, to a chamber in the upper part of the keep.

As Konrad turned to retire, he gave a wistful glance at Anna
Rosenkrantz, to receive, as usual, her parting smile; but her eyes were
fixed on Bothwell’s retreating figure and waving plume, and slowly the
young man left the hall, with a heart full of jealous and bitter
thoughts.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                     *THE EARL AND HOB DISCOURSE.*

      ’Tis well for you, Sir,
    To make your love subservient to your pleasure;
    But I, who am an honourable man,
    Adore the sex too much to act so basely.
        _Old Play._


The Scottish guests were escorted by the chamberlain to an apartment in
the donjon-tower, immediately above the hall.

It was arched with red sandstone, and, as frequently occurred in the
sleeping chambers of such edifices in that age, contained two beds.
These were low four-posted and heavily-canopied couches, covered with
eider-down quilts of elaborate pattern; while the oak floor, according
to the fashion of the country, was thickly strewn with small juniper
branches, instead of straw, as in England.  A dim cresset, on a long
iron stalk, lighted the chamber, on beholding the primitive aspect of
which the Earl and his friend exchanged significant glances; while
Sueno, in courtesy to their rank, placed a handsome sword on a low
tabourette that stood midway between the couches, and retired.

"’Tis a pretty knife this!" said Hob of Ormiston, as he drew the shining
blade from its scabbard and surveyed it; "however, I would rather have
this berry-brown whinger, that my father drew on Flodden Field," he
added, unbuckling the broad baldrick that sustained his immense
two-handed sword. "Doth he not seem an honest soul, this old Norwegian
boor, I mean baron—craving pardon—and his dumpy little daughter?"

"Niece, thou meanest," said Bothwell suddenly, becoming all attention.

"One must speak cautiously of her, I suppose?"

"It would be wise of more than one; but," said Bothwell, "is it not
remarkable that we should meet thus again?  What seest thou in this?"

"In what?"

"Our unexpected meeting, after parting as we thought for ever."

"See!" yawned Ormiston, untrussing his points, "why—nothing!"

"Insensible! dost thou not see the hand of Fate?"

"Nay," said Hob ironically: "my Lord of Bothwell and of Hailes, I can
perceive only the finger of mischief."

"Anna is very beautiful."

"After the fat and languid dames of Denmark, with their red locks and
gaudy dresses," said Ormiston, as he slipped into bed, "there is, I own,
something quite refreshing to my refined taste"——

"Thy refined taste, ha! ha!" laughed the Earl.

"I say to my refined taste," continued Hob testily, "in the grace and
delicacy of this northern nymph."

"And I own to thee, Hob of Ormiston, my true vassal and most trusted
friend, that all my old passion is revived in full force, and that I
love her as I never loved"——

"Even Jane of Huntly," said Black Hob, maliciously closing the sentence.

"Under favour, as thou lovest me, Hob," said the noble with a frown,
"say no more of her, just now at least."

"Ha! ha! after seeing the beauties of the Tournelles, of Versailles, and
even our own Holyrood, thou art seriously smitten by this little
Norwegian, eh?"

"My whole heart and soul are hers," said the Earl in a voice that was
low, but full of passion.

"Now may the great devil burn me!" cried Ormiston, as a horse-laugh
convulsed his bulky figure.  "I think ’tis the twentieth time thy heart
hath been disposed of in the same fashion, and I do not think that any
damsel found herself much enriched by the possession thereof.  As for
thy soul, that being as I believe gifted already"——

"Harkee, Hob, be not insolent, for our swords are lying at hand....  Oh
yes! from the first moment I met this fair girl at Copenhagen, a
mysterious sympathy drew my heart instinctively towards her; and not
until she left the court of Frederick did I find the full depth of my
passion."

"Substitute Holyrood for Copenhagen," continued Hob in the same gibing
tone, "and this will be almost word for word what I once heard thee
whisper to winsome Jeanie Gordon in the long gallery."

"Damnation, varlet! thou wilt drive me mad," cried the Earl, kicking his
trunk-hose to the farthest end of the chamber; for the spiced ale of Van
Dribbel was mounting fast into his brain.  "How dared your curiosity
presume so far?  But I care not telling thee, that I love her a thousand
times more than Huntly’s sickly sister, whom perhaps I may never see
again."

"Very possibly; but, cock and pie! thou canst not mean to marry her?"

"Perhaps not, if she would sail with me on easier terms," said the
libertine Earl in a low voice.

"Please yourself," said Ormiston, who had begun to tire of the
conversation; "but remember your solemn plight to the Lady Jane Gordon."

"A rare fellow thou to give good advice!"

"And that, if your solemn vow be broken, our doleful case would then be
worse than ever.  Ten thousand claymores would be unsheathed in
Badenoch, Auchindoune, and Strathbolgie; we should have another northern
rebellion to welcome our return."

"That would be merry and gay."

"Another Corrichie to fight, and"——

"What more?"

"A Bothwell to fall."

"Sayest thou? forgetting that, like thee, I am all but ruined, and the
errand on which I came hither?"

"To league with that red-haired fox, Frederick of Zeeland, for placing
the northern isles in his possession, on condition that thou art viceroy
thereof—a notable project!"

Bothwell coloured deeply as he replied—

"How ill my own plans sound when thus repeated to me!  Yet I cannot but
laugh when I imagine the expression the faces of Moray, Morton, and
Lethington will assume, when those cold and calculating knaves, to whom
we owe our present forfeiture and exile, hear of my Danish league.
’Twill be a masterstroke in the game of intrigue; and certes, under my
circumstances, as Prince of Orkney and Shetland, holding the isles as a
fief of Frederick, to wed the ward of this Norwegian knight were better
than, as Bothwell, landless and penniless, to wed the untochered Jane of
Huntly, and live like a trencherman or boy of the belt on the bounty of
the proud earl, her brother."

"Doubtless," said Ormiston with an imperceptible sneer, "our vessel will
require certain refitting, which will detain her here for some days?"

"Assuredly," replied the Earl.

"During which time we must continue to fare on raw meat, sawdust, and
sour ale, by the rood!  Surely we will have plenty of time to canvass
our projects to-morrow; but to-night let me sleep a-God’s name! for I am
skinful of salt water, and wellnigh talked to death."

Ormiston was soon fast asleep, and the Earl, though of a happy and
thoughtless temperament, a reckless, and often (when crossed in his
pride and purposes) of a ferocious disposition, envied his ease of mind.

He too courted sleep, but in vain; for a thousand fancies and a thousand
fears intruded upon his mind.  The changing expression of his fine
features, when viewed by the fitful light of the expiring cresset, would
have formed a noble study for a painter. One moment they were all fire
and animation, as his heart expanded with hope and energy; the next saw
them clouded by chagrin and bitterness, when he reflected on the more
than princely patrimony he had ruined by a long career of private
dissipation and political intrigue—for violence, turbulence, ambition,
and reckless folly, had been the leading features in the life of this
headstrong noble.

The career of Earl Bothwell had been one tissue of inconsistencies.

Revolting at the ecclesiastical executions which about the period of
James V.’s death so greatly disgusted the Scottish people, the Earl with
his father became a reformer at an early period in life, and like all
the leaders in that great movement, which was fated to convulse the
land, accepted a secret pension from the English court to maintain his
wild extravagance; but when blows were struck and banners displayed,
when the army of the Protestants took the field against Mary of Guise,
young Bothwell, in 1559, assumed the command of her French auxiliaries,
and acted with vigour and valour in her cause.

Afterwards he went on an embassy to Paris; where, by the gallantry of
his air, the splendour of his retinue, and the versatility of his
talents for flattery, diplomacy, and intrigue, together with his dutiful
and graceful demeanour, he particularly recommended himself to Mary of
Scotland, the young queen of France.

Four years afterwards, when Mary was seated on her father’s throne, he
had returned to Scotland; but engaging in a desperate conspiracy for the
destruction of his mortal foe, the Earl of Moray, then in the zenith of
his power and royal favour, he had been indefinitely banished the court
and kingdom. Filled with rage against Moray, who wielded the whole power
at the court and council of his too facile sister, Bothwell, finding his
star thus completely eclipsed by a rival to whom he was fully equal in
bravery and ambition, though inferior in subtlety and guile—and that his
strong and stately castles, his fertile provinces and rich domains, were
gifted away to feudal and political foemen—sought the Danish court,
where he had intrigued so far, that, at the period when our story opens,
a conspiracy had been formed to place all the fortresses of Orkney and
Shetland in the hands of Frederick, who, in return, was to create Lord
Bothwell Prince of the Northern Isles.  This plot had gradually been
developing; and the Earl, in furtherance of his daring and revengeful
scheme, was now on his way back to Orkney, where he possessed various
fiefs and adherents, especially one powerful baron of the house of
Balfour of Monkquhanny.

To a face and form that were singularly noble and prepossessing, the
unfortunate Earl of Bothwell united a bearing alike gallant and courtly;
while his known courage and suavity of manner, in the noonday of his
fortune, made him the favourite equally of the great and the humble.

Without being yet a confirmed profligate, he had plunged deeply into all
the excesses and gaieties of the age, especially when in France and
Italy; for at home in Scotland, when under the Draconian laws and iron
rule of the new regime, the arena of such follies, even to a powerful
baron, was very circumscribed.

His heart was naturally good, and its first impulses were ever those of
warmth, generosity, and gratitude—and these principles, under proper
direction, when united to his talent, courage, and ambition, might have
made him an ornament to his country.  His early rectitude of purpose had
led him to trust others too indiscriminately; his warmth, to sudden
attachments and dangerous quarrels; his generosity, to lavish
extravagance. Early in life he is said to have loved deeply and
unhappily, but with all the ardour of which a first passion is capable
of firing a brave and generous heart.  Who the object of his love had
been was then unknown; one report averred her to be a French princess,
and the Magister Absalom Beyer shrewdly guesses, that this means no
other than the dauphiness, Mary Stuart—but of this more anon.

There was now a dash of the cynic in his nature, and he was fast
schooling himself to consider women merely what he was, in his gayer
moments, habitually averring them to be—the mere instruments of
pleasure, and tools of ambition.

The unhappy influence of that misplaced or unrequited love, had thrown a
long shadow on the career of Bothwell; and as the sun of his fortune
set, that shadow grew darker and deeper.  But there were times, when his
cooler reflection had tamed his wild impulses, that a sudden act of
generosity and chivalry would evince the greatness of that heart, which
an unhappy combination of circumstances, a prospect the most alluring
that ever opened to man, and the influence of evil counsel, spurring on
a restless ambition, hurried into those dark and terrible schemes of
power and greatness, that blighted his name and fame for ever!

The character of his friend and brother exile, Hob Ormiston of that Ilk,
had been distinguished only for its pride, ferocity, turbulence, and
rapacity.  He was one of the worst examples of those brutal barons who
flourished on the ruins of the Church of Rome—the only power that ever
held them in check—who laughed to scorn the laws of God and man—who
recognised no will save their own, and no law but that of the sword and
the strongest hand—who quoted Scripture to rifle and overthrow the same
church which their fathers had quoted Scripture to erect and endow; and
who, in that really dark age succeeding the Scottish Reformation,
embroiled their helpless and gentle sovereign in a disastrous civil war,
and drenched their native land in blood!



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                                *ANNA.*

    And when the moon went down the sky,
      Still rose, in dreams, his native plain;
    And oft he thought his love was by,
      And charm’d him with some tender strain.
        _The Mermaid._


The light of the rising sun was streaming through the windows next
morning when the Earl awoke; and from dreams of a stormy sea, with the
din of flapping canvass and rattling cordage in his ears, was agreeably
surprised by finding close to his the small fair face and bright eyes of
Anna Rosenkrantz—so close, indeed, that her soft hair mingled with his
own, and the breath of her prying little mouth came gently on his cheek,

     "Like the sweet south, that breathes upon a bank of violets."


It was suddenly withdrawn, and Bothwell started up.

The young lady, with Christina, her attendant, arrayed in neat morning
dresses, the black fur of which contrasted with the snowy whiteness of
their necks and arms, stood by his bedside with a warm posset of spiced
ale, according to that ancient custom, still retained in Norway, where
now a dish of warm coffee is substituted for the mulled mead of their
jovial ancestors, and is presented by the ladies of the house to each
guest and inmate about daybreak.

In pursuance of this primitive custom, Lady Anna presented herself by
the couch of the Earl, whose dark eyes sparkled with astonishment and
pleasure; for various episodes of love and intrigue flashed upon his
mind, when beholding the object of his admiration standing in that half
dishabille at so early an hour, and a deep blush of confusion suffused
the face of the beautiful girl, for the aspect of the Earl was
singularly prepossessing.

His black locks curled shortly over a pale and noble forehead; his eyes
were intensely dark, and the hue of his thick mustaches and short peaked
beard formed a strong contrast to the whiteness of his half bare chest,
which was pale as the marble of Paros.

"A good morning, my Lord!" said Anna with a delightful smile, while
Christina addressed herself to Ormiston; "I hope your dreams have been
pleasant?"

"They were of thee, fair Anna"——

"Then they must have been delightful," she replied with gaiety, eluding
the Earl, who endeavoured to possess her hand.  "And you have slept
well?"

"On this downy couch I could not have reposed otherwise than well,
lady."

"I am glad you appreciate what is all the work of my own fair hands; for
know, sir, that this quilt of eider-down was the last essay of my
perseverance and industry."

"Thine, fair Anna!"

"Thou seest I am not one to hide my candle under a bushel."

"By the wheel of St. Catherine!" said the Earl, smiling as he smoothed
down the quilt, which was entirely made of soft feathers from the breast
of the eider-duck, woven into bright and beautiful patterns; "there is
something very adorable in the idea of reposing under what your pretty
fingers have wrought!"

"Konrad scaled the highest cliffs that overhang the fiord to bring me
these feathers.  Poor Konrad!  He has clambered for me, where not even
Jans Thorson or the boldest man on the bay would dare to climb, even to
win his daily bread."

"And who is this Konrad?" asked Bothwell, suspiciously.

"He who—permit me to say—-saved you from the ocean last night; and but
for whom, perhaps, you had now been in heaven."

"St. Mary forefend it had not been a warmer place!"

"I have brought you our morning grace-cup," said Anna, placing it in his
hand; "drink to the prosperity of the Lords of Welsöö, my lord, and let
me begone, for I have my uncle, Sir Erick, and others, to visit with the
same gift."

The Earl promptly kissed her hand, and emptied the cup, thus displaying
the difference between his open nature and that of Ormiston, who, being
ever on the alert against treachery and surprise, declined tasting the
ale, until, as a compliment, Christina Slingbunder first put it to her
rosy lips, after which he drained the goblet at one gulp, and clasping
the buxom damsel in his arms imprinted a kiss upon each of her cheeks,
for which she roundly boxed his ears; and, when the ladies had
withdrawn, both he and the Earl lay back in their beds, bursting with
laughter, for Ormiston exercised his wit in various jests on this
unusual visit—jests which the modest Magister Absalom Beyer has failed
or declined to record.

To his great satisfaction, the Earl found that his vessel, the
Fleur-de-lys, a stout little brigantine, had been so much shattered by
the late storm, that by the solemnly delivered verdict of David Wood his
skipper, Hans Knuber, and other seafaring men of Bergen, the work of
several days would be required to refit her for sea—and these days, with
the recklessness of his nature, he resolved to devote entirely to the
prosecution of an amour, the end of which he could not entirely foresee.

Though solemnly betrothed to Lady Jane Gordon, second daughter of George
Earl of Huntly, who had been slain at the battle of Corrichie, the love
he once felt and avowed for her, had evaporated during his wandering
life and long absence from Scotland; and as it happened that the heart
of the amorous Earl abhorred a vacuum, he gave way to all the impulses
of this new passion, which the beauty and winning manner of Anna were so
well calculated to inspire and confirm, and which he thought would prove
a pleasing variety and amusement in his exile.  A month had elapsed
since they separated at Copenhagen, and that short separation had served
but to increase the flame which a longer one would as surely have
extinguished.

The morning meal was over; the castle hall had been converted into a
court of justice, where, seated in his red leather chair, with his
orders on his breast, Erick Rosenkrantz heard pleas and quarrels, and
gave those decisions which constituted him the Solon of Aggerhuis and
Lycurgus of Bergen. The Earl had returned from the beach, where the
entire population of the little town had crowded to witness the unusual
sight of hauling his vessel into a rude dock, constructed in a creek of
the rocks, where Hans Knuber and all the fishermen on the fiord had been
lounging since daybreak, with their hands stuffed into the pockets of
their voluminous red breeches, criticising with seaman-like eyes, and
commenting in most nautical Norse, on the rig, mould, and aspect of the
Scottish ship.

As Bothwell, with his white plume dancing above his lofty head, the
embroidery of his mantle, and the brilliants of his belt and bonnet
sparkling in the sunshine, ascended to a terrace of the castle that
overlooked the fiord, the notes of a harp struck with great skill,
mingling with the voice of Anna, fell upon his ear, and he paused.

She was singing an old Scandinavian air, which, being chiefly remarkable
for its melody and simplicity, was admirably adapted to her soft low
voice.  Nothing could surpass the grace of her figure, as she bent
forward over the rudely formed but classic instrument—her face half
shaded by her glossy hair, that fell in profusion from under the little
velvet cap before mentioned, and glittered in the sunshine, like the
wiry strings among which her small white hands were moving so swiftly.

The grass of the terrace was smooth as velvet, and permitted the Earl to
approach so softly, that not even his gold spurs were heard to jangle as
he walked.  Though Anna appeared not to perceive him, she was perfectly
aware of his approach.  Conscious of her skill as a musician, and of her
own beauty, which she had that day taken every precaution and care to
enhance, and animated by a coquettish desire to please one whom she well
knew to be her lover, she continued to sing unheedingly, and the Earl
was thus permitted to approach (as he thought unobserved) until he leant
over the parapet close beside her. He felt his heart stirred by the
pathos of her voice; for, animated by an intense desire to please and to
conquer, she sang exquisitely an old song, with which, in her childhood,
she had heard the Wandering Lapps welcome the approach of summer.

    I

    "The snows are dissolving
      On Tornao’s rude side;
    And the ice of Lulhea
      Flows down its dark tide.
    Thy stream, O Lulhea!
      Flows freely away;
    And the snowdrop unfolds
      Its pale leaves to the day.


    II

    Far off thy keen terrors,
      O winter! retire;
    And the north’s dancing streamers
      Relinquish their fire.
    The sun’s warm rays
      Swell the buds on the tree;
    And Enna chants forth
      Her wild warblings with glee.


    III

    Our reindeer unharness’d
      In freedom shall play,
    And safely by Odin’s
      Steep precipice stray.
    The wolf to the forest’s
      Recesses shall fly,
    And howl to the moon
      As she glides through the sky:


    IV

    Then haste my fair Luah"——


She paused, and gradually a blush deepened on her cheek, for with all
her graceful coquetry and gaiety, there was at times a dash of charming
timidity in her manner; so, suddenly becoming abashed, she raised her
mild eyes to those of the Earl, and immediately cast them down again,
for his cheek had flushed in turn, increasing the manly beauty of his
dark features, which the shadow of his blue velvet bonnet, and the
graceful droop of his white ostrich feather, enhanced; and she knew that
his eyes were beaming upon her with the sentiment her performance and
her presence had inspired.

She had read it all in his burning glance, and at the moment she cast
down her eyes, a new sensation of joy and triumph filled her heart.  The
experienced Earl was aware that the fair citadel was tottering to its
fall.

"Gentle Anna," said he, in his softest and most dulcet French, "for my
unseasonable interruption I crave pardon, and beg that you will
continue, for every chord of my heart is stirred when you sing."

"There is but one verse more," replied Anna, as she bent her head with a
graceful inclination, and shaking back her long fair tresses, continued—

    IV

    "Then haste my fear Luah,
      O haste to the grove!
    To pass the sweet season
      Of summer in love.
    In youth let our bosoms
      With ecstasy glow;
    For the winter of life
      Ne’er a transport can know."


"Sadly true it is, fair Anna," said the amorous Earl, as he leaned
against the gothic parapet, and very nonchalantly played with his
fingers among her flowing ringlets; "youth is indeed the only season for
love and joy—for due susceptibility of the blooming and the beautiful."

"And for futile wishes and dreamy fancies," replied the young lady with
a sad smile.

"Dost thou moralize?" laughed the Earl; "why, gentle one, I who am ten
years thy senior have never once dreamt of morality yet—moralizing I
would say—ha! ha! that will suit when my years number sixty or so, if
some unlucky lance or sword-thrust does not, ere that time, spoil me for
being a doting old monk; for, as the white-haired Earl Douglas said,
when he in old age assumed the cowl, ’One who may no better be, must be
a monk.’  (By the mass I would make a rare friar!)  To me there is
something very droll in hearing a pretty woman moralize. And so thou
considerest youth the season for dreams and fancies?"

"O yes! for now I am ever full of them."

"’Tis well," replied Bothwell, glancing at the rugged castle, and its
still more rugged scenery; "for there are times when the realities of
life are not very pleasant.  But hath not old age its fancies too, and
its dreams?"

"True, my Lord, but dreams of the past."

"Nay, of the present.  Faith!  I remember me when I was but a boy at
Paris, old Anne, Madame la Duchesse d’Estampes, who might have been my
grandmother, fell in love with my slender limbs and beardless chin, and
wellnigh brought me to death’s door with her villanous love philtres.
From those days upward, my own mind has been full of its fancies, fair
Anna, and I have had my daydreams of power and ambition, of love and
grandeur, and wakened but to find them dreams indeed!"

"Those of love, too," murmured Anna.

"Yes—yes," said the Earl, whose face was crossed by a sudden shade,
which Anna’s anxious eye soon perceived; "why should I conceal that,
like other boys, I have had my vision of that land of light and
roses—visions that faded away, even as the sunlight is now fading on
yonder mountain tops—and the hour came when I wondered how such wild
hopes had ever been cherished—how such dreams had ever dawned—and I
could look back upon my boyish folly with a smile of mingled sadness and
of scorn."

"’Tis a bitter reflection that a time may come when one may marvel that
one ever loved, my lord."

"And hoped and feared, and made one’s-self alternately the victim of
misery or of joy—raised to heaven by one glance, and sunk into despair
by another.  Yet, dear as a first love is while it lasts—at least so say
minstrel and romancer—there are thousands who live to thank Heaven that
they were not wedded to that first loved one."

"Dost thou really think so?" colouring with something of pique at the
tenor of this conversation, which made her think of Konrad.

"The experience of my friends in a thousand instances hath taught me
so," said the politic Earl, who began to feel that the topic was
unfortunately chosen; "but," he added adroitly, as sinking his voice he
took her hand in his, "dear Anna, never will the day come when I shall
thank Heaven that I was not wedded to thee."

Again the quick blush rushed to Anna’s neck and temples; she bent over
her harp, and said in a low but laughing voice—

"Fie!  Lord Bothwell, surely I am not your first love?"

"Thou art, indeed, dear Anna!"

"Go, go!  I will never believe it."

"My first, my last, my only one!" said the Earl, encircling her gently
with his arms, and pressing her forehead against his cheek; and, though
this assertion was not strictly true, in the ardour of the moment he
almost believed it so.  "Until the moment we parted at Frederick’s
palace gate—parted as I thought to meet no more—I knew not how deep was
my unavowed love for thee.  Hear me, Anna, dear Anna!  I love thee with
my heart of hearts—my whole soul!  My name, my coronet, all I possess,
are at thy feet; say, dear one, canst thou love me?"

Borne away by the ardour of his passion, he brought out this avowal all
at a breath—"for," sayeth the Magister Absalom, "he had repeated it, on
similar occasions, twenty times"—and, pressing her to his heart, slipped
upon her finger a very valuable ring.

"Canst thou love me, Anna," he continued in a broken voice, "as I love
thee—as my bride, my wife? and"——Anna replied an inaudible something, as
she hung half-fainting with confusion on his breast.

Bothwell had almost paused as he spoke, half scared by his own
impetuosity, and feeling, even in that moment of transport, a pang, as
the thoughts of ambition and the world arose before him.

And the ring!

By the false Earl, the fond giver of that little emblem of love was
forgotten.  On the inside was engraved—

    "The gift and the giver,
    Are thine for-ever."

It was the pledge of betrothal from Jane Gordon of Huntly, and now it
sparkled on the hand of her rival!

"As this circlet is without end, so without end will be my love for
thee, Anna," said the impassioned noble, forgetting that with these very
words, for that ring he had given another, before the prelate of
Dunblane. Anna trembled violently; she felt his heart beating against
her own, and a new, rapid, and consuming sensation thrilled like
lightning through every vein and fibre.  She became giddy, faint; and,
like a rose surcharged with dew, reclined her head upon the shoulder of
the handsome Earl.

"And thou art mine, Anna—mine, for ever!"

"O, yes—for ever!" she whispered; and passionately and repeatedly
Bothwell’s dark and well mustached mouth was pressed on her dewy lip.

Footsteps approached!

He started, and hurriedly led her to a seat; placed her harp close by,
raised her hands to his lips with an air in which love and tenderness
were exquisitely blended with courtesy and respect, and then hurried
away.

Overcome, and trembling with the excitement of this brief interview,
Anna bent with closed eyes over her harp for a moment; but becoming
suddenly aware that some one stood near her, she started, and the pallor
of death and guilt overspread her flushed face when her eyes met those
of—Konrad.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                               *KONRAD.*

    To lose thee!  O, to lose thee!  To live on
      To see the sun—not thee!  Will the sun shine,
    Will the birds sing, flowers bloom, when thou art gone?
      Desolate—desolate!  Thy right hand in mine.
        _King Arthur._


Konrad’s dark blue eyes were regarding her with a peculiar expression,
such as she had never before seen them wear.  There was an intense
sadness in it, mingled with pity and scorn.  It was searching and
reproachful, too; and, though Anna felt all that single glance conveyed,
she never quailed beneath it; but the blood came and went in her
changing cheek as she surveyed her indignant lover.

The appearance and bearing of young Konrad were very prepossessing.

During the whole of that day he had been out hunting, and was now
returned laden with the spoil of forest and fiord.  A doublet of white
cloth, trimmed with black fur, slashed with scarlet sarcenet at the
breast and sleeves, and adorned with a profusion of silver knobs, fitted
tightly to his handsome figure; his trunk hose were fashioned of the
same materials, and he wore rough leather boots, and a smart velvet cap
adorned by an eagle feather, under which his long hair descended in fair
locks upon his shoulders. He was equipped with a crossbow,
hunting-knife, and bugle-horn, and a sheaf of short arrows bristled in
his baldrick.  An immense cock-of-the-wood and a bag of golden plover
were slung over one shoulder, balanced on the other by a pouch of
seabirds’ eggs, taken from their eyries in those impending cliffs that
overhang the bay, where, clinging as a fly clings to a wall, he had
scrambled and swung fearlessly above the surf; and, chief spoil of the
day, he bore upon his shoulder a black fox, which he had slain by a
single bolt from his crossbow.

His natural colour had been increased by exercise; and he looked so
handsome and gallant as he sprang up the terrace steps with his unwound
arblast in his hand, that Christina Slingbunder sighed as he kissed her
dimpled hand a moment before, when enquiring for her mistress; but now
the mind of that fickle mistress was too full of Bothwell’s image to
think much, if at all, on her former lover.

Unwilling to admit to her those bitter suspicions and jealousies that
were harrowing up his heart, Konrad addressed her as usual, and with an
air of affected gaiety laid the spoil of his bow and spear at her feet.
She bowed in silence, and regarded them dreamily.

"See how beautiful is the fur of this fox! Will not its blackness
contrast well with your snowy skin, dear Anna?"

"Tush!" said she, a little pettishly; "flatter not thyself, good Konrad,
I will make me trimmings of an odious fox-skin; away with it!"

Konrad was piqued by this unusual reply, but he still continued—

"Then behold this great woodcock; see how broad, how dark and beautiful
are its pinions!"

"Truly, good Konrad, thou teazest me," replied Anna, stroking them with
her white hands, but thinking the while how much its plumage resembled
Bothwell’s black locks.

"And where thinkest thou I winged him, Anna, with a single bolt from my
arblast?"

"I know not," she replied vacantly.

"Thou wilt never guess," continued Konrad, resuming something of his
tender and playful manner, despite the palsy in his heart.  "In the Wood
Demon’s _oak_."

"Then this bird may cost thee dear, for the demon will avenge it some
day!"

"Already he is avenged!" said Konrad, with sudden bitterness.

Anna smiled, for she knew his meaning well.

"Oh, Anna!" said the young man, laying his hand earnestly on hers; "how
changed thou art! what have I done to offend thee?"

"Nothing!"

"Then, by some accursed magic this ring hath bewitched thee!"

"Ring!" she reiterated, changing colour.

Konrad dashed his crossbow on the earth.

"And is it so?" he exclaimed; "O Anna!  Anna! like Zernebok, the spirit
of darkness and of evil, this Scottish Earl hath crossed my path.  I saw
him salute thy cheek again and again, yet thou didst not reprove him.
Even wert thou to love me again as of old, the charm would be broken;
and O, my God! there is nothing left me but to wish we had never met!"

Anna leaned upon the parapet, and averted her face a little.  The
accents of Konrad’s voice—that voice she had once loved so well—sank
deep in her heart; but Bothwell’s kiss, still glowed upon her cheek, and
her heart was steeled against remorse.

"Anna," continued her lover, in a tone of sadness, "so completely was my
life identified with thine, that we seemed to have but one being—one
existence: the love of thee was a part of myself.  I have often thought
if thou wert to die, I could never live without thee; but I have lost
thee now by a separation more bitter than death.  Thou knowest, Anna
Rosenkrantz, how long, how well I loved thee, ere thou went to
Frederick’s court; and in truth I had many a bitter doubt if, at thy
return, I would find thee the same artless and confiding girl that left
me."

