Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Bothwell - or, The Days of Mary Queen of Scots
Author: Grant, James, archaeologist
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bothwell - or, The Days of Mary Queen of Scots" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                              *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. II.



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



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



                         *CONTENTS OF VOL. II.*


CHAPTER

      I. The Earl and the Queen
     II. The Weaponshaw
    III. The Handkerchief
     IV. The Leith Wynd Porte
      V. The Red Lion
     VI. The Earl of Morton
    VII. Morton turns Philanthropist
   VIII. John of Park
     IX. The Conflict in Hermitage Glen
      X. The Pit of Hermitage
     XI. Bothwell revives an Early Dream
    XII. Alison Craig
   XIII. Four Choice Spirits
    XIV. The Gleewomen
     XV. A Moment Long Wished For
    XVI. Anna and the Queen
   XVII. The Bouquet
  XVIII. Jealousy without Love
    XIX. Mariette and Darnley
     XX. The Plot Thickens—Conference of Craigmillar
    XXI. Father Tarbet
   XXII. The Whisper
  XXIII. The Mother and her Child
   XXIV. The King’s Page
    XXV. In Three Hours it will be Time!
   XXVI. The Old Tower of Holyrood



                              *BOTHWELL;*

                                 *OR,*

                   *THE DAYS OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                       *THE EARL AND THE QUEEN.*

    For since the time when Adam first
      Embraced his Eve in happy hour!
    And every bird of Eden burst
      In carol, every bird and flower;
    What eyes like thine have waken’d _hopes_?
      What lips like thine so sweetly join’d?
    Where on the double rosebud droops
      The fulness of the pensive mind.
        _Tennyson._


Bothwell stooped and entered; the arras closed behind him, and his rich
attire gleamed in the full flush of the noonday sun, that streamed
through a mullioned casement opposite.

He wore a coat-of-mail, the links of which were so flexible that they
incommoded him less than the velvet doublet below it.  His trunks were
of black velvet, slashed with red, and trimmed with silver cord.  He
wore long boots reaching to the knee.  His bonnet was of blue velvet,
adorned by his crest—a silver horse’s head—which sustained one tall and
aspiring ostrich feather.  He wore a scarf and dagger; but French Paris,
his page, bore a handsome sword and embossed helmet a few paces behind.

The Earl advanced to the throne, and, uncovering his round head of thick
curly hair, slightly touched the Queen’s hand with his lip.  Moray and
Morton exchanged another of their deep glances; for the confusion with
which he did so was evident to all save Darnley.

"A good-morning, my lord!" said the Queen in French, while bowing with a
most enchanting smile.  "You are welcome among us as flowers in spring."

"Lord Earl, a fair good-day!" said Darnley and the other lords.

"I thank your grace and lordships," replied the Earl, taking his seat,
"and I crave pardon for my tardy attention to a summons that reached me
only yesterday at dawn; but I have come from Glasgow on the spur."

"’Tis well, my lord," said Mary, "for never did I stand more in need of
suit and service."

"Had I a thousand hearts, they would be at the disposal of your
Majesty!" replied the Earl with enthusiasm.

"_Prenez garde, monseigneur!_" said Mary archly; "one heart is always
enough if it is true."

The handsome noble laughed, as in duty bound; showed all his white
teeth, under a jetty mustache; and his jaunty gaiety and smiling
gallantry were quite a relief to Mary, they contrasted so forcibly with
the austere visages that every where met her eye.

"Your bride, the Lady Jane, has come to court with you, of course?"
asked the Queen.

"No, madam," replied Bothwell, with a reddening cheek; "the verity
is—she still—the reason—your majesty will excuse, but I am bidden to
bear her dutiful commendations to your grace.  I left her at my house of
Bothwell."

"Ah!—in your hurry to attend our summons?"

"Exactly so—please your grace."

"My grace is much indebted to the loyalty that could so far master love
as to leave the bride of a few months.  Men say she is very beautiful."

"And women deny it," added the flippant Darnley; "the best proof that
the men are right."

Bothwell, who seemed wholly intent in gazing on Mary, when she did not
perceive him, looked as if he cared very little about it.

"And men say, too," added the gay King, "that, natheless his marriage,
the Lord Bothwell is not likely to become a Carthusian"——

"Any more than King Henry," retorted the Earl, with a haughty smile.
"Oh, no!—I have still a dash of the gallant left in me."

"And a wish to assist honest burghers in their conjugal duties"——

"Being, like your majesty, somewhat neglectful of my own," added the
Earl, in a low voice.

The king, though he delighted in ribald jesting, answered only by one of
his darkest scowls; but old Lord Lindesay burst into a hoarse laugh, and
whispered to Morton—

"By my faith! but I love to see two such cocks o’ the game yoked
together.  Bothwell’s gibe hath bitten."

"My lords," said the chancellor Morton, "with the queen’s permission we
will again resume the matter in debate.  Surely, among the bold peers of
Scotland, we cannot look long for one to lead the vassals of her crown
against a cock-laird of Teviotdale—a petty border-outlaw!"

"If neither the Great Constable nor the Earl Marshal will assume their
batons, then I, as Lord High Admiral of Scotland, claim the leadership!"
exclaimed Bothwell, starting up.  "My kinsman, John of Bolton, will
unfurl the royal banner in the field, if the Constable of Glastre, Sir
James Scrimegeour of Dudhope, its hereditary bearer, like an obdurate
heretic or craven knight, shrinks at his sovereign’s mandate.  Nay,
never frown on me my Lords of Lindesay and Glencairn, for I value no
man’s frown or favour a sword thrust!  The vassals of the house of
Hailes are ever at the service of her majesty.  My kinsmen, John of
Bolton and Hob of Ormiston, lead each a hundred lances and a hundred
arquebussiers on horseback; and I warrant their followers all stout men,
and true as Rippon rowels.  I will lead three thousand of my own people
to the border, and, if need be, will hold a justice-aire that will long
be remembered through Tweedside and Teviotdale."

"_O, je vous rend mille graces!_" exclaimed Mary, who, in her sudden
bursts of enthusiasm, always preferred her darling French. "A thousand
thanks, brave Hepburn!  Thou shalt be my knight, and bear my favour to
the south.  But we need not thy brave vassals of Hailes, for we number
enow of the crown in their helmets, and to-morrow our sheriff and
arrayers shall show thee their various bands."

Again Bothwell knelt and kissed the hand of the queen, who glanced
furtively at her husband; and in the contrast between his inertness and
Bothwell’s energy felt a glow of scorn within her which she struggled in
vain to repress.  He was still coquetting with Mariette Hubert, the same
fair girl, and the Earl, whose quick eyes had followed those of Mary,
said in a low voice—

"As might be expected in the consort of one so fair, his majesty is ever
speaking of love."

"And, like the French, deems that in doing so he is making it."

"A biting jest, Marquis," said Bothwell to his friend d’Elboeuff, who
merely shrugged his shoulders, smiled gaily, and made use of his little
gold pouncet-box.

"And now, my lords, this matter, thank Heaven! is arranged," said the
Queen, rising; "and gladly will I leave this desperate game of
state-craft and policy for my ghittern and music, or a quiet ramble by
the margin of the lake.  Good morning, my Lord Glencairn!—good Lindesay,
I kiss your hand! Athole, and _ma bonne soeur_, Jane of Argyle, come, we
will retire; and as the king, my husband, seems so much better occupied,
we will leave him to his reflections.  My Lord of Bothwell, favour me
with your hand!"

The queen’s brother, James Stuart, Earl of Moray, on seeing Darnley’s
inattention, had approached and drawn off his leather glove; but on
hearing Bothwell summoned thus, he drew back with a smile on his lip,
and a shade on his open brow.  He bore a deadly enmity to Bothwell, whom
he had more than once accused of designs against his life, and one deep
glance of tiger-like import was exchanged between them, as the favoured
courtier took Mary’s snow-white hand in his, and led her to the hall
door, where, between the marshalled ranks of a band of archers, and
surrounded by the ladies of her court, with all their jewellery and
embroidery glittering in the sunlight, she swept gracefully from that
lofty chamber, and the heavy arras, which fair Queen Margaret had worked
in the hours of her widowhood, closed like a curtain over the pageant as
it passed away.

Mary, accompanied by her sister, the Countess of Argyle, Bothwell’s
sister-in-law, Elizabeth, Countess of Athole, and other ladies of rank,
and attended by the handsome Earl, with his gay friend the Marquis
d’Elboeuff, and Monsieur le Crocq, whom, as Frenchmen, he preferred to
the morose and turbulent nobles of the court, promenaded among the
terraces, the blooming parterres, and green hedgerows of the palace
garden, through the leafy openings of which bright glimpses were
obtained of the blue loch, with its shining bosom, dotted by white swans
and dusky flocks of the water-ouzel.

The singing of birds filled the air with music, as the parterres did
with perfume. All the flowers of summer were in their glory, and the
white and purple lilac, with the golden blossoms of the laburnum,
drooped over them.  The sky was clear, and all of a deep cerulean blue,
and in its sunshine the tints of the distant hills were mellowed to hues
of the sapphire and the amethyst.

The spirits of the queen (freed from the cares of her troublesome state,
and the thrall of her capricious husband) became buoyant with that
delight so natural to her; and then her Parisian gaiety, the splendour
of her wit, and the winning vivacity of her manner, came forth in all
their power.

Her eyes alternately swam and sparkled with joy; her cheek flushed; and
her merry laugh rang like music in the ear of Bothwell, who walked by
her side.

A spell had fallen upon him!

With every wish to excel in her eyes, and to surpass himself in the art
of conversation and gallantry, he found every attempt at either almost
futile.  An incubus weighed upon him; he was sad, irresolute, and
anxious. Sad, because this interview with the beautiful Mary, had called
up all the first hopes of his heart from the oblivion to which he had
committed them; for many a year ago, when, in the first flush of her
girlhood, he had dared to love the betrothed bride of Francis II. with
the same deep and passionate fondness that drove Chatelard to
destruction, and young Arran to madness: irresolute, because he dared
not now to nourish such sentiments, yet found the impossibility of
repressing them: and anxious, because the memory of his double
matrimonial engagement pressed hardly and uneasily on his mind.

He strove to crush his rash thoughts and bitter regrets; but they would
come—again and again.

He endeavoured to converse with the ladies of new coifs and Florence
kirtles—to the French ambassador of the policy of Charles IX.—to the
Marquis d’Elboeuf of the intrigues of Catherine de Medicis and Margaret
of Valois—to Huntly of Moray’s wiles and Morton’s villanies; but he
invariably found himself where he was before—by the side of Mary,
listening to her musical voice, and gazing, with his old feeling of
adoration, on her bright and sunny eyes, and her braided hazel hair,
that gleamed in the noonday’s sunshine.

And now, incited by the lingering love of other days, the demons of a
more dangerous ambition than he before had ever dared to dream of, began
for the first time to pour their insidious whispers in his ear, and
Bothwell found that he was——lost.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                           *THE WEAPONSHAW.*

    _Charmion_———I found him
    Encompass’d round, I think with iron statues;
    So mute, so motionless his soldiers stood;
    While awfully he cast his eyes about,
    And every leader’s hopes and fears survey’d.
      _All for Love._


Next day the great quadrangle of the palace of Linlithgow, and the lawn
before its gates, presented a scene of unusual bustle.

Few edifices of that age, in Scotland, surpass this building in
architectural beauty. Its richly-carved archway was surmounted on the
inside by a cluster of gothic niches, containing statues, of which the
defaced image of the Virgin now alone remains. Three tiers of mullioned
windows, all of beautiful workmanship, rich with cusping and stained
glass, overlooked this side of the quadrangle, the summit of which was
crowned by a beautiful battlement; on the other, were the
deeply-recessed and heavily-arched windows of the ancient Parliament
hall.  One half of this noble court was involved in cold shadow; the
pointed casements and fretted stone-work of the other were shining in
warm light, as the morning sun poured down its rays aslant over the
varied parapets, the carved chimneys, and loftier towers, that flanked
the angles of this great edifice, which, in its aspect, had much more of
the cheerful summer palace than any other residence of the Scottish
kings.  The royal standard was waving on the highest tower; the Archer
Guard, in all their bravery, were drawn up beside the gate of James IV.,
where there were heralds and pursuivants in their gorgeous tabards and
plumed caps, pages bearing swords and helmets, and clad in all the
colours of the rainbow; swashbucklers and other retainers of the feudal
nobles, variously armed, and still more variously attired, wearing in
their blue bonnets or steel caps the badges of their lords—the ivy of
the house of Huntly, the myrtle of Argyle, or the holly of Tullybardine.
These loitered about in groups, together with peddies and horse-boys,
holding the champed bridles of steeds caparisoned for war, in massive
trappings of steel and brocade.

The gaiety of this scene made Linlithgow seem so merry, as its old walls
and countless casements gleamed in the sunshine, that the lookers-on
forgot the gloomier adjuncts of that magnificent pile, where, deep down
at the base of narrow stairs, are chambers, vaulted, dark, and damp.
Never a ray of light penetrated to the wretch whom fate imprisoned
there, though the water fell unceasingly from the stalactites of the
roof, and from the slimy walls.  Yet, further down beneath all these,
lay the oubliette, the only entrance to which is by a narrow orifice,
through which the doomed captive was lowered, feet foremost, into that
pit from which he was never to be exhumed.  In the centre of one of
these terrible vaults, were found some years ago, a number of human
bones, and a mass of hideous unctuous matter; but of the fate of those
poor beings whose last remains these were, history and tradition are
alike silent, and leave the imagination to brood over episodes of
visionary horror!

But to return.

The old walls shone joyously in the summer sunshine, and many a fair and
many a happy face appeared at the open casements; the beautiful stone
fountain in the centre (a miracle of carving) was flowing with wine and
ale, and a coronal of flowers wreathed the imperial crown that
surmounted it.

The gravelled court was crowded with the vassals of the crown.

The Sheriff of Linlithgow and the Earl Marischal, both completely armed,
save their heads, with certain captains of the queen’s bands, were
arraying them under arms—_i.e._, in modern parlance "calling the roll,"
and seeing that each proprietor, as summoned by his tenure, had brought
his proper quota of men-at-arms on foot and horseback, all properly
accoutred according to the acts of Parliament.  Every lord, knight, and
baron, possessing a hundred pounds of yearly rent, was clad in bright
armour, "and weaponed effeirand to his honour;" each gentleman,
unlanded, and yeoman, had a jack of plate with a halkrike, splints,
helmet, and pesane.  Their spears, "stark and long, six elnes of
length," with Leith axes, halberds, crossbows, culverins, and two-handed
swords, completed their equipment.

The various weapons were all flashing in the sunshine, while the
standards rustled as the henchman of each baron, with a bull-dog aspect
of surly defiance and pride, unfurled to the wind his embroidered
banner, which displayed armorial bearings won in many a well-fought
field and desperate foray.  But the most important feature in this
display was made by John Chisholm, comptroller of Her Majesty’s
Ordnance, who had under his orders a band of cannoniers, armed with
swords and daggers, and clad in salades and pesanes of steel, with plate
sleeves, scarlet hose, and rough buskins.  These managed two great
culverins, "with their calmes, bullettes, and pellokis of lead or irone,
and powder convenient thereto," and all prepared for the especial behoof
of those strong and masterful thieves, the lairds of Park, Buccleuch,
and Cessford.

Mounted on a beautiful roan steed, which was armed with a spiked
frontlet of polished steel, and had a plume of feathers dancing on its
proud head, from a tube between the ears, a jointed criniere to defend
the mane, and an embossed poitronal or breastplate, Bothwell dashed into
the quadrangle, at full gallop, with his visor up, and, kissing the tip
of his gauntlet to the Earl Marischal, reined in beside him, checking
the fire of his horse by one touch of the bridle.

His armour was a suit of Italian plate, profusely gilt in that gorgeous
fashion which was then becoming common, as knights were perceiving that
the ponderous armour of the middle ages was unsuited for modern warfare;
and consequently they adopted light and magnificent suits, descending
only to the thighs, which were defended by large trunk hose, well puffed
out with buckram and bombast.  He wore white funnel boots furnished with
large Rippon spurs, having rowels that would pierce a shilling.

In these ages, the spurs denoted the wearer’s rank; those of the knight
were of gold; those of the squire were of silver; the yeoman’s were of
iron; and it was the fashion to make them clink and jingle when walking.

The Earl of Bothwell wore a pair of plain steel, for Rippon spurs were
the most famous of all.  A pair ordered for James VI., cost five pounds
sterling of his coinage.

"How many tall fellows hast thou under harness, my Lord Marischal?"
asked Bothwell.

"About three thousand and fourscore," replied the Earl, consulting a
roll; "but none of the Lennox-men are present."

"Wherefore so?" asked the Earl, whose cheek reddened with anger.

"Tush!" replied the Marischal of Scotland; "dost thou imagine they would
follow other banner than that of Earl Mathew, or the King, his son?"

"The laird of Hartshaw—a Stuart—is here, I perceive."

"With thirteen good men, well horsed, and armed with steel bonnets,
swords, and pistolettes."

"And Stuart of Darnholm?"

"Nay, he hath sent only his bailie with twelve men-at-arms on foot, and
as many on horseback, all weaponed conform to the harness act.  Dost
think a Stuart will follow a Hepburn?"

"A Stuart may follow many worse, but few better.  Dost thou gibe me,
Earl Marischal?"

"Nay, Heaven forbid!" said the old noble hastily; "but in this thou
seest the morbid jealousy of the house of Lennox.  Darnley declines to
lead his vassals to the field; but thinkest thou he will permit their
being led by another?  Thy friends, the knights of Ormiston and Bolton,
have not as yet come in with their lances."

"Ha—my own people, sayest thou!" exclaimed Bothwell, as, shading his
eyes with his hand, he gazed keenly along the glittering files, which
were arrayed on the sunny side of the quadrangle.  "_They_ are not wont
to lag when blows are expected; and, by St. Bothan! yonder they come!  I
see steel glittering among the copsewood."

Under two knights’ pennons, a band of horsemen, with their steel caps
and corselets, and the bright points of their long spears flashing in
the sun, came at a hand-gallop up the ascent which led to the palace
gate; appearing and disappearing as the road wound between thickets of
the summer foliage.

"I know not whose the blue pennon is," said the Earl Marischal; "but the
other pertaineth to Sir James of Drumlanrig.  I surely discern his
winged-heart and horses argent."

"Thou art mistaken!" replied the Earl; "these are my kinsmen, John of
Bolton, and Ormiston of Ormiston; seest thou not his great banner
argent, with three red pelicans feeding their young?  Gallant Hob! the
spiders will never spin their webs on thy pennon.  Well met, fair sirs!"
he added, as the train lowered their long lances, and passed under the
low-browed archway into the palace yard.  "In what case art thou this
morning, Hob?"

"A steel one, as thou seest.  Mass! but I am thirsty as a dry ditch with
my morning ride.  But, lo! yonder cometh the queen’s grace and her
ladies," said Ormiston, as all the lances were lowered, and there was a
ruffling on the kettle drums.

Mary and the ladies of her court appeared at one of the large windows
overlooking the quadrangle, where they waved their handkerchiefs, and
bowed and smiled gaily, to those whom they recognised among the crowd
below.

"That beautiful being!" said Bothwell, gazing on her with admiration;
"shines like a sun among lesser stars."

"By cock and pie! her ladies are like a parterre of roses in the glory
and sunshine of summer."

"His lordship’s poetry is infectious," said young Bolton, with a laugh;
"is not yonder dame in scarlet the Lady Herries of Terreagles?"

"Ah! the old Roman! she looks like a kettle-drum with a standard round
it.  Dost thou not see she is counting her beads under her fardingale?"

"My lord—if Master Knox were to see her"——

"Or the old Prior of Blantyre, Hob.  See, he is still wearing his cap
and cassock, as if the act of 1560 had never passed.  ’Tis said he
carries the kiss of Judas in a box."

"Enough of this irreverence, sirs; for such discourse beseemeth neither
the place nor the persons," said the old Earl Marischal gravely, with
that severe aspect which he had assumed since (by the retired life he
was wont to lead at his Keep of Dunnotar) the commonalty had named him
William-in-the-Tower.

"His Majesty the King!" muttered a number of voices, as Darnley,
sheathed completely in a suit of the richest Florentine armour, so
profusely gilded and studded with nails and bosses, that little of the
polished steel was visible, rode into the courtyard.  He was attended by
the Marquis d’Elboeuf, who was similarly accoutred; Monsieur le Crocq,
the ambassadors of Spain and Savoy; and several gentlemen of the Lennox.
Again there was a ruffling of kettle-drums, a lowering of lances and
pennons, and then the hum died away.

The housings of his horse, which had been magnificently embroidered by
the queen and her ladies, bore the royal arms of Scotland, quartered
with the saltire engrailed, and the four roses of Lennox.

"Excuse me, my lord," said the Marischal, riding off; "I must confer
with his Majesty."

"He means the Lord Darnley," said Bothwell, with a bitter smile.  "Shame
on the hour that Scottish men made yonder gilded doll their king!"

"Humph!" said Ormiston, suspiciously; "art thou jealous?"

"If it should so happen," observed the Earl, in a low voice, "that he
were to die, what wouldst thou think of me as a husband for the queen?"

"Burn my beard! what—thou?"

"By the blessed Jupiter!" continued the other, half in earnest and half
in jest; "she might find a worse spouse than James Hepburn of Bothwell."

"_Where?_" asked Ormiston, pithily.

The Earl laughed; but his eyes flashed, as he said in a low voice—

"Mark me, Hob of Ormiston! let me but crush Moray, Mar, and Morton under
my heel, and I will yet govern the kingdom of Scotland even as I curb
this fiery horse."

"A rare governor! thou who canst not govern thyself."

"Thou seest ’tis very likely yonder tall spectre in the gilt armour may
die soon."

"Gramercy me!  I knew not that he ailed."

"None are so stupid as those who are resolved not to be otherwise," said
the Earl, angrily.  "Men die every day about us without ailing.  Dost
thou not understand me?"

"Devil take me if I do!"

"Oh, head of wood!  I fear thou wilt never be lost by rashness."

Ormiston laughed in the hollow of his helmet, as he replied—

"Like thee, I may lose my heart in love a thousand times; but my poor
head in politics only once, therefore am I somewhat miserly about it;
yet I see what thou meanest," he whispered with sudden energy.  "Say
forth, and fear not.  Hah! knowest thou not how I hate the Lord Darnley
for the ruin of my youngest and best beloved sister; and that hatred is
without a love for his wife, which I see thou darest to nourish."

With a cold and deep smile they regarded each other keenly under their
barred aventayles; and Hepburn of Bolton, Bothwell’s most stanch friend,
who had partly overheard the conversation, said—

"Ere the month be out, I think it very likely this lordling of the
Lennox may die of indigestion, as an old friend of Hob’s did yestreen."

"On what did thy friend sup, Ormiston?" asked the Earl.

"This piece of cold steel!" replied the black giant, touching the iron
hilt of his Scottish whinger.

"How, with a murrain! is it thus that thou servest thy friends at
supper?"

"When they grow captious, capricious, or quarrelsome.  We came to deadly
feud about a few scores of nowte we had forayed on the borders of the
debateable land from the clan of the Graemes, and so"——

"Thou thinkest the king may so sup, and so die?"

Ormiston answered by a short dry cough.

"True," continued Bothwell, "there are strange whispers abroad anent the
Earl of Moray and his intrigues; but here comes the king!  Place for his
grace.  Heaven save your majesty!"

"My Lord Earl, a fair good-morning—Ormiston and Bolton, my service to
ye, sirs!" said the young king, bowing with that grace which marked all
his actions; for his suit of mail, which seemed absolutely to blaze in
the meridian sun, fitted his handsome form with the flexibility of silk.
His eyes were dark and penetrating, but his face seemed in its wan
ghastliness like the visage of one who had long been in the tomb; and
Bothwell, when he scanned those noble features, so livid and wasted by
sickness and dissipation, and compared his slight boyish figure with
Black Ormiston’s powerful frame, a sentiment of pity rose in his breast,
and he shrunk from the dark hints which, partly in banter, and partly in
the ruffianly spirit of the age, the knights had given him.  These
gentle thoughts were instantly put to flight by Darnley’s insolent
manner.

"I marvel," said he, with a marked sneer, "that the gay Bothwell tarries
here among the men-at-arms, when so many fair faces, and the queen’s in
particular, are at yonder casement."

"I will do all in my power to make amends," replied the Earl, with
ironical suavity.  "Hob of Ormiston, follow me, if it please you!  I
will pay my devoirs to the queen’s grace;" and with a dark scowl at the
king, and a furtive one at his true henchman, the Earl applied his sharp
Rippon spurs to his roan charger, and moved away.



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                          *THE HANDKERCHIEF.*

    Where were then these Palace warriors,
      That for thee they drew no brand?
    Verily, we all do know them,
      Quick of tongue, but slow of hand;
    Yea, time will show, for this can ne’er be hid,
    That they are women all, but I—the Cid!
        _Rodrigo de Bivar._


In those days, the manners, houses, and dresses of the Scottish
aristocracy were modelled after those of France, and even to this day
traces of the ancient alliance are to be found in Scotland.  This
imparted to the people a freedom of manner, a tone of gaiety, and a
lightness of heart, which the influence of Calvinism was doomed in
future years to crush, and almost obliterate.

"By St. Paul!" whispered the Earl, as he and Ormiston pushed their
horses through the crowd; "Mary looks like a goddess at yonder
casement."

"I will warrant her but a mere woman, after all," rejoined the
matter-of-fact baron, spurring and curbing his powerful black horse.
"By that dark look quhilk, just now, thou gavest the king, I can read
that thou lovest"——

"Who?"

"The Queen!"

"And why not?" laughed the Earl, with a carelessness that was assumed;
"has not love been the business of my life?"

"I hope it hath proved a profitable occupation.  But remember that
yonder face, with its bright hazel eyes and fascinating smile, is like
that of the Gorgon in the old romaunt—for whoever looketh thereon too
freely, shall die.  Bethink thee: there was the poor archer of the
Scottish guard at Les Tournelles, who died with a rope round his neck in
the Place de Greve at Paris; there was Chatelard, that accomplished
chevalier and poet; Sir John Gordon of Deskford, a young knight as brave
as ever rode to battle, and who loved her with his whole heart, yet
perished on the scaffold at Aberdeen.  Did not young Arran love her even
to madness, and raved as a maniac in the tower of St. Andrews? and then
Signor David the secretary, who, as Master George Buchanan will swear
upon the gospel"——

"Add not the scandal of that most accomplished of liars to thy
croaking!" said the Earl, impatiently, as the dust of the court-yard
came through his helmet.  "Hob, hold in thy bridle; for thou makest a
devil of a fray with that curveting horse of thine! Good-morrow to your
majesty, and every noble lady!" he added, as he caprioled up to the
window where the beautiful Mary, with the ladies of her court, were
viewing the bustle and show of the martial weaponshaw.

"Ah, _bon jour_, Monsieur Bothwell!" she replied, with one of her
delightful smiles; "how comes it that I see thee only now?"

"Because your majesty is like yonder glorious sun," replied the Earl;
"thousands see and admire you, but few are noticed in return."

"Oh, what a hyperbole!" said the Queen, with a sad smile; "that
compliment would suit the sunny sphere of Les Tournelles better than
Linlithgow."

Memory cast a shade over the Earl’s brow; but his cheek glowed with
pleasure as the smiling queen continued—

"The vassals of the crown muster gaily for this Border war."

"And still more gaily muster the nobles of the court, to curvet and
capriole their steeds before these fair ladies; but, verily, few will
venture their gilt armour under dint of spear or whinger for their
sake."

"Thinkest thou so—even when Bothwell leads?"