"And when I did return?" asked Anna, with a smile.

"Thou hadst forgotten to love me," replied Konrad clasping his hands.

"’Tis the way of the world," laughed Anna.

"The cruel and selfish world only."

"Be it so."

"Then thou lovest me no more?"

Anna played for a moment with the fringe of her stomacher, and then
replied "_No!_"

The young man turned away with an unsteady step, and pressed his hand
upon his forehead, as if he would crush some overpowering emotion.  Anna
lifted her little harp, and was about to retire.  Konrad took her hand,
but she abruptly withdrew it; a pang shot through his heart, and
something of remorse ran through her own at the unkindness of the
action.

He caught her skirt, and besought her to listen to him for the last
time.

"Anna, dearest Anna!" he said in a breathless voice; "oh, never was
there a love more pure or more devoted than mine!  Long, long ago, I
endeavoured to crush this passion as it grew in my breast, for I knew
the gulf that lay between us—thou, the daughter of Svend of Bergenhuis,
the wealthy and ennobled merchant, famous alike for his treasures and
his conquests over the Burghers of Lubeck and the Dukes of Holstein—I,
the representative of a race that have decayed and fallen with the pride
of old Norway, even as their old dwelling on yonder hill," and he
pointed to the ruined tower on the distant Saltzberg; "even as it has
fallen almost to its foundations.  As these convictions came home to my
heart, I strove to crush the expanding flower—to shun thee—to avoid thy
presence, as thou mayest remember; but still thine image came ever
before me with all its witchery, and a thousand chances threw us ever
together.  Ah! why wert thou so affable, so winning, when, knowing the
secret that preyed on my heart, thou mightest so much more kindly have
repulsed me? why encourage me to hope—to love—when thou wert to treat me
thus?"

"Enough of this," faltered Anna; "permit me to pass—I can hear no more."

"How cruel—how cold—how calculating! It is very wicked to trifle thus
with the best affections of a poor human heart.  O Anna! in all the time
I have loved you so truly and so well, it was long ere I had even the
courage to kiss your hand."

"Because thou wert ever so timid," said Anna, with a half smile.

"Timid only because my love was a deep and a sincere one.  But what were
my sensations," and he grasped his dagger as he spoke; "what agony I
endured, on seeing this accursed stranger kiss your cheek?"

Anna’s colour deepened, and again she endeavoured to retire.

"Oh, tarry one moment, Anna!" continued the poor lover in a touching
voice, and kneeling down while his eyes filled alternately with the
languor of love and the fire of anger. "In memory of those pleasant
hours that are gone for ever, permit me once again to kiss this hand—and
never more will I address you.  Refuse me not, Anna!"

"Thou tirest me!" she replied, stretching out her hand, but averting her
face; for the beautiful coquette had "a smile on her lip and a tear in
her eye"—a smile, for she could not repress her triumph in exciting so
much love—and a tear, for she could not stifle her pity.

Konrad kissed her hand with the utmost tenderness.  It lingered a moment
in his, but was suddenly withdrawn.  The light left his eyes; a curtain
seemed to have fallen between him and the world—and he was alone.

On the terrace which had been the scene of this sad interview, he
lingered long, with his heart crushed beneath a load of conflicting
emotions.  The love he had so long borne Anna now began to struggle with
emotions of wounded self-esteem and anger at her cold desertion.
Jealousy prompted him to seek some deadly vengeance, and from time to
time he cast furtive glances at his steel arblast, with its sheaf of
winged bolts, that lay among the spoil he had brought from the forest.
Had the Earl of Bothwell appeared within bowshot while these evil
thoughts floated through the brain of Konrad, our history had ended,
perhaps, with the present chapter; but, luckily, he was at that moment
engaged at the old game of Troy with Sir Erick in the hall.

"I could not slay him!" thought the young man, generously, as other
emotions rose within him; "no, not even if he smote me with his clenched
hand.  She seems to love him so much, that his death would be alike a
source of misery to her and deep remorse to me.  Dear Anna! thy
happiness will still be as much my aim as if I had wedded thee; but I
pray God thou mayest not be deceived, and endure—what I am now
enduring!"

These generous thoughts soothed not his agony; and bitter was the sense
of loneliness, of misery, and desolation, that closed over his heart in
unison with the shadows of evening that were then setting over the wide
landscape below.

"And she coldly saw me weep!" he exclaimed.

He felt that he must leave Bergen and the presence of Anna—but for
whence?  Whether for the desolate settlements of the half-barbarian
Lapps, or the wars of the Lubeckers and Holsteiners, he could not
decide.  His love of the chase inclined him to the first; his weariness
of life, to the last.

Such were his thoughts; but at two-and-twenty one seldom tires of
existence, whatever its disappointments and bitterness may have been.

The sun had set on the distant sea, and the long line of saffron light
it shed across the dark blue water died away; the gloomy shadows of the
rocks and keep of Bergen faded from the bosom of the harbour, and red
lights began to twinkle one by one, in the little windows of the wooden
fisher-huts, that nestled on the shelving rocks far down below, among a
wilderness of nets, and boats, and anchors.

From the terrace of the castle, miles beyond miles of rocky mountains
were seen stretching afar off in blue perspective towards the
surf-beaten Isles of Lofoden; and, tipped by the last red light of the
sun that had set, their splintered and rifted peaks shot up in fantastic
cones from those endless forests, so deep, and dark, and solemn—so
voiceless, and so still.  Konrad’s melancholy meditations were
uninterrupted by a sound; no living thing seemed near, save a red-eyed
hawk that sat on a fragment of rock.

He could hear his own heart beating.

Though his mind was a prey to bitterness the most intense, he watched
the sunset, and the changing features of the landscape, with all the
attention that trifles often receive, even in moments of the deepest
anguish.

Gradually the shadows crept upward from the low places to the mountain
tops.  Each long promontory that jutted into the far perspective of the
narrow fiord, was a steep mountain that towered from its glassy bosom in
waveworn precipices; between these lay the smaller inlets, long and
narrow valleys full of deep and dark blue water, that reflected the
solemn pines by day, and the diamond stars by night.  Some were dark and
sunless, but others glittered still in purple, gold, and green, where
the eider-duck floated in the last light of the west; and all was still
as death along the margin of that beautiful bay, save the roar of a
distant cataract, where a river poured over the chasmed rock, and sought
the ocean in a column of foam.

Night drew on; the bleating of the home-driven kids, the flap of the
owlet’s wing, and faint howl of a wandering wolf, broke the stillness of
the balmy northern eve; while the wiry foliage of the vast pine-forests,
that flourished almost to the castle gates, vibrated in the rising wind,
and seemed to fill the dewy air with the hum of a thousand fairy harps.

Konrad, who, with his face buried in his hands, had long reclined
against the rampart of the terrace, was startled to find close beside
him a tall dark man, whose proportions, when looming in the twilight,
seemed almost herculean, intently examining the great wood-cock, in the
bosom of which a cross-bow bolt was firmly barbed.

Filled with that inborn superstition which is still common to all
Scandinavia, his first thought was of the terrible _Wood Demon_, in
whose venerated oak he had so heedlessly and daringly shot the bird.
Animated by terror, such as he had never known before, a prickly
sensation spread over his whole frame, and even Anna was partially
forgotten in the sudden horror that thrilled through him, as, with an
invocation to God, he sprang upon the battlement of the terrace.

The dark stranger uttered a shout, and sprang forward. Konrad’s terror
was completed.

He toppled over, made one palsied and fruitless effort to clutch the
grass that grew in the clefts of the ancient wall, and failing, launched
out into the air; down, down, he went, disappearing headlong into that
dark abyss, at the bottom of which rolled the ocean.

"Cock and pie!" muttered Black Hob, with astonishment; (for it was no
other than he,) as he peered over the rampart, "was it a madman or a
bogle that vanished over the wall like the blink of a sunbeam?"

He stretched over, cast down one hasty glance, and instinctively drew
back; for far down at the base of the beetling crags, he saw the ocean
boiling, white and frothy, through the obscurity below.

A wild and unearthly cry ascended to his ear.

"By the blessed mass, a water-kelpie!" muttered Ormiston, as he hurried
away in great disorder.

Konrad escaped a death on the rocks, but, falling into the ocean, arose
to the surface at some distance from the shore.  Breathless and faint by
his descent from such a height, he could scarcely (though an excellent
swimmer) make one stroke to save his life.  A strong current running
seaward round the promontory, drove a piece of drift-wood—a pine
log—past him.  He clutched it with all the despair of the drowning, and,
twining himself among its branches, was thus swiftly, by the currents of
the fiord, borne out into the wide waste of the Skager Rack.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                        *THE COCK-OF-THE-WOODS.*

    In woman thou’rt deceived; but that we
    Had mothers, I could say how women are,
    In their own natures, models of mere change;
    Of change from what is nought, to what is worse.
      _The Lady’s Trial._


In Norway there existed (and exists even unto this day) a certain
malicious spirit, who is ever on the alert to poke a finger in every
body’s affairs, and to put every thing wrong that ought to be right.  He
hides whatever is missing, and brings about every mischance that happens
to man, woman, or child—to horse and to dog—to the huntsman in the
woods—to the fisher on the fiord.  The blame of every ill is laid on the
shoulders of this unfortunate and omnipresent sprite—NIPPEN; who, though
secretly blamed, cursed, and feared, must outwardly be spoken of with
reverence and respect, or his unremitting vengeance and malevolence are
certain and sure.

Always after nightfall, to obtain his good-will, a can of spiced ale is
deposited in a certain nook of every household for the especial behoof
of the thirsty imp; who, if he cannot find time to empty all the cans so
liberally bestowed, generally permits some of the wandering Lapps, the
houseless dogs or questing foxes, that are ever wandering after
nightfall, to have that pleasure; so that next morning Nippen’s ale-can
is usually found empty in its place.

In the castle of Bergen it was the morning occupation of Anna to spice a
cup of ale until it was exquisitely flavoured, and then, in accordance
with the still existing superstition, Christina Slingbunder placed it in
a solitary nook of the terrace, for the prowling spirit of mischief, who
nightly found it there; but Sueno Throndson frequently and somewhat
suspiciously averred, that Nippen came in the shape of a Danish
crossbowman to drink it.

On the evening mentioned in the preceding chapter, Ormiston, chancing to
pass that way, observed the bright flagon standing in its sequestered
niche, and drew it forth.  He surveyed it with great interest in various
ways—and then tasted it.  The flavour was delicious, and he drained it
to the bottom.

The spiced liquor mounting at once to the brain of Hob, threw a sudden
cloud over all his faculties, which were never very bright at any time;
and thus next morning he had no remembrance of his adventure with Konrad
on the terrace, on the preceding evening. At the same hour, however, he
failed not to examine the same place; and finding there another mug of
that divinely flavoured beverage, without hesitation transferred the
contents to his stomach, much to the disappointment of a certain Danish
soldier, who, finding himself anticipated a second and third time, began
with some terror to imagine that Nippen was at last beginning to look
after his property in person.

The fumes mounted to the Knight of Ormiston’s brain; and carolling the
merry old ditty of "The Frog that came to the Mill Door," he danced
round the terrace, kicking before him the cock-of-the-woods, that was
still lying where Konrad had left it.  As he was about to descend,
Bothwell, gaily attired, with his eyes and countenance radiant with
pleasure, sprang up the stair, taking three steps at a time.

"Good-morrow, noble Bothwell!" said Ormiston, balancing himself on each
leg alternately.

"What the devil art thou following now, eh?" asked the Earl.

"My nose, for lack of something better!"

"Thou seemest very drunk!  Surely the ale at dinner to-day was not over
strong for thee.  But, harkee, I have triumphed!"

"Indeed! but the fact is, I am too drunk at the present moment to see
exactly how!"

"Guzzler! thou understandest me very well!"

"A notable triumph for one who, if rumour sayeth true, broke many a
sconce and many a spear at the Tournelles for the love of a French
princess!"

Bothwell coloured deeply; a dark frown gathered on his broad brow, and
his dark, expressive eyes filled with light; but the expression and the
momentary emotion passed away together.

"I value thy gibes not a rush.  To me all the world is now concentrated
in this rude Norwegian castle!"

"What a difference between a man who is in love like thee, and one who
is not, like me!"

"My stout Hob, thou knowest more of foraying by Cheviot side, and
harrying the beeves of Westmoreland, than of making love!"

"Heaven be praised, for I have known this same love turn many a bearded
man into a puling boy."

"It can exalt the heart of a coward into that of a hero.  It can expand
the bosom of the austere hermit into that of a jovial toper"——

"And endow Bothwell, the hellicate rake, with all the virtues of Bothan,
the saint and confessor."

"I wish all the imps in hell had thee!" said the Earl, turning away.

"I thank thee for thy good wishes," replied his friend, reeling a
little; "and so thou hast really and irrevocably given thy heart to this
grey-eyed Norwegian."

"Grey-eyed, thou blind mole!  Her eyes are of the brightest and purest
blue."

"I say _grey_, by all the furies! and I protest, that I love neither
grey-eyes nor the name of Anna."

"Wherefore, most sapient Hob?"

"Because I never knew an Anne that was not cold-hearted, or a grey-eyed
woman that was not cunning as a red tod."

"Marry! a proper squire to judge of beauty," said the Earl laughing;
but, nevertheless, feeling very much provoked.  "But thou wilt know how
to shape thy discourse, when I say that I am about to ask her hand of
Erick Rosenkrantz."

"By St. Christopher the giant, thou art mad!" said Ormiston, with a
gravity that shewed the assertion had sobered him; "be wary, be prudent.
Should the Lord Huntly"——

"My malediction on Huntly!  He shall never see my face again; so it
matters not. He may bestow his pale sister, the Lady Jane, on some
ruffling minion of the bastard Moray, the crafty Morton, the craftier
Maitland, or of the thundering Knox, who now have all the sway in that
court, where the outlawed Bothwell shall never more be seen."  And with
one hand twisting his mustaches, and the other playing with the pommel
of his dagger, the Earl strode away, and left his friend and vassal to
his own confused reflections.

Bothwell, who had ever been the creature of impulse, without delay
sought old Sir Erick of Welsöö, whom he found seated in a nook of the
ramparts, basking in the long lingering sunshine, and sheltered from the
evening wind by the angle of the turret. His long sword rested against
one arm of his chair, a pewter mug of dricka was placed on the other,
and before him stood Sueno, cap in hand, receiving certain orders with
all due reverence.

"What the devil is this Van Dribbel tells me?" he was saying as Bothwell
approached. "All the beer soured by the thunder-storm! I marvel that it
hath not soured my temper too, for there never was a man so crossed, I
tell thee, Sueno.  It was my wish that Konrad should have undertaken the
capture of this necromancer, and seen him hanged in one of his own
devilish cords; and now Konrad is nowhere to be found.  How dares he
leave the precincts of Bergen without my permission?"

"His Danish archers have searched every where," said Sueno, "even to the
base of the Silverbergen, sounding their horns through the forest, along
the shores of the fiord, and the margin of the bay; and I would venture
my better hand to a boar’s claw, that the Captain Konrad is not within
the province of Aggerhuis."

"Sayest thou so!" exclaimed the Knight Rosenkrantz, who, between the
attention required by his offices of castellan and governor,—the
machinations of a water-sprite who dwelt in the harbour of Bergen, where
he daily wrought all manner of evil to the fishermen,—Nippen, who made
himself so busy in the affairs of all honest people on the land,—the
gnomes of the Silverbergen, who stole his poultry,—and the cantrips of a
certain mischievous demon inhabiting the adjacent wood, and had thrice
turned three fair flocks of Sir Erick’s sheep into field mice, in which
shape he had seen them vanishing into mole-tracks in the turf, where a
moment before they had been browsing,—the old governor, we say, who,
with all these things to divert his attention, never found time hang
heavy on his hands, made a gesture of anger and impatience, and he swore
a Norse oath, which the Magister Absalom Beyer has written so hurriedly
that our powers of translation fail us; but he added—

"My mind misgiveth me that something is wrong.  Away, Sueno, take a band
of archers, and once more beat the woods with shout and bugle, and if
Konrad appears not by sunrise to-morrow, by the holy Hansdag I will—not
know what to think."

The threat evaporated; for honest Rosenkrantz loved the youth as if he
had been his own son.

Though Bothwell had a grace, effrontery, or assurance (which you will)
that usually carried him well through almost every thing he undertook,
and which won every one to his purpose, he could not have chosen a more
unfortunate crisis for the startling proposal, which he made with
admirable deliberation and nonchalance to the portly Rosenkrantz; who no
sooner heard the conclusion, than he said with a hauteur, to which
Bothwell, at all times proud and fiery, was totally unaccustomed, and
which he did not think this plain unvarnished Nordlander could assume—

"Excuse me, I pray thee, my Lord Earl of Bothwell.  Though I venerate
your rank and mission, as ambassador from the Queen of the Scots (here
the Earl’s cheek glowed crimson), I cannot give my niece to you, even
were I willing to bestow her.  She is the first and only love of my
young friend, Konrad of Saltzberg, as gallant a heart as Norway owns; he
to whose daring you and your friends owed preservation on the night of
the storm.  From childhood they have known and loved each other, yea,
since they were no higher than _that_," holding his hand about six
inches from the ground; "growing up, as it were, like two little birds
in the same nest, twining into each other like two tendrils from the
same tree; and a foul stain it would be on me to part them now, even
though King Frederick came in person to sue for the hand of Anna."

"Hear me, Lord Erick," began Bothwell, alike astonished and offended at
the rejection of a suit, which he secretly thought was somewhat
degrading to himself.

"I know all thou wouldst urge," said Erick, shaking his hand; "but this
may not, cannot be; for thou art a man too gay and gallant to mate with
one of our timid Norwegian maidens."

The inexplicable smile that spread over the Earl’s face, shewed there
was more in his mind than the honest Norseman could read. He was about
to speak, when Sueno approached bearing in his hand a dead bird, and
having great alarm powerfully depicted in his usually unmeaning face.

"Oh, Sir Erick—Sir Erick—what think you? last night Konrad of Saltzburg
shot this cock in the Wood Demon’s oak!"

"Now, heaven forefend!" exclaimed the Castellan, sinking back in grief
and alarm. "Then, Sueno, thou needst search no more. God save thee, poor
Konrad!"

"How—how, wherefore?" asked Bothwell; "what has happened?"

"We shall never behold him more.  He hath assuredly been spirited away,"
replied Rosenkrantz in great tribulation; for in the existence of all
those elementary beings incident to Norse superstition, he believed
devoutly as in the gospel; "he hath been spirited away, and enclosed
Heaven alone knoweth where—perhaps in a rock or tree close beside us
here—perhaps in an iceberg at the pole"——

"Amen!" thought Bothwell, who would have laughed had he dared; "I would
that the Captain of Bergen were keeping him company!"

"O Sueno! thou rememberest how it fared with thy brother Rolf, when he
stole acorns from that very tree?"

"Yes—yes—as he crossed the Fiord in the moonlight, a great hand arose
from the water, and drew down his boat to the bottom—and so he perished.
Poor Rolf!"

"And with the father of Hans Knuber, who left his axe resting against it
one evening, in the summer of 1540?"

"An invisible hand hurled it after him, and broke both his legs."

"And Gustaf Slingbunder, who pursued a fox into its branches, was
bewitched by the demon in such wise, that he ran in a circle round the
tree for six days and nights, till his bones dropped asunder."

"Saint Olaus be with us!"

Erick Rosenkrantz and Sueno continued to gaze at each other in great
consternation, while Bothwell looked at them alternately with
astonishment, till the blast of a horn at the gate arrested their
attention, and a Danish archer approached, to inform his excellency the
Governor of Aggerhuis, that a royal messenger from Copenhagen required
an audience.

"So this unmannerly boor hath rejected my suit!" muttered the haughty
Earl, as he turned away; "mine—by St. Paul!  I can scarcely believe my
senses.  If my _roué_ friends d’Elboeuff or Coldinghame heard of it,
they would cast a die to decide which was the greater fool—Bothwell or
Rosenkrantz. Rejected!  Be it so; but to have this damsel on my own
terms shall now be my future care."



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                        *LORD HUNTLY’S LETTER.*

    All self-command is now gone by,
      E’er since the luckless hour when she
    Became a mirror to my eye,
      Whereon I gazed complacently.
    Thou, fatal mirror! where I spy
      Love’s image.
        _Bernard de Pentadour._


Anna, who might have formed some excuse for Konrad, (whom she supposed
to have voluntarily expatriated himself, as he threatened,) maintained a
silence on the subject of their last interview, and, wholly occupied
with her new and glittering lover, troubled herself no more about the
old one.

She was teaching the Earl the polsk, the national dance of the Norse,
and to which they are enthusiastically attached.  Christina and three
other attendants played on the ghittern, harp, and tabor, taking at
times a part in the figures of the dance.

While the Earl, with his cloak and rapier flung aside, and having one
arm round the waist of Anna, was performing with her a succession of
those rapid whirls which make this dance so closely to resemble the
modern waltz, Black Hob of Ormiston entered the hall, and beckoned him
with impatience in his gestures.

"How now!" said the Earl, pausing; "is the devil in the bush again?
Thou hast a face of vast importance, Hob.  By Jove! it seems to swell
out even that voluminous ruff of thine!"

"Peradventure there be reason.  Behold! here are letters from
Copenhagen."

"Hah! say you so?"——

"Sent by that king’s messenger who came hither but an hour ago!"

"Pardon me, Lady Anna," said the Earl with sudden confusion; "I must
speak with my friend, but will rejoin you in a few minutes.  Whose seals
are these, Hob?" he asked, as they descended to the terrace, hurriedly
by the way, examining the square packets, which were tied with ribbons,
and sealed with wax at the crossing.  "By the Holy Paul! ’tis from
Frederick of Denmark this!"

"And this from the Earl of Huntly; see! it bears the boar-heads of
Gordon and the lions of Badenoch!"

"O, death and fury! it will be but one tissue of reproaches and
upbraidings from the Lady Jane.  Throw it into the sea!"

"What! wilt thou not read it before?"

"I could scarcely do so _after_.  Read it thyself!" replied Bothwell;
"for Huntly and I have nothing now in common!"

Each tore open a letter, and began slowly and laboriously to decipher
the cramped and contracted hand-writing so common to the sixteenth
century.  The effect of these communications was very different on the
readers.  A bright smile spread over the broad visage of the Knight of
Ormiston; while a frown, black as a thunder-cloud, gathered on the dark
brow of Bothwell.

"Fury!" he exclaimed, crushing up the letter.  "God’s fury, and his
malison to boot! be on this white-livered dog—this foul traitor"——

"Who—who?"

"Frederick"——

"How—the King of Denmark and Norway! These are hard names for his
majesty to receive within his own fortress of Bergen. What tidings?"

"He declines all further correspondence with me concerning the Shetland
Isles, and threatens, that if by the vigil of Saint Denis—now but three
days hence—we are found within the Danish seas, to send me captive to
Queen Mary, with a full account of my mock embassy.  ’Tis some
machination of my foeman, Murray."

"Devil burn him!" said Hob.  "Well, is it not better, after all, to be
Lord of Bothwell and Hailes, at home in puir auld Scotland, than Prince
of Orkney and Lord of Hialtland, branded as a traitor till the very name
of Hepburn becomes (like that of Menteath of old) a byword and a scoff
in every Scottish mouth—banned alike in the baron’s hall and at the
peasant’s hearth—while thou wouldst writhe hourly to free thy head from
under the sure claws of the Danish lion."

"Right, Hob!  Throw his letter into the sea, and, if thou art clerk
enough, let us hear what our noble friend, the Lord Huntly, sayeth."

Ormiston read as follows:—

"To the Right Honorable my very good Lord and especial friend, James
Earl of Bothwell, Lord of Hailes, Liddesdale, and Shetland, High
Admiral, Sheriff of Haddington, and Bailie of Lauderdale, _Give this in
haste—haste—haste_.

"We write to hasten your return, as the Queen’s Majesty hath relaxit
your Lordship and the worshipful Laird of Ormiston from the horn, and
hath banished the Lords Moray, Morton, and others, your enemies, into
England, quhere they are now residing and resett at the frontier town of
Berwick, for the slaughter of umquhile David Rizzio, her Grace’s Italian
secretary.  Her Majesty desireth me to recal you to her presence, with
solemn assurance that your sentence of forfeiture is reversed, your
fiefs and honours restored.  My dearest sister, the Lady Jane, and my
bedfellow, the Lady Anne, send their devoted love to your Lordship.

"So the blessing of our Lady be with you, and grant you long life and
great commoditie!

"Done at our castle of Strathbolgie in the Garioch, on the vigil of St.
Cuthbert the Confessor, 1565.

"HUNTLIE."


Ormiston threw up his bonnet, his black eyes flashed and filled with
tears, as he exclaimed—

"Now, God’s blessing on her Grace! from this hour I am her leal man and
true.  Now man, Bothwell, I am sick to death of this grim Norwayn
castle, and its old ale-drinking, chess-playing, and pudding-pated
castellan, who is part woodman, part fisherman—half knight, half
bear—and I long to see the yellow corn waving on my ain rigs of
Ormiston, with the grey turrets of my auld peel-tower, looking down on
bonny Teviotdale.  Would I were there now, and three hundred of my tall
troopers with lance, and horse, and bonnets of steel, all trotting by my
side. Benedicite!"

"Three hundred devils! thy wits have gone woolgathering.  I have
promised love and troth to Anna; and if I return with her as my bride,
Huntly and Aboyne, Black Arthur and Auchindoune, will all come down like
roaring lions from the hills of Badenoch and the wilds of
Strathbolgie—so that I may as well stay here and face Frederick."

"What! dost thou fear a feud with the gay Gordons?"

"Thou knowest," replied the Earl haughtily, "that I fear nothing, as I
shall show thee.  I love this girl with my whole heart, Ormiston; yet
now, when the first fierce burst of love is past, I see the folly of a
man like me being tied like a love-knot to a woman’s kirtle."

"Leave her behind thee here."

"I cannot—I cannot!  What a moment of imbecility was that, when I
betrothed myself to Jane of Huntly!"

"A cursed coil! women on both hands; danger in returning and danger in
remaining. Our Lady direct us!"

"Dost think she will interest herself in the affairs of such a couple of
rascals as we are?"

"Thou speakest for thyself."

"Nay, I speak for thee in particular."

"Thou gettest angry," said Ormiston; "remember the old saw—’He that is
angry is seldom at ease.’"

"Tush! .... True it is," said Bothwell musingly, after a long pause—"I
love Anna better than my own life, and, because winning her may cost me
some trouble and danger; yet I feel that to wed her is to wreck my ship
on a dangerous shore.  I am grown indifferent to Lady Jane, because I
may have her for the asking—besides, I am sick of dark eyes."

"Especially Parisian!"

The Earl’s brow knit, but he continued gently—

"I have promised marriage to both; and to one my plight must be broken.
What matters it?  ’Tis only to a woman; and did not one whom I loved
with all the depth and holiness of a first love, slight that passion as
valueless, and laugh me to scorn when she chose another?"

"Remain here, and we shall be sent captives to Scotland, where all the
particulars of our pretended embassy to Denmark will be discovered."

"And if I return with this little Norwegian by my side, St Paul! but I
must keep my best sword buckled there too."

"Any thing thou likest, but let us leave this desolate land.  Let us
once more have our feet on Scottish ground, and our hands on our
bridles; we shall then make our own terms with Huntly and the Queen.  If
this dame Anna will go"——

"Go! oh, thou knowest not how the little creature loves me!  Ardent and
impulsive to excess, she will follow me wherever I list."

"While the fit lasts," rejoined Ormiston drily.  "Take her with thee,
but leave her with some of thy friends in Orkney till we hear how
matters go at Holyrood.  There is old Sir Gilbert Balfour of Westeray,
will keep her close enough in his strong castle of Noltland, where, when
once thou seest the queen again, she may chance to remain for the term
of her natural life."

Hob paused, and scratched his rough beard with a knowing expression; for
he knew enough of his friend to foresee how matters would be in a month.

"Out upon thee, Hob!" said he; "thou art ever prompting me to some
knavery."

"But this letter of Huntly"——

"Thank heaven it came!"

"Thou wert about to throw it into the sea."

"St. Mary! but for its contents we must have sailed on a hopeless quest
to France, to Italy, or to heaven knows where; for I am already too well
known by evil repute throughout the most of Europe.  But away, Ormiston,
to the harbour.  Seek David Wood, our wight skipper, and that
red-breeched knave, Hans Knuber, who assists him.  Let them have our
_Fleur-de-lys_ ready to sail.  I will hie me to Anna, and ’tis not
unlikely we may put to sea about dusk."

A smile was exchanged.

"Gramercy!" said the knight, "I hope she will not forget to bring her
maid, who views my outward man with a favourable eye, so that we may all
sail merrily together. Hey for hame!  By cock and pie!  I almost fancy
myself at my ain tower-yett, with my broad banner displayed, and my
stout horsemen behind me.  Ho! for one headlong gallop by Ettrickshaws
or Teviotside—_Te Deum laudamus_!  God’s blessing on our own land, that
lies beyond sea, for it is like no other!" and whirling his bonnet round
his head, more like a great schoolboy than a strong man of six feet
eight inches, Ormiston with one bound sprang down the steep steps
leading from the terrace to the shore; while the Earl, somewhat slowly
and thoughtfully for so ardent a lover, returned to the presence of
Anna, who, piqued by his long and unceremonious absence, was pleased to
receive him with a pouting lip and a clouded brow, which his caresses
soon dispelled.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                        *THE HERMIT OF BERGEN.*

    When fortune makes the match, she rages,
      And forsakes the unequal pair;
    But when love two hearts engages,
      The kind god is ever there.
    Regard not, then, high blood nor riches,
      You that would his blessings have;
    Let love, untaught, guide all your wishes.
      Hymen should be Cupid’s slave.
        _Sir Charles Sedley._


The Reformation had been accomplished in Denmark and Norway, during the
reign of Frederick I., about thirty years before the period of which we
write.  It had made great progress among the simple and half barbarian
Norse, who, though they had laid the ancient hierarchy in the dust,
received nothing equal in exchange; and consequently the codes of
religion and morality lay lightly on the necks of the people.