"Yes, adorable madam," replied the Earl, in a low thick voice; "even
when Bothwell leads!"

"Had so many chevaliers of crest and coat-armour assembled at
Versailles, there would have been many a spear broken in our names
to-day.

    ’For Mary Beatoun, and Mary Seatoun,
    And Mary Fleming, and _me_!’"

added the Queen, singing with all her gaiety of heart those lines from
the old ballad of the _Four Maries_.

"And why not here, madam?" said the Earl with ardour; "give me but the
guerdon you promised—a ribbon, a glove, a favour to flutter from my
lance; and may I die the death of a faulty hound, if I do not make it
ring like a mass-bell on the best coat-of-mail among us."

The head of the Earl’s lance was close to the window, and the queen with
her usual heedlessness, tied her laced handkerchief below its glittering
point; and a sinister smile spread over the face of the English
ambassador when he saw this incident, and thought how famously he would
twist it up into one of those tissues of court scandal and gossip, which
nightly he was wont to indite for the perusal of Elizabeth and her
satellites, Cecil and Killigrew.

The Earl kissed his hand as he reined back his horse.

"Courage, brave Bothwell!" cried the gay Countess of Argyle; and all the
ladies clapped their hands and cried, "A Bothwell!—a Bothwell!"

"Now, ho, for Hepburn!" exclaimed the Earl, spurring his beautiful
charger.  "Come on, Ormiston! and we will meet all yonder tall fellows
in battle _à l’outrance_, if they will."

"I am right well content," growled the giant; "but whom shall I
encounter—yonder grasshopper, d’Elboeuff?"

"I would give my best helmet full of angels to see him measure his
length on the gravel, were it but to cure him of his pouncet-box and
villanous perfumes," said Hepburn of Bolton; "but he is the queen’s
kinsman, and she may be displeased."

"Diabolus spit me!" said Ormiston, "if I care whether she is pleased or
not.  I will break one lance and his head together, if I can; for he
styled me a Goth and a savage, last night, in his cups."

"And I will run one course with Darnley," said the Earl.

"Good! may it fere with thee, as with old; Montgomerie and Henry of
France!"

"How?"

"A splinter may make his wife a widow. Cock and pie, sirs!  A ring—a
ring!  To the baresse!—Back, sirs, back!—We would break a spear for
honour and for beauty.  Have at thee, Marquis!" exclaimed Ormiston, as
he made the point of his long lance ring on the splendid armour of the
Frenchman.

"_Bon diable!_" grinned the Marquis; "_J’en suis ravis_!  I am
delighted!"

"And have at your grace!" said Bothwell, slightly touching Darnley; "I
have made a vow, in the queen’s name, to run a course with the tallest
man on the ground, and the tallest man is thee."

"By St. John!  Lord Earl, thou art somewhat over-valiant," said Darnley,
bestowing an unmistakeable frown upon the rash noble, who laughed like a
madcap as he backed his horse among the startled men-at-arms and
spectators, crying—

"A ring! a ring!—Back, caitiffs and gomerals! and then we shall see who
are good knights, as King William said of old."

"Wouldst thou have me maintain the field against the beauty of my own
wife?" asked the young king, with a terrible frown.

"Certes, yes! for thou seemest least sensible of it."

"Less than thee, perhaps!"

"Yes—ha! ha!"

"Then, God’s death!  Take up thy ground!"

The queen’s archers cleared a space before the gateway, while Bothwell
and Ormiston ranged themselves opposite the king and D’Elboeuff, with
their visors down, their bodies bending forward to the rush, and their
lances in the rest, but having wooden balls wedged on their keen steel
points.

The Earl Marischal raised his baton, handkerchiefs were waved from the
windows, a shout burst from the people, and, urged from a full gallop to
the most rapid speed, the four heavy chargers and their glittering
riders met with a fierce shock in the centre, and recoiled on their
haunches, as the riders reeled in their saddles.  D’Elboeuff’s lance
missed Ormiston, who planted the hard wooden ball that blunted the tip
of his tough Scottish spear full into the pit of the Frenchman’s
stomach, whirling him from his saddle to the ground with a force that
completely stunned him.

"Now, Marquis, lie thou there!" cried Ormiston, who was uncouth as a
bear in his manner, "and pray to every saint that ever had a broken head
before thee."

The lance of Bothwell smote Darnley full on the breastplate, and its
splinters flew twenty feet into the air; but the king’s, being by chance
or design deprived of its ball, entered the bars of the Earl’s embossed
helmet, and wounded him on the cheek.

Deeming this an act of Darnley’s usual treachery and malevolence,
animated by a storm of passion, the Earl drew his sword, exclaiming—

"Ha, thou false lord and craven king! what the devil kind of
demi-pommada was that?"

But the Earl Marischal, Ormiston, Bolton, and a crowd of courtiers,
pushed their horses between them, and they were separated, with anger in
their eyes and muttered invectives on their tongues.

"It matters not, my lords!" said Bothwell, as he wiped the wound with
his white silk scarf and regained the queen’s handkerchief from the
point of his broken lance; "’tis a mere school-boy scratch."

"May Heaven avert the omen!—but I have known such scratches become
sword-cuts," observed the Earl of Moray, with one of his cold and
inexplicable smiles, for he mortally hated both the King and the Earl.

The morning was now far advanced, and the troops prepared to depart.
Slowly and laboriously the little wheels of the two brass culverins,
with their clumsy stocks, studded with large nails and cramped with
plates of polished brass, were put in motion, by the cannoniers whipping
up the six powerful horses that drew them, and the carts containing the
bullets of stone and lead, the powder, and other appurtenances for the
field.

Surrounded by four hundred arquebussiers, who wore conical helmets,
pyne-doublets, swords and knives, and were each attended by a boy to
bear his gun-rest and ammunition, the artillery, commanded by Chisholm
the Comptroller, departed first through the deep-mouthed archway of the
ancient palace.  Then followed the several bands of horsemen and
pikemen, each under their various leaders—and all riding or marching
very much at their ease, according to the discipline incident to the
days of feudalism, when steadiness in the field was more valued than
mere military show.  The long Scottish spears, six ells in length, and
the white harness of the knights and landed gentlemen, flashed
incessantly in the sunshine; while many a square banner and
swallow-tailed bannerole waved above the summer dust that marked the
route of the marching column.

They soon left behind them old Linlithgow’s turreted palace and gothic
spire, its azure lake and straggling burgh, as they wound among the
thick woodlands that bordered the road to Ecclesmachin; and, long ere
the sun set, the rattle of their kettledrums, the twang of their
trumpets, and clash of their cymbals, had wakened the echoes of the
Bathgate hills.

The queen and her courtiers watched their departure, together with
Darnley, who had joined them, and seemed in better humour from the issue
of his encounter with the Earl; but being naturally proud and jealous,
he found to his no small exasperation that the ladies were more than
ever inclined to praise the handsome peer, and then, for the first time,
the demon of jealousy began to whisper in his ear.

"Tell me, Henri, _mon ami_," said Mary, with perfect innocence, "did not
the Lord Bothwell look enchanting in his plate armour?"

"God wot, I neither ken nor care, fair madam!" replied the young King
sulkily, as he handed his helmet to a page.

"He looked the same as when I saw him at Versailles," said the Lady
Lethington.

"Ah, Mary Fleming, _ma bonne_!" said the Queen, in one of her touching
accents; "we were only fifteen years old then."

The ladies, finding Mary in a mood to praise the Earl, all chimed in,
greatly to Darnley’s chagrin and annoyance.

"He is a winsome man, and a gallant," lisped the Countess of Argyle over
her pouncet-box.

"He has an eye that looks well below a helmet peak," added the Lady
Athole, as she adjusted her long fardingale.

"O, were he single, I would marry him to-morrow!" laughed little
Mariette Hubert, glancing furtively at Darnley’s shining figure.

"If thou art anxious to be a rich widow, ’twere a good match, Mariette,"
replied the young King, with one of his icy smiles, as he turned away;
and, whistling a hunting air, descended to the court-yard, and departed
on a hawking expedition, attended by a few of his own personal retinue,
who were invariably composed of his father’s Catholic vassals from the
district known as the Lennox.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                        *THE LEITH WYND PORTE.*

      ——On they pass’d,
    And reach’d the city gate at last;
    Where all around a wakeful guard,
    Arm’d burghers, kept their watch and ward.
        _Marmion._


Towards the close of a sultry day, two travellers approached one of the
eastern gates of Edinburgh, when the burgher guard were about to close
it for the night.

The sun of June had set behind the distant Ochils, and his last rays
were fading away from the reddened summit of St. Giles’s spire, and the
dark grey mansions of that ancient capital, whose history is like a
romance.

The mowers, who the livelong day had bent them over the grass on many a
verdant rig and holm, that are now covered by the streets and squares of
the new city, had quitted their rural occupations.  Between green
hedgerows and fields of ripening corn, the lowing herds were driven to
pen and byre in many a rural grange and thatch-roofed homestead; the
bonneted shepherd that washed his sheep in the city lochs, and tended
them by night on the braes of Warriston and Halkerston’s crofts, could
little foresee the new world of stone and lime, of gas, of steam, of
bustle, and business, that was to spread over these lonely and
sequestered places.

Gentlemen in glittering doublets and laced mantles, with hawks on their
wrists, and well-armed serving-men in attendance, rode into the city,
singly or together, from hawking the gled and the heron by Corstorphine
loch and Wardie muir, or from visiting the towers and mansions in the
neighbourhood. Few remained without the fortifications after nightfall,
for our ancestors were all a-bed betimes.

In half an hour more, the foliage darkened in the cold and steady
twilight of June; but a crimson flush yet lingered in the west to show
where the sun had set.

The two wearied wayfarers approached the lower barrier of Edinburgh,
which faced the steep street known as Leith Wynd, the whole eastern side
of which was in ruins, having been burned by the English invaders, under
the Earl of Hertford, sixteen years before.

In the fair young man, armed with a round headpiece and corselet, the
reader will recognise Konrad the Norwegian, and in the boy that
accompanied him, may perceive the soft features and long tresses of
Anna, notwithstanding the plain grey gaberdine, the sarcenet hosen, and
blue cloth bonnet, under which she had veiled her beauty and concealed
her sex.  She had all the appearance of a slender and sickly boy, with
hollow eyes and parched lips, exhausted by fatigue and privation.

Tremblingly she clung to Konrad as they drew near the low but massive
arch of the Leith Wynd Porte, where he knocked on the nail-studded
wicket with the pommel of his Norwayn dagger.  A small vizzying-hole was
unclosed, and the keen grey eye of one of the burghers on guard was seen
to survey them strictly under the peak of his morion; for, by an act of
the city council, every fourth citizen capable of bearing armour, had to
keep watch and ward by night, completely armed with sword and jedwood
axe, arquebuss and dagger, for the prevention of surprise from without,
and suppression of disturbance within the burgh.

"Now, wha may ye be, and what want ye?" asked the burgher gruffly and
suspiciously.

"Who I may be matters little to such as thou," replied Konrad,
haughtily; "what I seek is entrance and civility, for I like not thy
bearing, sirrah."

"Then I let ye to wit, that without kenning the first, thou canst not
hae the second," replied the citizen, whose Protestant prejudices began
to rise against one, whom he shrewdly deemed by his foreign accent to be
a Frenchman, and consequently, a "trafficking messe preist," as the term
was.  "I fear me we hae enow o’ your kind doon the gate at Holyrood.
Some mass-monger, I warrant! Hast thou ever heard Master Knox preach?"

"No—who is he?"

"Wha is he!" reiterated the citizen, opening the pannel, his eyes and
his mouth wider in his breathless astonishment.  "What country is yours,
or wharawa is’t, that ye havena heard o’ him, who is wise as Soloman,
upright as David, patient as Job, as stark as the deevil himsel?"

"I am come from a far and foreign land," continued Konrad, endeavouring
to make himself understood by the medium of a little of the Scottish
tongue he had acquired.

"Ye are a merchant, maybe?  I am one mysel, and deal in a’ manner o’
hardware that cometh out o’ Flanders by the way o’ Sluice, frae brass
culverins to porridge cogues and kail-pats.  Are ye a merchant, fair
sir?"

"Yes—at your service, I am a trader," replied Konrad, glad to conciliate
the man, and to hear him withdrawing the bolts.

"And in what do ye deal?" he asked, still lingering.

"Hard blows—thou dog and caitiff—and I would fain barter with thee!"
replied Konrad, giving way to rage as he felt poor Anna sinking from his
arm, under the very excess of exhaustion.

"Awa wi’ ye! thou art some thigger or licht-fingered loon—some frontless
papist or French sorner—or maybe a’ thegether, as I doubt not by the
fashion o’ thy dusty duds! Awa! or I sall hae ye baith branded on the
cheek, and brankit at the burgh cross, or my name’s no Dandy the
dagger-maker!" and the vizzy-hole was closed with a bang.

Konrad turned away exasperated and sorrowful.  Though by this time
pretty well used to insult and opprobrium from the reformed Scots, who
deemed every foreigner a Frenchman, and consequently an upholder of the
ancient faith, evinced their hatred in a thousand ways; and once
proceeded so far as to stone, in the streets of Edinburgh, an ambassador
of the Most Christian king, who was fool-hardy enough to exhibit himself
in a mantle of purple velvet, adorned with the white cross of the
knights of the Holy Ghost. Konrad’s exchequer was now reduced to a very
low ebb, for he possessed but one gold angel and two unicorns—the former
being worth only twenty-four, and the latter eighteen, shillings Scots;
and though he and his companion had found no difficulty in procuring
food and shelter in the rural districts, where every baron and farmer
gladly afforded a seat by his hall fire, a place at his board, and a
hearty welcome to every wayfarer; now, when arrived at the end of their
destination, in a crowded capital, the residence of a court, a trading
and grasping middle class, a fierce aristocracy, and their fiercer
retainers—the case was altogether different; and he gazed about, with
doubt and irresolution, to find a place wherein to pass the night.

The roofless relics of the English invasion would have afforded a
sufficient shelter for one so hardy as himself; but his tender and
fainting companion——

"Courage, dearest Anna!" he whispered in their native language; "we have
now reached the place of our destination."

"True, Konrad," murmured Anna; "but to what end?  Oh, I have no wish now
but to lie down here, and die!  Forgive me, Konrad, this ingratitude;
but I feel that I will not now—trouble you very long."

The young man once more put an arm around her; and, with a glance that
conveyed a world of grief and passion, supported her to the summit of
the steep street, where, between two broad, round towers, another
massive barrier, that separated the city from the suburban burgh of the
Canongate, frowned over the long vista to the east.  The grimness of its
aspect, its heavy battlements, and deep, round portal, were no way
enlivened by the bare white skulls of two of Rizzio’s murderers—Henry
Yair, and Thomas Scott, sheriff-depute of Perth—on long spikes.

Lest Anna might perceive them, Konrad turned hastily away; and, looking
round, hailed with satisfaction a house, having the appearance of a
comfortable hostelry, furnished with a broad sign-board that creaked on
a rusty iron rod; and half leading, half supporting Anna, he approached
it.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                            *THE RED LION.*

    A seemly man our Hosté was withall
    For to have been a marshall in a hall;
    A largé man he was with eyen steep,
    A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap;
    Bold of his speech he was, and well y taught,
    And of his manhood him lackéd righté nought:
    Eke thereto was he right a merry man.
      _Chaucer._


The Red Lion in St. Mary’s Wynd was one of the most spacious and famous
of the old Scottish hostellaries, and Adam Ainslie, the gudeman thereof,
was as kindly a host as ever welcomed a guest beneath his roof-tree.
The enormous obesity of his paunch made him resemble a turtle on its
hind-legs, while his visage, by hard drinking and frequent exposure to
the weather, had become as flushed and red as the lion figuring on his
sign-board, that overhung the principal wynd of Edinburgh.

If the ancient Scottish inns lacked aught that was necessary for the
comfort of the traveller, it was not want of legislative encouragement;
for so early as the days of James I., laws were enacted, and confirmed
by James V., that all hostellaries "should have honest chambers and
bedding for passengers and strangers travelling through the realme, weel
and honestlie accoutred; good and sufficient stables, with hack and
manger, corn and haye—fleshe, fishe, breade, and oile, with other
furnishing for travelloures."

This edifice, for which the antiquary may now look in vain, was two
stories in height, having a row of pediments over the upper windows,
which, like the lower, were thickly grated.  The doorway, to which an
outside stair gave access, was surmounted by an old coat-of-arms and the
pious legend—

                           Miserere Mei Deus.

marked it as once the habitation of a churchman of rank.  A low archway
gave admittance to the stables behind.  These bordered the garden of the
ancient Cistertian convent of St. Mary-in-the-Wynd, an edifice of which
not a vestige now survives.  In the middle of the court there lay a
great stone tank for watering horses, and high above the inn, on the
north side, towered the smoke-encrusted mansions of the Netherbow.

With numerous sleeping apartments for guests and their retinues, which
in those turbulent times were invariably numerous, well-armed, and
mounted, the hostell contained one large and rude hall or apartment,
where all visitors, without regard to sex or rank, partook of the
general meals, and were accommodated on plain but sturdy oaken benches.
An arched fireplace, rude in workmanship as the bridge of a country
burn, opened at one end of this hall; and within, notwithstanding that
the evening was a summer one, a large fire of wood from the Burgh muir,
and coal—a luxury on which Adam Ainslie prided himself not a little, as
its use was then very limited—blazed in the wide chimney for cooking,
and threw its red gleam on the white-washed walls, sanded floor, and the
well-scoured benches and girnels; on the rude beams of dark old oak that
crossed the ceiling, and from which hung dried seafowl, boars’ hams,
baskets, and superannuated household utensils, all placed hodge-podge
with those warlike weapons which every householder was bound to have at
hand for the "redding" of frays, and maintenance of peace within the
burgh.  Nor must we omit to mention a great barrel of ale that stood in
a recess near the doorway, propped on a sturdy binn, furnished with an
iron quaigh, and of which all on entering partook, if they pleased, with
a hearty welcome.

On the appearance of Konrad and his almost lifeless companion, Ainslie’s
better half, a comely and buxom dame, wearing a coif of Flemish lace, a
scarlet kirtle and silken sash, and having her fat fingers studded with
silver rings, arose from her spindle, and bidding them welcome with the
motherly kindness more natural to the time than her occupation, led
Anna, whom she deemed "a puir sickly laddie," to a well-cushioned chair,
and, finding him too faint to answer any questions, she turned to
Konrad, who said—

"Let us have supper, goodwife! for this day hath seen us wellnigh
famished.  What hast thou at hand in the larder?"

"We have rabbits trussed and broiled, noble sir, capons roasted and
boiled, stewed partridges, and the great side o’ beef whilk thou seest
turning before the fire; but that is for my lord the Earl of Morton,
quha to-day cometh in frae his castle of Dalkeith, and the best in
cellar and larder maun be keepit for him.  Earls, ye ken, are folk that
canna thole steering."

"Then get us a capon—a manchet"——

"And a flask of Bordeaux?"

"The best thou hast."

"But for this puir bairn, that seemeth sae sair forfoughten, sall I no
make a milk posset?"

"God bless thee for the thought, goodwife! let it be brought, and
speedily."

"Wilt thou not sup with me?" said a countryman in a plain gaberdine, who
was seated at a side bench, and with the aid of his hunting-knife, (for,
as we have elsewhere stated, forks were still in futurity,) was
dissecting a noble capon and boar’s ham, the odours of which were
extremely tempting to Konrad.  "Thou seest," continued his inviter,
"that I am but a poor dustifute like thyself; but thou and thy boy are
welcome.  I am drinking Rochelle at sax pennies the Scots pint-stoup.
By St. Mary! I cannot afford Bordeaux, even though it does come in by
the east seas."

"Thanks, fair sir, for this courtesy," replied Konrad; "and if thou
permittest my boy to taste thy Rochelle"——

"Odsbody! he is welcome."

Konrad hastily placed the proffered wine-horn to Anna’s thirsty lips;
she tasted it, revived a little, and again sank back, saying—

"Let me sleep—let me sleep!" and, closing her eyes, mutely resisted all
Konrad’s winning entreaties, that she would partake of a little food.

While sharing the stranger’s hospitality, the young Norwegian, whom
anxiety for his young charge had rendered suspicious of every one,
covertly but keenly scrutinized him.

He was a powerfully but sparely formed man, whose well-strung limbs had
been reduced to mere bone and brawn by constant exercise.  His face was
pleasant, good-humoured, and manly; he wore a short beard, and close
shorn hair; his cheekbones were somewhat prominent; but his keen and
dark grey eye had an expression, that by turns was full of boldness and
penetration, merriment and fun.  Beneath his gaberdine, which was of the
coarsest white Galloway cloth, Konrad could perceive an excellent jack
of jointed mail; a grey maud or Border plaid was thrown loosely over his
broad chest and brawny shoulders; his flat worsted bonnet and a knotty
oak cudgel lay on the floor, under the guardianship of a rough wiry cur.
Konrad judged him to be a substantial yeoman or farmer, though at times
his language and manner unguardedly imported something better.

He, on the other hand, while eating and drinking with the appetite and
thirst of a strong and healthy fellow, who since sunrise had been
travelling fast and far, quite as keenly scrutinized Konrad, whose
occupation and degree he found himself puzzled to determine.

"By the set of thy head, and aspect of thine eye, I would say thou hast
been something of a soldier, master," said the Scot.

"I have been more of a huntsman than a soldier, perhaps; yet I have done
a little in both lines."

"Good!  I love thee for that; thy life hath been checkered, like mine
own.  Thou art not one of our ain kindly Scots, or else thou hast
attained the true twang of the foreigner. Peradventure, hast been
pushing thy fortune under the banner of stout Sir Walter Scott, whose
Border bands are now covering themselves with immortal honour on the
frontiers of Saxony?"

"Nay! my sword has never been drawn against others than the fat citizens
of Lubeck and Hamburg."

"Profitable warfare I would take that to be, and pleasant withal; for
these Hanseatic burghers can wade above their baldricks in rixdollars,
say our Leith shippers. So, then, thou art of Flanders?"

Willing to deceive him a little, Konrad nodded.

"I guessed thou wert a Fleming," replied the yeoman, laughing, "and so
my heart warmed to thee; for they are all stout men and true.  Mass! my
own mother, who now sleeps at St. Mary in the Lows, was a Fleming of the
house of Wigton, whose forbear, Baldwin le Flemyng, came from thy
country in the days of St. David, to take knight’s service, as I doubt
not thou meanest to do."

Konrad again assented to his garrulous companion.

"Then there will be work enow for thy sword by Lammas-tide; for the
stout Earl of Bothwell is about to make a royal raid into Clydesdale."

"Saidst thou Bothwell?" ejaculated Konrad, in a thick voice, and
glancing hastily at Anna, who was now buried in a profound slumber, with
her face concealed in her mantle.

"Yea, Bothwell—one of our queen’s prime favourites; but there will be
many a lance broken, and many a steed left riderless, ere he shall
traverse all the windings of the Liddle.  By St. Mary! but they must
keep sharp watch and ward at the gate of his castle of Hermitage; for by
this time, I warrant, the troopers of John of Park have all been riding
by moss and moor."

"Who is this John of Park, of whom I hear so many speak, either with
hatred or applause?"

"The chief of the brave clan Elliot, and long Lord Bothwell’s mortal
foe."

"Then would to Heaven I could meet this John of Park!"

"Hah!" exclaimed the countryman, whose eyes sparkled; "and for what
end?"

"That under his banner I might have some chance of meeting Bothwell in
his armour, lance to lance, and horse to horse. O God! thou alone
knowest how much I have suffered at his hands, and what I have to
avenge!"

"Is it thus with thee?" said the Scot; "swear that thou dost not deceive
me.

"By all that is holy, I swear!"

"Good.  To-morrow I shall lead thee to John Elliot of Park, who needeth
much a few such spirits as thee," replied the other, in the same low
tone under which the conversation had been maintained.

Here a clatter of horses’ hoofs in the adjoining wynd, together with the
jingle of steel bridles and two-handed swords, announced the arrival of
more important guests.

"Now here cometh the Earl of Morton and his swash-bucklers—a pest on
them!" muttered the countryman, instinctively grasping his cudgel; while
the bluff host and his buxom better-half bustled about in a high state
of excitement, dusting the long oaken table, adjusting the fire, placing
fir buffet-stools, and trimming the long candles that flared in the tin
wall-sconces.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                         *THE EARL OF MORTON.*

    Dark Morton, girt with many a spear,
    Murder’s foul minion!
      _Scott._


Attended by a train of forty armed horsemen, this potent noble had
arrived.

His men, as they dismounted, placed their long and unwieldy lances
against the wall of the inn yard, and set about stabling their steeds
with ready activity.  Followed by Archibald Douglas, laird of
Whittinghame, and Hume of Spott—two gentlemen of his retinue—this
factious, proud, and ferocious lord, whose name is so infamous from the
dark and bloody share which he took in all the deep intrigues and civil
broils of that unhappy period, entered the hall of the hostelry; and
certainly, from the smile that spread over his handsome features,
curving his fine mouth, and lighting up his brilliant hazel eye—and from
the dignity of his aspect, and the magnificence of his yellow damask
doublet, embroidered with gold, his purple velvet trunks, which were
slashed with white and edged with point d’Espagne, where they joined his
hose of Naples silk—the politeness with which he removed his black
beaver, with its long white feather, and on entering saluted the hostess
with a kiss, and the host with a thump between the shoulders—no one, we
say, who saw his general aspect and bearing, would have recognized the
same savage and avaricious noble, who, as it was commonly said, "never
spared man in his vengeance, nor woman in his lust"—who murdered Captain
Cullen for possession of his beautiful wife—who poisoned the Regent Mar
to secure the regency—who hung sixty men, as a pastime before breakfast,
at Leith Loan—and who was yet foredoomed, to die on the scaffold for the
greatest of all human crimes.

Adam Ainslie bowed and bowed again, and Lucky Ainslie curtseyed, in
concert, a dozen of times, so well as their corpulent figures would
permit.

"How dost thou, stout Adam?" said the Earl, merrily, as he took his seat
at the highest part of the chamber board.  "Save us! but this meat
smelleth savourily, and my evening ride hath given me a wolfs appetite.
By the rood I mine host—(pest upon these old oaths of papistry, but how
they stick to one’s fancy!)—thou wearest noble hosen," continued the
Earl, jocosely, as, with his walking-cane, he poked Adam’s
preposterously bombasted trunk-breeches. "Dost thou know that the Lord
Bothwell and other gallants aver, that thy gudewife keepeth all her bed
and table napery stuffed into them?"

"Your lordship is pleased to be merry," simpered Dame Ainslie, placing
stools for the Earl’s jackmen, who came crowding in with all their iron
paraphernalia clanking, and dimmed with summer dust; and a terrible
clatter they made with their long spurs, gigantic boots and gambadoes,
long swords and jeddard staves, as they took all the best places at the
hearth and table, hustling into the background the countryman and his
two companions.

Awakened by the uproar of their entrance, Anna clung fearfully to
Konrad’s arm; and he remarked that their new acquaintance kept as much
as possible in the background, and wore his grey plaid high up on his
weatherbeaten visage.

"Hast thou no city news, Master Adam?" said the Earl.  "Thou knowest
that one might as well bide at the bottom of a draw-well as in that
lonely tower of Dalkeith. How stand the markets? and how like our
burghers their new provost, the stout knight of Craigmillar?"