A Catholic church was still permitted at Gluckstadt; the title of
bishop, the auricular confessional, the crucifix, and other Romish rites
and ceremonies, were still retained, though the government was avowedly
and essentially Lutheran.  Some persons adhered rigidly to the ancient
form of worship, others to the new; but many more took a middle and very
convenient course, and for a time believed in—nothing.

It was while matters were in this state, particularly in the province of
Aggerhuis—that a half-crazed monk, who had belonged to a suppressed
monastery in Fuhnen, and whose brain was said to have been turned by the
severities to which he had been subjected, by the ecclesiastical
superintendent of the reformed church in that diocese, became an
anchorite, and undisputed occupant of a cavern on the fiord, near the
castle of Bergen. The fame of his austerity, the severity of his
penances, and the circumstance of his having made his dwelling in a
cavern which for ages had been the reputed habitation of Zernebok, an
evil demon, whose name is familiar to the Norse, had been quite enough
to procure him a fame beyond the province of Aggerhuis.  By night the
fishermen shuddered, crossed themselves, and sedulously avoided the long
ray of light that streamed from the mouth of his deep cavern upon the
glassy waters of the bay; for, notwithstanding his reputation for
sanctity and holiness on the one hand, he was dreaded for possessing
various supernatural and unpriestly attributes on the other.

But to return from this digression, which was necessary, as the hermit
is about to be introduced with due formality to the reader, we may
briefly state that the gay Earl, notwithstanding all his eloquence and
powers of persuasion, which were very great, failed to prevail on Anna
Rosenkrantz to make an unconditional elopement with him; nor would her
pride and self-esteem permit her to trust implicitly to one whom she
knew to have earned at Copenhagen the dubious reputation of a finished
gallant and accomplished courtier.

Much as she loved him, and—notwithstanding her inconstancy to Konrad,
she loved him well—Anna could not so utterly sacrifice the name and
honour of her family, or be so oblivious of that delicacy which a
Norwegian maiden so seldom forgets; and thus, though Bothwell urged with
all the oily eloquence that love, ardour, and gallantry lent him, the
danger of that delay which would sacrifice him to Rosenkrantz, who in
three days, by the king’s mandate, would be compelled to make him a
prisoner, Anna only wept, and would not—could not—consent to accompany
him, unless—

"Unless we are wedded; is it not so, dearest Anna?" said the handsome
noble, as she reclined helplessly and in tears on his bosom, within an
alcove of the terrace that overlooked the bay.

Anna made no reply.

"Decide, dearest, decide!" urged the Earl, pointing to his ship that was
now gallantly riding in the fiord, with her white canvass half unloosed,
and glimmering white in the faint twilight of the northern evening.
"Decide! for by the express command of the governor, your uncle, I must
be far beyond yon blue horizon ere the sun rises; and then thou wilt see
me no more!"

Anna sobbed bitterly, and she thought of the triumph the rejected Konrad
might feel and display, if the Earl sailed without her. Proud, and
perhaps not a little artful, her heart was torn by love, doubt, and
anguish; and her answers were very incoherent.

"Oh! what would my uncle Rosenkrantz say, if"——

"I have bade adieu to Rosenkrantz, and he deems me already on board.
Since the arrival of King Frederick’s mandate, he has been so full of
vapour and dignity, that though I cannot but laugh at it, we can hold no
further communication; and if, after my late proposal, which he so
scornfully rejected, he knew I was here—and with thee"——

"True, true, we would be separated."

"And for ever!  I know your scruples, dearest Anna," said the Earl
tenderly; for, moved by her tears, and the utter abandonment in which
she reclined on his breast, with her face half hidden by the bright
masses of her hair, and by her position permitting soft glimpses of a
full and beautiful bosom, he felt that he loved her with his whole
heart; and that the troth he had plighted to Lady Gordon, the vengeance
of the fierce Highland noble her brother, and the wrath or favour of the
Scottish court, were all alike to be committed to oblivion. Love bore
all before him victoriously for the time; and Bothwell, ever the
creature of impulses, yielded to that of the moment.

"Hear me for the last time," he urged. "The good hermit, of whom I have
heard you speak so often, and whose abode is in the cavern among yonder
rocks, from which we now see a ray of light that trembles on the water,
will unite us, and in my own land will I wed thee again, with such
magnificence as becomes a bride of the house of Hailes.  Consent,
dearest Anna! and one blast on my horn will bring a barge to the beach;
refuse, and we must part, Anna, never to meet again."

She could make no reply, but drew closer to her winning lover, and
exchanged with him one long and passionate kiss, and Bothwell knew that
he had triumphed.

"My beloved Anna!" he murmured, as he raised her in his arms, and felt
at the moment that ever to love another than this fair being, who
trusted to him so implicitly, would be sacrilege, and an impossibility.

"Christina—call Christina Slingbunder! Oh!  I cannot go alone," she
sobbed.

Bothwell, aware that there was not a moment to lose, beckoned to the
waiting-woman, who had been lingering at the corner of the terrace; and
who, without knowing what was to ensue, followed him, while he half led
and half bore her mistress down the steep and devious pathway that led
to the beach.

Darkness had almost set in; the long Norwegian twilight had given place
to starry night, and they were unseen by the Danish sentinels, who
lounged dreamily on the summit of the keep, and at the castle gate of
Bergen.  As he descended, Bothwell drew from his embroidered belt a
small but exquisitely carved bugle-horn, accoutred with a silver
mouthpiece, on which he blew one short and sharp blast of peculiar
cadence, that drew an echo from every rock and indentation of the
harbour.  Ere the last had died away, the sound of oars was heard, the
water was seen to flash in the starlight, and a boat glided into the
dark shadow thrown by the castle rocks upon the deep water of the fiord;
it jarred against the landing-place, and Christina Slingbunder, who was
about to make some violent protestations against proceeding, had the
strong arm of Ormiston thrown around her.

"Welcome, Bothwell!" said he; "never heard I sound more joyous than thy
bugle; for the last hour our wight skipper hath been swearing like a
pagan."

"Wherefore?"

"At thy delay."

"Then the knave most e’en solace himself by swearing on."

"He says, if this breeze continues, we will be past Frederick’s-vaern by
sunrise."

"All the better, Hob," replied the Earl, as he lifted Anna on board;
"but I hope he hath our demi-culverins cast loose, and a few yeomen in
their armour, in case of surprisal."

"Right—dost thou not see I am in harness?" said Ormiston, making his
steel glove clatter on his corselet; for, save the head, his whole bulky
frame was completely armed. The eight seamen who pulled the boat were
all clad in pyne doublets, and armed with swords and daggers, and they
wore the national head-dress, the broad bonnet of blue worsted, adorned
with a silver coronet and horse’s head—the Earl’s crest.

"Now, my stout varlets," said their lord, "dip, and away!"

"Away for the ship!" added Ormiston.

"Nay, for the hermit’s grotto under yonder rocks, where thou seest a
light now gleaming on the water.  Away, and a golden angel on the best
oar!"

Ormiston gave a low whistle, expressive of surprise and pity at the
folly of his friend, and endeavoured, by a series of somewhat
unceremonious caresses, to console the sobbing and half-frightened
Christina, who had begun to weep most obstreperously; but he knew enough
of the Earl’s temperament to be aware that any remark was now futile;
and in reality, as he cared not a rush whether he married the Norwegian
or not, he resolved to let matters run their course.

All sat silent, and nothing was heard but the interjections of the
waiting-woman, and the suppressed breathing of the stout oarsmen, as the
boat strained and creaked when their sinewy efforts shot her out into
midstream.  Anna reclined against the shoulder of the Earl, with her
face hidden in a satin hood, and his mantle of crimson velvet rolled
around her.

Now rising in her silvery glory from the sea, the broad round moon, with
a splendour impossible to describe, aided the brightness of the northern
night.  One broad gleam of steady radiance extended up the fiord from
the horizon to the shore; and when, like a black speck, the boat shot
across it, the breakers of the distant ocean, like wavelets of silver,
were seen rising and falling afar off, amid the liquid light.

The summit of the rocks of Bergen, and the square tower that crowned
them, were shining snow-white in its splendour, but their base was
hidden in more than Cimmerian gloom; for though the bright moonlight
tipped the eminences and peaks of the far off mountain, the darkness of
midnight rested on the bosom of the still fiords and bays that rolled in
shadow a thousand feet below them.

From the murky obscurity of a mass of granite, that overhung the deepest
part of the fiord, where the rocks descended like a wall abruptly to
their foundations, many fathoms under the surface of the water, a faint
and flickering light, that gleamed redly and fitfully, directed the
steersman to the uncouth dwelling of this hermit of the sea. A sudden
angle of the rocks revealed it, and the oarsmen found themselves close
to a low-browed cavern, that receded away into the heart of the granite
cliffs that overhung the surf.

A seaman made fast the boat, by looping a rope round a pinnacle of rock
near the narrow ledge, where the fishermen of Bergen usually left such
alms and offerings as fear or piety impelled them to bestow on the
hermit, whom they alike dreaded and respected.  On these rocks the
sea-dogs basked in summer, and shared the hermit’s food in winter, when
they crawled through the crevices in the ice, that for six months of the
year covered the water of the bay.

The Scottish mariners, who did not altogether like their vicinity to the
abode of this mysterious personage, cowered together, conversing in low
whispers; and their swarthy visages seemed to vary from brown to
crimson, in the red smoky light that gushed at times from the mouth of
the rugged cavern, as the ocean wind blew through it.  Bothwell, who
could not for a moment quit the trembling Anna, requested Hob of
Ormiston to acquaint the recluse with the nature of the boon they had
come to crave of him.

Participating in the fears of the mariners, Hob evidently did not admire
venturing on this mission alone.  On one hand, a powerful curiosity
prompted him; on the other, a childish superstition, incident to the
age, withheld him: but he was a bold fellow, whose scruples of any kind
never lasted long, and in a minute he had loosened his long sword in its
sheath, looked to the wheel-lock of his dague, and sprung up the rocks.
His tall feather was seen to stoop for a moment as he entered the
cavern, and made signs of the cross as he advanced; for though the Laird
of Ormiston, like most of the lesser barons in Scotland for a generation
or two after 1540, professed no particular creed, any ideas he had of
religion appertained to the Church of Rome—therefore the aspect of the
cavern, as he penetrated, was singularly adapted to make a deep
impression on his mind.

A pile of drift-wood blazing in a cleft of the rock, through which its
smoke ascended, filled the cavern with warmth; and a red glow, that lit
up the rugged surface of its rocky walls and arched roof, displaying the
wild lichens that spotted them, and the green tufts of weed that grew in
the crannies.

A myriad of metallic particles, green schorl, blue quartz, rock crystal,
and basaltic prisms, glittered in the blaze of the hermit’s fire.  It
revealed also the strange and ghastly fissures of the cavern, which had
been formed by some vast subterranean throe of nature, that had rent
asunder the solid mountains; and, by hurling one gigantic mass of rock
against another, formed this deep retreat, into which Hob of Ormiston
penetrated with a resolute aspect but a hesitating heart.

The roar of a subterranean cataract, that poured down white and foaming
behind one of these ghastly seams, lent additional effect to the aspect
of the cavern—at the upper end of which stood an altar of stone, having
on it a skull polished like ivory by long use, a rude crucifix, and the
words—

                       Sancte Olaf ora pro nobis,

painted above it on the wall in large and uncouth characters.  At the
approach of Ormiston, the hermit arose from his lair or bed of dried
seaweed, and a more wild and unearthly object had never greeted the eyes
of his visitor.

His years might number sixty; he was perfectly bald, and his scalp shone
like that of the skull, to which his visage, hollow-eyed and attenuated
to the last degree, would have borne no distant resemblance but for the
long white beard of thin and silvery hair that flowed to his waist.  He
was clad in the skin of the sea-dog, and his bare legs and arms were so
lean that they resembled the bones of a skeleton, with veins and fibres
twisted over them.  As the hermit arose, Ormiston paused; and while he
gazed with irresolution, the wild man did so with wonder; for the
Scottish knight was richly accoutred in a suit of plate armour; his hose
were of scarlet cloth twined with gold, and the band of his blue velvet
bonnet, like the hilt of his dagger, sparkled with precious stones.

"Heaven save you, father!" said he, uncovering his head, and speaking in
that broken Norwegian dialect which he had acquired among the
Shetlanders.

"And what, may I ask, hath procured me a visit from a son of vanity and
trumpery like thee?" asked the old man of the rock, surveying Ormiston
with a glance approaching to disdain.

"An errand of friendship, good father," replied the other, whose
uneasiness was in no way soothed when he saw, by the restless and
unearthly aspect of the hermit’s eyes, that he was evidently insane;
"from one who hath a boon to crave of thee."

"Of me—Ha! ha!" laughed the hermit, and the reverberations of his
laughter, that echoed a hundredfold through the fissures of the cavern,
seemed to the imaginative ear of Ormiston like that of fiends ringing
from an abyss, and, signing the cross, he involuntarily drew back.  The
wild hermit seemed to enjoy his terror, and laughed louder still.

"What wouldst thou have? a blessing implored upon thy vessel, that
neither the mermaids of the moskenstrom nor the water-spirit may bewitch
it; nor that Nippen may come in the night and turn thy compass round
from north to south, and so lead thee within the folds of the mighty
Jormagundr, that great ocean snake which lieth coiled up under the
frozen regions of the pole, and one dash of whose tail makes the great
whirlpool to boil for a century?  Hah!"

"Nay, good father," said Ormiston; "for none of these things have I
sought thee, but to crave a blessing and the bands of wedlock for a
knight and lady, who choose rather to receive their nuptial benediction
from thee, who art a remnant of our ancient faith, (Heaven forgive me
this vile blasphemy!) than from one of these newfangled parsons whom
King Frederick hath planted in Norway."

"Good," replied the hermit, as a smile spread over his ghastly visage;
"and what return will be made me if I concede to your request?"

"Return!" stammered Ormiston, taking a silver chain from his neck, but
immediately replacing it, for he saw that he had not to deal with an
ordinary man.  "Holy father! though the lady is noble, and the knight is
both noble and wealthy, they can make no other return than a promise to
hold thy name in kind remembrance, and pray for thee daily, in memory of
the blessing thou wilt bestow."

"Good again—thou pleasest me; let these strangers approach."

"By what name art thou known, father?"

"The fishermen call me the Hermit of the Rock.  When I lived in the
world I had another name.  I was Saint Olaf of Norway."

"Now, God keep the poor hermit!" said Ormiston; "five hundred years have
come and gone since that blessed preacher and converter of these wild
lands from paganrie to the true faith, rested from his holy labours."

"Five hundred years!—thou sayest right well.  All that time have I dwelt
in this cavern, where I shall perhaps dwell five hundred more; but lead
forward thy friends."

"Blessed Jupiter!" muttered Ormiston, as he hurried away, "methought the
tying of this pretended nuptial knot was likely to cost more trouble
than the untying of those on the enchanted cord.  What, ho! my Lord of
Bothwell."

"Odsbody!" exclaimed the Earl, "thou hast tarried long enough in all
conscience. Is the occupant of this place man or woman?"

"Neither, by Jove!  I think him half saint, half Satan, and wholly
intolerable."

Anna trembled, and her attendant shrieked with terror, when they were
lifted on the ledge of the rock that led to this uncouth dwelling.  The
seamen, whom the Earl had no wish should witness a ceremony which he
might one day prefer to have forgotten, he desired imperatively to
remain by their oars, and, as they were all his own vassals, they dared
not to disobey.

"You will not follow me unless you hear my bugle blown, in sign that we
are in some peril; and, by St. Andrew, the place looks perilous enough!
But take courage, dearest Anna!" he whispered, "for I am with thee!"

Anna answered only by tears, and kept her face hidden within her hood.
Her fears, and those of Christina Slingbunder, were no way allayed by
the appalling aspect of Saint Olaf—the hermit of whom they had heard so
many tremendous tales; and even Bothwell, as thorough a daredevil as
ever drew sword, was startled for a moment; but, pressing Anna closer to
him, he advanced at once to the hermit—and, in virtue of the vows he had
once pronounced, requested him to unite them in marriage, and bestow his
benediction upon them.

Tall Ormiston held his bonnet before his mouth; for a broad laugh spread
over his dark and burly visage when he saw the Earl kneeling before this
uncouth priest, whose insanity was so evident that even he, a border
baron, felt some shame and reluctance at the profanity and folly of the
adventure. When viewed by the light of the pine fire, that at times died
away and anon shot up redly and fitfully, the aspect of this wild man of
the rock, with his attenuated legs and arms clad in a gaberdine of
seal-skin, his long and bushy beard glistening tremulously in the flame
like streaming silver, his deeply sunk yet sparkling eyes of most
unearthly blue—gave him all the appearance of a half crazed scald or
saga from the frozen caves of Iceland—he seemed so spectral, so shadowy,
and so like the wavering vision of a dreamer.

Sinking with terror and confusion, Anna had but a faint idea of all that
passed around her, until she found herself once more in the bright
moonlight with another ring on her finger, Bothwell’s arm around her,
and her burning cheek resting against his; while the diamond-like water
flashed around them as it fell from the broad-bladed oars, and the
seamen pulled hard and silently away from the cavern.  The appearance of
the hermit, who stood on a pinnacle of rock holding aloft a blazing pine
branch with one hand, while he bestowed benedictions with the other,
adding not a little to the energy with which they increased the distance
between them and the shore.  The Earl saw that the poor recluse was
perfectly insane, yet there was something singularly wild and sublime in
his aspect; he seemed so like an inspired prophet, or seer, or one of
those strange demons with whom Norse superstition peoples every element,
every wood, and rock, and hill.

Cheerfully pulled the stout rowers, and again the towers of Bergen rose
above them, shining snow-white in the light of the autumnal moon.  As
they neared the ship, the startled Ormiston mattered a curse and a _Hail
Mary!_ in the same breath, when a long line of fire suddenly gleamed
across the bosom of the water, and there shot past their bows a swift
boat, in which stood a tall figure brandishing a spear; his whole
outline was dark and opaque, while a blaze of light shone behind him.

"’Tis only a night-fisher!" said Anna, with a smile; and now one more
stroke of the oars brought them alongside of the Earl’s ship, from the
mizen-peak of which his own banner, bearing the chevronels of Hepburn
and the azure bend of Dirleton, waved heavily in the night wind.

The _Fleur-de-lys_ was gaudily painted and gilded, low in the waist, but
high in the bows and poop, where two great wooden castles, bristling
with falcons and arquebuses, towered above the water.  Each mast was
composed of two taper spars, fidded at the topcastles.  The Earl’s
crest—a white horse’s head—reared up at the prow, balanced by a mighty
lantern at the stern.  Her sails were loose, and glimmered in the
moonlight as they flapped heavily against the yellow masts and spars.

The Earl was welcomed by a shout from the sailors, who, with the master
and his mates, crowded, bonnet in hand, around him.

Giving orders to sail immediately for the Isles of Orkney, he bore Anna
to the little cabin, that, during his wanderings by the Adriatic and
Italian shores, had received many a similar tenant.  Like a boudoir, it
was hung with the richest arras, lighted by silver lamps that were
redolent with perfume, as they swung from the deck above, and from
globes of rose-coloured glass shed a warm and voluptuous glow around the
lovers.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                          *THE FLEUR-DE-LYS.*

    I’ll lo’e thee, Annie, while the dew
      In siller bells hangs on the tree;
    Or while the burnie’s waves o’ blue,
      Run wimplin to the rowin’ sea.
        _Scott Song._


It is difficult, says the Magister Absalom, to analyse the nature of the
Earl’s love for this fair but fickle Norwegian.

His conscience and his interest led him to remember, that adherence to
those vows so solemnly exchanged with Lady Jane Gordon, was the most
honourable and prudent course; but this sudden passion, conceived by him
for Anna Rosenkrantz at the Court of Copenhagen, and pursued in that
rash and obstinate spirit with which he plunged into every new amour and
vagary, soon made him commit to oblivion those vows which one yet fondly
and sadly brooded over.  A temporary separation, an unexpected meeting,
as shown in the beginning of our story, had fully developed his
sentiments for Anna, and in this mock marriage brought them to a crisis.

Having been frequently abroad, under every variety of fortune—at one
time commanding a French army during a desperate civil war; at another,
charged with an important embassy; and often an exile desperate in
circumstances—in the wandering life he had led for many a year, his
career had been one of such wild adventure and danger, that his code of
morality fitted him loosely as his gauntlet; thus, with all the love he
bore Anna, though as yet he shrank from wedding her before the altar of
that church where he had knelt in childhood, this espousal of her,
before a half-witted Norwegian hermit, exactly suited the wildness of
his fancy and the romance of his temperament.

His trusty friend and libertine follower, Hob of Ormiston, whose fate
and fortune were so completely identified with his own, knew, from old
experience, that the flame of his lord had expanded too suddenly to burn
long; and as the love fit and the voyage would in all probability end
together, he would not have objected to wedding Christina Slingbunder in
the same easy and fantastic fashion, although he was already handfasted,
as the phrase was, to a lady of gentle blood at home.

Though she saw not the clouds that overhung her future career, Anna was
very much dejected, when next morning she lay with her head reclining on
the shoulder of that lover to whom she had sacrificed herself, and the
love of Konrad; and into whose hands she had committed the honour of her
family and her future fate.

Bright rose the sun from the waters of the Skager Rack; the hills of
Denmark were on their lee, and those of Norway, with all their pouring
waterfalls and echoing woods, were lessening far astern.  A gentle
breeze was blowing from the westward; and as the heavily-pooped ship
careened over, her great white lateen sails bellied before it, and the
bright green water flashed from her sharp prows to bubble in snowy
showers under the head of the white steed that, with blood-red nostrils
and arching neck, reared beneath the gallant bowsprit.

The sailors, with Nicholas Hubert and the Earl’s other pages and
servants, were grouped in the forecastle and in the deep waist, over
which peered the brass arquebuses of the poop.  The skipper, Master
David Wood of Bonyngtoun, in Angus, with a great gaudy chart (such as
was then prepared in the Hanseatic towns for the use of mariners) spread
on the capstan, was intently measuring the distance from the Naze of
Norway to the Oysterhead of Denmark; from thence to Thorsmynde, and so
on.

He was a short, squat man, with a thick scrubby beard and heavy
eyebrows; he wore his blue bonnet drawn well over his forehead, to keep
the sun from his eyes, and had a gaberdine of blue broadcloth, with
immense pockets at the sides, red trunk breeches, which met a pair of
black funnel boots about three inches below the knee.  He carried a
pocket-dial and a long dagger at his girdle.

Hob of Ormiston, minus weapons and armour, without which he was never
seen on shore, was yawning with ennui, wishing, as he often said,
"sea-voyaging at the devil," and (in absence of Christina, who was very
sick a-bed) endeavouring to wile away the time by watching for an
occasional shot at the passing birds with his wheel-lock caliver, and
whistling the old air then so much in vogue—

                   "The Frog cam to the Myll doore."


Anna and the Earl were seated under a small tapestry awning, which
screened them from the view of the groups in the waist on one hand, and
from the watch and timoneer on the other.  Her eyes were full of tears.

"Anna, dearest, why so sad?" said the Earl, pressing his dark mustaches
against her white forehead.  "Do you regret the step you have taken for
my sake?"

"Oh no!" she whispered in a soft low tone; "but I sorrow when I think of
the knight Rosenkrantz, my poor old uncle, who since infancy has been so
kind to me; my dear and only kinsman, when worn out by years and their
infirmities, to be left alone by me in his old age—by me whom he loves
so well!  Who now will soothe him in sickness as I have done, and cheer
him in the long nights of winter when I am far away? My place will be
vacant at the board to-day, my chair by the fire to-night.  My harp
stands there beside it, but he will hear my voice no more.  Oh! he will
be very lonely—desolate!"  Her tears fell fast and bitterly.

"Speak not thus, dear Anna!" said the Earl, kissing her again; and, glad
to say any thing that might soothe her, he added, "We will return to him
again, and together will we cheer his declining years."

"But he never will forgive me, nor love me as of old."

"He will!  We shall kneel at his feet and implore his forgiveness,
(Ormiston whistled very loud); and, if he loves you so well, he could
never resist your supplications."

He kissed her with ardour, and the girl was soothed.

Fondly and trustfully she looked in his face.  There was a light in her
clear eyes, a flush on her soft cheek, and an infantile smile on her
cherry lips, that made her quite bewitching, as she lay half fainting on
Bothwell’s breast and half embraced by him, listening to his
oft-repeated, and perhaps too voluble, vows of constancy and love.

"Farewell, dear Norway—a long farewell!" she exclaimed, kissing her hand
with playful sadness to the distant stripe of blue that shewed where her
native hills were fading far astern.  "I may no more hear the rush of
thy waterfalls, or see thy pine-clad hills, and deep salt fiords,
overhung by the sweetbrier and purple lilac that scent their waters in
summer, or the silver birch and dark-green pine that shadow them in
autumn and in whiter; but oh! _Gammle Norgé_, I never will forget thee!"

"Anna," said the Earl, "from the ramparts of my castle of Bothwell, I
will shew thee a valley of the Clyde, and such a territory as no lord in
all Scandinavia could shew his bride; and bethink thee, that hold of
Bothwell is thrice more magnificent than Frederick’s castle of Elsineur.
I have eight stately fortresses, the least of which would make four of
yonder castle of Bergen; I have four lordships, each of which is richer
than your native province of Aggerhuis; and I have four sheriffdoms,
each of which is worth three of it—and thou shalt be lady of them all!
When I wind this horn from Bothwell castle gate, it finds so ready an
echo at the tower of Lawhope, the house of Clelland, the keep of
Orbiestoun, and the place of Calder, that five thousand men, all dight
for battle, are in their stirrups, and a hundred knights, the best in
Scotland, are proud to unfurl their pennons beneath the banner of James
Hepburn of Hailes!"

The Earl’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and those of Anna lit up with
delight and pride; while Ormiston, who considered himself the
representative of these hundred good palladia, adjusted his ruff
complacently, and drew himself to the full extent of his six feet odd
inches.

"And," whispered Anna, "and will you always love me as you do now?"

"O yes—ever and always!" replied the impassioned lover.

Ormiston whistled dubiously, and then continued his ditty—

    "The Frog cam to the Myll doore,
      And a low bow made he, O!
    Saying, ’Gie, Sir Miller, a scrap o’ thy store
      To a Frog of gentle degree, O!’"



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                        *THE ISLE OF WESTERAY.*

    ’Tis evening quick;——’tis night:——the rain
    Is towing wide the fruitless main;
    Thick, thick;—no sight remains the while
    From the farthest Orkeny Isle,
    No sight to seahorse or to seer,
    But of a little pallid sail
    That seems as if ’twould straggle near.
      _Leigh Hunt._


The course of the Earl’s ship lay westward; but heavy gales blew her far
to the north, and for many days she beat about in that tempestuous ocean
which roars around the hundred Isles of Shetland, pouring its foam upon
their bluff precipices and into the vast and resounding caverns that
perforate their stern shores, many of which have never seen other
inhabitants than the gigantic erne that built its nest in the cliffs,
the wild horse that browsed on the moor, and the whiskered walrus that
basked on the beach below.

On others lie the rude towers and dwellings of the hardy Udallers, the
ruined forts and runic tombs of those old ocean kings, who were so long
the terror of Britain, of Belgium, and of Gaul—the temples of the
Druids, the uncouth crosses and gothic chapels of that later creed which
Columba preached, and for which Saint Erick died—and the obelisks that
mark the lonely graves of the old Kuldei overlook the reedy moors, the
foaming maelstroms, and the rushing surges of the Ultima Thule.

For fourteen days dark grey clouds had overhung that struggling ship.
The sullenness of the sailors at the continuance of an adverse wind was
communicated to the Earl, who became petulant; for Anna and her
attendant were very unwell, and nothing cures love so much as a dose of
sea-sickness. On the fifteenth day the sun rose brightly from the ocean,
and tipped with light the dreary hills of Unst; the clouds dispersed, a
fair wind swept over the water, and the _Fleur-de-lys_ bore away merrily
for Westeray, an isle of Innistore, where stood the stronghold of
Noltland, possessed by one of Bothwell’s chief friends and adherents,
Sir Gilbert Balfour, a powerful baron, and cadet of the house of
Monkquhanny, in Fifeshire.

Anna, we have said, was very sick and sorrowful.  The Earl scarcely left
the side of her couch in the little tapestried cabin; and though in her
pallor and helplessness she was as beautiful as ever, the Magister
Absalom records, in his stiff, dry way, that Bothwell could not resist
the bitter and obtruding reflection, that it might have been better
(considering the turn of fortune in his favour at home) if his vessel
had not been driven into the harbour of Bergen, on the night in which
this history opened.

In their bud he endeavoured to crush these ungenerous and ungrateful
thoughts; but they recurred to him again and again, till one glance of
Anna’s pleading eyes, one smile of her pretty mouth, would put them all
to flight, and he felt that he could brave both Huntly and the queen for
her sake. Yet whenever he was alone, or beyond the immediate influence
of her charms, ambition, as of old, began to whisper in his ear and to
gnaw at his heart; pride and self-interest were on one hand—love and
generosity on the other.