"By my troth, Lord Earl, there is a southland yeoman ben there who ought
to ken mair of market stock than I.  The queen’s byding at Lithgow makes
the toun dull and eerie; for the second spiering, I may say auld Sir
Simon is liket right well, for he sheweth small mercy to mass-priest and
papist; gif they be found within the Fortes, they dree a douking in the
Nor’ Loch for the first offence, and a clean drowning in Bonnington Linn
for the second.  His riders had a lang chase nae farther gane than
yesterday, frae Wardie peel to the Braid’s burn, after a mass-priest,
Sir James Tarbet, who had been found lamenting over his broken idols in
the chapel of St. James by the sea; but I grieve that they failed to
catch him."

"Beware thee, Adam!" said the knight of Whittinghame, "or thou mayest
get a broken head for broaching such free opinions in an hostellary.
The head of antichrist is still floating above the current of public
opinion."

"Hath Monsieur de Rambouillet, the new French ambassador, arrived?"
asked the laird of Spott.

"He landed yesterday at the New Haven from Monsieur de Villaignon’s
galley; and, preceded by the heralds and bailies of the town, was
conducted to Willie Cant’s hostel in the Kirkgate of Leith, close by St.
Anthony’s gate."

"I marvel mickle that he came not to thee, good Adam."

"I marvel mair," added the host, testily; "for there is no an hostel in
a’ broad Scotland, and that’s a wide word, where there is better
uppitting baith for man and beast than the _Red Lion_; beside, ’tis a
clean insult to the gude toun his lying at a Leither’s hostel; but I owe
this to a leather-selling bailie in Niddry’s Wind, who I outvoted in the
council anent the double and single-soled shoon, that made sic a stir
among the craftsmen.  Ken ye, my Lord Earl, on whatna errand Maister
Rambooly hath come hither?"

"Some new popish league, I warrant," said the laird of Spott, curling
his grisly beard.  "’Tis said that the Hugonets, jealous of such a body
of Switzers being marched into the Isle of France, are resolving upon
open war."

"Thou mistakest, Spott," replied the Earl, with a dark frown.  "Gif the
best man in France came hither on any such devil’s errand, I would slit
his tongue with my own dagger.  He hath come from Charles IX., to bestow
on King Henry the collar of St. Michael the archangel.  Her majesty
comes from Linlithgow in three days, and we shall have the ceremony of
installation at Holyrood thereafter."

"She will be here in three days, the Queen—hearest thou, Anna?"
whispered Konrad.  She pressed his hand in reply, and drooped her head
upon his shoulder; and the heart of Konrad sickened at the reflection,
that the action was prompted only by the abandonment of despair.

"St. Michael’s collar!" continued the laird of Spott; "the king should
kneel on Rizzio’s gravestone at this notable investment.  Doth it not
smell of popery and brimstone?"

"So the godly Maister Knox openly affirmit in a sermon preached this
blessed day," said dame Ainslie, turning up her saucer-like eyes at the
soul-stirring recollection thereof; "preached—ay, in the High Kirk,
(named St. Giles by the idolaters,) and he advisit the crafts to hurl
the stanes of the street upon Rambooly, as the son of anti-christ."

"Master Knox should beware, and bethink him that the persons of
ambassadors are sacred," replied the Earl; "but on what other points did
he touch in his notable discourse to-day?"

"Oh! he spoke in a way whilk was rapturous and soul-feeding to hear,
anent the abomination of singing idolatrous carols at Yule-tide, the
great sin of singing ought but psalms, and of all loud laughter and
ungodly merriment, whilk becometh not poor sinners like us, in the
slough of despondency.  He railed at the Queen and the Lord Darnley—the
one for her obstinate papistrie, and the other for his wicked life—and
then he spoke o’ the reiving bordermen in general, and John o’ Park in
particular, on whom he fulminated a’ the curses that ever were crammed
into a cardinal’s excommunication, as being the strongest and most
desperate thief in a’ the south country, since puir John o’ Gilnokie
dree’d his dreich penance from King James."

"Said he aught of the Lord Bothwell?"

"Yea, my lord—that he had taken a hawk from an ill nest."

"Meaning his espousal of a popish woman of the house of Huntly," said
Morton.  "Well, said he aught of me?"

"Nay, my lord—Heaven forefend!  Art thou not one of his boon and
steadfast friends?"

"Right—he would not talk of me," replied the fierce noble, with one of
his deep smiles; and striking his walking-cane on the floor, an
involuntary custom of his, added, "Well, then, master hosteller, let us
to supper, for I am ravenous as a hawk, and this noble baron of beef
seemeth done to a single turn.  If this strange gentleman will so far
favour me as to deign"——

"Excuse me, Lord Earl, but I have already supped," replied Konrad,
bowing with the distant air of one who wishes to be undisturbed and
unrecognised.  Morton’s pride and curiosity were piqued.

"Thou art English, I think, by the fashion of thy beard, and, doubtless,
hast a passport from the marshal of Berwick.  I will pardon the
bluntness with which thou declinest my courtesy, and will add, that thou
mayest find the shadow of my banner a good protection, if the quarrels
between the dainty queens of these realms end in blows; for our little
dame looks sourly upon thine, deeming her little else than a false
bastard and base usurper."

"Thou art mistaken, Lord Earl.  I am not an Englishman."

"Then what manner of man art thou, fair sir? thou seest I have a
restless curiosity. A stranger?"

"At thy service, noble lord.  I understand thou art the great Earl of
Morton—the foe of my foe."

"At the Scottish court each man is foe to every one else.  I am, in
fact, a little Earl compared with such a tall fellow as Bothwell. But I
may easily be the foe of thy foe, seeing that the half of broad Scotland
would readily drench my doublet in Douglas blood, gif they could; but,"
he added with hauteur, "who is thy foe?"

"James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell!" replied Konrad in the same manner,
for he was displeased by the peculiar accentuation.

"Hah! is it so?  Thou art a bold fellow to mention that name otherwise
than in a whisper, for it findeth an echo every where now.  Knowest thou
not," he added, with a glance of ferocious scorn, "that the white horse
of Hepburn is now bidding fair to swallow the crowned heart of Douglas?
I ask not the cause of thine enmity to this man, but if thou wishest an
opportunity of seeing him in his helmet, follow my banner for one month
or so; for I tell thee that the heather is smouldering on our Scottish
hills, and erelong ’twill burst into a red and furious flame."

"Excuse me, potent Earl," replied Konrad, for at that moment the
countryman plucked him anxiously by the sleeve; "excuse me, for I am in
some sort pledged to another."

"Please thyself, a-God’s name! and now let us to supper."



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                     *MORTON TURNS PHILANTHROPIST.*

    "Blessed be the Lord for all his gifts;
    Defied the deil and all his shifts;
    God send us mair siller—_amen!_"


Such was the grace, which, with half mockery and half gravity, the Earl
of Morton, who acted the rigid presbyter and stern reformer merely when
it suited his own fancy or peculiar ends, commenced the repast which
Adam Ainslie’s pantryman had arranged upon the long oak chamber-board,
as a table was then named.

The upper end was covered by a cloth of damask, flowered with red silk;
the lower was bare; the guests of rank were furnished with knives and
spoons of silver, with glasses of Venetian crystal, delft platters, and
pewter trenchers.  The lower had only wooden caups and luggies—quaighs
and spoons of horn—the great saltseller forming the grand point of
demarcation between the two classes of society who were to partake of
the same meal, at the same board, in the kindly fashion of other years.
The Earl and his gentlemen sat above; their rough-visaged troopers,
unhelmeted, but still wearing their corselets and gorgets, swords and
gambadoes, sat below it, closely, side by side, on buffet stools and
wooden benches.

They were accommodated with porridge and luggies of sour-milk; a handful
of prunes thrown into each platter, with cheese and cakes of mashlum,
(flower made of ground peas and barley,) and horns of ale, formed their
evening fare; but the savoury baron of beef, a pasty of powts, (or
muirfowl,) a pudding of plumbs and spices, with flasks of choice Canary,
Rochelle, and Bordeaux, at only sixpence or ninepence Scots the pint,
garnished the upper end; and to this early supper, for which our late
dinners are now a substitute, this jovial company sat down, just as the
four old bells of St. Giles rang the hour of nine.

"’Tis savoury meat this, Mistress Ainslie," said the Earl; "and it well
deserved a better blessing."

"Whence hadst thou it, lucky?" asked the Knight of Whittinghame, a grim
and bearded man; "for here is what I would call the prick of a lance."

"A true Border mark, by Mahoud!" added Hume of Spott.

"Ye say true, sirs; it may be a gore-mark," replied Dame Ainslie,
curtseying; "for ken ye, the beast was the best of a drove of four
hundred, lifted in Nichol forest by John of Park, whose riders sauld it
to my gudeman in the fleshmercat."

"English fed, by the rood!" said the bearded knight, cutting down
another slice. "Here is another goad-mark!  I warrant me, John’s
prickers had been sorely pressed by the English captain of Bewcastle, or
the lances of the Wardenrie."

"These wild powts are right tasty, host of mine," said the Earl; "whence
come they?"

"From the muirlands about the toun, my lord.  They are thick as locusts
on the braes of the Nor’ Loch and Wardie muir.  One crossbow shot brings
down two at once in the feeding time."

From a nook, in which she had hitherto sat unseen, Anna had surveyed,
with a terror which she could scarcely repress, the number of armed men
who crowded the apartment. There was a reckless, daredevil aspect about
them all; their armour was rusty, and their other attire well worn; in
grisly profusion, their beards and whiskers fringed their weatherbeaten
faces, which were all more or less stamped with ruffianism; for Morton,
notwithstanding the placid suavity of his manner, was as oily a ruffian
as ever drew a dagger—and, instead of his rural vassals, he generally
preferred to be attended by a band of paid "wageours," as those military
desperadoes were named, who swarmed throughout Scotland after the wars
between the Congregation and Mary of Lorraine had ceased.

"Konrad," said she, tremblingly, as she clung to his arm; "let us leave
this place"——

"For whence?—the wayside?—to be exposed to the midnight dew, and wild
animals, perhaps?"

"Surely any place is preferable to this. The faces of these men terrify
me!"

Ere Konrad could reply, the Earl of Morton, who had acute ears for such
matters, on hearing the soft voice of a woman, bent his keen dark eyes
towards where Anna was shrinking into the shadow, formed by a projection
of the wall.  He divined her sex in an instant; but with his usual
cunning concealed this discovery.

"’Tis a pretty lad, this, sir stranger!" said he to Konrad, kindly.  "Is
he thy page, or thy brother; for he cannot be thy son?"

Konrad hesitated a moment, and then replied—

"My brother, noble lord! as thou perhaps mayest see by our resemblance.
We have the same fair hair, and the same light eyes."

"Thou art come hither, thou saidst, to bear a lance in some knight’s
train.  Dost design thy sickly brother for such rough work?"

"Not at present, my lord.  He has been over-tenderly nurtured for
saddling horses and scouring armour.  I would rather leave him to bear
the fardingale of some noble lady, could I meet with such, while I push
my fortune in the camp."

"So far I may have it in my power to befriend thee," rejoined the
cunning Earl, with a sly wink at his two companions. "Come hither, my
boy, and let me see thee?"

Thus commanded by this terrible peer, Anna felt herself impelled to
obey; and she approached the Earl, whose long beard appalled, while his
keen dark eyes seemed to penetrate, the most secret thoughts of her
palpitating heart.  He took her by the hand; and one glance at its fair
soft fingers and beautiful form, together with the pallor of her
changing cheek, and the timidity of her downcast face, convinced him
that a very bewitching woman was concealed under that boy’s plain
doublet and mantle.

"That will do, boy—seat thyself," said he, lest his companions, the
dissolute lairds of Spott and Whittinghame, might make the same
discovery.  Morton formed his plan in a moment, and resolved by open
force, if not by secret fraud—a course he usually preferred—to obtain
possession of this fair foreigner. He again addressed Konrad.

"Thou knowest me, fair sir—I believe?"

"Yes, noble sir, to be the most powerful of the Scottish peers."

"After the great Earl of Bothwell," said Morton, with mock humility.  "I
will place thy brother in the service of a noble lady connected with the
court, where he will be daily in the presence of her Majesty the Queen,
if thou wilt trust me so far."

"Lord Earl, I cannot find words to thank thee!" replied Konrad, touched
to the soul by this sudden kindness.

"Pest!" said Spott, "his fortune will be made.  Thou knowest our queen’s
partiality for strangers and outlandish people."

"Earl Morton, were I not pledged to another, (and I never break my work
even to the most humble,) thy standard alone would I follow, to requite
with my sword"——

"And to whose pennon art thou pledged?"

Here the peasant plucked Konrad by the mantle, and whispered,—"Say John
of Park, and they will hang thee from that rooftree!" but Konrad was
relieved from the dilemma by Douglas of Whittinghame exclaiming with a
hoarse laugh—

"Ha! ha! here is James of Morton, the lord of the lion’s den, turning
philanthropist! ha! ha! ha!"

"Can thy brother not speak for himself?" said the Earl.

"The boy is timid and bashful."

"The women will soon teach him impudence."

"Excuse him, noble sir"——

"Say I am thankful," whispered Anna in a broken voice, while her tears
fell fast; "for though grieved to the heart at parting from thee, dear
Konrad, the protection of one of my own sex is so necessary, that—and
then to be near the queen, that she may hear my mournful story!  O! what
will I not risk? Yes—yes! to this great lord say that I thank him from
my inmost soul, and will accept his generous offer."

"And what, may I ask, is the name of the noble lady who is to receive
this boy as a gift?" asked Konrad, after he had complied with Anna’s
desire.

"The Dame Alison Craig," replied the Earl.  "She dwells close bye here,
a few doors up the wynd, in a house that was once a convent, but is now
adapted to more useful purposes.  It hath been reformed—ha! ha! She is a
lady of fair repute, and keepeth open house for the rich.  By my beard!
I know not what would become of Messieurs the ambassadors of France,
Spain, and Savoy, and all the gay chevaliers and signiors of their
suites, in this gloomy city of psalms and sermonizing, but for Dame
Alison’s suppers and balls."