The first flush of love was over.

Though he did not as yet entirely repent his strange espousal of this
fair northern girl, he foresaw that it would prove a formidable barrier
to his gaining any permanent ascendency over the faction of Moray and
Morton, as the principal strength of the Catholic lords consisted in
their unanimity, which was certain of being at an end, whenever Huntly
learned how Bothwell had broken his promise to his sister, Lady Jane
Gordon.

Ormiston had mentally been making similar reflections; and when a dark
cloud gathered on the broad and noble brow of Bothwell, or an expression
of deep meditation veiled the brightness of his fine dark eyes, he knew
well what visions were struggling for mastery in his bold and ambitious
heart. But the knight never intruded a remark of his own; and
remembering how often, when in the full glow of his new amour, the Earl
had so scornfully rejected his more sage advice, he resolved quietly to
let fate have its own way.

At the close of a stormy day, the isle of Westeray, like a dark blue
cloud, arose from ocean on their lee.  Dark and louring, the sky
communicated its inky hue to the sea, which was flecked by spots of
white, that marked the crests of the waves.  Like snow, their surf was
poured upon the jutting rocks and hidden reefs that fringe the island;
and thus, when night closed in, a white line of breakers alone indicated
where it lay.

As the sun set, his sickly rays poured a yellow light along the waste of
waters, and lit up with a parting gleam the gigantic façade of the
castle of Noltland, which towered above the rocks of Westeray, with its
heavy battlements and tourelles at the angles, its broad chimneys and
stone-flagged tophouses gleaming redly and duskily against the murky sky
beyond.  The light faded away from its casements, one by one they grew
dark, and an hour after the sun had set, the _Fleur-de-lys_ anchored on
that side of the isle which is sheltered from the waves of the Atlantic.

Joyously the Earl and his companions sprang upon the rude pier,
alongside of which their vessel was hauled after great labour, and much
swearing and vociferation by the seamen.  The night was now intensely
black, but the darkness of the beach was partially dispelled by the
blaze of ten or twelve torches, which were upheld by the retainers of
the Baron of Noltland, who hastened to the pier to receive the Earl.

Sir Gilbert Balfour of Westeray, who, to the office of master of the
household to Queen Mary, united the captaincy of the royal castle of
Kirkwall, was a man above the middle height, strongly made, powerfully
limbed, and well browned by constant exposure to the weather.  His hair
and beard, which were trimmed very short, were of the deepest black.  He
was richly attired in a doublet of yellow satin, embroidered with
Venetian gold; a scarlet mantle lined with white silk hung from his left
shoulder, and a small ruff fringed the top of a bright steel gorget that
encircled his neck.  His bonnet and trunk-hose were of black velvet.  He
carried a walking-cane, but was without other arms than one of those
long daggers such as were then made at the Bowhead of Edinburgh.  The
magnificence of his attire, which glittered in the torchlight,
contrasted forcibly with that of his islesmen who crowded about him.

Four or five, who seemed to act as a bodyguard, wore iron helmets
adorned with eagles’ feathers, coats-of-mail composed of minute rings of
steel linked together, and reaching nearly to their ankles.  They
carried battle-axes and short but powerful handbows slung on their
backs, and crossed saltirewise by sheafs of barbed arrows. Others were
clad in sealskin doublets, with plaids of purple and blue check, and
kilts of dark-brown stuff; but all were barefooted, barelegged, and
barearmed—strong, muscular, red-haired, and savage-looking men—whose
hazel eyes glistened through their matted locks in the light of the
streaming torches.

"Noble Bothwell—welcome to Westeray!" exclaimed Sir Gilbert, vailing his
bonnet. "I knew thy banner at a mile distant, when it glittered in that
brief blink of sunshine. Ha! stout Ormiston, I have not seen thee since
the day we fought side by side at the battle of Corrichie!  Welcome
home!"

"Balfour, I thank thee!" said Ormiston; "but dost thou call this home?
By Jove! I deem that we have many a long Scottish mile to travel yet,
ere we find ourselves under our own rafters."

"And if the same mischances attend me," said Bothwell, "I may cruise
about in these northern seas like another Ulysses, but without acquiring
his wisdom.  However, I have brought my Calypso with me. Ha! ha! now I
warrant, my trusty Gib Balfour, thou hast never read of this same Sir
Ulysses!"

"Read!  St. Mary forefend! though my brother, the Lord President, hath
compiled a notable book of ’Practiques,’ I never could read nor write
either, praise God! and by his aid never shall.  I can bite the pen and
make my mark, in sign of the blessed cross, like my father, the stout
knight of Monkquhanny, before me.  Of what service are booklear or
scholar-craft to a knight or gentleman of coat-armour?  Nay, pshaw!  I
leave all such to monks and scribes—to knaves and notaries—and content
me with the knowledge of arms, stable-craft, and falconrie, siclike as
becometh me; but this Sir Ulysses—what manner of knight was he? came he
from the Mearns or the west country?"

"A wise warrior he was, who fought valiantly at Troy, and he loved an
enchantress such as I have with me now."

"Thou, my lord!"

"Ay, in yonder vessel."

"A sorceress—God forebode!" said Balfour, stepping back a pace; "we must
have her burnt!  The sheriff court of Kirkwall meets at Lammas-tide.
’Tis well!"  Bothwell laughed.

"Thou mistakest me, honest Balfour!  The enchantress I mean, is a fair
girl whom I have brought with me from Norway, and who deals in no spells
save such as win the heart.  She is a lady of high birth and rare beauty
too; so brush up thy rusty chivalry, Sir Gilbert, and let me have a
litter forthwith for her conveyance."

"A lady! forsooth such brittle ware will find but rough accommodation
among us isles-men here at Noltland, where a silken kirtle hath not been
seen these ten good years, ha! ha!"

At that moment, Anna, supported by Ormiston and Christina her attendant,
appeared at the side of the vessel, about to cross a broad plank that
extended to the rough wooden pier, overlooked by the great donjon tower
of Noltland.  She was very pale; but the torchlight shed a tinge of red
on her cheek, and caused her heavy locks to glitter as the night wind
waved them to and fro.

The plank shook, and a half-stifled cry of fear escaped from Anna.
Bothwell advanced to her assistance, but at the instant a young man
sprang from the crowd of islesmen behind Sir Gilbert Balfour, dropped
into the water, seized the plank with both hands to steady it, while
presenting his shoulder for the lady to lean on.

She touched it lightly with her hand, and murmured her thanks as she
passed.

A low sigh fell upon her ear; and, with that quick apprehension of
sorrow and interest which is so characteristic of women, Anna turned to
her supporter, but his face was bent down and concealed, and she felt
agitated—she knew not why.

The young man trembled so much that he almost sank when she touched him.
He looked up once; there was a rustling of satin—a dreamy sense of
perfume and starched lace, and the vision passed away.  He was Konrad!

Ah! had Anna seen the deep and earnest, the sorrowful and affectionate
expression that lit his soft and upturned eyes, her heart would
assuredly have smote her; but the splendid Earl of Bothwell seized her
hand, and led her towards Sir Gilbert Balfour, by whom she was hurried
away.

Lighted by torches that streamed and sputtered in the night wind, and
flared on the rugged rocks that reared from the frothy ocean, the group
ascended the narrow and winding pathway that led to the castle. Konrad
gazed wistfully after them, with his hands pressed upon his forehead,
and with the air of one who struggles to preserve his senses.

When drifting about at the sport of the waves of the Christiana fiord,
and almost insensible from cold and misery, he had been picked up by a
small galliot bound for Kirkwall, and the crew had landed him in
Westeray a week before the arrival of Bothwell.

He had been protected by Balfour, who, being kind-hearted and
hospitable, felt interested in the young man on witnessing the dejection
and utter prostration of spirit under which he laboured.

The despair of a heart that has loved truly, and been deceived, is
sometimes so deep that no one can imagine its intensity. So it was with
Konrad.

The deep, dark consciousness of desolation that had been settling over
him, might have become in time a more subdued and morbid feeling of
regret; but now this sudden meeting brought back all his first hopes and
emotions to their starting-place, and renewed in poignancy all the agony
of that hour, in which he learned that he had lost her for ever.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                              *NOLTLAND.*

    The nicht followis, and every weary wicht
    Throwout the Erde has caucht anone richt,
    The sound pesund slepe them liket beat
    Woddis and rayeand sels war at rest.
    And the Sterne, thair myd coursis rollis doun,
    All the fieldis still othir, but noyis or soun.
      _The Æneid of Douglas_, 1518.


The long twilight of the northern eve had passed away, and the darkness
of an October night had closed over Westeray.

Tall and grim and dark, save where lit by an occasional ray from a
window, the Keep of Noltland towered in massive outline above the rocky
isle.

This magnificent castle was built by Thomas de Tulloch, bishop and
governor of Orkney under Erick king of Denmark, about 1422.  It was
surrounded by massive walls and outworks; the sides of the great keep
were perforated by a series of loopholes for quarrelles or cannon,
rising tier above tier like the gun-ports of a line-of-battle ship.
Many parts of this vast baronial hold are richly decorated by the skill
and fancy of the architect, whom tradition avers to have found his grave
within its walls, and a large stone, shaped like a coffin, is still
pointed out at the foot of the great staircase, as covering the place of
his last repose.

The stately hall of the Bishop’s castle glowed cheerfully in the blaze
of the fire that crackled in the arched fireplace, where a pile of
driftwood blazed, the fragments of old wrecks that, could they have
spoken, might have told many a tale of suffering and of war, with logs
of resinous pine brought from Norway, or washed on the beach from the
savage and then unknown coasts of the Labrador.

From the roof hung a large brazen chandelier, in which the flames of
twelve tall candles were streaming in the currents of air that swept
through the vast apartment. The floor was paved with stone, which,
though originally of red rock like the walls, was carefully whitened and
sanded.  The great oak girnels and cabinets, the tables and chairs, were
all of the fashion of James III.; and behind them, on rusty tenterhooks,
hung long pieces of rude and carpet-like tapestry, representing, in dark
and gigantic figures, the voyage of Æneas, and other passages from
Virgil.  As the wind moved the arras, the great mishapen figure of the
pious Trojan, his long-haired Creusa and chubby Ascanius, seemed at
times as if starting into life.  At the lower end of the hall, and
almost lost in the shadow of its vast vacuity, were several retainers of
Westeray, clad in their mail shirts and brown kilts, lolling on hard
wooden settles, conversing in guttural whispers, or sleeping under the
side tables rolled up in their plaids, looking like bundles of tartan
with a mop stick through them—the latter being represented by their
shock heads of hair.

A trivet table, marked with a diagram for playing the old chivalric game
of Troy, was placed near the fire, and thereon lay cards and dice, and a
tall pewter tankard of malmsey wine, from which the silver-mounted horns
were incessantly replenished by Bothwell, Ormiston, and the Knight of
Noltland, who, with their doublets unbuttoned and their gorgets and
swordbelts flung aside were lounging by the ruddy fire and conversing
with animation, but marked by a gravity rather unusual for the two
first-named personages.

Anna, who, with her attendant, had been conducted to suitable
apartments, had retired for the night, leaving Bothwell and his friends
to pursue their political conversation, and to drink their wine
undisturbed, which they did with the devotion of three Germans quaffing
for a wager.

"And this is all thou knowest of the machinations of Moray?  Ah! false
bastard, I shall live to mar thee yet!" exclaimed the Earl, with
kindling eyes, on hearing Balfour unfold the web of intrigue that
surrounded the young Queen Mary.  "And my barony of Crichtoun too!
saidst thou, Sir Gilbert, that Morton had cast his gloating eyes on
that?"

"Yea, and but for this late raid at Holyrood, had added it to his
adjacent fiefs of Dalkeith and Vogrie."

"And so they have slain this Rizzio!  I remember him well—a
smooth-tongued old Italian, somewhat gay in his garb, but crooked in
form, and weasoned in visage. Did he not succeed Monsieur Raulet as
foreign secretary?"

"The same."

"And they slew him, poor knave!"

"It was on the evening of the 9th of March last, when the Queen’s Grace
sat at supper with her sister, the Countess Jane of Argyle, and Rizzio
seated between their tabourettes twangling on his ghittern, when the
High Chancellor seized the palace gates at the head of a hundred and
fifty tall spearmen, in corselets and steel bonnets, while my Lords of
Lindesay and Ruthven, with King Henry and a hundred more, in their
armour, ascended by the secret stair to the turret chamber in James V.’s
tower.  The poor Italian skipped about like a maukin, and cried aloud in
his native gibberish for mercy; but, by the mass! he found little of
that, for they dragged him from the skirt of the shrieking Queen, and
slew him within earshot of her Majesty, whom Andrew Kerr"——

"Of Fawdounside?" said Ormiston; "a stout man, and a bold—I know tall
Andrew well."

"Is said to have handled somewhat roughly, for he bent a cocked
pistolette against her breast."

"Of Mary?—of a woman about to become a mother!" said the Earl, grasping
his poniard.  "Would to St. Paul I had been within arm’s length of him!
but what hath drawn the ire of his most sapient Majesty and the
Protestant Lords upon this poor Italian?"

"Heaven alone knoweth,[*] unless it be that her Majesty favoured him
greatly for his superior scholarcraft; which, like witchcraft and every
other craft, is often like unto a sharp sword that cutteth its own
scabbard. Royal favour, as thou well knowest, Bothwell, will soon make a
man hated by his compeers; and thus Rizzio was hated, and so slain, for
they left him in the adjoining chamber, gashed by six-and-fifty sword
and dagger wounds, with the King’s poniard driven to the hilt in his
brisket, to show by whose mandate the deed was done."


[*] At this date, the calumnies recorded by Buchanan were yet
uncirculated.  H. le Guyon and _Blackwood_ expressly state David Rizzio
to have been an _old man_.


"’Twas right Venetian that."

"And further, knowest thou that Master Craig, the minister of St. Giles,
that Master Knox, and the father of that buxom bride whom he won by his
damnable sorceries—even the pious and godly lord of Ochiltree—are all
art and part in the assassination of this poor stranger, whom they
deemed their only barrier to the ear and eye of her Majesty?"

"How!" said Bothwell ironically, "darest thou thus malign our Scottish
apostles?"

"Nay, I malign none; but this is well known to my brother the President,
who, as thou art aware, is ever fishing in troubled waters, that they
were in the conspiracy.  Ha!" he added, with a dark frown, "thinkest
thou that this knave Knox, who leagued with the sacrilegious murderers
of my kinsman, the great Cardinal of St. Stephen, would quail at
crushing this harmless bookworm—this poor Italian violer?  I trow not!"

"’Tis nothing to me," replied the Earl; "for Master Knox was never
friend of mine."

"Nor mine!" added Ormiston, with a furious oath; "he ever gave me the
breadth of the causeway, as if there was contamination in the touch of
my cloak; and so he, too, can league with murderers—with jackmen, and
men-at-arms, eh?"

"Doubtless," replied Balfour with a sneer, "when, as he hath it, ’God
raiseth them up to slay those whom the kirk hateth;’ since Rizzio’s
death, Morton, Lindesay, Ochiltree, Fawdounside, and others, have been
exiles in England; the Catholic lords are again in the ascendant, and
want but the appearance of Huntly and yourself at court (united by other
ties, as I have no doubt you soon will be,) to crush by the strong hand,
and perhaps for ever, those dark and dour-visaged Protestants.  God’s
murrain on their long prayers and Geneva cloaks! for the sound of one
and sight of the other, gives me a fit of the spleen.  But we have had
enough of these matters—fill thy wine-bicker, noble Bothwell; here’s to
black-eyed Jane of Huntly—drink, Ormiston, a fair carouse to the Lady of
Hailes and Bothwell-hall!"

The Earl drank his wine in silence, and black Hob did so too, twirling
his mustache the while, with his eyes half-closed by a leer.

"Odsbody! thou receivest this sentiment rather coldly!" said Sir
Gilbert, setting down his horn with surprise.

"Thou forgettest there is this lady of Norway," said the Earl.

"By St. Magnus! dost thou speak of letting thy gay lemane stand in the
way of thine advancement, to an eminence more glorious than ever
Scottish subject (save this lordling of Lennox) attained to; for thou
and Huntly shall govern the realm, and the King and Queen will be but as
painted puppets in thy hands; for the memory of Rizzio’s bloody corpse,
and that night of horror in the turret-chamber, will ever rise in Mary’s
mind as a barrier between thee and the exiles.  Bethink thee! Thou hast
many a wrong to revenge on the tribe that have triumphed in thine
absence."

"True, true," replied Bothwell, with a louring eye; "but I have promised
to this girl"——

"Not marriage! thou wouldst not say that," laughed Sir Gilbert.  "No,
no; thou wouldst not be such a jack-a-lent (the blood rushed to the
Earl’s brow).  But if thou fearest that Jane Gordon should hear of thy
wandering fancies, why, bethink thee that Noltland is a strong castle,
and that the rocks of this islet are washed by the deep salt sea.  It
would form a prison for the giants of Amadis, then how much more for one
poor fragile girl?"

Whatever Bothwell thought of this insidious advice, or how much it
coincided with the ideas that were then beginning to obtrude on his
mind, we shall not say, but now return to Konrad.

He sat by the lonely shore, and its waves rolled up the shelving rock to
his feet.  He was in a waking dream, and felt neither the cold night
wind or the misty spray of the sea as they blew on his fevered cheek.  A
sense of desolation pressed heavily on his heart, and it was not
unmingled with a desire of vengeance on Bothwell.  But Konrad was alike
brave and generous, and the sentiments of jealousy and rage, that made
him at one time grip the haft of his Norwegian knife, were almost
immediately stilled by those of a gentler nature—pity and commiseration.

He now felt both for Anna, and felt acutely, though she had so
heedlessly and ruthlessly cast him from her heart and remembrance.
Chance had thrown them together on a foreign shore, and feeling, he knew
not why, an intense distrust of the sincerity of that gay and glittering
noble, whom she had preferred to an earlier and better lover, he
resolved to watch over her safety and interests in secresy, and with the
affection of a friend; for he now deemed her no longer worthy of a
deeper sentiment of regard—and yet withal he felt that he loved her
still—yea passionately, as of old, though hope was dead for ever.

The moon arose at the distant horizon, and cold and pale its light fell
on the restless ocean; clearly and brightly the stars sparkled in the
dark blue sky, and at times the red wavering streamers of the north shot
across it.

High and grim in all its baronial pride and feudal strength, the
embattled keep of the Scottish stronghold towered above the slimy
rocks—slimy with drifting spray and drenched seaweed.  Three long flakes
of yellow lustre streamed out into the night from the grated windows of
the hall.  One starlike ray shone from a chamber in the guest-row, and
long and wistfully Konrad gazed at it, for he believed it was the
apartment of Anna, and his conjecture was right.

Young and enthusiastic, he felt that many a vision of future fame and
happiness had perished now, and passed away for ever, with the passion
that had cherished such dreams—dreams that arise only in the noon of
life and love.

The moon went down into the dark blue ocean; the diamond stars faded one
by one, and the first rays of the early morning began to play upon the
floating clouds, to tinge the east with orange hues, and tip the turrets
of Noltland with warm light; but Konrad was still seated by the
murmuring sea.

All sense of time and place had been forgotten, or were merged in one
idea.

And that idea was Anna.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                           *THE SEPARATION.*

    Why no tender word at parting——
      Why no kiss, no farewell take?
    Would that I could but forget thee—
      Would this throbbing heart might break!
    Is my face no longer blooming?
      Are my eyes no longer bright?
    Ah! my tears have made them dimmer,
      And my cheeks are pale and white.
        _Edmonstoune-Aytoun._


"I have resolved!" exclaimed the Earl, breaking a long silence, as he
walked to and fro with Ormiston on the bartisan of Noltland next
morning.  "With a prospect before me so magnificent—the attainment of
the administration, the civil and military power on one hand, the sweets
of successful rivalry and vengeance on the other!  Oh!  I would be worse
than mad to forego it, by marring my union with the sister of Huntly,
and for what?  This love so suddenly conceived, and for a foreign girl!"

"Cocknails! but now thou speakest like a man of mettle!" growled Hob
through his coal-black beard.

"If," said the Earl musingly; "if I could love her as I once loved one
who—pshaw! why these old thoughts?  Anna is not my first love; and have
I not felt how feeble, how falling, how sickly, have been the sentiments
entertained for all who have succeeded _her_?"

"Then thou wilt sail"——

"From Westeray; and, like Æneas, leaving my Dido behind me."

"Right!  Sir Gilbert shewed me letters from Lethington the secretary,
and his brother Sir James of Pittendriech, wherein they state that her
Majesty is most anxious for your return, and daily groweth more weary of
her husband; that Huntly (the moment thou art fairly espoused to his
sister) will strike some vigorous blow to lay for ever prostrate the
adherents of Morton and of Moray."

"What a jack-a-lent! what a blockhead I have been, to give way thus to
my passion for the niece of Rosenkrantz!  I have done myself, and so may
mar a thousand giant schemes of triumph and ambition."

"I thought that sense would return when perhaps too late; but the affair
is not irredeemable."

"Ha!—how?"

"A marriage tie blessed by yon mad priest cannot be very indissoluble,
and the damsel may easily be got rid of."

"Dog of hell!" exclaimed the Earl furiously, "wouldst thou counsel me to
murder her?"

"Nay," replied Hob sternly; "may God forgive thee the thought, so freely
as I do this foul offence; but as Sir Gilbert offers to keep thy
troublesome lemane, let him do so a-God’s name.  He is a gay man and a
gallant, this old Balfour—we know him well; and, cock and pie!  I
warrant he will soon find means to turn this damsel’s sorrow into joy."

At this probability a darker frown gathered on the brow of Bothwell;
for, though half tired of Anna, and wholly repenting of his intrigue
with her, he felt a pang at the idea of another supplanting his image in
her heart.

"Thou art but a cold-blooded and iron-hearted mosstrooper, Hob," said
he; "one inured to rapine and cruelty; nursled and nurtured among wilds
and morasses, and thirty years of incessant feud and foray, stouthrief
and bloodshed, and cannot judge of my feelings in this matter.  I will
myself see Anna, and break the matter to her—bid her adieu, and will
meet thee here, if thou tarriest for me."

"See her, and be lost! one smile—one tender word—a few tears—will seal
thy fate; and while thou playest the lover and the laggard here at
Westeray, Morton, Lindesay, and their allies, aided by the English
Queen, regain place and power, and reverse thy pardon and recall.
Yonder lieth the _Fleur-de-lys_, with her canvass flapping in the
friendly gale, that streams her pennons towards the Caithness coast.  Be
wise—be wary; away, and see not Anna again!"

"Trust me, Ormiston.  In my youth I was the plaything of a proud, a
cold, and calculating beauty; the slave of her charms and caprice in
hall and bower—the upholder of her name and loveliness amid the dust and
blood of the battle and tiltyard; but these follies have passed with the
years and the passion that produced them; and now thou shalt see, that,
like that woman, I can be cold as ice, and impassible as marble, when my
interest jars with my love.  In half an hour I will meet thee here; till
then, adieu!"

One of the numerous boys, who fed like the dogs on the offals at the
hall-table of the great island baron, conducted the Earl to the chamber
of Anna.  He was little, but strong and active as a deer.  His whole
attire was a kilt of brown stuff belted about him, a sealskin vest, and
the leathern fillet confining the masses of his thick red hair, which,
from the hour of his birth, a comb had never touched.  Leading the way,
he sprang like a squirrel up the steps of the great stair, his bare and
sinewy legs taking three steps at a time.

The space and magnificence of the staircase made the Earl pause as he
ascended, notwithstanding the bitter thoughts that oppressed him.  The
great stone column upon which the steps turn, is a yard in diameter, and
has a capital decorated with a statue of the Bishop of Orkney, Thomas de
Tulloch. The nature of the times of which we write, was evinced by the
architecture of this grand stair; for, at every turn of the ascent,
there are concealed loopholes pointing inwards, to gall the foe who
might penetrate thus far; while, at the summit, there is still remaining
the guard-room, where five or six islesmen, who formed the body-guard of
Balfour, clad in their shirts of mail, and armed with bow and
battle-axe, lay stretched on the stone benches dozing listlessly, like
sleepy dogs.

The Earl stood within the apartment where Anna had passed the night; it
was wainscoted with fir-wood, and on the centre of each pannel was
carved a quaint device, the design of some rude genius of the Orcadian
Isles.  These were principally of a religious nature, and the hands and
feet of our Saviour, pierced by the nail-holes and encircled by a crown
of thorns, appeared alternately with the _otter-head_ of Balfour, and
satyr-like visages that grinned from bunches of gothic leaves.  The
stone fireplace was surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, and a fire of
driftwood was still smouldering on the hearth.

Christina, who had been watching her mistress, retired on the entrance
of the Earl.

He approached the bed where Anna, still oppressed by the illness and
lassitude consequent to her voyage, was reposing and slumbering soundly,
unaware that her lover was bending over her.

Raised upon a dais, and having a heavy wooden canopy supported by four
grotesque columns, the bed resembled a gothic tomb rather than a couch,
and Anna might have passed for a statue, as her face and bosom were
white as Parian marble.  On each cheek her hair fell in heavy braids,
which glowed like bars of gold when the rays of the morning sun streamed
through the embrasured casement on her placid face.

More than usual was revealed of a bosom that, in its whiteness and
roundness, was, like that face, surpassing beautiful.  The colour came
and went in the cheek of the Earl, and he became irresolute as he gazed
upon her.  He sighed deeply, and, animated by a sudden tenderness,
pressed his lip to her cheek; she awoke, and twined her arms around him.

"My dear Lord!" said she, in a faint voice, "so thou art come to me
again!"

"I have come, Anna, but to bid thee farewell."  Her large eyes dilated
with sudden alarm and grief.

"I told thee, Anna, that in Orkney we might have to separate for a time,
ere I could convey thee to my household and my home. The wind is blowing
right across the stormy Frith toward the mainland of Scotland, and
though love cries ho! my skipper is urgent, and still more so is stern
necessity.  Farewell for a time—for a brief time, sweet Anna, I must
leave thee," continued the Earl kissing her repeatedly to pacify her.

Her beauty was very alluring, and until that moment he knew not how deep
was his passion for her.

"In that busy world of turmoil and intrigue on which thou art about to
re-enter—I will be forgotten.  Thou mayest not return to me, and I—I
will"——

"What?"

"Die!"

"Speak not, think not thus, dearest Anna!" replied Bothwell, who felt
his resolution wavering, though the thoughts of ambition and the taunts
of Ormiston urged him on the path he had commenced.  "We must
separate—but we must meet again."

"Well, be it so!" she said, bending her eyes that were blinded with
tears upon him; "but O, Bothwell! thou art dearer to me than life, and
knowest all that I have sacrificed for thee,—home—friends—myself—every
thing"——

"True—true, Anna;" he was touched to the soul by her manner and accent.

"Then leave me not—but take me with thee.  I will go happily in the
meanest disguise thou mayest assign me—O, I will never be discovered!"

"It may not be, Anna; it is impossible. By St. Paul!  I tell thee it is
impossible at present."

"In the confidence of thy love I have been dreaming a pleasant dream,
and now perhaps am waking from it.  Wilt thou love me in thine absence
as thou dost now?"

"After my solemn espousal of thee before that holy hermit—canst thou
doubt it?" rejoined the Earl, in a voice that faltered with very shame,
though to Anna it seemed that grief had rendered it tremulous in tone.
The supposed emotion inspired her with sudden confidence in him, and she
said—

"Go—and never again will I suspect thy love; but oh! when wilt thou
return to me?"

"By Yule-tide, dear Anna, if I am in life;" and, kissing her once again,
he hurried from her presence like one who had been guilty of a crime,
and—returned no more!

"Oh! how base, how ignoble is this duplicity!" he exclaimed on rejoining
Hob Ormiston, who with folded arms had been leaning on the parapet,
whistling the "Hunts of Cheviot" to wile away the time.  "She weeps so
bitterly at my departure, and speaks so trustingly of my return, that my
heart is wrung with the misery my damnable deceit and criminal ambition
will bring upon her."

"Whew! yet she cared not to deceive one who loved her earlier, longer,
and better than thee."

"True," replied the Earl; he became silent for a moment, and while the
idea of her ever having loved another caused a pang of mortification in
his breast, it was mingled with a coldness from which he drew a
consolation for the part he was about to act.

"By cock and pie!" continued Hob, pursuing the advantage his sophistry
had gained; "ten thousand women should never stand in my path.  I never
pursued love so fast as to lose a stirrup by the way; and what the foul
fiend matters it whether thou weddest Jane Gordon or not?  Thou canst
still come and see thy Norwegian sometimes, and I warrant ye Sir Gilbert
will prevent her from feeling thine absence much.  He is a courtier of
jolly King James the Fifth; and he, as thou knowest, kept a dame at
every hunting lodge to manage the household.  Ha! nay, nay, do not
chafe; ’tis but marrying the Lady Jane, and handfasting the Lady Anna;
and methinks I need not cite examples among our nobility and
knighthood."

"In the days when I was young, generous, and unspotted in honour and
faith, I was alternately the tool and the plaything of a woman, of that
female fiend, Catherine of Medicis, who saw my love for—pshaw! since
then I have grown wiser.  I have, as we say at chess, turned the tables
upon the sex, and view them merely as the objects of my pleasure—the
tools of my ambition. Yet I feel that I am on the eve of taking a step,
that, however cruel, must make or mar my fortune."

"Fortune! defy her, and the fickle jade will favour thee.  I love a bold
fellow, who, with his helmet on his brow and a whinger by his side,
becomes the artificer of his own fortune."

"Ah! could we but have a glimpse through that thick veil that ever
involves the future.  Hast thou ever read Cicero?"

"Nay, thank God!  I never could read aught save my missal, and, without
spelling, very little of that; but since 1560, when missal and mass went
out of fashion together, I have done nothing in that way.  But this
book"——

"’Tis a man, Marcus Tullius Cicero, an illustrious Roman."

"A sorcerer, by his name, I doubt not; well, and what said he?"

"There is a fine passage in his works, wherein he speaks of the
capability of seeing effects in their _causes_; and supposes that Priam,
and Pompey, and Cæsar, had each laid before them their pages in the
great book of fate, in the noonday of their prosperity—ere the first
fell with his Troy, ere the second was defeated at Pharsalia, and the
third perished by the dagger of Brutus. But I warrant thou canst not
fathom this."

"No—an it had been a winepot I might; but, cock and pie! ’tis all Greek
to me. See! yonder cometh Sir Gilbert from the shore to announce that
our ship is ready; and so, once more, my Lord, let us seaward, ho!"

The sun was setting that evening on the Firth of Westeray.  Its
impetuous waves, that rolled in saffron and purple, broke in golden
breakers crested with silver surf upon the shining rocks.  The distant
peaks of Rousay were bathed in yellow light, but, mellowed by distance,
the sea lay cold and blue around their bases.  The sky was clear and
cloudless, and the purity of the atmosphere imparted many beautiful
tints to the ocean, that rolled its restless tides around these lonely
isles.  Like a white bird floating on the distant azure, afar off at the
horizon’s verge, a sail was visible from the keep of Noltland about
sunset.  It was the _Fleur-de-lys_, that had borne Bothwell away from
the arms of Anna Rosenkrantz.  The whole day, with tear-swollen eyes,
she had watched its course through the Firth of Westeray; now it had
diminished to a speck in the distance, and ere the sun dipped into the
Atlantic, had disappeared behind the fertile Isle of Eglise-oy, where
then, as now, the pyramidal spire of the chapel of Saint Magnus rose
above the verdant holms, as a landmark to the fishers of the isles.

As slowly the sail vanished round that dim and distant promontory, a low
cry almost of despair burst from Anna, and she clung to the weeping
Christina.  The waiting-woman wept from mere sympathy; but the grief of
her mistress (sudden, like all her impulses) was of that violent kind
which can only find relief in tears and loud ejaculations.

Near her stood one of Sir Gilbert’s retainers, clad in a long shirt of
mail, such as was then common in the Orcades; he was leaning on his long
axe, and regarding her attentively through the horizontal slit in his
salade, a species of helmet with an immovable visor which completely
concealed the face; but beneath the impassible front of that iron
casque, were features distorted by the grief and anguish that wrung the
wearer’s generous heart.  He was Konrad, who, thus disguised, had the
mortification of beholding the wildness of her grief for another.

Often he made a motion, as if to approach her, and as often retired; for
though on one hand the most sincere pity urged him to comfort her, the
invidious whispers of anger and disdain on the other, together with the
necessity of preserving his incognito, withheld him.  And there,
scarcely a lance’s length apart, were the lover and his idol, with the
night descending on their sorrows.

From Rousay’s hills, and on the distant sea, the sunlight died away.
The Firth of Westeray turned from saffron to purple, and from purple to
the darkest blue, in whose vast depths were reflected the star-studded
firmament, till the moon arose, and then once more its waters rolled in
light of the purest silver; and each breaker, as its impetuous wrath was
poured upon the bluffs of basalt, fell back into the ocean a shower of
brilliants.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                          *DOUBT AND DESPAIR.*

      _Antony_ ——————— How I loved,
    Witness ye nights and days, and all ye hours
    That danced away with down upon your feet,
    As all your business were to count my passion.
        _All for Love, or the World well lost._


Yule-tide came—and passed away.

Three months rolled on, and in that time Anna heard no tidings of
Bothwell.

Those who, like her, have waited in all the agony of anxiety and love,
degenerating into fear and doubt, can alone know how long those weary
months appeared.

In that lonely island her amusements were few.  Kind-hearted, honest,
and bluff in manner, Sir Gilbert Balfour, though having been something
of a courtier in his youth, had gradually acquired much of that rude
austerity, with which the Reformation had impressed the manners of the
Scottish people, and, being unable to converse with his fair prisoner
either in French or Norse, he soon abandoned in despair any attempts to
soothe her melancholy, either by signs or condolences offered in the
Scottish tongue, which was quite unknown to her.

She soon grew tired of watching the sails that now and then appeared in
the narrow strait between Rousay and Westeray.  At first she had been
wont to hail them with delight, and to watch their approach with a
beating heart, full of hope that each successive one might be his
returning to her; but hope and exultation died away together, when the
ship passed on towards her Scandinavian home; and then she thought of
old Sir Erick Rosenkrantz, sitting lonely in his hall at Bergen; and
bitter were the tears she wept, at the memory of that kind old face she
might never behold again.

The walrus and the sea-dog, that at times arose in droves from the
waves, with their round heads breasting the foam; the vast whale that
floundered in the shallows, and blew clouds of water in the air; the
shoals of finless porpoises, that rushed through the surge like a flock
of ocean devils, failed, after a time, to interest or amuse her.  Week
succeeded week;—there were days of storm, when the grey clouds and the
white mists came down from the Arctic circle; when the waves roared and
foamed through the narrow strait, and the lightning flashed afar off
among the heath-clad hills of Rousay—days of cloudless sunshine, or of
listless calm, succeeded each other; and nothing marked the time, which
passed by unmarked, even as the wind that swept over the pathless
ocean,—but there came no word of Bothwell.  The spring of 1566
approached, and all hope in the bosom of Anna began to die away.

Konrad still preserved his incognito most rigidly; but though life
seemed to stagnate on the little Isle of Westeray, and in its great but
dreary baronial castle, the world beyond it was busy as ever.  One night
a messenger arrived from the lieutenant-governor of Kirkwall, bearing
despatches for Sir Gilbert, who, without taking leave of Anna, but
merely giving strict orders to his bailie, that "she was to be kept in
sure ward, and treated with every respect," had thrown himself on board
a small crayer, and sailed for the mainland of Orkney.

Then passing fishermen brought rumours of civil war and bloodshed—of
battles fought and castles stormed; and Anna, when she heard the name of
Bothwell, looked anxiously in the faces of those around her, to read in
their expression those tidings she was dying with eagerness to learn,
but which it was impossible for her to gather from the barbarous, and
half Gaelic half Pictish, jargon of the speakers.

The festival of Easter passed away—summer drew on; yet Bothwell did not
come, and then the heart of poor Anna began to sicken within her.

The evening was declining drearily, as many others had declined, on
Westeray.

A prey to the deepest dejection, Anna reclined on a stone seat in an
angle of the battlement, through an embrasure of which she was watching
the setting sun.  Christina sat near her on the steps of this stone
sofa, and her eyes were anxiously fixed on the pallid face of her
mistress, whose fine but humid eyes were bent on the distant horizon;
but their expression was dreamy, sad, and vacant.  The eyes of another
were fixed on her, with an intensity of which she was unaware; and
indeed she knew not that any one was near save her female attendant.

Leaning against the battlement, and but a few paces distant, stood
Konrad of Saltzberg, clad in the same long shirt of mail, and wearing
the same salade that have already been described.  For more than an hour
he had been regarding Anna as a lover alone could have regarded her; but
she was thinking only of her absent Earl, and watching the passing
ships.

Many had been visible that day; for the vessels of Elizabeth, the
English queen, were then sailing to the shores of Iceland, where her
people had been permitted by the Danish king to fish for cod.  The sun
was dipping into the Atlantic, and, when half his circle was hidden by
the horizon, the crimsoned waves became as an ocean of blushing wine,
but their breakers were glittering in green and gold where they burst on
the rocky beach of the isle.

The sun set; his rays died away from land and sea; the pink that edged
the changing clouds, and the flush that reddened the water, grew paler
and yet more pale, and the stars began to twinkle in the yet sunny blue
of the sky.  The last white sail, diminished to the size of a nautilus,
had faded away in the distance, and Anna covered her face with her
hands, and wept; from beneath the lappets of her little velvet cap, her
bright hair fell forward in masses, and Konrad, though he saw not her
tears, felt all his sympathy and his old love glow within him.

Resolving at all risks to discover himself, he removed his salade and
advanced towards her.  Anna raised her head at the clink of the shirt of
mail, and, starting up, gazed upon him with astonishment while clinging
to the parapet, for her strength almost left her. She would have become
paler were it possible; but she was already so colourless, that death
could not have made her more so.

Konrad expected a greater ebullition of fear, or joy, or astonishment,
at his presence and safety; but Anna, who imagined he had merely
expatriated himself from Aggerhuis, according to his threat at their
last interview, expressed only the latter emotion in her features; and
Konrad could not help feeling a little piqued, at her supposed
indifference to the dangers he had run, and the watery grave he had so
miraculously escaped.

"Konrad," she faltered—"thou here!"

"Anna, dear Anna!" exclaimed the unhappy young man, deeply moved by the
sound of her voice, which, like an old and beloved air, stirred the
inmost chords of his heart.  "I did not expect to hear your lips again
utter my name so tenderly."

He covered his eyes with his hand, and then the girl in turn was moved;
she laid her hand gently on his arm, but he trembled so much that she
withdrew it.

"Poor Konrad! you seem indeed changed; your eyes are hollow, and your
cheek—it is very pale!"

"I have endured great grief; God alone knoweth how much agony has been
concentrated in a heart that felt too narrow to contain it."

"I do pity thee, Konrad!"

"It is too late now.  Thou didst love me once, Anna, and I feel bitterly
how cold a substitute is pity.  Oh! thou alone wert the link that bound
me to the world; the link is snapped, and I am very desolate now!"

Anna sighed.  She would have said _forgive me_; but her pride forbade
it.

"The memory of hopes that are blighted, and wishes that were futile,
presses heavily on me now," continued Konrad, whose brave spirit seemed
to be completely broken; "and, at times, I feel nothing but despair."

"Ah, Konrad!" she replied, with a sickly attempt to smile, "in a few
years we learn to laugh at the love of our youth, just as we do at an
old-fashioned dress."

"With some it may be so, and ’tis a sad reflection; but, oh Anna!
(pardon me repeating that well-loved name as of old,) in all my dreams
of the future, I had so entwined our lives, and thoughts, and feelings,
into one—I had so long viewed thee as my—my wife—that"——

"I must listen no more to this," said Anna, turning away with a
reddening cheek.

"Thou art angry with me; but there was a time—and hast thou forgotten it
quite?—when that word _wife_ fell otherwise on thine ear.  I trifle,
lady.  I have tidings to tell thee."

"I will not—I cannot—listen."

"For Heaven sake and your own, hear me!"

"This is alike sinful and insulting—this from the captain of my uncle’s
archers! Leave me, Konrad of Saltzberg!"

"By my past grief, by my blighted hope and present sorrow, I conjure
thee, Anna, to hear me!  I would speak to you of this man"——

"My husband?"

"The Lord of Bothwell," said Konrad, with a smile of scorn.

"Hah—well!" continued Anna in a breathless voice, while all her pride
and petulance became immediately merged in intense eagerness.

"Thou hast not heard from him since his departure for the court of
Scotland?"

"No—not one message hath come to Noltland, at least so sayeth the
castellan."

"The castellan hath lied!" replied Konrad, with sparkling eyes; "he hath
heard daily, and knows that this false Earl, whom he is now going to
join and assist, hath been espoused, with every magnificence, to the
sister of the Lord Huntly."

"And I—I"—gasped Anna.

"Thou art a captive for life in this island castle."

Anna clasped her hands passionately above her head, and would have
fallen backward had not Konrad sprung to her assistance; but, unable to
trust himself with the part of upholding her almost inanimate form, he
seated her gently, and hung over her with the utmost tenderness.

"Konrad," she said, with pale and quivering lips, but firm and tearless
earnestness; "thou, thou didst never deceive me in word, in deed, or
thought—say, how didst thou learn this?"

"How, matters not—’tis the sad verity."

"Thou triflest!" she said, with sudden passion and stamping her foot,
while her eyes filled with tears, and she endeavoured to control the
unutterable anguish that was expressed in every feature.  "From whom, I
demand, heardst thou these evil tidings?"

"From Hans Knuber, Lady Anna," replied Konrad, lowering his voice.  "He
trades, as thou knowest, with certain udallers of Shetland and Orkney,
and this night his little crayer, the Skottefruin, (for so has he named
her to please the Scots,) is about to sail for the river Clyde.  The
night is closing—if thou wouldst escape, an hour will set thee free."

"I do not—O no!  I cannot—believe this tale; yet I will go with Hans—and
whither? Is not anywhere better than this island prison? Yes—land me
once in Scotland, and I will soon make my way to Bothwell."

"Thou art perhaps without money, and knowest not the Scottish tongue."

"Love and despair will sustain me without the first, and I shall soon
acquire the second. How I will upbraid, how I will implore him; but he
cannot have deceived me—Hans must be mistaken."

"But if he is not," said Konrad, piqued at the excess of her regard for
another.

"Then I will throw myself at the feet of his sovereign; she is a woman,
and, feeling as a woman, will do me justice."

"Wherever thou goest, Anna, permit me to be thy protector; and I will
go, for am I not wedded to thee in spirit—thy brother, thy friend, if I
cannot be thy lover? Unhappy one! thou dost now experience for another,
the pangs that I endured for thee; thou who didst betray me, art now in
thy turn betrayed.  But think not, gentle one, that I upbraid thee," he
continued, on seeing that she wept bitterly, "for now I am thy brother,
Anna, since God denies me to be more; and by his blessed name I swear
that I will lead, protect, and avenge thee! Come—be once again the
daughter of stout old Svend of Aggerhuis, the conqueror of Lubeck—be
once again a Norwegian!"

Like a ray of sunlight across a cold sky, a faint and sickly smile
spread over Anna’s face, and she kissed the hand of Konrad, who was
deeply moved by the humility of the action.

"In an hour the night will be dark; have all prepared for flight, and
then I will meet thee here.  Meanwhile I go to Hans."

"Ah! if Hans should be mistaken, and Bothwell returning find me gone."

"Honest Hans is not mistaken; for Bothwell’s marriage is known
throughout all Scotland and the isles.  Bethink thee, Anna! Hans’ ship
is bound for the Clyde, a river of that country, and he tells me that
Bothwell’s princely dwelling overlooks that very water; thus, with him,
thou goest direct to the castle gates of thy deceiver."

"Enough! enough!  Come triumph or death, despair or joy, I will go with
thee. Away to Hans; bid him hasten our departure; he knows how well I
can reward him when we are at home in dear Norway.  In an hour from this
time, Konrad, I will meet thee here."

As she hurried away, accompanied by her attendant, who had withdrawn
during this painful interview, Konrad gazed wistfully after her, and,
clasping his hands, convulsively muttered—

"O Anna! by what fatality did I ever love thee?".......

That night the moon shone brightly upon the strait of Westeray, and the
snow-white sails of the Norwegian ship were bellying in the breeze that
curled the impetuous waves. Above, was the blue and star-studded sky;
below, was the shining sea.  Afar off, the full-orbed moon was rising
like a silver shield from the ocean, and between lay a black speck—it
was the Keep of Noltland.

On their lee lay the isle of Eglise-oy, with its green holms and yellow
sands shining in the merry light of the summer moon, that turned to
silver and emerald the waves that murmured on its pebbled shore.

A bell was heard to toll in the distance; its tone was deep and solemn,
as it swung in the vaulted spire of old St. Magnus’ church, that crowned
a rocky headland.  It was the signal of nocturnal prayer; for in those
remote isles God was still worshipped as of old—the new creed of the
Reformers, the clang of their hammers and levers, had been as yet
unheard.

The outline of the old gothic church, with its solid tower and pointed
spire, stood darkly out in bold relief upon the sea-beat promontory; the
stars gleamed through the painted windows of its vaulted aisles;
beneath, the waves were rolling in light, and the deep tones of the
nocturnal bell were mingled with their hollow murmur.

Hans doffed his Elsinore cap, and prayed for the intercession of the
friend and patron of the Orcadian mariner, Saint Tradewell of Papay;
while Anna, in attendance to the distant call to prayer, knelt down on
the deck with her crucifix and rosary.

Konrad was beside her.

She prayed intently for herself and for Bothwell, but Konrad offered up
his orisons for her alone.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                           *BLANTYRE PRIORY.*

    I fain would sing, but will be silent now,
    For pain is sitting on my Lover’s brow;
    And he would hear me, and though silent, deem
    I pleased myself, but little thought of him,
    While of nought else I think; to him I give
    My spirit, and for him alone I live.
      _Pop. Poetry of Servia._


An evening of June was closing upon the "apple-bowers" of Clydesdale and
the woods of Bothwellhaugh, when two pedestrians, a male and a female,
pursued the ancient Roman way, that by a high and narrow bridge of one
arch, which had been constructed by the warriors of Agricola, spanned
the stream named the South Calder, a tributary of the Clyde.  Fair in
complexion and athletic in figure, the young man was attired somewhat
like a lowland yeoman.  He wore a plain black breastplate and headpiece,
for at that time in Scotland, no man ever ventured beyond his own door
without armour; he carried a sealskin wallet and pouch, and was armed
with a sword, dagger, and quarterstaff. His breeches and hose were of
coarse red sarcenet, his gloves and boots of yellow buff.

He partly led and partly supported the companion of his journey, a young
lady, whose unusually pale complexion had been rendered yet more pallid
by fatigue; but her velvet hood being well drawn forward, almost
concealed her features.  Though light and graceful, her figure was
veiled in one of those ample plaids of purple and blue check which were
then (and for two hundred years after) so common in the Lowlands of
Scotland. She wore it over her head, and pinned under the chin, from
whence it fell over her shoulders and enveloped her whole form.  Her
white gloves were fringed with black lace, and her wrists and arms,
where visible, were remarkably white and delicate.

Konrad and Anna—for doubtless the reader has recognised them—were
wearied and covered with dust, having travelled on foot from the old
Stockwell bridge of Glasgow. The commercial capital of the West was then
but a small trading town, clustered round the great church, which, four
hundred years before, the pious David had founded on the bank of the
Molendinar burn.

There the crayer of Hans Knuber had anchored, and was discharging her
cargo of tar and stockfish, for which Hans received in exchange cottons,
and silks, and tanned leather, which he sold to the best advantage in
the cities on the Baltic; and there Anna heard the sequel of Konrad’s
tidings, and the confirmation of Bothwell’s falsehood beyond a doubt.

They found themselves in Clydesdale almost penniless; but, rough and
turbulent though the times were, neither in baron’s hall nor peasant’s
cottage were food, fire, and shelter, refused to the wayfarer or the
unfortunate; and in the assumed character of French travellers on their
way to court, to seek the patronage of Le Crocque, the ambassador of
Charles IX., or the Marquis d’Elboeuff, they had reached the district of
Bothwell with comparative ease and safety. Though the mass of the
people, under terror of the act of 1555, "Anent speaking evill of the
Maist Christian Kingis subjectis," and that of the following year, which
defined the naturalization of the French in Scotland, treated all
strangers with respect, Anna and Konrad were frequently reviled at
wayside hostels as "massmongers and idolaters, worshippers of Baal, and
followers of the shavelings of hell!" for Anna had the temerity and
enthusiasm to wear openly on her bosom, that emblem against which, by
word and deed, the preachers of the Reformation had poured forth their
wrath and fury—a crucifix.

Evening was closing, and the woods of Bothwellhaugh were throwing their
darkening shadows on the winding Calder.  The foliage was in all the
vivid green of July, and the perfume of the summer blossoms from the
groves of apple-trees loaded the balmy air.  The day had been one of
intense heat; there was not a breath of wind upon the uplands, every
leaf was still, and nothing was stirring save the busy gnats, that
revolved in swarms where the sunlight pierced the leafy vistas.

So still was the atmosphere, that nothing was heard save the gurgle of
the glittering stream, or the hum of the mountain bees as they floated
over the grass, and sought the wild violets and pansies that grew in the
dewy shades.

The sunlight died away along the deep glen sides, that were fringed with
leafy woodlands; on trees bending with foliage and fruit, on the
white-walled and moss-roofed cottages, with their light smoke curling
through the coppice, on the river that glided past, placidly in one
part, hoarse and brawling between its scaured banks in another, on rocks
tufted with purple heather, or yellow with ripening corn, fell the dying
sunlight, blending all with hazy softness, till the last rays faded from
the tree-tops and the castle turrets, that overlooked them; and then, as
the blue sky became veiled by dun clouds, which the set sun edged with
the most brilliant golden light, the air became dense and oppressive,
and a dusky crimson tinged the whole woodland scenery with the hue of
blood.  Perched on its rifted rock, the old square tower of Clelland
turned to brick red; the Calder flowed below like a stream of purple
wine, and the beechwood copse became like a grove of the red-leaved
ilex.

The atmosphere soon became darker; a few heavy drops of rain plashed on
the dusty causeway of the Roman road, and spread wide circles on the
wooded stream that flowed beneath the bridge; the tops of the lofty
trees were tossed, as the wind arose, and the summer thunder rumbled
among the green and russet hills that overlook the fruitful valley of
the Clyde.

"A storm is gathering, Anna!" said Konrad, gazing tenderly on her pale
features; "and thou art growing faint and weary. Overtasked as it has
been, thy little strength is completely exhausted; let me beseech thee
once again to pause.  There is a tower yonder that overhangs the river;
and there, I doubt not, due hospitality will be gladly extended to two
poor and unfriended foreigners!"

"No—no!  On—on!" muttered Anna.

"We are, I believe, yet far from our destination; and, ere it is
reached, thou wilt assuredly die of fatigue!"

"Then, O God! grant that it may be at Bothwell’s castle gate!" said
Anna, bursting into a passion of tears; "that the sight of my silent
corpse might upbraid him with his perfidy.  Assure me that he will
behold me lying dead upon his threshold, and I will yield up my soul
without a sigh.  Life hath no longer any charm for me!"

"Nor for me!" murmured Konrad; but how different was the tone!  The girl
spoke in all the bitterness of rage; the young man with the accents of
desolation.  Anna read the emotion in his eyes, as she glanced hurriedly
and pityingly upon him; and, repressing her own grief, still continued
to totter forward.  The feebleness of her steps became more and more
apparent; but her spirit was strong and indomitable.

As they descended into the bosky woodlands, the red lightning began to
gleam behind the trunks of the distant trees, and the Calder, as it
jarred between ledges of rock, became covered with white foam. These
signs of a coming tempest caused them to hasten on, and with both hands
the trembling Anna clung to Konrad’s arm. The woods grew dark as the
plumes of a hearse, and the starless sky was crowded with masses of inky
vapour;—but there was one dense cloud that came up from the westward,
and in it the whole fury of the storm seemed to be concentrated.  Onward
it came, laying the corn flat to the earth, while the strong trees bent
like willows beneath its sulphureous breath; for it was charged with all
the electric fluid of the summer storm.

Konrad paused, and looked upward.

For a moment the aspect of the heavens was magnificent!

Forth from the bosom of that dark cloud broke one broad flash of forky
lightning, resplendent, green, and lurid.  For an instant it lit the
whole firmament, and the earth beneath it, revealing the tossing forests
and deep broad waters of Clyde, which was covered with snow-white foam,
and poured on between its steep and wooded banks, making one bold sweep
round Bothwell’s dark red towers, that rose above them in massive
magnificence.

In strong outline, tower and turret stood forth against the flaming sky,
the lightning seeming to play among their summits, and all the leaves of
Bothwell’s blooming bank gleamed like filigree-work—but for an instant,
and then all became darkness.

Another flash, brighter than the first, revealed the opposite bank of
the stream, and the ruins of Blantyre Priory.  Brightly, for a moment,
pinnacle and pointed window, buttress and battlement, gleamed in the
phosphorescent light—but to fade away; and then terrifically the thunder
rolled along the beautiful and winding valley of the Clyde.

All became still—and though the foliage was agitated, the wind had
passed away. Nothing was heard save the rush of the river, and the
ceaseless hiss of the drenching rain, as noisily and heavily it poured
down on the broad summer leaves.

Stunned for a moment by the thunder-peal, Konrad, in the confusion of
the time, had thrown an arm round Anna as if to protect her, while she
in turn clung to him convulsively for support; and even in that moment
of consternation, the warm embrace of that loved bosom sent through his
a thrill of pain and delight.

The thick foliage still protected them from the rain; but the necessity
of seeking other shelter became immediately apparent, for Anna,
exhausted by terror and fatigue, was almost speechless.  Konrad
supported her up the ascent, which is crowned by the ruins of Blantyre
Priory; and there, in that desolate place, which the lightning had
revealed to them, he found a place of shelter, under the arch of a
vault, where the ivy clung and the wallflower flourished, for the place
was utterly ruined.  Seven years had elapsed since the sons of rapine
and reformation had been there.

The gloom of the ruins impressed Konrad with a horror that he could
scarcely repress; for thick and fast on his glowing fancy, came many a
dark and terrible legend of the wild and frozen north—but the danger of
Anna compelled him to think of other things.

The rain and the wind were over; the thunder had died away on the
distant hills, and nothing was heard now but the rush of the adjacent
stream, and the patter of the heavy drops as they fell from the
overcharged foliage on the flattened grass.  Occasional stars gleamed
through the pointed windows and shattered walls of the Priory, and the
long creeping ivy waved mournfully to and fro.  The edifice was much
dilapidated; for the sacrilegious builders of many a barn and cottage,
had torn the best stones from the places where they had rested for ages,
and where, doubtless, the pious Alexander II. deemed they would remain
for ever; now the wild-rose, the sweetbrier, and the mountain ash grew
thickly in the hospitium, where of old the sick were tended and the poor
were fed—in the chapel aisles where the good had prayed, and the dead of
ages lay.

Anna had become almost insensible; and, from being animated by activity
and energy, had become passive in spirit and supine in body.  The change
had affrighted Konrad; her pulses beat like lightning, and her hands and
brow were burning.  Gently, as if she had been a sick child, he laid her
in a corner of that vaulted apartment, which appeared to have been a
cellar of the Priory.  There the strewn and crisped leaves of the last
autumn lay thick and soft, and thinking only of death, in her utter
exhaustion of mind and body, she made no reply to his tender and
reiterated inquiries.

Konrad adjusted her damp dress over her beautiful person, and, full of
solicitude and anxiety, seated himself near her.  He listened—her breath
was becoming fainter and more rapid; excessive fatigue and
over-excitement had evidently done their worst upon her tender frame.

"Oh, how thy hands burn!" said Konrad, as he took them in his with the
fondness of other days.  "Speak, Anna—for the love of mercy speak to
me!"

"I am very pettish and ungracious," she said faintly; "but forgive me,
Konrad.  I deserve not thy care—leave me to die; for God, I think, has
deserted me!"

"Ah, speak not thus, Anna!  God will never desert one so good—so gentle
as thee.  Hath he not led us to this chamber, where we are safe from the
wind, and the rain, and the chill night-dew? but here thou canst not
pass a night.  The storm hath died away—one effort more"——

"I cannot rise, Konrad," said Anna, in a breathless voice.

"Then I must fly for succour!"

"No—no—O, do not leave me!  I will die of terror; there may be demons,
and wolves, and bears in these Scottish woods, as in those at home."

"But thou hast thy piece of the blessed cross, Anna.  I go but to wind
my bugle for succour at the foot of the hill, and surely some one in
yonder castle by the river, will hear and attend to me."

"Then hasten, for my heart is sickening, and my strength is failing fast
with the fever that burns within me."

Konrad sprang to his feet in an agony of anxiety.

"Oh Bothwell, Bothwell!" said Anna; "my dear lord—may heaven forgive
thee, freely as I do, all the misery and suffering thou hast caused to
this poor heart!"

These words fell like ice on the young man’s heart, and he said
hurriedly—

"Be of good cheer, and pray to thy patron, the mother of the virgin—I
will bring thee succour anon."

"Konrad," said Anna, in her low, soft voice, "my words have stung thee,
for thine accent is changed.  Pardon me!" she added tremulously, "and
remember that I, too, am desolate now.  Dost thou cease to love me? Am
not I thy sister, Konrad?"

"Thou art, indeed!" replied her lover, whose heart was crushed by his
emotion; "and I regard thee with a love more pure and pitying than ever.
I am thy friend, Anna—a lover no longer."

"Then, Konrad, kiss and forgive me—for I may die ere thou returnest."

Konrad trembled.  A gush that cannot be described—sorrow, love, agony,
and despair, swelled up in his breast on hearing this singular and
artless request, and, stooping down, he pressed his lips to hers long
and passionately.

It was the first time he had ever kissed her, and it was a strange
salute.

Anna’s lips were burning and parched—Konrad’s were cold and quivering,
while a palsy seemed to possess his heart; but he sprang from her side,
vaulted over the ruined wall, and, giddy with the whirl of his thoughts,
rushed down the hill to the margin of the river, and wound his bugle
furiously.

Deep, broad, and rapid, between its steep and beautifully wooded banks,
the noble Clyde was flowing at his feet, and the bright stars were
twinkling in its depth.  Afar off, at one end of the silvan dell, the
moon was rising red and fiery after the recent storm, and full on the
imposing façade of the neighbouring castle fell its fitful gleam.

Flanked by two enormous circular towers of massive dark red stone, it
presented a bold front to the south, and overlooked the wooded declivity
so famed in song, as—

    "Bothwell’e bank that bloom’d so fair."

around which, like a great moat, the girdling Clyde made one bold sweep.

The area of this vast and princely fortress, where, in other years, the
Norman knights of Aymer of Valence, and the bonneted vassals of
Archibald the Grim, kept watch and wassail, occupies a space of two
hundred and thirty feet; towering with its magnificent battlements above
the river on one side, and overlooking a beautiful lawn on the other.
It occupies the most prominent and picturesque locality amid all the
scenery traversed by the Clyde.