Though Konrad did not understand this speech, he partly detected the sly
expression of eye with which it was accompanied; but, in his
Scandinavian simplicity and honesty of heart, he never imagined it was
an infamous courtesan the treacherous Earl was praising; and, pleased
with the hope that Anna would so easily obtain access to the queen’s
presence, he once more thanked him, briefly and sincerely, and, after
the grace-cup had been handed round by the hostess, the guests prepared
for repose.

The Earl and his gentlemen were conducted to chambers in the upper
regions of the lofty hostell, the host marshalling the way with a
flambeau; but their jackmen lay on the hearth, on the benches, and under
the hall tables, with their steel caps for pillows, and their swords and
axes beside them.

Touched with the melancholy that was impressed on Konrad’s handsome
face, and with the singular beauty of the seeming boy who accompanied
him, the hostess offered the brothers, as she deemed them, "a snug
box-bed in the guest row, bein and cosy, gif they would accept of it—nae
difference to be made in the lawing."

Though Anna understood little of the Scottish woman’s language, with
quick perception she divined, by Konrad’s confused expression, the
nature of the invitation, and a blush burned on her face.  He hastened
to remove it, by hurriedly declining; and, wrapped up in their mantles,
they took their repose on the wooden benches as well as their sad
thoughts would permit them; while coiled up in his grey maud, with a
hand on his poniard and his bonnet drawn over his face, their first
acquaintance, the countryman, lay snoring melodiously beside them, with
his red-eyed terrier keeping watch and ward by his side.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                            *JOHN OF PARK.*

    "He blythely blew his silver call,
      And, ere the echoes slept,
    One hundred archers, stout and tall,
      Appealed on right and left.
    These are my body guard, fair sir:
      Should fortune prove unkind,
    Or foes our haunts invade, there are
      Full fifty more behind."
        _Ballad._


Grey morning was breaking, and its light struggled through the barred
windows of the hostellary, edging with cold lustre and bringing into
bold relief the harsh and fierce features, the muscular figures, and
uncouth accoutrements of Morton’s bearded troopers. They were still
sleeping on the hard oak planks when the peasant stirred Konrad, and
whispered—

"Fair sir, I am about to depart.  If thou art still in the mood to
follow John of Park to battle and foray against Bothwell—arise, and come
forth!"

"I am ready," replied Konrad, feeling for the purse that hung at his
girdle.

"Nay, nay, heed not the lawing!  I will settle with our host’s yeoman of
the pantry, and thou canst do me service another time. Come softly
forth; for I wish not to disturb these bloodhounds of the house of
Morton."

Rising gently, the young man clasped on his steel cap, and gave a glance
full of sorrow and anguish at Anna’s fair and sleeping face, over which
he drew the skirt of her mantle; and, praying that Heaven might take her
under its peculiar care, hurried away.

"’Tis better—oh yes!—’tis better," thought he.  "She is now under more
powerful protection than I could afford her; and, in the whirl of war
and strife, I may (for a time at least) forget that hopeless passion
which her presence is turning into madness."

While his new friend, and one of the drowsy servitors, whom he had
roused from his snug nest among the hay in the loft above the stables,
were removing the ponderous wooden bar of the pend or archway, Konrad
felt a hand laid lightly on his arm; he turned, and met Anna’s tearful
eyes fixed sorrowfully and pleadingly on his.

"Wouldst thou really go without bidding me one kind adieu?" she said
tenderly, in the language of their native land.

"I deemed it better, Anna.  Partings are ever painful, and I hoped to
see thee soon again."

"My heart is oppressed by fears and misgivings"——

"Let them cease, I pray thee; but oh! above all things, carefully
preserve thy disguise. Remain with this noble; he is great and powerful,
and in his train, three days hence will doubtless find thee in the
presence of the Scottish Queen.  Once there, thou art safe.  Throw
thyself at her feet, and there pour out thy tears and thy sorrows
together.  Mary of Scotland, say the people of every land save her own,
is good and gentle, pious, compassionate, and kind. Thou art sure to
triumph.  Farewell, Anna! may our blessed Lady, whose intercession is
never sought in vain, protect and bless thee!"

"Thou wilt come and see me sometimes, Konrad—at court, I mean; for
surely I must remain there after my story is heard!"

"And forget old Norway?" said Konrad, with a sad smile.

"_Gammle Norgé!_" reiterated Anna; "ah, never! but I would wish that
some great lady, fair, beautiful, and rich, should see thee, and love
thee, and, and"——

"What?"

"Make amends for the worthless heart thou hast lost."

"Never, Anna!" responded the young man in a troubled voice, while he
regarded her with a gaze of love as deep as in the days of yore.  "That
can never be—Konrad’s die is cast;" and, kissing her hands, he sprang
through the archway, and, with his mind in a tumult of confusion,
hurried after his guide.

A sense of sadness, desolation, and doubt, were ever uppermost in his
thoughts, and absorbed all his faculties.

There were none stirring in the city at that early hour; the streets
were silent and deserted; and grimly in the grey morning the grated
windows of its lofty mansions, tall, and strong, and spectral, with
their turnpike towers, crow-stepped gables and Flemish roofs, frowned
over the narrow way.

"What time of the morning is it, thinkest thou, for I never could afford
me a pocket-dial?" said the peasant, as they descended St. Mary’s Wynd.

"About two hours of matin-prime yet."

"Matin-prime hath not rung for these ten years and more from the
steeples of Edinburgh," replied the other, with a dark look; "but please
God a day shall come, when all the services of our blessed church, the
_sexte and *none_, the _vesper_ and _nocturnal_, shall toll from every
steeple in broad Scotland."

"Shall we meet John of Park in the city?"

"Marry, come up! thinkest thou he values his poor head so lightly that
he trusts it there?  Though of a sooth to say, ’tis worth more than I
thought it; for there, on yonder gate, we will find that the lords of
the land offer a hundred unicorns of gold for it.  I never could read a
line myself; but I heard a certain notary’s servitor, a dainty youth in
black buckram and a white ruff, read it to the gaping rabble
yesternight.  A hundred golden unicorns! ha! ha!  John of Park, my poor
knave! look well to thy harnpan, lest some day thou findest it grinning
on yonder spikes!"

With a boisterous laugh, his guide directed Konrad’s attention to a huge
placard posted on the Porte of St. Mary.  This barrier, which extended
from east to west across the Pleasance, and gave access to the Wynd and
Canongate, was removed in the seventeenth century.

The paper, which was surmounted by the rude engraving of a thistle and
crown, with the initials M.R., purported to be the offer of one hundred
unicorns for the "notour rebelle, traitor, and murtherour, at ye Queen’s
majesties home, John Elliot, umquhile designate of Parke."  Imprinted by
Thomas Bassandyne, one of the earliest Edinburgh printers, whose
establishment was near the Netherbow.

As they left the city behind, pursuing the path that skirted the royal
park, and (by the same narrow way that the good St. Margaret had rode on
many a day to her gifted well) led towards the old collegiate church of
Restalrig, with the ruined dwellings of its banished prebendaries
nestling among the old orchards of the monkish days—the sun came up in
splendour from his burnished bed in the German sea, and the summits of
the city, and of the dark-green hills that overhung it, were reddened by
the joyous light. Up, and farther up, soared the god of day in his
glory; and Gulane Hill, St. Baldred’s isle of rock, and the volcanic
cone of Berwick Law, were mellowed in the morning haze.

Leaving the bridle path that led to the dwelling of the factious and
turbulent Lord of Restalrig, they entered upon the dreary waste named
the Figgate Whins, where, from time immemorial, the monks of Holyrood
had grazed their flocks of sheep and cattle. Bordered by a low and sandy
shore, and uncheered by a single habitation, this wide and lonely waste
extended from the western ramparts of Leith to the chapel of Magdalene—a
little oratory by the seaside, nearly four miles distant.  The fragment
of an ancient Roman way traversed the moorland, which was still as
death, save where a few cattle browsed on the patches of grass; and each
of them had a sprig of ash-tree tied with red tape to their horns, as a
charm against disease and witchcraft. The gurgle of the Figgate burn
flowing into the ocean, whose crested waves rolled in light on the
yellow sand—and the cawing of the rooks, that were wheeling aloft from
their nests in the ruined oratory—were the only sounds that broke the
stillness; for Konrad, oppressed by his own sad thoughts, did not
converse much—and his companion had also become somewhat taciturn and
reserved.

This muir was studded by great thickets of dark-green whin, and mossy
knolls, marking the roots of gigantic oaks, the remnants of that great
forest whose shady dingles had once spread from the hills of Braid to
the ocean, and which many a time and oft had echoed to the trumpets and
timbrels of the Emperor Severus and Julius Agricola.  There were deep
hollows, mosshags, and sandpits, by the wayside; and, altogether, the
place, as they progressed, seemed to become so fitted for outrage,
murder, and robbery, that Konrad began to view with suspicion the tall
and brawny fellow who had led him thus far, and who marched on a pace or
two before, with his grey plaid waving in the wind, his bonnet drawn
over his face, while with his knotty staff he hewed in a swordsman-like
fashion at the broom-bells and thistle-heads that bordered the Roman
causeway.

"Is it in this place we are to meet the knight whose pennon I am to
follow?" asked Konrad.

"Yes!"

"And how saidest thou he was named?"

"The Laird of Park! a name at which men cock their lugs in Liddesdale."

"And where is he now?"

"Before thee!" said the other, drawing himself up, and raising his
bonnet from his broad and manly brow.  "I am Sir John Elliot of Park!"

"Thou!" exclaimed the young Norwegian, stepping back a pace, with a
frown of anger and surprise, that his helmet partly concealed.  "Peasant
churl! how canst thou be that brave knight whom all men characterise as
the foe of the great Earl of Bothwell, though thou mayest well be the
strong thief he is said to be!"

"A salmon from the pool, a wand from the wood, a deer from the hill, or
a drove of nolt from our English foemen, are thefts that no man hath
need to blush for."

"By St. Olaf!  I will rather forego my chance of meeting Bothwell in
battle than follow such as thee.  Nay, nay; fallen as he is, Konrad of
Saltzberg hath not yet come so low as to seek suit or service from a
low-born peasant!"

Long and loudly laughed the borderer at this remark, till his sunburnt
face grew purple.

"Dost thou think, when I ventured into Edinburgh to learn how matters
were likely to go with us in Liddesdale, I would enter with my pennon
borne before me, and sound a trumpet at its gates?  By St. Mary! no—and
I care not mickle whether I don a blue bonnet, or Naples beaver, or a
steel basinet, provided it keeps my head on my shoulders for the time.
But tarry a moment, gentle sir; and, peradventure, thou wilt acknowledge
there may be worse leaders than Jock Elliot of Park."

On approaching the chapel and bridge of Mary Magdalene, he placed to his
mouth a small bugle of ivory, exquisitely carved and mounted with
silver, and blew one clear low blast, that rang along the sandy shore,
and immediately a knight’s pennon and the glittering heads of sixty
bright lances appeared above the broom, as they were uplifted in the
sunshine, and there rode down the opposite bank a band of moss-troopers,
armed, after the Scottish border fashion, in jacks of leather covered
with little iron plates, steel gloves, gorgets, and basinets, and having
two-handed swords slung from their shoulder-belts.  As they approached
the bridge-end, their strong, fleet, and active horses, though covered
with dew and dust, seemed still fresh and active.

"Behold my pennon, fair sir!" said the Knight of Park, pointing to the
scarlet bannerole, which bore on a golden bend _a flute_, the pastoral
cognizance of the Elliot clan. "And these are a few of my Liddesdale
lads; so, if thou art ashamed to follow the one in the ranks of the
other, here we part, and in all friendship I say—God keep thee!"

"Nay—I crave pardon!  I pledged my word to serve, and will keep the
pledge."

"Then be it so.  Ho there, Edie o’ Earlshope!—Lauchey wi’ the lang
spear!—my horse and armour!" cried the knight, throwing down his bonnet
and plaid; and immediately a strong and beautiful horse, stoutly, but
plainly, bitted and caparisoned, bearing on its saddle a bundle of
armour, was led forward by the laird’s henchman, the said Edie, a
muscular but spare sample of the thorough-bred moss-trooper.

His eyes and hair were of the deepest black, his face was long and lean,
and by constant exposure had been tanned to the colour of mahogany.  The
bristly mustaches that overhung the clasps of his battered morion, were
like iron wire.  His powerful form seemed a model of muscular strength
and activity, but his legs were considerably curved by constant riding;
his armour was well worn, and by frequent use, rather than care, the
grasp and pommel of his long and ponderous sword, that hung from a chain
over his shoulder, was polished as brightly as if by a cutler’s hand.
Though Edie was merely the chartered portioner or crofter of Earlshope
from the laird, there was much more of the outlaw than the farmer, and
still more of the ruffian than the soldier, in his aspect.

"Park, thou art right welcome among us!" said he, with the respectful
familiarity of a Scottish vassal to his lord in those days, when the
interests of the people and their superiors were _one_.  "What may be
the tidings in yonder city?"

"Such as will cause sharp swords and sure watches to be kept in every
tower that looks down on the Liddle, good gossip."

"Wow, laird!—and what be they?"

"The Lord Warden of the three marches, with four thousand lances in his
train, is about to lead a raid among us, and meaneth to pay me such a
visit as King James did John of Gilnokie."

"Weel—I carena a brass bodle!" growled the moss-trooper, as with a ready
hand he buckled on his leader’s coat-of-mail, and assisted him to mount.
"I havena had a straw growing on Earlhope-rigs since Lammas-tide was
1560; nor a cow in the byre, save what I won in fair foray;—sae, gif we
take to hill and moss again, we canna be mickle the waur."

"By the blood of Broomholm!" swore his chief; "gif I take to moss and
moor, let the Lord Warden look to it, for I may chance one day to whet
my lance on the groundstone of his own castle of Bothwell!  Hast thou a
horse for my friend?"

"By my faith have we—for ten friends!" replied the henchman, pointing to
a troop of led horses, whose halters were fastened to troopers’ bridles.

"And where got ye these nags?"