Darkly in the fitful light loomed the tourelles of the keep, and the
ramparts of the Valence and Wallace towers, and darkly fell their giant
shadows on the bosom of the starlit river.  Amid its gloomy mass Konrad
saw lights twinkling from windows strongly grated and deeply recessed in
the thick walk; but the gates were closed, and the bridges up.
_Now_—how different from then—

    "The tufted grass lines Bothwell’s ancient hall,
    The fox peeps cautious from the ruin’d wall;
    Where once proud Moray, Clydesdale’s ancient lord,
    A mimic sovereign, held the festive board."

Ignorant that the stately castle before him was the stronghold of his
rival, again and again Konrad poured the shrill blasts of his ivory
bugle to the gusty wind; and, finding that he was unheard or unheeded by
the inmates, his anxiety to procure aid for Anna would admit of no
longer delay, and heavily encumbered as he was with half armour, he
threw himself into the river, and, with his sword in his teeth,
endeavoured to swim over. Though a strong, active, and practised
swimmer, he no sooner found himself buffeting the fierce current of that
rapid river, than an invocation to God burst from his lips; for he was
swept away like a reed by the violence and impetuosity of the summer
_speat_.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                      *THE COUNTESS OF BOTHWELL.*

    Load roars the north round Bothwell hall,
      And fast descends the pattering rain;
    But streams of tears yet faster fall,
      From thy blue eyes, O bonny Jane!
    Hark! hark!  I hear the mournful yell,
      The wraiths of angry Clyde complain;
    But sorrow bursts with louder swell.
      From thy toft heart, O bonny Jane!
        _M. G. Lewis._


Within the stateliest chamber of that stately castle sat James, Earl of
Bothwell, and his countess Jane, the bride of a few months.  The
apartment was long and lofty; in the daytime it was lighted by six
grated windows that overlooked Bothwell bank, but now it was lit by two
gigantic gilded chandeliers of wax candles.  The ceiling was of panelled
oak, and the floor was of the same material, but lozenged, and minutely
jointed.  The walls were completely hung with tapestry (made by the
Countess of old Earl Adam, who fell at Flodden), and represented on one
side the "_Hunts of Cheviot_," so famed in ancient song; and on the
other, the miracles of the blessed St. Bothan, the cousin and successor
of St. Colme of Iona. The spaces between were filled up by gorgeous
flower-pieces, and the armorial coats of the Earl’s alliances on trees
covered with shields; but chief of all appeared the blazon of the house
of Hailes.  Now little known, the arms of Bothwell are worth recording,
as they appeared above the stone chimney of that apartment.  _Gules_ on
a cheveron argent, two Scottish lions rending an English rose, (which
had been the characteristic cognisance of Patrick Hepburn of Hailes at
the great battle of Otterburn,) quartered azure with a golden ship;
three cheveronels on a field ermine for the lordship of Soulis, with a
bend azure for Vauss, lord of Dirltoun. His shield was supported by two
lions gardant, crested by a horse’s head bridled, and bearing on an
escroll the motto—

                             Keepe Tryste.

The whole of this gorgeous armorial blazon was upborne by a gilded
anchor, significant of Bothwell’s office as Lord High Admiral of
Scotland and the Isles.

Though the season was summer, a fire burned on the marble hearth; for
the stone chambers of those ancient dwellings were often cold and
chilly.  Two silver lamps, lighted with perfumed oil, and having each a
golden tassel appended to them, hung on each side of the mantelpiece, by
the same chains that, ten years before, had swung them before St.
Bothan’s shrine, in Blantyre Priory.  Their odour was mingled with that
of the fresh flowers that, in vases of Italian glass, were piled upon
the cabinets, and diffused a delightful fragrance through that noble
apartment.

A wine vase, or flask of Venetian crystal, grained with gold, and of
that peculiar fashion then very common in the dwellings of the Scottish
noblesse, (so common, indeed, that the Regent Moray was wont to have
them broken before visiters in a spirit of pure vanity,) stood upon the
table, and the glow of its purple contents was thrown on the silver
cups, the grapes, that were piled in baskets of mother-of-pearl, and the
embossed salvers of confections that stood around it.

The Earl, richly attired, as when we last saw him, in a suit that
admirably displayed the strength and symmetry of his limbs, was lounging
on an ottoman, or low-cushioned settle, with his feet on a deer’s skin,
and seemed wholly occupied in caressing a large wiry hound of the
Scottish breed, while the Countess had played to him on her ghittern,
and sung that song so common at the court of Mary, but of which the
title alone is known to us now—

                  "My love is layed upone ane knycht."

The old game of Troy had succeeded; and then they paused a while to
listen to the fury of the storm that has been described hi the preceding
chapter; and, during the pause, we will take a view of this fair and
unfortunate lady, who was sacrificed by her lover and brother to the
evil spirit of statecraft and ambition.  But when Bothwell gazed on her,
which he did from time to time, his dark eyes filled with softness, as
hers did with love and languor.

The outline of her little figure (for she was of low stature) was
singularly graceful, as she half reclined on the seat of crimson velvet,
with the deep colour of which her neck and arms contrasted so admirably.
Her eyes were of the deepest and most sparkling black; and when they
dilated at times, seemed almost larger than her cherry mouth.

She was a gentle and excitable creature.

The fineness of her nervous temperament, might have been read in the
thinness and exquisite fairness of her skin, in the slender blue veins
of her snowy temples, and the lustre of her large dark orbs, which, with
every emotion of joy, tenderness, or grief, seemed to swim in tears.
Her very laughter had something strangely clear, ringing, and hysterical
in it.  Her small white hand, at which the Earl almost unconsciously
gazed more than at the diagram of the game, from its thinness and
delicacy, was alike indicative of her nature and disposition.

Jane of Huntly was every way the _belle_-ideal of that description of
high-born beauty, upon whose soft cheek not even the wind of heaven had
been permitted to blow "too roughly."

She was richly attired in black velvet, flowered with silver thread; her
raven hair was braided with a string of pearls, and wreathed in a
coronal round her head; while a necklace of Scottish topazes and Arran
stones, set in gold, sparkled on her bosom and sustained a silver
crucifix, the dying gift of the stout Earl her father, who, four years
before, had fallen in his armour on the battle-field of Corrichie.

When Bothwell gazed upon his countess, there was more of admiration,
perhaps, than love in his expression.  He loved her well enough after
the fashion of the world, but not so devotedly and well as that gentle
being deserved.  Anna had almost been forgotten; his flexible heart had
been so frittered away among his innumerable loves, that he seemed to
have become incapable of any lasting impression.  However, he loved his
bride better than he expected; for, as we have before stated, this
marriage had, on his part, been strictly one of policy.

At times when Jane’s dark eyes met his with their clear full gaze, there
was a keen and searching expression in their starlike depth, that made
the reckless noble quail, he knew not why; but her whole soul seemed to
light them up with a vivid expression that troubled him.

"Another flash—and another!" she exclaimed, watching the lightning and
clasping her hands, while her swimming eyes glittered with childlike
joy.  "Oh, mother of God!—how beautiful—how brilliant!  Ah, that I were
among the woods where the lightning is flashing, or at the linn where
the Clyde is pouring in foam from the rocks!"

"By the Holy Rood!" replied the Earl, with surprise, "I think thou art
better here, my bonnibel.  None but a water-kelpie could live abroad
to-night, and one half hour of such a storm would send thee to the
company of the saints."

"And again thou wouldst be free to woo and win another," rejoined the
Countess, laughing.

"I never wooed, and shall not win another, my bonny Jane!" said the
lying Earl; while lounging on the velvet cushions he caressed his little
countess, and played with her dark glossy hair, thinking as he did so,
"Ah, how could I ever love any woman but a dark one!"

"And wilt thou always love me as thou dost now?" asked the Countess with
the most engaging playfulness.

"Love thee!" stammered the Earl, perplexed by a question so pertinent to
his thoughts.  "My ladybird, why that thought?"

"Because," replied Jane, in a voice that was tremulous from the excess
of her emotion; "if thou didst cease to love, O my dear lord!  I
would"——

"What?"

"Die!" and her beautiful head drooped on his shoulder.

"Anna’s very words!" thought the conscience-stricken Earl, as he gazed
upon her with anxiety and astonishment.  Her expression startled him;
but he knew not that it was the wild animation and over-excitement that
in a little time would be developed in a terrible malady, which was
already preying upon the fragile form and ardent mind of the
Countess—madness!

"Why dost thou doubt my love, Jane?" said the Earl; "it is four years
since the Bishop of Dunblane betrothed thee unto me, and in that time my
heart hath never wandered from thee."

"Ah!  I don’t doubt it—mother of God forefend that I should!" exclaimed
the little Countess, while her eyes filled with tears, and she clung
closer to her husband, "for thou wert the first love and the idol of
me."

Bothwell’s heart was touched; a pang shot through it when contemplating
the deceit he had practised towards this loving and trusting creature,
in winning her young heart and still retaining his own, and he kissed
her tenderly.

"And thou, too, art mine idol, Jane; for since I first met thee, the
fairest faces in the halls of Holyrood and Linlithgow have been without
one attraction for me."

"And yet, dost thou know, there was one of whom, until her marriage, I
was wont to be jealous; for thou wert ever engaged with her in
conversations full of wit and laughter and repartee."

"Hah!" said Bothwell, colouring perceptibly.—"Thou meanest Mary Beaton,
I warrant."

"Nay!  Nay!" laughed the Countess; "naughty varlet! thou knowest well
whom I mean."

"Mary Fleming, then, whose father fell at Pinkie-cleugh."

"Nay, God forbid! she is the wife of thy friend, the secretary; another,
and a fairer Mary, still."

"By St. Abb on the Nab! little fairy, thou meanest the Queen herself!"
exclaimed Bothwell with a loud laugh, as if he had no previous idea of
who was meant.  "This would be to make me a rival of Henry Darnley—a
proper squire, and a tall fellow, too—Ha! ha! thou art a merry wag, my
bonnibel," added the Earl, as he turned to the grape basket, for the
purpose of hiding the deep colour that crimsoned his face from beard to
temple.  "Thou mistakest, dear Jane; my thoughts never soared so high,
and it may prove dangerous to—hark! is not that the blast of a
hunting-horn?"

"And by the river-side?"

"Some belated wayfarer."

"I see no one," said the Countess, who had run to a window.

"It may be Lauchope and his jackmen—there was some whisper abroad of
their riding tonight, anent his feud with the Laird of Clelland
concerning their meithes and marches.  Seest thou aught like lances or
steel caps glittering in the moonlight, for now the storm has died
away?"

"There is a man by the river-side.  Hark! he winds his bugle again and
again; the poor soul seemeth in some sad jeopardy."

"Ho! Calder—Bertram—French Paris—ho there, without!" cried the Earl; and
two pages, the younger sons of the neighbouring lairds of Southcalder
and Bertram-shotts appeared, rubbing their eyes, for they had both
fallen asleep in the antechamber over tric-trac and Rochelle.  "Quick!
ye little guzzling varlets—summon the Gate-ward and his yeoman—away to
the river, and see what aileth yonder fellow that he winds his horn so
dolorously!"

"Mother Mary!" cried the Countess, clinging to the Earl; "see—see! he is
about to plunge into that rapid stream—he is in! God—now—now! see how he
buffets with the current!  Oh, how small, how feeble, he seems amid that
hoarse and foaming river! Oh, save him! for the love of Heaven and of
heavenly mercy: away, my lord, away!"

"’Tis more than likely this fellow is some rascally Egyptian.  There
hath been a band of such knaves on Bothwellmuir for this month past; but
should it be Johnnie Faa himself—hurry the Gate-ward—and his grooms"——

"Now—now he is gone—he is down! how fast the current sweeps him on!  I
can look no more!" and, burying her face in her hands, the excitable
little Countess fell on her knees, exclaiming passionately, "Fie on thy
boasted valour, Lord of Bothwell! for thou hast stood idly by and seen
this poor man drowned!"

"By cross and buckler! since thou art so free with thy husband’s life,
Lady Jane," said the Earl angrily, "’tis alike at the service of thee
and this knave-errant.  Follow me, Calder and French Paris!" and,
raising the arras that concealed a door which communicated with a
staircase and postern leading to Bothwellbank, the Earl rushed away.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                             *THE RESCUE.*

    Then on they hurried, and on they hied,
      Down Bothwell’s slope, so steep and green;
    And soon they reach’d the river Clyde,
      Alas! no Edgar still is seen.
        _M. G. Lewis._


Attended only by two of his pages, Bothwell left the postern door at the
foot of the Valence Tower, and hurried down the _bank_, or wooded
declivity, at the base of which the Clyde, swollen by the recent rains,
was foaming past with a hoarse and ceaseless roar, rending the rough
whin boulders and red earth from its scaured banks, and hurrying trees,
and turf, and bushes—the debris of its hundred tributaries—to the waves
of the western sea.

"Use thine eyes, Calder!  Dost thou see him, Paris?" said the Earl,
stooping low to pierce the gloomy shade thrown by the copse-wood upon
the river.

"He struggles yonder, my lord!" cried Nicholas Hubert, or French Paris,
as he was usually named.

"Nay, thou glaiket mole!" said little Calder; "’tis a tree.  Seest thou
not that he buffets the water a furlong further down?"

"Right, my little fellow! thou hast the very eyes of a true huntsman!"
said the Earl; "’tis a man’s head; I see him; he floats like a cork on
the strong current. Shout, boys, while I wind my bugle, to let him know
that aid is nigh!"

The pages placed their hands to their mouths, and uttered a loud hunting
holloa, while Bothwell repeatedly wound his silver bugle.  Then a faint
cry came from the hissing water, and the drowning man waved an arm with
the action of despair.

"He points to the Priory," said Paris; "now, what may that import?"

"By Saint Paul! he is in harness!" exclaimed the Earl; "and the weight
of it is sinking him fast.  Shall we stand here, like base runnions, and
see him perish? Never!"

"Good, my lord—be wary!" urged Calder.

"Sweet, my noble master—have a care!" said Paris; "he may only be some
drunken trooper of Lauchope or Clelland’s, whom his comrades have lost
when fording the river!"

"But to die, and unaided, under my hall windows!  No! no! that would be
a blight upon my name for ever," cried the Earl as he unbuckled his
belt, and throwing down his mantle, bugle, and poniard, leaped without a
moment’s hesitation into the watery tumult, exclaiming as he did so,
"Saint Bothan of Bothwell for me!"

He plunged in a few yards above where the man was struggling with the
current, that was foaming past him with the speed of a swollen
mill-race.

Exhausted with his efforts, the unfortunate swimmer clung to an ash-tree
that had sunk into the stream by having the soil partly washed away from
its root, and the foam-bells were dancing white and frothy around it.
The current bore the Earl close to him; he grasped him by the scarf, and
then, both yielding a little to the impetuous current, swam together to
a point of rock close by, where the Earl, strong, active, and fresh,
dragged the rescued man ashore, and he was immediately supported by the
pages, who were very vociferous in praise of their lord’s courage and
address.

"Praise God, and not me!" he replied; "for a moment more had seen the
poor man perish.  Behold the tree to which he clung!"

At the moment he spoke, the tough ash was rent from its tenacious
rooting, and swept by the swollen stream like a withered reed round the
wooded promontory, which is crowned by the castle of Bothwell.

"’Twas a brave feat and a perilous!" said Paris.

"A gallant deed and a godly!" chorused young Calder, though both were
laughing in secret to see their lord shaking himself like a
water-spaniel.

"Enough," said he, "from both, and thou in especial, Master Calder, for
thou hast the very snuffle of a preacher in thy nostrils. Remove this
man’s steel bonnet—faith! he seems quite speechless; but lead him by the
postern to the hall, while I don me another doublet and shirt, for I am
wet as a water-dog."

A few minutes sufficed to change the Earl’s attire, and to find him
lounging on the crimson settle in that luxurious chamber, toying with
the countess’s raven ringlets, and listening to her praises of his
strength and courage, and her regrets and agonies, &c., for the danger
on which her taunts had hurried him.

Her dark eyes were again sparkling with light and love; but the
tenderness and engaging fondness of her manner failed as before to
enliven or win the attention of her husband.

In his mind there was, he knew not why, a sad presentiment of impending
evil; his heart was oppressed by that kind of dead calm that in some men
precedes a tempest of passion.  The childlike fondling of the beautiful
countess was now lavished in vain. Ceasing to address him, she sighed
and drooped her head; while her fairy fingers patted and played with the
strong hand and arm, that more from habit than from love had almost
unconsciously encircled her.

French Paris, the Earl’s favourite and most trusted page, now raised the
arras and presented his saucy and ruddy face.

"Well," asked the Earl, "how fares it with the person whom I fished out
of the river?"

"He will be well, and with you anon, my Lord."

"What manner of man is he?"

"French, my lord, I think; but he has not yet spoken."

"Good! by his sleeves of fluted plate I deemed him a gentleman.  He will
be one of d’Elboeuff’s retinue."

"Monsieur le Marquess has been hunting with the Hamiltons in the wood of
Orbiestoun, so ’tis very likely."

"Well, bring the stranger hither with all speed."

"We have hung him heels uppermost to run the water out of him; and when
we have reversed him, and replaced the said water by a bicker of wine,
we will present him to your lordship."

"A forward March chick!" said the Earl, as the page disappeared.  "By
the mass! when I carried the helmet of old John of Albany, I dared not
have spoken so flippantly even to a simple squire or archer as this
saucy imp doth to me, who am a belted Earl."

"’Tis the influence of Calvinism," said the Countess; "but Heaven be
praised that thou, my dear lord, and my gallant brother, with Arran,
Errol, and Herries, shall again raise up those blessed altars which the
frenzy and fanaticism of an hour hath destroyed!"

"That is just as may suit my ambition," thought the Earl; "but hush, my
ladybird," he added aloud; "talk not thus in the hearing of our people,
for knowest thou——How now!" he exclaimed, as the arras was shaken and
raised; "Paris, is it thee?"

"Yes, my lord.  The stranger is a gentleman of Norway, and he earnestly
craves a brief audience."

The Earl started and arose; he grew pale, and his eyes sparkled with
anger and confusion; but he had still sufficient tact to avert his face,
that the countess might not perceive his emotion.

"Saidst thou a gentleman of Norway?" he stammered; "now, what in the
fiend’s name brought him to swim in the Clyde at midnight?"

"I know not, my lord."

"The fool—in armour, too!"

"That was the only wise part of his proceedings; for no man ventures
abroad in these days without his iron case."

"Silence, sirrah!  Norway," muttered Bothwell, in great confusion; "ass
and jolt-head that I have been!  Had I known he was of Norway, he had
been tossing over the steepest falls of Clyde by this time for aught
that I had cared.  ’Tis some demon from the north I suppose—some devil
of the wood, or the rocks, or the ice—some kinsman of Anna—(Nippen
himself, perhaps,)—ha! ha! come to beard Bothwell in his own hall. God’s
blood!" he muttered, setting his teeth on edge, while his eyes glared
with a fury suitable to his terrible oath; "he must be a stout fellow,
and a rare one, who, knowing me, will bruit abroad my dangerous
_secret_."

He trod hastily to and fro, while, alarmed and filled with curiosity,
the countess approached, and, taking his hands in hers, said—-

"My sweet lord—my dear lord—now prithee tell me what is all this about?"

"What thou hadst better not hear, my bonnibel," replied the Earl,
turning abruptly from her; but on seeing that her dark eyes filled with
tears, he added gently—"’Tis the stranger, Jane—a man-at-arms—one of Hob
Ormiston’s vassals, who would speak with me on matters unbefitting a
lady’s ear; so, I pray thee to retire!"

"Hast thou any secrets from me—from me, who loves thee so well—whose
life is thy love?"

"I keep nothing secret that thou shouldst hear; but this"——

"Concerneth a woman, doth it not?" said the Countess, growing pale,
while her dark eyes filled with a strange and dusky fire.

"A woman, sayest thou?" stammered the Earl, grasping her arm; "who can
have told thee that?"

"Thine own lips did so!  Did I not hear thee speak of one called
_Anna_?"

"Confusion! no!—go! go! thou art mistaken; I swear to thee, thou art;
and anon I will explain how.  Retire, lady, for this man would speak
with me alone, on matters which concern the state.  Paris! raise the
arras, and lead him in; but, on peril of thy neck, see that thou keepest
beyond earshot!"

The Countess retired, with an expression of face in which surprise and
chagrin were blended with the hauteur that seemed to dilate her little
figure, as she swept out of the apartment, and the heavy tapestry fell
behind her.

"Jealous, by St. Paul!" said the Earl; "but how can she have divined my
secret, or learned the name of Anna?  Poor Anna! I dream much of her!
Now, Heaven forefend I should mutter of her in my sleep, and thus reveal
my heart’s most deadly secret!  But there was jealousy in the eye of
Jane, or I am immensely mistaken.  There can be none without love, say
the casuists.  Well! but this maudlin love of hers becomes at times
excessively tiresome; and yet I cannot help liking the little dame.  Her
eyes, St. Mary! how they shone!  Ho, there, Calder! lead in this
merman—this water-kelpie—and let us know what he would have of James
Hepburn!"



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                     *THE REJECTED AND THE RIVAL.*

    When fix’d to one, Love safe at anchor rides,
    And dares the fury of the winds and tides;
    But losing once that hold, to the wide ocean borne,
    It drives at will, to every wave a scorn.
      _Dryden._


Though the Earl spoke aloud with an air of careless bravado, he was not
without sincere apprehension for the issue of this visit; and when
contemplating what might ensue, if his rash and foolish espousal of the
Norwegian lady became known to Lord Huntly, various dark ideas of
threats, of dule-tree and dungeon, were suggested as the surest means of
procuring silence.  The malice and gibing of his highborn enemies at
court—the queen’s indignation—the countess’ grief and anger—Huntly’s
pride and scorn!

"Devil!" muttered Bothwell, playing with his Parmese dagger; "it may be
old Rosenkrantz himself!  Would that Black Ormiston were here to advise
me!"

His heart beat like lightning as footsteps crossed the antechamber; they
came nearer; a hand grasped the arras, and the stranger (whom the pages
had attired in one of Bothwell’s own suits, but who still had his sword,
dagger, and corselet) stooped as he entered, and stood erect before him,
with head drawn back, his breast heaving, his eyes kindling, and his
cheek flushing.

Save a fierce glance, no other greeting was exchanged between them.

"I see that the gay Lord of Bothwell has not forgotten me," said Konrad
in French.

"The lover of Anna Rosenkrantz—Konrad of Saltzberg—here, within the
walls of Bothwell!"

"Ay, proud noble, here!—beard to beard with thee; yet, believe me, had I
known that the fortress, whose round towers rose so grimly above the
river, were those of my greatest foe, I had rather have perished among
its foaming waters than, given one cry for succour, save to God!"

"I disclaim all enmity, Sir Konrad—but, if this be thy spirit, why seek
my presence? My gates are open, and thy course is free."

"I come but to thank thee for having saved a life which, though
worthless now to me, I have for a time dedicated to the service of
another."

"Thou didst save mine from the waves of the Skager Rack," said the Earl.

"Would to Heaven I had left thee to perish!" muttered Konrad, in a burst
of anguish.

"Thou didst then establish a claim to my eternal gratitude, and I thank
God that he hath this night enabled me to repay my debt.  We are now
equal."

"’Tis well!  I would not be _thy_ debtor for all the silver in the mines
of Bergen; thou art alike faithless and base—yea, Lord of Bothwell, I
tell thee in thine own hall, that thou art a dishonoured villain."

The Earl started as if a serpent had stung him, and made a movement as
if to sound his bugle.

"I am here beneath thy roof," continued Konrad; "within thy lofty towers
and gates of strength, and I fearlessly repeat, that thou art the
villain this sword shall one day proclaim thee, in the midst of
assembled thousands."

"Thou art stark mad, young fellow!" said the Earl, making an effort to
restrain his passion, from a sense of the injury he had done the
speaker, and the deceit practised towards Anna, of whose escape and
immediate vicinity he had not the most remote idea.  "Konrad, I am aware
that I have wronged thee deeply, for I have acted most unwittingly to
thee, the part another acted once to me; for in my hot and ardent youth,
I loved one who neglected me with a coquetry and a cruelty that, to this
hour, have cast a shadow over my fortune and my days, I have loved many
since then; but, as God knoweth, none with the ardour and passion that
welled up in my boyish bosom for that young girl, my first and earliest
love.  Since then, a morbid and mischievous spirit has led me—in
vengeance, as it were—to make women my playthings and my toys, each
after each to be won, thrown aside, and forgotten, when I tired of
them—yea, thrown aside like flowers whose perfume is gone."

Touched by the Earl’s gentleness, the eyes of Konrad filled with tears;
and, clasping his hands, he said with great bitterness—

"Oh!  Lord of Bothwell, in pursuit of this ideal vengeance thou hast
destroyed me."

"Forgive me," said the Earl, laying a hand kindly upon his shoulder;
"forgive one who has endured all that you now feel; but, mark me, a time
will come when thou wilt despise the woman who could so coldly desert
thee for another."

"Oh, never!" said the young man earnestly—"never!"

"Remember the old saw that sayeth, ’There are as good fish in the sea as
ever came out of it.’  Thou art still young, Konrad; thy years"——

"Have scarcely numbered two-and-twenty, and already I am tired of life."

"Thou art mistaken; the old man may weary of existence, but the young
man never. The ardour of thy love will die"——

"Never, my lord—I tell thee, never!"

"Ha! ha!—how, dost thou love her still?"

"God alone knows how deeply and how dearly."

"Jesu! after she hath so misused thee? This is indeed the love of
romance," said the Earl, who thought he now saw some hope of ridding
himself of Anna, and so doing both himself and her lover a service.
"Well, Konrad, if thy passion is the same, and if Anna might be restored
to thee"——

"What! now—when in heart and soul she is the wife of another?  Never!
Much as I love her still, though on her bended knees she implored that
love, I swear to thee, Sir Earl, by God and St. Mary, I would withhold
it!  I love her, ’tis true—but oh! not with the same passion as of old.
Thou hast rifled my flower of its perfume, and broken the chain that
love and innocence cast around it. Though Anna still, she is no longer
the Anna who was the idol of my first day-dreams. No, my lord, to me her
love would now be but a mockery and an insult."

"By the mass! but I love thy spirit, and if I could be thy friend"——

"Friend!" reiterated Konrad with a bitter smile; "no, my lord—that thou
never canst be!"

"Then what devilish errand brings thee now to Scotland?"

Konrad hesitated in replying, for he was so much in the Earl’s power
that some subterfuge was necessary.

"Is it to seek vengeance on me, or to compel me to do some manner of
justice to thy false lemane?" asked Bothwell, haughtily.

"Justice? hast thou not wedded another after thy deliberate espousal of
her?"

"Dost thou deem the mock blessing of yon mad hermit a spousal rite?"
exclaimed the Earl, laughing; "what passed well enow for a marriage on
the half-barbarian shores of thy native fiord, will scarcely be deemed
one in this reformed land of stern superintendents, ruling elders, and
wrathful ministers—ha! ha!"

Konrad repressed his rising passion, and his hand involuntarily sought
the pommel of his dagger; but the recollection of Anna, lying helpless
and faint among the ruins of the desolate Priory, made him adopt the
less hostile course.

"I go to push my fortune under the banner of some of your border chiefs
and turbulent nobles, for thou hast made me loathe the land of my birth,
though there I have garnered up my heart; and sadly the memory of its
dark blue hills and waving woods cometh ever to my mind; and if, Lord of
Bothwell, in the strife that all men say will soon convulse this land,
thou meetest Konrad of Saltzberg in his helmet—look well to thyself; for
by the bones of Olaus! in that hour thou mayest need the best of thy
mail and thy manhood to boot."

"Be it so!" replied the Earl with bold frankness.  "If that time ever
comes, Sir Konrad, the memory that I have wronged thee deeply will alone
make me blench.  But go thy way, and God be with thee! for Bothwell hall
hath scarcely space enow to contain two such spirits as thou and I, even
for one night.  Ho, there!—French Paris, lead this gentleman to the
gates.  He is the first who hath rejected with scorn the proffered
friendship of the house of Hepburn, and bent a dark brow on a lord of
Bothwell under his own rooftree!"



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                       *KONRAD AND THE COUNTESS.*

    Oh, Bothwell bank! that blooms so bright
      Beneath the sun of May;
    The heaviest cloud that ever blew,
      Is bound for you this day.
        _Aytoune’s Lays._


Konrad was now doubly anxious to return to Anna, on learning the
dangerous nature of the predicament in which she was placed, and the sad
truth that, beyond a doubt, the faithless Earl had really cast her off
for ever, by his marriage with the Lady Jane Gordon. Under these
circumstances, the young man knew how much there was to dread should she
rashly seek the presence of the Earl, who might be compelled to adopt
some dark and desperate course to silence her for ever, in dread of her
accusations and clamour, which might so seriously injure his public
character and domestic peace.

While the interview recorded in the last chapter was taking place, the
Countess of Bothwell was sitting in her bower, with her dark eyes full
of tears; for the manner of the stranger, and certain expressions
uttered by the Earl, had roused her jealousy, and wounded her
self-esteem.  Old stories of Bothwell’s innumerable intrigues and
gallantries floated dimly and painfully through her mind, and her vivid
imagination filled up a dark tableau of—she knew not what—but which her
wilful and impetuous nature prompted her, at all risks, to fathom.

"Come hither, French Paris," she said to the youngest page, a pretty
lad, who had been presented to the Earl by the young Queen Mary; "come
hither," she continued, with one of her most engaging smiles.  "Lead
that strange man to my presence on the first opportunity; for I must see
him before he leaves the castle!"

"Lady—the stranger?" stammered the lad.