"Ou! just in the onsteadings owre the hill yonder, where I took a turn
wi’ Dandy Dumpie and Langspear, between the night and morning, to keep
us frae wearying when waiting on ye.  But as the crofters may be missing
their cattle about this time, and set the countryside astir, ’twere wise
to make use of rowel and rein till the Lammermuir is between us and the
sea."

"Our Lady!—yes; for ere noonday this bridge will be echoing to the tramp
of Bothwell’s bands, who bring with them the Comptroller’s cannon, to
batter down every obnoxious peelhouse in the wardenrie, and my poor
little tower of Park in particular. Mount, friend Konrad, and let us
begone; for we have to ride fast and far ere we breakfast yet!"

Konrad sprang into the saddle of the charger proffered him—(a strong and
active bay)—and rode forward by the side of his new friend, to whom he
was completely reconciled, on beholding that his pennon was borne by a
gentleman—and that his armour, though plain and unornamented, was of the
finest steel, and every way such as became a knight.  He rode with a
jed-wood axe resting on his thigh; and his visor, which was lighted by
two horizontal slits, clasped down.

Passing the turreted house of Crichton of Brunstan, who had taken such a
leading part in the recent Reformation, they struck into a narrow
horseway, that, crossing the Esk by a ford, led to the hill of
Carberry—and, as they ascended, the districts of Newton and Inveresk lay
spread at their feet like a beautiful map.  The waves were rolling in
silver and blue around the Inch and the May—St. Adrian’s gifted
isle—while the point of Elie, the peak of Kincraig, and all the shore of
Fife, was mellowed by distance into faint and shadowy tints; but when
John of Park and his troop of lances diverged along the heights that are
crowned by the old tower of Falside, whose ruined turrets still overtop
their grove of firs, the broad and beautiful bay of Preston opened out
before them, dotted by the dark lug-sails of northern fisher-boats, and
shining in golden light—yellow almost as the long expanse of sand that
edged its ample margin.

Accustomed to the savage landscapes of his native Norway, there was a
soft charm in that varied and magnificent panorama which for a time won
Konrad from his melancholy thoughts.

An amphitheatre of fertile hills, and rich copsewood of the darkest
green, rose gently upwards from the encircling shore, till their long
blue undulating line stood defined distinctly and clearly against the
pale and azure horizon.  From the strongholds of the Lords of Winton and
Dolphinton, and many a baronial dwelling, whose lofty turrets and
crested gateway have long since crumbled into dust—from many a thatched
cottage and many a snug home-farm—the smoke was rising amid the summer
woods, to mingle with the morning mist, and melt in thin air.

Afar off, like a speck at the edge of the distant sea, a sail was
visible, marking the faint line where sky and ocean blended into one;
and Konrad gazed at it long and wistfully.  It might be bound for his
northern home; and for a time his eyes, his heart, and his wishes,
followed it.  But he soon lost sight of the sea and the distant capital,
on entering the moorlands that lay to the southward of Falside and
Carberry; for the experienced border knight and his moss-troopers, to
avoid the Earl of Bothwell’s line of route, had resolved, by taking a
circuitous and solitary way, to gain, unseen, their native wilds of
Liddesdale.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                   *THE CONFLICT IN HERMITAGE GLEN.*

    And it’s hame, and it’s hame, my bonny brown steed,
      And it’s riderless hame ye maun gang;
    For the warden has me fast, this night is my last,
      The morn he swears I maun hang.
        _Old Ballad._


Anxious to forget both Anna and his Countess, Bothwell hastened to
plunge into the ardour and excitement of that wild and predatory warfare
which was then maintained on the frontiers of the two countries. The
memory of the wrong he had done his wife, stung him more than those
endured by Anna; for he deemed his marriage with her a jest, a nullity,
while his espousal of Lady Jane had been as solemn as the church could
make it.

He salved his conscience, too, with the recollection of Anna’s facility
and faithlessness to her former lover, and made it an excuse for
endeavouring utterly to obliterate from his mind all memory of his
intrigue with her—for he deemed it nothing more. And now, when finding
himself rising into eminence and power at court, he only viewed with
fear her probable escape from Noltland, and the custody of Sir Gilbert
Balfour; and that fear engendered a sentiment very much akin to
hatred—for to such a bitter feeling will the most passionate love turn
at times.

The complaints of the Earl of Bedford, lieutenant of the English
marches, concerning the incessant forays of the border clans, caused the
queen and her ministers to resolve on holding an assize, or court of
justice, at Jedburgh, upon the 27th of August, and the nobles, barons,
and freeholders of the adjacent shires were summoned by writ to meet
their majesties, Henry and Mary, on the 23d, at Peebles; while the
magistrates of the former place made preparations to accommodate such a
vast retinue of men and horses.

While Bothwell continued warring on the borders, the approach of harvest
caused a postponement of the royal visit till the 8th of October, when
the queen joined him at Melrose, not alone, or nearly so, (as we are
falsely informed by Buchanan,) but attended by her whole court and
council, her archer guard, the officers of justice, and a strong armed
force, as her father, James V., had come there thirty years before.
King Henry, either from cowardice, caprice, or whim, chose to absent
himself, and go no one knew whither, but as the queen shrewdly guessed,
to visit one of his innumerable inamoratos.

After capturing many of those moss-troopers who were known to be lawless
and predatory, who harried the beeves of their countrymen as well as
those of the English, and delivering them to all the brief severities of
Jeddart justice, especially our late acquaintances, Edie of Earlshope
and Lauchey-with-the-lang-spear; after storming and dismantling many of
their dwellings—those strong but solitary peelhouses which are either
situated on rocks almost inaccessible, in the depths of forests, or
among the pathless wilds of the border morasses—the impetuous Earl
turned the whole tide of war and justice against the great master-reiver
of that district, John of Park and the clan Elliot, who had hitherto
successfully eluded his desultory operations.

Careless of his future fate, and glorying in the dangers of the
wandering and Bedouin-like life of the Scottish moss-troopers—now
garrisoning some solitary peel that overlooked many a silvan strath and
silver stream; now biding in some unfathomed cavern; now stabling their
steeds among the haggs of some deep moss, from whence they issued all in
their armour, with uplifted lances, on the terrified troops of the
wardenrie—the young Norwegian engaged with ardour in every desperate
foray and attack on which John of Park dispatched him; and his daring,
his activity, and indomitable hardihood, made him the byword and the
idol of the wild spirits among whom his fortune had cast him; but they
knew not that, in every action, in every deed of arms and essay of
danger, one thought—one hope—was ever uppermost in his mind, to come
within a lance length of the Earl of Bothwell.

On the other hand, that gallant noble having heard of this new
desperado, with whose wild chivalry all the borders were ringing, and
also of Anna’s flight from Noltland, became doubly anxious for his
capture, if not for his destruction.

Now many a time the reflection came home to his mind, how bitter were
the dregs of the cup of deceit—and now he found how one false step
required a hundred to repair it.

These foes had their long wished-for interview sooner than they
anticipated.

On hearing of the queen’s arrival at Jedburgh, Bothwell had ridden from
his stately castle of Hermitage to visit her, and was returning,
accompanied only by his gossip and boon companion, Hob of Ormiston.
They were both lightly, but well armed, and splendidly mounted; for, by
the ancient way, the castle of Hermitage is nearly twenty-five miles
distant from Jedburgh.

The latter, a populous town, then twice the size of Berwick (as a letter
of the English protector Somerset informs us), with its lofty abbey
tower, its embattled ramparts, and six great bastel-houses, had been
left behind; and the sun was setting when the Earl and his friend
penetrated into the bleak and mountainous district of Liddesdale.

The vale of the winding Hermitage, with its fertile borders of fine
holmland and rich copsewood, was then growing dark, and the sun’s last
rays were fading on the summits of Tudhope-hill and Millenwood-fell,
whose steep and silent outlines stood in bold relief against the cold
blue sky of October.  This region was then almost without roads, and
destitute of other inhabitants than the fox and the fuimart, the deer
and the eagle.  The country was swarming with exasperated outlaws and
broken men of every description; and thus the Earl and the Knight rode
fast without exchanging a word, for they knew that they ran considerable
risk of being roughly interrupted, ere they reached the gates of
Hermitage.

"By cock and pie!" grumbled Ormiston, under his barred aventayle, as he
breathed his horse a little; "’twas a rash deed and a perilous, to come
on this hellicate errand alone, like two knights of the Round Table,
when we might so easily have had a hundred good lances at our cruppers."

"Heed it not, good Ormiston!" laughed the Earl, who was in excellent
humour with himself and every thing else; for Mary had received him so
affably, and thanked his good service so graciously.  "Heed it not, I
pray thee!  If thou reachest the gate of Hermitage with a whole skin,
thou canst stuff it well with wine and baked beef; but if thou gettest a
Lockerby lick between this and its gates—why"——

"Thou must pay the masses for my soul, as I have not had a plack in my
pouch since Michaelmas, and I doubt mickle if Mass John of the
Priesthaugh will credit me."

"’Tis said that John of Park wears a corselet of Milan inlaid with gold,
and worth a hundred angels.  ’Twould be a rare prize for thee, did we
meet him here by the Birkwoodshaws."

"By the mass!  I hope not; for I have no wish to lose that which will
not make the laird of Park one jot the richer—my poor life—which he will
have lances enow to send to the devil in a twinkling!"

"If we _are_ to be intercepted," rejoined the Earl, "by broken knaves, I
wish they would show face while our horses are fresh, and we could run a
course on the level sward here with some pith and spirit."

A pause ensued, during which nothing was heard but the dull tramp of the
steeds on the grassy waste, its echo from the mountains, the hard
breathing of the riders, half suppressed in the hollow of their helmets,
and the clinking of their mail.  Suddenly the Earl drew up; for an
abrupt turn of the path traversing that beautiful valley, which is ten
miles in length, brought them close to a band of some twenty
moss-troopers, riding leisurely down the hill side in full harness, with
their steel caps and lofty lances glinting above the hazel bushes that
tufted the mountains.  They were trotting in a circle, and goading on a
herd of fifty or sixty fat oxen, which they had harried from the holme
of Canonbie Priory, which had been ruined and destroyed by the English,
on their retreat from Solway Moss, twenty-four years before.

"Cock and pie!" exclaimed Ormiston.

"Devil take thine oath of cock and pie!" exclaimed the Earl, testily.
"It cometh in on all occasions—grave as well as gay.  Seest thou not
that yonder is a band of Liddesdale lances, and we have now a chance of
being overborne, slam, and thrown into the Hermitage, with a stone at
our necks, to make amends for our late hard justice at Jedburgh."

"The knaves will scarcely dare to slay thee, who art the queen’s
lieutenant, and warden of the three marshes; but I doubt mickle if their
scruples will extend to Hob Ormiston."

"Think not they will spare either of us, gossip of mine; and thou
biddest fair to feed the crows, as the pelicans in thy banner do their
young."

"I will be right well content to die in my helmet, if I cannot redeem my
life with that of the best knave among them!"

"Then come on, a-God’s name!" cried the Earl; and, brandishing his
sword, he rode straight towards two of the moss-troopers who had
advanced to reconnoitre; while the remainder, spurring at full gallop,
and goading on the plunging and maddened herd of cattle with their sharp
lances, pursued their path at full speed towards the wildest district of
the mountains.

Leaping their horses across the mossy and reedy margin of a mountain
runnel, the Earl and his companion rode leisurely to within twenty paces
of the other horsemen, and then, for a minute, they all steadily
surveyed each other by the fading twilight of the valley.

"These are tall fellows, and their bright armour would seem to announce
them gentlemen of name," said the Earl.  "Mass! is not that John of Park
in the fluted steel?"

"And our Norwegian!"

"Now, by Heaven!" exclaimed the Earl, grasping his long sharp sword, and
adjusting his iron gloves; "our bout will be a tough and a bloody
one—man to man!  ’Tis good chivalry this for a moss-trooping knave. Have
at thee, Sir John of Park!  I am James, Earl of Bothwell."

"Come on, lord warden, and welcome to a Liddesdale lick!" exclaimed the
moss-trooper, putting spurs to his steed.  "Thy head or mine, for a
hundred unicorns! ha! ha!"—and rushing on, they encountered hand to
hand.

Konrad, who had been most anxious to meet Bothwell in a solemn and
vengeful single combat, finding himself thus anticipated, turned the
whole tide of his wrath upon the gigantic Ormiston, whom he engaged with
greater determination than fury.

The Knight of Park wielded his light Jedwood axe with such skill and
dexterity, that the fourth blow broke Bothwell’s tempered blade like a
crystal wand, and left him defenceless.

The powerful borderer pressed on, and, with his axe upraised, was about
to hew the Earl down, through head and helmet, to the neck, when the
latter suddenly reined back his horse, blew the match of a poitronal (so
named from its having a square butt, and being discharged from the
breast) and fired! The large bullet passed through the neck of Park,
piercing like silk his jointed gorget; he fell forward supinely on his
horse’s mane, and rolled upon the turf with the blood gushing through
the bars of his aventayle.

Leaping from his horse, Bothwell bent for a moment over the wounded man,
whose broad bosom heaved convulsively under its steel case; but for a
moment only, till, inspired with new strength by the agonies of death
and despair, he made one sudden and serpent-like bound, and, swinging
his Jedwood axe by both hands, dealt the Earl a furious blow on the
helmet, and again sunk prostrate on the turf.  The tempered headpiece
partly saved the warden, who reeled a pace or two, half blinded by his
own blood, for the blade had penetrated and slightly wounded him.

"Base ronion!" he exclaimed, compressing the throat of the dying
moss-trooper with his armed heel, "dost thou surrender now?"

"Yes—my soul to God! but _never_ my sword to thee," he muttered, and
expired.

Faint and giddy, the Earl leant against the saddle of his horse, while
the combat was waged fiercely between Konrad and Ormiston, whose horses
were alternately beaten down on their haunches by the fury of the
conflict; but the skill of the former was completely overborne by that
of the latter, when united to his vast muscular power.  Often they
paused and panted, and surveyed each other with tiger-like ferocity,
while their warded weapons were pressed together, and then again they
engaged with all the fury of two mad bulls.