"I said the stranger, sirrah!  Didst thou not hear me?" she replied,
pettishly.

"I dare not, lady; for it seemeth to my poor comprehension that there
lurketh some mystery"——

"For that very reason, thou prevaricating little varlet, I wish to
converse with him."

"I dare not, madam; for well thou knowest that our lord, the Earl, is
not to be trifled with."

"’Tis mighty well, this, Master Paris! can I neither tempt nor oblige
thee to obey me, and keep my secret?"

"Thou canst well do both, sweet madam," replied the gallant page, with a
coy glance.

"Then here, thou little miser, are ten golden unicorns," said the
Countess, taking her purse from her girdle; but the pert boy drew back,
saying—

"How, Lady Bothwell! wouldst thou think to bribe the son of a French
knight like the spawn of a rascally clown?  If I am paid for keeping a
secret, St Mary! ’twill be with no other coin than Cupid’s."

The Countess reddened; but finding it necessary to humour the lad, who
had her so completely in his power,—

"Thou forward imp!" she replied; "one may easily discern thy court
education.  I will give thee one kiss now, and another after I have seen
this stranger.  But see to it, sirrah, that thou art secret and sincere,
or the kiss may be more fatal than that of Judas."

"Sweet lady!" replied the saucy boy, blushing with pleasure as the lip
of the beautiful Countess touched his blooming cheek, "at the risk of my
life will I serve thee; and in the hour I fail, may Heaven fail me!"

He sprang away, and, coiling himself up in his mantle, watched near the
door of the Earl’s chamber till he was summoned to lead forth the
unwelcome visiter.

"Boy," said Konrad, "I will give thee a silver crown, if thou wilt lead
to the first and nearest bridge that crosses yonder river."

"Fair sir, follow me!" said the page; and, cap in hand, by a narrow
spiral stair, which ascended to the second story of the Valence tower,
he led Konrad straight to the bower of the countess.

"Where art thou leading me, boy?" asked Konrad suspiciously; while
keeping one hand on his dagger, and the other on the page’s mantle, as
they stumbled up the dark stair, through the slits of which the night
wind blew on their faces, and they heard the endless rush of the
adjacent Clyde.

"I lead thee where silence is best, else thou mayest come down with the
aid of other legs than thine own."

"How, varlet! what jade trick is this?" exclaimed the young man with
surprise, on being suddenly ushered into a magnificent little boudoir,
where he found himself in presence of a lady.

"’Tis the Countess of Bothwell," whispered French Paris, "who would
learn from thee"——

"What thou art not to hear," interrupted the Countess; "so, begone! and
if thou wouldst keep that head on thy shoulders, retire behind the
arras, and muffle it well in thy mantle."

French Paris immediately retired; and Konrad, whose anxiety for the
safety of Anna (when he remembered the half-dying state in which he left
her,) amounted now to agony, stood silent and confused, gazing with
irresolution on the Countess.  He bowed with the deepest respect; for
her beauty and dignity, notwithstanding her diminutive stature, were
very striking.

The position she occupied, and the splendour by which she was
surrounded, contrasted forcibly, in his mind, with the forlorn condition
of Anna Rosenkrantz, stretched on the couch of leaves among the ruins
like a homeless outcast; and he felt, he scarcely knew why, a sentiment
of hostility struggling with pity for the Countess.

Her large and oriental-like eyes dilated as she asked—

"Art thou the man whom my husband saved from the river?"

"I am, lady; but, had he known me, I had been left to perish amid its
waters."

"Thou art quite a youth, and a handsome one, too—a Frenchman, I think?"

"Nay, noble lady, I am of old Norway in the distant north; but a good
Catholic, as I see thou art by thy crucifix."

"Our religion is a bond of friendship in these dangerous days of
obdurate heresy," said the Countess, whose eyes lighted up; "but
wherefore sayest thou my lord would rather thou hadst perished, though
he risked his life to save thee?"

"Because," replied the other with a lowering brow, "I am the bearer of a
secret that if, unfolded to thee, would make the Lord Bothwell slay me,
even if I stood with the grace-cup on his own hearthstone."

"And what is this secret?" she asked with a hauteur that was assumed to
hide her trembling curiosity.

"Excuse my revealing it, lady, and let me begone, I pray you, for an
agony of anxiety oppresses me.  One day, perhaps, you may—you must know
all!"

"Now—tell me now, I implore thee? Behold this ring; it contains four
diamonds, each worth I know not how many angels"—

"I am a gentleman, and a captain of arblastiers under Frederick of
Denmark, and to me your bribe is proffered in vain.  I repeat, madam,
that I must decline to reveal the secret."

"This is alike insolent and cruel!" said the Countess, raising her
voice, while her dark eyes flashed, and her little hands were clenched.
"Tell me this instant all thou knowest, or I will summon those who will
make thee. I have a proud lord, and a jealous.  Beware! Think what he
may do if thou art found in my chamber at this hour.  Now, the
secret—the secret!  Man, thy life is in my hands!"  She seized a silver
whistle that lay on the table—hand-bells were not then in use—and there
was something so malevolent in the threat, and so serpent-like in the
expression of her wild dark eyes, that Konrad was both startled and
provoked.  "The secret"——

"Is—That _thou art not_ Countess of Bothwell!" he replied, with quiet
scorn.

"What hast thou dared to say?" she asked, in a breathless voice, and
grew paler than marble.

"That thy husband is a villain, lady—a villain who hath deceived thee
cruelly!  He has another Countess, who shall one day claim him, and
compel him to acknowledge her as such before the assembled peers of
Scotland; for she is of noble birth in her own country, and the warlike
King Frederick will not permit the honour of her house to be trifled
with."

"Man, thou hast lied—oh, say thou hast lied!  Oh, say that thou art
mistaken!" said the Countess, in a low and broken voice, as she sank
upon a settle with a ghastliness of face, which the darkness of her eyes
and hair increased.

"I am not mistaken, lady.  I swear to thee by every saint who is blessed
in heaven, and by their shrines that are revered on earth, that I am
_not_!  He is solemnly espoused to Anna"——

"_Anna!_ ’tis the name he has muttered thrice in his sleep."

"Anna Rosenkrantz, a lady of Norway, who at this hour wears on her
marriage finger the emerald ring which the hermit of Bergen blessed, and
with which she was solemnly espoused."

"Sayest thou an emerald ring?" demanded the Countess, a sudden light
flashing in her eyes, while her lips became more white and parched.

"Yea, lady, wherein the traitor had inscribed a legend, purporting that
’the gift and the giver were hers for ever.’"

The Countess uttered a wild cry, and threw her clasped hands above her
head.

"Holy Mother look upon me, that my senses may be preserved!  That ring
was mine—my betrothal gift to him.  He said ’twas lost during his exile;
and with that gift (which my good and pious kinsman, the Bishop of
Dunblane, blessed on our plighting day) he hath espoused another!  But I
will be avenged! and by the soul of my murdered father, who with his
sword in his hand and the cross on his brow, fell on the field of
Corrichie, I will raise through all Strathbolgie and Aboyne a cry for
vengeance, that Scotland will long remember!"

"Against whom, lady?" asked Konrad, who had now a dash of the cynic in
his manner.  "The man thou lovest?"

But there was no reply.  Exhausted by the fury of that tempest of
passion, which convulsed a frame at all times too excitable and nervous,
the Countess had become insensible; and then Konrad, full of the
tenderest concern, was approaching, when French Paris, who had been
listening intently to the whole interview, and now began to tremble for
his own bones, raised the arras, and, plucking him by the sword, said—

"If thou valuest thy life, follow me and begone!  Her cries have reached
the hall, and already I hear the voice of the Earl."

They rushed down the secret stair to the postern, the arras barely
closing over Konrad at one end of the bower chamber, when the astonished
Earl raised it at the other.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                           *DISAPPOINTMENT.*

    Once more the gate behind me falls;
      Once more before my face
    I see the moulder’d abbey walls
      That stand within the chase.
        _Tennyson._


Konrad stood on Bothwell bank, the wooded declivity that sloped abruptly
to the margin of the Clyde, in whose deep bosom the stars were now
reflected; for all traces of the storm had died away, and the wet
foliage of the woodlands was rustling in the soft west wind that blew
from the darkened hills of Lanark.

High and sombre in its feudal strength and architectural pride, towered
up the keep of Bothwell, and its grass-tufted barbican wall.  Lights
flashed through the casements of turret and corridor, and loud voices
were heard calling clamorously in the echoing court.

"There lies thy path," said the page, pointing towards the river;
"traverse its banks for about a mile till thou reachest the bridge of
Bothwell.  The hamlet of the same name is near it, and there thou canst
pass the night."

"Is there no place nearer? consider again, good lad," said Konrad,
thinking more for Anna than himself, as he slipped the promised crown
into the page’s hand.

"The warder of the bridge resides in a house above the archway, which is
closed after nightfall.  He keeps an hostelry which affordeth good
up-putting both for men and horses; but mark me, fair sir! seek neither
hamlet nor hostel to-night, for we know not what evil may come of thy
plaguy interview with the countess.  Keep in the woods, and lie _en
perdu_ till daybreak, and then God speed thee!"

The postern closed, and Konrad stood alone.

A vague sense of danger impelled him to hurry from the vicinity of the
castle; but he was less actuated by that motive than by his anxiety to
rejoin Anna, from whom he had now been two hours absent, without
procuring the succour she required so much.

He found the passage of the river open, for the warder had partaken
somewhat freely of the potations of a traveller who had tarried there
about curfew-time, and consequently he had forgotten to secure the
barrier-gate that closed the roadway after dark, and which none could
pass without paying toll, or drinking a can of ale at his hostel.
Konrad passed on; and just as day was brightening in purple and orange
on the distant hills, he began to ascend the eminence which was crowned
by the ruined priory of the Augustines of Blantyre.

As day broke on the green woods of Bothwell, and the magnificent river,
a hundred yards in breadth, that flowed in blue and silver light between
them, no other silvan scene could surpass that landscape in beauty and
romance.  Contrasting strongly with the bright green of the summer
forest, which was seen at intervals between the ivied buttresses and
shattered windows of the gothic priory, rose Bothwell’s broad round
towers and ponderous ramparts, shining almost blood-red in the rising
sun, being all built of ruddy-coloured stone.  White and silvery, from
the margin of the deep and crystal river, the morning mist curled up
through the heavy foliage in a thousand fantastic shapes, and melted
away in the thin air of the blue and balmy sky.

Hurrying among the grass-grown masses of the broken tombs and fallen
walls, Konrad entered the vault where he had left Anna, and a pang shot
through his bosom on beholding her lying at full length, still and
motionless, on her bed of leaves.  Her face seemed pale as death when
viewed by the dim light that struggled through the arched chamber, from
a little pointed window in the massive wall.

"If she should be dead!" he thought, as he stooped tenderly over her.
"Ah! Heaven be thanked, she only sleeps!"

The contour and pallor of her beautiful fece, then attenuated by mental
suffering and bodily fatigue, seemed almost sublime in the placidity of
its aspect.  Tears were oozing heavily from her long lashes, and her
respirations were short and quick as her lover bent over her, and,
taking one of her passive hands in his, pressed it gently to his lips.

Anna awoke, and started on beholding Konrad, whose attire had been
changed; for the pages of the Earl had given him a sombre suit of black
sarcenet in lieu of his wet garments.

"Konrad," she said faintly, "thou hast tarried long."

"Not one moment longer than I could avoid, dearest Anna!  Thou canst not
guess where I have been, and whom I have seen."

"Thou hast seen _him_," she replied, with a radiant face; "whom else
couldst thou see that I care for?"

"I _have_ seen him, lady," said Konrad, over whose countenance there
fell a deeper shade of melancholy.  "I have seen him, and stood with him
face to face in his own castle hall."

"Oh!" exclaimed Anna; and, half-clinging to Konrad’s neck, she turned
upon him a face and eyes that were radiant with eagerness and joy; "and
what said he? what message sent he to me—to his well-loved Anna? why
came he not himself?"

"Thou hast forgotten, Anna"——

"Ah! my God! yes—the story.  He is still faithful to me—say that he is,
dear Konrad!"

"Six months ago, with all formality and magnificence, he was married to
another, and thou art no more remembered than the last year’s snow."

"This must—must be some dreadful dream or fantasy!" said Anna, pressing
her hands upon her temples.

"I have seen his bride."

"Is she beautiful?"

"Yes, singularly beautiful, and gentle, and winning."

"Hah!" muttered Anna sharply through the teeth, which were set like a
vice.

Her face was pale and colourless.  An expression of jealous bitterness,
of anger, and reproach, were on her forehead, and sparkling in her eyes,
which were almost white with an aspect of passion, such as Konrad had
never before witnessed in her usually calm features; and, taking her
hands in his, he said tenderly—

"Be composed, dearest Anna! for I never will forsake thee while hie
remains; and even were I to die, my spirit, I am assured, will hover
near thee still."

"_Thou!_" said she bitterly, as she snatched away her hands; "what art
thou to me?"

The young man trembled, for at these cruel words a heavy palsy seemed to
fall upon his heart.

"And where is his castle, Konrad?" she demanded abruptly.

"Behold!" he replied; and, drawing back a mass of the pendant ivy and
wild-roses that overhung the entrance of the vault, he displayed the
beautiful valley or dell, through which the noble Clyde, so broad, blue,
and crystalline, was winding between its banks of lofty wood, and
overlooked by the dark façade of Bothwell’s princely stronghold.

Full on the long line of its crenelated rampart, on the strong round
towers that the patriot Wallace, and "proud Pembroke’s haughty Earl,"
had built, on its shining casements and lofty keep, overtopping the
summer foliage and the morning mist, shone the warm splendour of the
early sun.  Anna gave one fixed and fierce glance at the edifice, and
then arose with tottering steps, and wildness in her air and eyes.

"Whither wouldst thou, Anna?" said Konrad imploringly, retaining her
hand.

"I am going to him"——

"To Bothwell?"

"I will—I shall see him once again, though only to expire at his feet.
One interview may"——

"Dear Anna," said Konrad, who never for an instant, under all her
petulance and neglect, altered his gentle and loverlike tone; "thou
forgettest that he is wedded to another—a great lady of the land—and
that thou art now but as a weed, a bramble in his path, to be crushed or
thrown aside."

"Go to!  Konrad—’tis but jealousy that makes thee speak thus."

"Thou wrongest me, Lady Anna; ’tis long since jealousy died within me.
Oh! _that_ was an agony that could not last with life.  Tarry but one
hour, I implore—thou art so faint, Anna"——

"Dare you detain me, sir?"

"Go, then; and Bothwell’s boorish warders and flippant pages will drive
thee like some poor wanton from his gates; and think then—when with
insult and opprobrium they are closed upon thee—what thy father, the
brave old knight of Aggerhuis, who died with one hand on his sword and
the other on the standard of the Lubeckers, would have felt, could he
have thought that such an hour was reserved for the only daughter of
that wife he loved so dearly."

"True—true!" replied Anna, giving way to a passionate burst of tears;
for the mention of her parents subdued her.  "O Mary! blessed mother of
compassion, intercede for me!  Inspire me with resignation and strength
to endure my fate.  Ah, pardon me, kind and good Konrad! for my heart is
so torn by love and shame and indignation, that at times I know not what
I say.  From what I was in Frederick’s court, to become what I am—a poor
outcast on a foreign shore—an object of scorn to the proud, and pity to
the good!  Oh, how frightful!  Be still kind to me, Konrad—and end my
misery by putting thy poniard into the heart that so cruelly deceived
thee."

Konrad was deeply moved by this passionate burst of grief; he leaned
against a fragment of the ruin, and covered his face with his hands.

"Anna!" said he, after a pause; "bethink thee that Scotland hath a queen
whose goodness of heart and gentleness of spirit are revered in every
land save her own?"

"True! and at her feet will I pour forth my sorrow and my tears
together.  As a woman she will sympathize with me, and lend a kind ear
to the story of my wrongs, Thou wilt go with me, Konrad?"

He kissed her hand again, and led her to the arch of the vault, and then
they paused—for at that moment the blast of a bugle, clear and ringing,
ascended from the bosky dell below the ruined Priory.  Then the flash of
steel was seen among the foliage, and a band of between forty and fifty
men-at-arms on horseback, three abreast, having two swallow-tailed
pennons displayed, and with their steel caps and tall uplifted lances
glittering in the morning sun, swept at full gallop round the steep
knoll on which the castle stood.

For a few minutes the reflection of their passing files was seen to
glitter in the mirror-like bosom of the river, as horse and rider, spear
and pennon, vanished among the apple bowers and birchen glades that
clothed the braes of Bothwell.

Konrad felt instinctively that they were in pursuit of him; and, with a
sadness and anxiety caused only by the reflection that, if he were
slain, Anna would be friendless and desolate, he led her slowly from the
ruins, and, hand in hand, the forlorn pair traversed the thickets of old
and gnarled oak surrounding Blantyre Priory, and reached the rough and
dusty highway which was to lead them—but how they knew not—to the court
and palace of the Queen of Scotland.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                          *THE COUNTESS JANE.*

    What was once a source of pleasure,
      Now becomes the cause of pain;
    Day no more displays its treasure,
      Endless night o’erspreads the plain:
    The powers of nature and of art
    Cease to charm the wounded heart.
        _Sonnet by Queen Mary._


The Earl of Bothwell was more astonished than alarmed on finding his
Countess insensible; but hastening forward with proper solicitude, he
raised her from the ground, and the moment he did so she partially
recovered.

Her deep dark eyes gave him one full, bright, sickening glance of sorrow
and reproach, then she closed them again, and her head drooped over his
shoulder.

Again she recovered suddenly, and, trembling in every limb, withdrew
from the Earl’s encircling arm, and cold, passionless, and rigid in
feature as a statue, gazed steadily upon him for a moment, and, removing
her wedding ring from the marriage finger, laid it on a little marble
table that stood near her.

"Now, my Lord," said she, in a voice that struggled to be firm, "now, I
have done with thee.  Give this ring to _her_ who now wears my betrothal
gift, and may she be happier than I have been!  Oh!  Bothwell, Bothwell!
if ever"——

"Woman, art thou mad?" exclaimed the astonished noble, growing pale with
surprise and increasing anger.

The Countess laughed bitterly.

"Mad!" she repeated, and pressed her little hands upon her throbbing
temples.  A strange light blazed in her dark eyes, that were liquid and
swimming, though not one of the hot salt tears that trembled in them
rolled over her pallid cheek.  "Yes—I am mad! ha, ha!"

A shudder crept over Bothwell on hearing that ghastly laugh, and he
said—

"Take up thy ring, Jane, for thy manner makes me tremble."

"Hah! doth it so?  Oh, Bothwell! did I not love thee almost to
adoration, I should spit upon thee!  Thy ring—oh! never more shall ring
of thine disgrace the hand of Lord Huntly’s daughter.  Where is the ring
that I gave thee in exchange for _this_ on the day of our betrothal,
when together we knelt before the Bishop of Dunblane, and the old man
blessed us both?  Oh, false and faithless! dishonourable and base!"——

"Speak louder, lady!" said the Earl, whose brow darkened with suppressed
passion,—"speak louder, I pray thee!  Let every groom and gossiping page
hear how Bothwell and his Countess can bandy hard words in their
quarrels, like two tavern brawlers.  What a plague have I to do with thy
quips and quirks?—thy freaks and wild fancies?  Thou hast found thy
tongue, (a wanion upon it!) pray, endeavour to recover thy temper also.
Lady—by St. Paul thy best wits have gone woolgathering!"

"Oh! why didst thou wed me, Bothwell?" she exclaimed, in a passionate
burst of grief, as she threw herself upon a cushioned settle, and
covered her face with her hands.  The Earl was touched; he approached,
and bent over her.

"Jane, Jane!" he began, in a faltering voice.

"Why didst thou take me from hearts that loved me so well?"

Scorn curled the Earl’s lip at this question, for he thought it referred
regretfully to Lord Sutherland, who, in her girlish days, had been an
assiduous admirer of the Countess.  He replied coldly—

"I doubt not there are still hearts who love thee in Strathbolgie—and
_Strathnaver_, too."

"Begone!" she exclaimed, in a voice that thrilled through him; for her
terrible malady was then fast stealing upon her senses and energies.
"Begone to thine Anna, and leave Jane of Gordon to die!
Away—begone!—dost thou hear?"  And, in the childish bitterness of her
passion, she spat upon him.

The Earl withdrew a pace or two; rage crimsoned his features, and he
rolled his eyes about for some object to vent his fury upon.

"Oh! why didst thou teach me to love thee?" continued the Countess in
her piercing voice.  "What led thee to woo and to wed me?"

"_Fatality!_" replied the Earl, with a cold and haughty smile.
"Fatality!  O woman! knowest thou not that every action of my life has
been impelled by an overruling principle, which I could neither see, nor
avert, nor avoid? and I know not on what other shoals and rocks of
danger and intrigue, this current of my inevitable fete may hurry me.
But I feel within me a solemn presentiment that this right hand shall
yet do deeds at which the boldest hearts—and my own, too—shall be
startled and dismayed."

"Away from me further; for now I see thou art tainted with the cursed
heresies of Calvin.  Fatality!  This is not the Catholic doctrine thy
pious mother, Agnes of Sinclair, instilled into thy mind.  Now I no
longer need to marvel at thy duplicity.  Thou who art false to thy God,
may well be false to me; or art thou growing mad, too?  Away to Anna,
and leave me!"

"Anna?"

"Yes, Anna—’tis the name thou hast often muttered in thy sleep, when,
with a heart full of love, I lay waking and watching by thy side, and
these evil dreams were my meed.  Hence to thy Norwegian!"

"By St. Paul! this fellow, Konrad, hath been with thee!  Ah, villain and
traitor! beware how thou comest again within the reach of Bothwell’s
dagger.  Ho, Hob of Ormiston!—John of Bolton!—Calder!—Paris!—ho there!
What a blockhead, what a jack-a-lent I have been!"

The page appeared, and too frightened to remember his fee now, trembled
in every limb at the domestic storm he had been partly the means of
raising.

"Has any one had access to the Countess?" asked the Earl, with a
terrible frown.

"None—none, my lord, that I know aught of."

"French Paris, thou art a subtle little villain, and hadst thou not been
gifted to me, like a marmozet, by the Queen, I would have cracked thy
head, as thy likeness would a nut, to obtain the truth!  Have the lairds
of Ormiston or Bolton returned yet?"

"This moment only, my lord.  They are in the hall, and in their armour
yet."

"Let their stout jackmen hie to horse again, and bid them look well to
girth and spur-leather; so, while I arm me, boy, send the knights
hither."

While Bothwell hurriedly buckled on a suit of armour that was lying
near—for, as we said elsewhere, no man could with safety venture a yard
from his own door unarmed—the Countess lay on the crimson settle, with
her face covered by her hands, over which her long black hair was
flowing in disorder.

The clank of armed heels and steel scabbards in the antechamber,
heralded the approach of the knights, and their mail flashed as the
heavy arras was drawn aside, and they stood before the Earl.

"The Norwegian hath been here!" whispered the latter to Ormiston.

"How—who?"

"Konrad of Saltzberg—thou rememberest him," he added aloud; "and he hath
bewitched the Countess—a French sorcerer, Bolton, anent whom I will tell
thee another time.  Horse and spear!  Thou, Ormiston, and I, must ride,
scour the woods, and slay without reservation or remede if we find him.
Nay, that were too cruel, perhaps; let us capture him, at all events.
Tell your people, sirs, he is a tall fellow, with a long sword, a
corselet, breeches and hosen of sable sarcenet.  Twenty unicorns to the
finder and capturer!"

"We must breathe our steeds first," said Ormiston, as he drew the clasps
and buckles of the Earl’s armour; "we have had a tough night’s work with
Clelland and Lauchope. They stood it stoutly, with a hundred lances and
fifty archers a-side.  We have had a raid on Bothwell-muir that will
make a noise among the justiciary lords at Edinburgh."

"And how came these knaves to quarrel?"

"Because, at Candlemas last, one took precedence of the other in
crossing Calder brig."

"A just cause and a proper for three hundred blockheads to tilt at each
other’s throats!  And how comest thou, Hob, to lift lance in this wise
feud?"

"Because I count kindred with Clelland."

"And thou, Bolton, why wentest thou with thy fifty lances?"

"Because I claim kindred with Ormiston."

"So may ye all _hang_ together in the end!" said the Earl, angrily;
"while I, your lord and feudal superior, want you, ye are fighting under
other banners.  Now, Paris, my sword and salade.  Summon my grooms, and
let us to horse—the fellow cannot be far off yet."

Hob of Ormiston was sheathed in a favourite suit of black armour, which
he usually wore to render his sobriquet more complete; but Bothwell’s
particular friend and ally, Hepburn of Bolton, who was captain of his
castle of Hermitage, and lieutenant of Queen Mary’s Archer Guard, wore a
magnificent suit of polished steel, the gorget and shoulder-plates of
which were riveted with rows of golded-headed nails.  He was a young and
handsome man, and his bright blue eyes sparkled with merriment and good
humour under the uplifted visor of his helmet.

Both these gentlemen helped themselves, unasked, to wine, from a red
vase of gilded crystal that stood on a buffet, and both laughed somewhat
unceremoniously at the unseemly conjugal feud that had evidently taken
place, and each made his remarks thereon with a blunt carelessness
peculiar rather to the men than to the age.

"The Lady Bothwell seemeth ill at ease," said Ormiston, winking to
Hepburn over his wine horn.

"Fore heaven! he must have been a marvellous sorcerer, this Konrad,"
laughed the young knight, showing all his teeth under a brown mustache;
"and if I come within a lance length of him, he will have reason to
remember Jock of Bolton for the short remainder of his days."

"Adieu, my bonnibel!" said the Earl, in a low voice, as he laid his hand
caressingly on the shoulder of the countess, who never raised her
drooping head.

"Adieu!" she sobbed; "and may it be for ever."

"Ah! my jo, Jean—these are severe words," said the Earl, with a faint
attempt to laugh; for at times he really felt a sincere tenderness for
his little wife.

"Would to God, thou false lord, that I had never met—never married
thee!"

"Well, ladybird," said he, with a sudden hauteur that was almost cruel,
"thou mayest thank thy kinsman, the politic Earl of Huntly, whose
intrigues to procure a rich husband for his tocherless sister brought
that bridal about.  By our lady!  I never sought thee, save in the mere
spirit of pastime and gallantry, and in that spirit, Lady Jane, I own
that I loved thee well enough for a time."

"A time!" reiterated the Countess.

"Yes—what more wouldest thou have, thou exacting little fairy?"

"A time!" she repeated, and bent her bright but humid eyes upon him,
while pressing her white hands tightly together, "Oh, ’twas a pity that
love so tender should ever have been spoiled by marriage!"

"Thou growest sarcastic," said the Earl, as he nodded to her jocosely,
adjusted his helmet, and began to whistle "_My Jollie Lemane_"—then
after a time, he added, "we were never quite suited for each other, my
bonnibel.  Thou wert too exacting—I too gay."

The poor young Countess wrung her hands, and uttered that low laugh
which thrilled through Bothwell’s heart.  His countenance changed; he
drew back, and regarded her anxiously through his closed visor.

"Thou makest a devil of a fuss about this escapade, Lady Bothwell!" said
Hob of Ormiston, in his deep bass voice; he had been intently polishing
his cuirass with the lining of his gauntlet, and endeavouring to repress
his disdain for the Earl’s quietness, this fierce baron being in his own
household despotic and terrible as a Tartar king or a Bedouin chief,
"Why should not thy husband, the Earl, have a gay lemane as well as the
godly Arran, the pious Morton, and other nobles, who hold natheless a
fair repute in kirk and state?"

"True," said Hepburn, laughing heartily at this coarse remark, "even
Master Knox, too!  Is there not a story abroad in the Luckenbooths, of
his having been found gamboling with a wight-wapping lass in a covered
killogie?"[*]


[*] See Life of Knox.


"Mother Mary!" exclaimed the Countess wildly, as she rose to her full
height, and turned her eyes of fire upon the speaker; "have I fallen so
low, that I have become the sport of ruffians such as you?  Begone from
my bower ere I die!  Is this a place, Lord Earl, for thy cut-throats and
swashbucklers to bully and swagger in?"

Black Ormiston uttered a loud laugh.

"Sweet Madam," began Hepburn—

"And thou, too, John of Bolton; begone, for an officious fool!"

"By St. Paul!" said the Earl angrily, "when thou insultest my friends
thus, the atmosphere of the house must be too hot to suit me.  Paris—ho!
attend to thy mistress; and now, sirs, to horse and away, for by the
honour of Hepburn, the rascally Norseman who hath brought all this
mischief about, shall dree his reward ere the sun goes down."

As they descended to the castle-yard, a wild hyena-like cry came from
the Countess’s bower, but instead of pausing they hastened their steps.

Horribly it rang in the hollow of Bothwell’s helmet, and by it he knew
that what he had dreaded was now come to pass—

That his Countess was mad!



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                             *THE PURSUIT.*

    The drawbridge falls, they hurry out—
      Clatters each plank and swinging chain,
    At, dashing o’er, the jovial route
      Urge the shy steed, and slack rein.
        _Scott._


The morning sun rose brightly upon the windings of the azure Clyde, and
on the green woodlands whose foliage was reflected on its surface, as
Bothwell and his two friends, at the head of about fifty jackmen,
mounted on strong and fleet horses, of border training, and armed with
steel caps, shirts of mail, two-handed swords and long lances, dashed at
full gallop from the archway of the castle, rumbled over the sounding
drawbridge, and descending from the height through the barbican gate,
plunged into the bosky coppice below, where their bright armour and
weapons were seen flashing and glinting among the green foliage, as they
spurred towards the bridge and village of Bothwell.

"We must have this Norwegian either killed or captured," said Bothwell
emphatically to Ormiston, as they galloped at the head of their train.
"To have him at large with such a story on his tongue, would be
submitting to my own destruction."

"True, my lord!" replied the unscrupulous retainer; "suppose he fell in
the way of Moray or of Morton—what a notable discovery! Thou sayest
aright; to leave him at liberty on Scottish ground, with this secret in
his fool’s noddle, would but serve to ruin thee at Holyrood, and injure
all who follow thy banner."

"He has, as we know, wrongs to avenge; and men, in these brisk days of
ours, are not wont to follow those precepts of scripture, which Knox and
Wishart have dinned into our ears—by turning one cheek to the foe who
smites us on the other—and these wrongs may lead him straight to the
ears of Huntly. Fool that I was, when he stood on my own hall floor"——

"Where was then thy dagger?" asked black Hob, with a ferocious look.

"May God forbid—and forefend its use in such a place!" replied the Earl.
"Such a trick were worse than that old Douglas played the Knight of
Bombie at the Castle of Threave, and a deed deserving such meed as I
pray Heaven may mete to me, in that hour when I fall so far in guilt.
Nay—nay! under my own roof to take the life of a trusting guest! Go to,
Ormiston! thou art stark mad, or stark bad!"

"Cock and pie! what a fuss thou makest! Then thou hadst the dungeon, and
it might have spared us this ride, which to say truth, after our last
night’s hard work in plate and mail, with lance and maul, I could very
well have spared.  I have been cheated of breakfast, too!  But mayhap
the warder at the bridge hath a bowie of porridge, or a slice of beef
and a can of ale, to spare."

"Hob, do thou take the bridle-path that leads to the tower of Clelland;
after the drubbing thou gavest him overnight, the laird will not likely
molest thy pennon. Scatter twenty lances to prick among the woodlands.
Bolton, thou wilt ride with ten men by Calderside, and do likewise;
while I cross the Clyde, and search by Blantyre Priory.  _Keep tryste_
on Bothwell-muir!  So now adieu, sirs!—Forward, my stout prickers, and
remember, my merry men all—twenty unicorns of gold to the finder of this
knave! He is a tall fellow, with a fair curly head, a corselet, and
black hosen."

Dividing into three, at a wave of his hand the horsemen separated, and
galloped off on their different routes.

Leaving the Knight of Ormiston and the Lieutenant of the Archers to
pursue their various roads, which happily they did without success, we
will accompany the Earl, who, with twenty prickers, or light-armed
horsemen, rode towards the bridge of Bothwell, pursuing the ancient
Roman way.

It was a glorious summer morning; the air was balmy, and all nature wore
its brightest hue; the green fields and the waving foliage were rich and
verdant, and glittered in the silver dew, which the sun was exhaling in
gauzy mist.  Bothwell, full of anxiety to recapture Konrad, and
thereafter to find some means necessary for stifling the dangerous
secret he possessed, rode furiously on, despatching his riders by
couples along the various narrow paths that led from the ancient way, to
the different baronial towers and hamlets whose smoke was seen curling
from the woods on each side.

With their mossy roofs and clay-built lums, the latter were generally
nestling in the wooded dingles which were overlooked by the battlemented
peels, that stood in bold outline against the sky, with their red walls
glancing, and dark smoke ascending in the sunshine.  From their summits
many a watchman looked sharply and keenly at the distant horsemen as
they rode through the thickets below, appearing at times on the dusty
highway, or spurring along the steep Hill-sides, with their lance-heads
flashing like silver stars among the bright green leaves.

With all the impetuosity of his nature, Bothwell rode fast and furiously
on, and till he reached the muir never drew bridle, save once, to cross
himself and mutter an _ave_ on passing one of those little chapels or
roadside shrines, which are still so common in Spain and Italy, and
which the pious spirit of the olden time erected by the wayside to
remind the passers of their religious duties. It was rudely formed, and
had been erected by his pious ancestress, Agnes Stewart of Buchan, that
the wayfarer might say one prayer for the soul of her husband, Adam Earl
of Bothwell, who had fallen fighting for Scotland on Flodden field.

And here the Earl, even in his path of vengeance, paused to offer up a
prayer.

The little chapel was formed by a single gothic arch, containing an
altar, a niche, and pedestal graven with the words, _Saint Mary, pray
for me!_ but the hands of the Reformers had been there; the shrine was
empty, the altar mutilated, the weeds and wallflower were growing in
luxuriance about it, and the fountain, that once had flowed from a
carved face into a stone basin below, in consequence of the wanton and
fanatical destruction of the latter, was running across the roadway,
where it had long since made for itself a little channel.

The extensive muir of Bothwell, which is now so beautiful in its modern
state of cultivation and fertility, was then a wide sequestered waste of
purple heather, dotted by grey rocks, tufts of golden broom, and masses
of dark green whin.

Traces of that recent feudal conflict, in which Ormiston and Bolton had
been handling their swords, were met at every rood of the way, by the
Earl and six horsemen who now accompanied him.  Broken swords and
splintered lances were lying by the roadside, and parties of peasantry
were passed, bearing away the dead and wounded in grey plaids, on biers
of pikes or branches of trees; the women tearing their hair and
lamenting aloud; the men, with their bonnets drawn over their knitted
brows, brooding on that future vengeance which, in those days of
feudalism, and of bold hearts and ready hands, was never far distant.

A ride of a mile and a half from his castle gate brought the Earl to the
village of Bothwell, which bordered the ancient way known as the Watling
street.  Then it was but a little thatched hamlet, clustered with gable
ends and clay lums, near the venerable church founded by Archibald the
Grim, Lord of Galloway.  Beyond, lay the mains and groves of
Bothwellhaugh, possessed by a lesser baron of the house of Hamilton.

Here the vassal villagers came crowding, bonnet in hand, around the
Earl, and in courtesy he was compelled to touch his helmet and rein up;
while the parish beadle, after tinkling the skelloche bell, issued,
according to an ancient custom now obsolete in Scotland, the following
burial proclamation:—

"All brethren and sisters!  I let you to wit, there is a brother, Ninian
Liddal of the Nettlestanebrae, hath been slain by the Laird of
Lauchope’s riders, in a raid yestreen, on Bothwell-muir, as was the will
and pleasure of Almighty God (lifting his bonnet).  The burying will be
at twelve o’clock the morn, and the corpse is streekit and kistit at the
change-house, up by the townhead!"

And he departed, ringing his bell in the same slow fashion with which he
usually preceded funerals, to the collegiate kirk of Bothwell.

On the purple muirland many unclaimed bodies were lying stark and rigid—

       "With the dew on their brow, and the rust on their mail;"

while the black corbies and ravenous gleds were wheeling in circles
above them, in that blue sky on which the eyes of the dead had closed
for ever.

"Gramercy!" said Hay of Tallo, a follower of the Earl, as a man, whose
beard was white as snow, and whose loose grey gown was torn in many
places, hurried out of their path; "is not yonder fellow some
mass-monging priest?"

"Gif I thought so," growled a jackman, lifting his lance, "I would
cleave his croon! He hath been searching the scrips and pouches of the
dead."

"Shriving the dying, more likely, thou knave!" said the Earl; "’tis
Father Tarbet, a poor monk of a Reformed monastery, and I dare thee to
offer him insult under peril of pit and gyves."

A powerful horse, bearing its steel-bowed military saddle, accoutred
with caliver and jedwood axe, lay rolling in the last agonies of death,
with a broken lance thrust far into its broad bosom.

Such sights and incidents were rather too common in that age to attract
much attention; so the Earl and his followers, without even remarking
them, rode on to the end of the extensive muir, and there wound their
horns to call together such of their companions as might be within
hearing.

One by one the wearied riders came in, but brought no tidings of the
fugitive.

Every sheeptrack and pathway through all the extensive barony had been
searched—by Woodhall and Sweethope; by the old tower of Lauchope on its
steep rock; by the banks of the Calder that flowed beneath it, and in
that great cavern where Wight Wallace found a refuge in the days of old;
by Bothwell brig, and muir, and haugh; by the old gothic kirk and the
Prebend’s Yards; but without finding a trace of Konrad.

Hob of Ormiston, and Hepburn, the captain of Hermitage, came in last,
with the same tidings; and, with uplifted hand, the wrathful Earl made a
vow of vengeance upon the fugitive.

The armour of the whole troop was covered with summer dust, and their
horses were jaded by hard and devious riding.

"And now, my lord," said Hepburn of Bolton, "whither wend we?"

"To court—to court!  As warden of the three marches, I have received a
summons to attend the queen, who holds her court at Linlithgow; and I
will return to Bothwell no more—not to night at least," added the Earl;
"are all our knaves come up?"

"Every lance, my lord," replied young Hepburn, counting the files with
his spear.

"Then set forward, sirs—and, John of Bolton, do thou lead the van," and
at the head of his numerous train the Earl departed from Clydesdale.

A band of so many armed retainers, attending a great baron to court,
excited no surprise in that age.  A feudal landholder’s influence being
exactly measured, not by the number of merks Scots he drew per annum,
but by the number of men he could lead to battle on behalf of the King
or himself. Godscroft informs us that the great Earl of Douglas, who was
slain at Edinburgh about a hundred years before the days of Bothwell,
never rode abroad with less than two thousand mailed horsemen under his
banner.



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                         *MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.*

    O king! in an evil day was I beloved by you,
    Since that, love has cost me dear!
      _Amadis de Gaul._


It was in the month of June, and in the meridian of one of June’s most
beautiful days.  The sun shone joyously on old Linlithgow’s wooded loch
and magnificent palace; on its carved towers, the clustered gables of
its grand façade; and on the belfry of St. Michael, the friend of
strangers; on the venerable oaks and graceful ashes that fringed its
azure lake, where the snow-white swans were floating in crystal and
light; on the steep and narrow streets of the town, with their
high-peaked roofs and crow-stepped gables, encrusted with coats-of-arms
and quaint devices—on all its varied scenery, fell the bright radiance
of a cloudless noon.

The sky was of the purest blue, and the lake gleamed like a vast mirror
of polished crystal, reflecting in its depths the banks of emerald
green, the beautiful palace, with all its mullioned windows and long
perspective of crenelated battlements, the summer woodlands, and the
floating swans.

Though the poverty and gloom that spread over Scotland with the
Reformation, had dimmed the splendour of her court, and depressed the
spirit of her people, turning their gaiety into stolid gravity and
moroseness, the palace then bore an aspect very different from that it
bears to-day.

In many a hall and chamber, where now the long reedy grass, the
tenacious ivy, the scented wallflower, and the wild docken, flourish in
luxuriance, the well-brushed tapestries of silk and cloth of gold hung
on tenterhooks of polished steel; and casements of stained glass, rich
with the armorial bearings of Bourbon, Lorraine, Guise, England, and
other alliances of the house of Stuart, filled up those mullioned
windows, where now the owl and the ravenous gled build their nests; for
now the velvet moss and the long grass, are growing green on the floors
of Queen Margaret’s crumbling bower, and Mary’s roofless birthplace—in
the stately hall where Scotland’s peers, in parliament assembled, gave
laws to her lawless clans; and the beautiful chapel, where, for many an
age, the most solemn sacraments of the first church were dispensed to
her gallant rulers.

In the June of the year of God 1567, its aspect was the same as when
King James, of gallant memory, had left it for Flodden field.

The leaves were as green and the grass as verdant, the lake was as blue
and the sun as bright, as they are to-day, and may be a thousand years
after the last stone of Linlithgow shall have fallen from its place.

Its casements were glittering in the sunshine; the royal standard of
Scotland, the yellow banner with the lion gules, was waving from one of
the great towers; steel was flashing on parapet and tourelle, as the
polished basinets and pikeheads of the soldiers of the guard appeared at
intervals on the stone bartisans, from which a number of those little
brass cannon known as drakes and moyennes peeped between the massive
embrasures.  And in that deep archway, which is guarded by two strong
octagon towers, perforated with numerous arrow-holes, and surmounted by
a gorgeous battlement, representing in four carved compartments the
orders of knighthood borne by James V.—the Saint Andrew, Saint George,
Saint Michael, and the Golden Fleece—were crowding a group of liverymen
and swashbucklers in half-armour, with sword, target, and dagger, their
arrogance and pride of clanship being displayed by their bearing and
ferocity of aspect, their cocked bonnets, and embroidered sleeve-badges.
Mingling with them were gaily attired pages, grooms, falconers, and
archers of the queen’s body guard, clad in green gaberdines with gorgets
and caps of steel, each bearing his unstrung bow, and having a sheaf of
arrows bristling in the same belt that sustained his short cross-hilted
sword and long double-edged dagger.

The bustle about the palace gates was unusual, for the Lords of the
Privy Council were assembled in the Parliament hall, and Mary was seated
on the throne.

Into that magnificent apartment, which measures a hundred feet in length
by thirty in breadth, and which had a roof nearly forty feet in height,
light was admitted by two rows of arched windows, between each of which
projected a double tier of beautiful corbels, the lower upholding a line
of statues—the upper sustaining the ceiling of elaborate oak, which
sprung away aloft into intricacy and brown obscurity.  A vast fireplace
yawned at one end; it was supported by four gothic columns, clustered
and capitalled with the richest embossage.

The young King Henry, a tall and handsome, but pale and beardless youth,
whose effeminate aspect contrasted strongly with those of the mustached
and sunburned lords of the council, sat on the Queen’s left hand. His
face was a perfect oval, and his eyes were dark like his hair, which was
short and curly.  His attire was fashioned in the extreme of gorgeous
extravagance; the sleeves and breast of his blue satin doublet being
loaded with lace and precious stones.  He had nothing military about him
save a small walking-sword, for arms were not King Henry’s forte, which
was quite enough to make the Scots heartily despise him.

A long career of debauchery, drinking, and excess, had ruined his
constitution, and now a pallor like unto that of death was visible in
his hollow cheek and lustreless eye; and as he lounged back in his
cushioned seat, much more interested in flirting with the maids of
honour than listening to affairs debated by the council, he had all the
aspect of the prematurely worn out man of pleasure—the satiated
_roué_—the _ennuyée_, whom the slightest exertion of mind or body was
sufficient to bore to death.  Mary, disgusted by his daily excesses,
which shocked her delicacy and wounded her pride, had long since ceased
to love him, and had learned to deplore that alliance which youthful
inclination, and the ardour of her impulsive nature, rather than the
dictates of prudence, had led her to form; when from among all her
suitors, many of whom were the sons of kings—the Archduke of Austria,
Don Carlos of Spain, and others—she, the most beautiful woman in Europe,
she, whose genius equalled her beauty, and whose piety equalled her
genius, preferred the worthless heir of the exiled house of Lennox!
This ill-fated marriage began the long series of those disastrous events
which ended in the towers of Fotheringay; but who then, when Mary was
seated on the throne of a hundred kings, in the palace of her fathers,
with the crown of Bruce, the sceptre of James V., and the consecrated
sword of Pope Julius before her, could have foreseen that dark hour of
humiliation and of death?

The beauty of Darnley’s person was his only merit.  He was alike
destitute of honour, religion, and morality—in all, the reverse of Mary.
Vain and imperious, fierce, jealous, and capricious, his temper soon
excited disgust in her sensitive mind; and the ruthless murder of her
poor Italian secretary, had converted her rash and youthful love into
contempt and hatred—for such at times is the transition; such is the
fickleness of the human heart; and "the vivacity of Mary’s spirit," says
an historian, "not being sufficiently tempered with sound judgment, and
the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint
of discretion, betrayed her into errors."

At this very time, when the council were most intent upon some knotty
points of state policy, the king, oblivious of all, or affecting to be
so, was alternately playing with the gold tassels of his embroidered
mantle, and coquetting with Mariette Hubert, a young French lady, by
conversing in the symbolical language of flowers; for each had taken a
bouquet from a row of Venetian vases that decorated the hall windows,
and filled its vast space with delightful perfume.  When addressed by
the Queen, he replied with a hauteur and brevity that she could ill
brook; for, although he had acquired the title of King, and been
admitted to share her councils, he was dissatisfied that she did not
invest him with greater power, and content herself with the rank of mere
queen-consort.  To this measure, Mary, aware of his utter incapacity for
governing, and the aversion of the fierce noblesse, wisely declined an
assent; and Darnley’s haughty spirit never forgave the affront, which he
attributed to the influence of Rizzio; hence his leaguing with Moray and
Morton; and hence the murder in the queen’s chamber at Holyrood, fifteen
months before.

A succession of strong flakes of light fell through the lozenged
casements of the stained windows on one side of the hall, and threw
their prismatic hues on the long table which was covered with green
cloth, and on the bearded peers who sat around it.  All were richly
attired in satin and velvet, slashed and furred with miniver; all were
well armed, some having corselets and plate sleeves, others pyne
doublets, calculated to resist the points and edges of the best-tempered
weapons.

There were present the Earl of Morton, lord high chancellor, whose fine
countenance compensated in some degree for the shortness of his stature.
His face was dark and swarthy; his beard long and sweeping, but its
blackness was now beginning to be touched with grey; his eyes, quick and
cunning, keen and penetrating, watched every visage, but chiefly that of
his colleague and compatriot—his partner in many a deep intrigue and
desperate counter-plot, James Stuart, the still more famous Earl of
Moray, who seemed the living image of his handsome father, James V.  He
had the same dark oval face, so melancholy and dignified in its contour,
the same short beard and close shorn chin, the same thick brown
mustache, and deep dark hazel-eye.  But under that calm exterior were a
heart and mind unequalled in ambition, and unsurpassed in state-craft—a
wisdom that bordered on cunning—a caution that (at times) bordered on
cowardice—a bravery that bordered on rashness; yet never for an instant
did he lose sight of that object which every secret energy had for years
been bent to attain, and for which his life was staked—POWER!

And there were Cassilis, Lindesay, and Olencairn, dark-browed, savage,
brutal, and illiterate as any barons that ever figured in the pages of
romance—each the beau-ideal of a feudal tyrant; morose by fanaticism,
and inflated by power; for a few short years had seen them and their
compatriots gorged to their full with the plundered temporalities of the
fallen hierarchy.  And there, too, were the venerable Le Crocq, the good
and wise ambassador of Charles IX., wearing the silver shells of St.
Michael glittering on his plain doublet of black taffeta; and Monsieur
le Marquis d’Elboeuff, brother of the late Queen Regent, Mary of
Lorraine.

This gay and thoughtless, but handsome noble, was dressed in the
extremity of Parisian foppery.  His doublet was cloth of gold; his
breeches, of crimson velvet, reached to within six inches of his knees,
from whence he had long hose of white silk.  He wore a very high ruff,
with the Golden Fleece of Burgundy, and the Thistle of the order of
Bourbon under it.  A yellow satin mantle dangled from his left shoulder;
his gloves were perfumed to excess; his hat was conical and
broad-brimmed, but he carried it tinder his left arm.  His short Parmese
poniard and long Toledo sword were covered with precious stones, and in
imitation of the great English beau, the effeminate Earl of Pembroke, in
addition to ear-rings, he had dangling at his right ear a
flower—presumed to be the gift of some enamoured belle—while from the
left depended a long love-lock.

Contrasting strongly with all this frippery, in the dignity of his
aspect and bearing, and the plainness of his dress, Sir William Maitland
of Lethington, secretary of the kingdom—the Scottish Machiavel, the
greatest and most vacillating statesman Scotland ever produced—stood at
the foot of the green table.

Attired in simple black velvet, but having a long stomacher dotted with
seed pearls, an enormous fardingale, and a little ruff round her
delicate neck, Mary, having little other adornment than those which
nature had given her, sat under the purple canopy of her grandsire,
James IV.  From a brow that bore the impress of intelligence and
candour, her auburn hair that gleamed like gold (when, from a lofty
casement above, the sunlight fell upon it), was drawn back from her
snowy temples, and, by being puffed out on each side, while her little
velvet cap was depressed in the centre by a gold drop, increased the
dignified contour of a face that was never beheld without exciting
admiration and love.  The steady brilliance of her splendid dark eyes,
the form of her nostrils, together with the exquisite curve of her short
upper lip, and dimpled chin, all expressed in an eminent degree the
various emotions of her acute and sensitive mind; while they were ever
full of a sweetness and beauty that were no less singular in their
character than remarkable in their degree.

Every turn of her beautiful head, every motion of her rounded arms and
dimpled hands, were full of grace; so that even "dark Morton," the
ferocious Lindesay, and subtle Moray, while at that moment plotting her
downfall and destruction, could not but in their secret souls
acknowledge how noble and bewitching was that being whom they were
seeking to hurl from the Scottish throne.

She carried at her waist a little amber rosary, or Saviour’s chaplet, of
thirty-three beads, being one for each year that Christ dwelt among us
on earth; and, true to that religion which formed her last and best
consolation in that terrible hour which none could then foresee, she
wore on her bosom a little crucifix of gold.

Behind her state chair were several ladies of the court, wearing
enormous fardingales and high ruffs, and some of them—particularly the
Countesses of Argyle and Huntly—having their heads loaded with
ornaments.

The captain of the archer guard, Arthur Erskine, a handsome young cadet
of the house of Mar, clad in half armour of the richest steel, and
having his helmet borne by a page, stood near the doorway of the hall,
about thirty yards from the green table, and quite beyond earshot.
Close by the door stood his lieutenant, the knight of Bolton, leaning on
his drawn sword, and dividing his time between watching the ladies of
the court, tracing diagrams on the oak floor with the point of his
weapon, and complacently viewing his own handsome person in a large
mirror that hung opposite.

Mary’s pleading eyes were full of tears; for the rudeness and rebellious
spirit of her council stung her pride and wounded her delicacy.

The principal matter in debate had been the muster of troops and
commissioning of a noble to lead them to the borders, where a court of
justice was to be held for the repression of turbulence among the
moss-trooping lairds of Teviotdale; but the proceedings had been
constantly interrupted by the boisterous Patrick Lord Lindesay, and
William Earl of Glencairn, who in harsh and scandalous terms urged upon
their compeers the necessity of enforcing stringent laws against the
church of Rome, as a just meed for its tyranny in the noon of pride and
power.

"Yea, my lords," continued the latter, pursuing with kindling eyes and
furious gesture the train of his address; "methinks I need not inform
you, that there have been divers and sundry acts of estate passed in the
days of the James’s, her majesty’s royal predecessors, yea, and in our
sovereign lady’s time, quhilk aggreith not with the holy word of
God—acts tending to the maintenance and upholding of idolatory and the
mass, the superstition and the mummery of the Church of Rome"——

"_Ma chere, Madame!_" began the Marquis d’Elboeuff, rising with his hand
on his sword, and his kindling eyes fixed on Mary.

"My lord—my lord!" exclaimed Lethington and the politic Moray together,
on seeing that the queen’s eyes were flashing through their tears.

"He speaketh like a stout man and true," said old Lord Lindesay,
starting up on the opposite side of the table, and leaning on his long
and well-rusted Flemish sword.  "He sayeth the truth, quhilk I will
maintain against all gainsayers with this gude whinger, body for body,
on foot or on horseback.  For what, my lords, was the mumming of the
mass but ane superstition devisit of auld by the devil, and his godson,
the Bishop of Rome—callit the Paip; and I swear, and avow, and aver,
that no man should, or shall, be permitted to uphold him or them, in
thought, or word, or deed, from this time forward, within the realm and
isles of Scotland, under pain of proscription, banishment,
barratrie—yea, and death!"

"Stout Lindesay, thou sayest well!" responded Glencairn; "and a bright
day was it for Scotland, when the bellygods and shavelings of Rome lay
grovelling in the dust of their gilded altars and painted blasphemies."

"Gramercy! my lords," said Mary, sarcastically.  "I think that few men
should be more merciful to our fallen church than you.  Fie!  Lord
Lindsay: is not thy daughter Margaret wedded to David Beatoun of Creich,
a son of the great cardinal who was the very emperor of those Roman
bellygods; while thou, my Lord Glencairn, brookest all the broad lands
and rich livings, chapelries and altarages, of the noble Abbey of
Kilwinning?"

Lindesay’s swarthy cheek glowed brick-red, and Glencairn’s brow was
darkened by a deeper frown.

"_Ah, ma bonne!_" said Mary, turning to her sister, the Countess of
Argyle, and whispering something in French, at which they both laughed;
while the two pillars of the Reformation, who knew as much of French as
they did of Choctaw or Cherokee, exchanged mutual glances expressive of
unutterable ferocity.  Moray and Morton also exchanged two of those deep
smiles which their faces always assumed when any thing like a storm was
brewing at the council board.

"My lords," said the poor Queen, in her most persuasive voice, "let us
again return to the matter in debate, which is of more importance than
framing acts for the further oppression of a fallen church, the
prosecution of sorcerers, or enforcing sombre attire and scanty fere
upon our poor lieges."

"Matter, madam!" growled Lindesay.

"I mean the bearing of the royal banner to the borders.  Lord Lindesay,
what sayest thou to assume the baton?"

"I thank your Majesty, but may the devil break my bones gif I will."

"Wherefore, thou silly carle?" asked Morton in a low voice.

"Because the papists of the house of Lennox are ranked under the Queen’s
banner," replied the rough baron, bluntly.

"By the holy Paul!" said Darnley yawning; "but I deem thee Lindesay the
most obdurate, as well as insolent heretic in all broad Scotland."

Lindesay was almost choking with passion at what he deemed the petulance
of a pampered boy; but the storm that might have broken forth was
allayed for a time, by the Queen saying hastily to the secretary of
state—

"Sir William Maitland, will it please you to read the last letter of _ma
bonne soeur_ Elizabeth, concerning the broken men of Tarras moss and
Teviotdale?"

That most subtle of secretaries bowed very low, and while the lords of
the council courteously arose to hear the Queen of England’s letter
read, he carefully unfastened the white ribbon and red seal bearing
three lions, and unfolded the missive of the cold and crafty Tudor.

He read as follows:—

"Right high, right excellent, and mighty Princess, our dearest
good-sister and cousin, to you be our most hearty commendations.

"It is well known unto you, that the inobedience of certain of your
subjects, and their turbulent inroads and forays with displayed banners
and uplifted lances among our baronies and beeves of Northumberland,
have bred great misery to our people, who desire to live in all tender
love with the Scots on the north side of the debatable land. We may
mention particularly the prickers of John Elliot of Park, Kerr of
Cessford, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, and other notorious thieves and
outlaws; and we lament that, for the wrongs sustained by our lieges at
their hands, this our loving message may be followed by the garter king
with our glove, if peace be not kept, and restitution made; and so,
right high, right excellent, and mighty Princess, our dearest
good-sister and cousin, we pray God to send you a long and prosperous
reign.

"ELIZABETH R.

"Done at our castle of Greenwich, the 1st May, 1567."


"God send that glove comes soon!" said Glencairn with stern joy; "my
father fell at Pinkie, and my grandsire fell at Flodden, so I have a
debt of blood as yet unsettled with those Englishmen."

"Our dearest sister’s letter contains a most unsisterly threat," said
the Queen with one of her arch smiles; "but this, her reiterated
remonstrance, deserves attention. Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme and
Buccleuch"——

"I will be his surety, please your grace," said Morton, whose niece
Buccleuch had married; "I will be warranty to the amount of ten thousand
merks."

"And I for my kinsman Cessford in the same," added Lord Crichton of
Sanquhar, a tall and fair-haired peer, wearing a shirt of mail and
velvet mantle.

"Ten thousand merks—um—um—that the lairds of Cessford and Buccleuch will
underly the law," muttered the secretary, making a minute in his books.

"Poor John of Park! and will no one become surety for thee?" said the
Queen.

"Nay, your grace," replied Sir William Maitland; "no one would be so
foolhardy with his merks.  He is the strongest thief between the
Lammermuir and the Rere cross of Stanmore; he never rides abroad with
less than four hundred lances in his train, all broken men, and
masterful thieves."

"All daredevils!" said the Earl of Moray; "troopers with scarred
visages, and hearts as tough and impenetrable as their armour. Ah!  Park
loves the bright moonlight well."

"So do I," added the Queen, artlessly; "how droll!"

"But not in John o’ Park’s fashion, sweet sister," replied the swarthy
Earl.  "He loves it as a lamp to light him into Northumberland, when he
thinks little of riding some forty miles between midnight and
cockcrow—laying a dozen of villages in ashes, sacking as many
peelhouses, overthrowing a score of homesteads, and so returning on the
spur with all the cattle of a countryside, goaded by the lances of his
troopers, who usually have them all safe in Ettrick wood or Tarras moss,
long ere the old bandsmen of Berwick, or the riders of the English
wardenrie, are in their stirrups."

"We will bridle his vivacity," said Mary. "Earl Marischal, how many of
our vassals have repaired to the royal standard, in conformity to the
proclamation?"

"Three thousand, please your majesty," replied the veteran head of the
house of Keith.

"Then who will lead them to the field?"

There was a half simultaneous motion among the peers—but the Reformed
lords drew back, because the Catholic vassals of Lennox were said to be
under the royal standard; and the Catholic lords exhibited a similar
coldness from a dislike to lead the Protestant vassals of the crown.
There was a pause, and all turned towards King Henry as the most fitting
person to uphold the authority of his royal consort; but he was still
engaged coquetting with Mariette Hubert, and a blush of shame and anger
crossed the cheek of Mary.

At that moment the great chamberlain, John Lord Fleming, raised his
wand, and cried with a loud voice—

"Place for the noble lord, James Earl of Bothwell, Lord of Hailes,
Crichton, and Dirleton!" and the lieutenant of the Royal Archers hastily
drew aside the tapestry concealing the doorway of the hall.



                          END OF VOLUME FIRST.



           M’CORQUODALE & CO., 24, CARDINGTON STREET, LONDON.
                             WORKS—NEWTON.





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