Bothwell watched the fray with interest, for he had a firm friend to
lose on one hand, and a dangerous foe on the other; thus he was doubly
anxious for the success of Ormiston, who, after a long pause, suddenly,
by one tremendous back-stroke, that fell like a thunderbolt on the
helmet of his younger and more slender adversary, unhorsed and stretched
him motionless on the turf, where the strong and ruthless victor sprang
upon him like a demon, with his vengeful blade withdrawn for the
death-thrust.

"Nay, nay!" said the Earl, staying the hand and weapon.  "To Hermitage!
to Hermitage!—its gates are strong, and its vaults are deep enow to hold
a wilder thief than this.  To-morrow I will hold a court in the hall,
and consign him to the dule-tree for foraging in the wardenrie.  I would
rather he should perish thus, by the hand of justice, than by thine or
mine; and now let us hence, ho! lest yonder band of knaves leave their
quarry under escort on the muir, and return to the rescue."

"And John of Park’s dainty suit of mail, and his corselet, worth—how
much didst thou say?"

"A pest upon thee, man!  I did but jest; yet thou speakest like a
rascally Lombard Jew.  Is this a time to think of such things? There,
hide the carrion under yonder bush, and I will send John of Bolton down
the glen, with a few lances, to bring thee the suit of mail, and me the
wearer’s head.  But assist me to bind this knave on horseback, and then,
away!"

The Earl was immediately obeyed, and the half senseless captive was
lifted on his horse, bound to it by the scarfs of the victors, who took
each his horse by the bridle, and following the windings of the glen and
stream, whose clear surface was now shining in the starlight, set off on
the spur for the famous old border stronghold of Hermitage, which had
been built in the thirteenth century by Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith.

Blind and faint by loss of blood, the Earl almost sank from his horse on
reining up at the castle gate, where he was received into the arms of
Hepburn of Bolton, and other faithful retainers, who bore him to his
apartments.

Alarmed on beholding his dark hair clotted and his features disfigured
with blood, when his helmet was removed his attendants conducted him to
bed, and despatched a horseman to the village of Castleton for the leech
of the district, Mass John of the Priesthaugh, a friar of the suppressed
Priory of Canobieholm; while an express, announcing the severe wound of
the Earl, and the death of John of Park, was immediately despatched to
the queen at Jedburgh, where she was then residing, and occupying a
small house that still remains in a sequestered street of that venerable
burgh.  This edifice is styled (no one knows why, says the Magister
Absalom) the House of the Lord Compositor, and some of the tapestry with
which it was adorned for her occupation is still preserved.

The moss-trooper who bore the message, Pate of the Prickinghaugh,
tarried at every peel-house and cottage in the vale of the Hermitage, to
have his thirst quenched and announce the fall of John of Park, the
"prettiest man" in all the wide borders; but Pate drained so many horns
of whisky and ale, that, by the time he reached Jedburgh, he reversed
the order of matters, and created a tremendous sensation among the
courtiers by announcing that John of Park had been victorious, and the
great Earl of Bothwell slain.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                        *THE PIT OF HERMITAGE.*

      ———The dusky vale
    Of Hermitage in Liddesdale,
      Its dungeons and its towers,
    Where Bothwell’s turrets brave the air—
        _Marmion._


In the middle and darker ages, the first chambers of every Scottish
castle were a range of vaults, arched with stone, rising from walls
usually ten or sixteen feet in thickness. In these the winter stores
were kept; but there was _one_, generally the lowest, the darkest, and
most damp, which was emphatically named the PIT; where the lord of the
barony kept the most refractory of his vassals, and the most hated of
his feudal enemies; for every Scottish peer and lesser baron had the
right of pit and gallows attached to his fortified dwelling.

In a hundred castles we could name, the pit is immediately below the
hall—in Hermitage it was lower still; and though, perhaps, it was no
worse than many others in Scotland, to poor Konrad, who, on the day (or
night, for both were alike there) succeeding the combat in the valley,
found himself a captive therein, never, as he imagined, did human
cruelty devise a den more horrible. But he knew not of the _oubliettes_
of Linlithgow and St. Andrews.

He found himself buried, entombed, and lost in pitchy darkness.

The atmosphere was close, and damp, and still—so very still, that he
heard the regular and monotonous plash of a drop of fetid water, that
fell at intervals from one of the long stalactites that hung pendant
from the low slimy arch of the vault.

He was cold as death, and miserable, and broken in spirit.

The memory of Park’s fall, and his own capture, seemed like a dream; all
was chaos and confusion in his mind.  Altogether, he had but an
indistinct sense of existence; and after a time became without one idea
of where he was.  A torpor was stealing over him, conduced by the
monotonous plash, plash, plashing of the before-mentioned drop into the
little pool below it; at times, it seemed to echo through the vault like
the fall of a goblet of water, for to this only sound his sharpened
sense had become painfully acute.

Still the benumbing torpor continued gradually to steal over him, and at
length he slept on the damp, moist floor of that frightful vault, which
yet survives, and is recorded in the Scottish annals as being the scene
of a terrible event.

He slumbered; but even then his mind was active and sleepless.  His last
waking thoughts were of Anna; his first dream was of his home—and old
Norway, in all its stern beauty of wood, and rock, and mountain, rose
before him.  He saw his native hills, with their blue and hoary summits
of thunder-riven rock, towering far into the azure sky in shadowy
masses; and he could trace the rough paths where he had often pursued
the bear and the roebuck, diminished to threads in the distance, as they
wound up precipices overhung by the gloomy pine. He saw grey Bergen on
its chasmed cliff, and Christiana’s rock-bound bay.  Old and familiar
faces were before him; loved voices were in his ear; and, with a sob of
astonishment and joy, he awoke.

A lambent and flickering light was burning near him; like a great
glow-worm, it glimmered in the fetid atmosphere.  He thought some spirit
of the darkness was visible: to this day the Norse are full of such
superstitions; but though his eyes (after being nearly twelve hours in
such intense darkness) ached on beholding the lamp, he soon perceived
the dun outline of a human countenance peering into the gloom, with its
eyes shaded by a hand.

It was the saucy face of French Paris, Bothwell’s favourite and most
trusted page, to whom he had given particular charge of Konrad, that
none other should approach him, or become acquainted with the important
secret he possessed.

"Where the devil art thou?" he asked; "for I cannot see the length of my
own nose in this accursed pit.  O ho! good-morrow—I see thee now.  So
thou art the rider who was with John of Park when he so sorely wounded
my lord, who now lieth in deadly peril."

"If thy lord is the Earl of Bothwell, I would thank God for the tidings,
if I dared to thank him for aught so unchristian.  How dares he to
confine me in such a place as this?"

"Lest thou shouldst slip through his fingers like a Teviot eel," replied
the page with a grin.  "Thou art not a Scot, by thine accent; how camest
thou to be involved with my lord, the Earl, in _that_ affair—thou
wottest of what I mean?  I am somewhat curious about it.  ’Twas I who
conducted thee to his countess, and then to the postern door at Bothwell
castle."

"True—I remember thee now."

"Why art thou here?"

"By a combination of circumstances over which I had no immediate
control; because I knew not the merits, and saw not the issue, of this
border war, in which I had taken service; by destiny—or the guidance of
an evil spirit—which you will."

"Holy Paul!" said the page, retreating a pace or two, but immediately
advancing again, for he was burning with curiosity to learn the Earl’s
secret.  "If thou talkest thus, I must have thee burned for sorcery!"

"Thou!  And who art thou?" asked Konrad, with more surprise than scorn.

"One whose favour may set thee free, but whose anger may leave thee here
to rot," replied the pert page, assuming an aspect of dignity.  "Dost
thou not know that thy life is in my hands, and that, instead of leaving
thee the choice food and good wine sent thee by the Captain of
Hermitage, I may keep them and leave thee to perish, even as the Knight
of Dalhousie perished here two hundred years ago.  Ha! dost thou see
these relics?" continued the young ruffian, raising his light and
revealing a few human bones, and part of a jaw, lying amid the little
pool before mentioned, and amid which the monotonous plash of the drop
constantly made concentric circles to glitter and expand.

"What terrible history is concealed here!" exclaimed Konrad, with a
louring brow.

"A history well known alike in Lothian and Liddesdale," replied the
page, drawing nearer him with a horror that he could not repress; "and a
foul shame it is to Christian men, that these poor bones have lain here
so long unburied.  But verily the place hath few tenants."

"Whose are they?" asked Konrad, with deep interest.

"As Heaven hears me, the spirit that once tenanted these poor remains
was that of as brave a knight as ever rode to battle!" rejoined the
page, with a sudden earnestness; for the aspect of the mouldering bones,
lying amid that green and slimy pool, and the gloom of the black
dungeon, were not without producing a strong effect on his feelings and
fancy.  "Listen!  It was in the year of our Redemption 1341, when David
II. sat upon the Scottish throne.  In those days, when the southern
Edwards, with all the chivalry of England, the tribes of Wales, the
kerne of Ireland, the knights of Normandy, Guienne, and Aquitaine, and
all the lanzknechts of Flanders and Alinayne, strove for many a year on
many a bloody field to win broad Scotland to their crown, this
stronghold of Hermitage belonged to one of the bravest of the Scottish
patriots, Sir William Douglas, the Lord of Liddesdale, whose feats of
arms had won him the title of Flower of Chivalry. His dearest friend and
most loved companion in arms was Sir Alexander Ramsay, Lord of
Dalhousie, on the wooded Esk, one of those brave knights whose mailed
bosoms had formed in all these wicked wars the best bulwarks of Scottish
liberty.  In every field, Douglas and Dalhousie were side by side in
rivalry and love; at the rescue of Black Agnes, the Lady of Dunbar, and
at that brave battle on the Muir of Edinburgh, where the banner of Guy
Count of Namur was beaten to the earth, and his Flemish bands destroyed.

"It chanced in these wars, that Ramsay, having won by storm the strong
castle of Roxburgh, King David bestowed on him the sheriffdom of that
district, an office which, by ancient usage, had ever appertained to the
lords of Hermitage and Liddesdale.

"From that hour a deadly and a mortal hatred possessed the heart of
Douglas; and on his knees before the altar of St. Bryde, in
Douglas-dale, he made a deep and impious vow of vengeance.  Hearing that
the new sheriff was administering justice in the kirk of the blessed
Mary at Hawick, he entered the town at the head of his vassals; and the
Knight of Dalhousie, having no suspicion of injury from his old friend
and comrade in arms, was easily taken at vantage, wounded, and
overpowered.

"Stripped of his armour, and loaded with chains, he was dragged through
many a wild moss and moorland to this strong fortress, and _here_ into
this deep vault his captor thrust him down, manacled and bleeding with
all his rankling wounds, and here the doomed man was left to die!

"It is a dark story, and I see thou startest. Here the wounded knight
was left to struggle with hunger and with thirst, with cold and with
agony.  Above the place of his confinement there lay a heap of corn, and
through a joint in the arch the grains fell one by one, yet few and far
between—even as the water now drops from the same place—and with these
he prolonged life for seventeen days, despite the agony of his festering
wounds.  On the seventeenth he died!

"And here his bones still lie, for the dampness of the vault has
preserved them."[*]


[*] Some of these remains were found by Sir W. Scott, and by him
presented to the Earl of Dalhousie. He was taken on the 20th June,
sayeth the "Black Book of Scone."—_Mag. Absalom._


"Rest him, God!" ejaculated Konrad, with a shudder which he could not
repress.

"Such will be thy fate if thou art left here!"

"Whatever Heaven hath in store for me is welcome.  I am tired of life."

"Thou snufflest like a Reformer.  What! tired of life, and thou so
young?"

"’Tis the verity!" responded the prisoner with a sigh; "but what
thinkest thou, page, will be my fate?"

"Why, if my lord dieth of his wound, thou shalt assuredly hang over
Hermitage gate; if he recovers, thou shalt hang, too, as a disturber of
the borders, and be gibbeted somewhere to feed the crows, and frighten
thy comrades.  So, it is hang any way!" added the page, with one of his
malicious grins.

A deep sigh, inspired as much perhaps by anger as by grief, heaved
Konrad’s breast; but he made no reply.

"How now!" exclaimed the page, as through the open door of the dungeon
the report of a falconet on the tower-head came faintly down the
windings of the narrow stair that led to the vault; "that will be a raid
of the Elliots or Armstrongs!  They will all be riding to revenge thy
comrade, John of Park; if so, thou wilt soon have company here.  But lo,
now—eat and drink while thou mayest; and omit not to bless Sir John
Hepburn of Bolton, who sent thee this good fare in lieu of oatcakes and
cold water."

Another and another falconet rang on the bartisan of the great tower of
Hermitage, and, double-locking the door of the pit, French Paris hurried
away.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                   *BOTHWELL REVIVES AN EARLY DREAM.*


      _Fiorello_.—Gramercy for the boon!
    Seek, sir, henceforth, the love of those you trust,
    _And never more seek mine_.  Sir, fare you well!
    Excuse the blunder which beguiled me hither;
    And hie you, if conveniently you can,
    To some more distant spot than whence you came.
        _The Virgin Widow._


Let us change the scene.

Clad in a rich gown of damask furred with miniver, a white satin
doublet, and hose of russet velvet, the Earl was reclining on a
well-cushioned settle, or what would now be named a sofa.  A velvet cap
was drawn well over his brow, to conceal the bandaging that retained
certain cooling and healing herbs upon the scar which the moss-trooper’s
axe had inflicted, and which Mass John of the Priesthaugh had carefully
dressed about an hour before.

The great noble was in a dreamy mood; for he too had his visions, like
poor Konrad, who occupied the terrible pit where Dalhousie died, some
eighty feet below.  The boom of the brass falconets was barely
decernible in the remote apartment of the Earl, so massive were its
walls, so close its wainscoting, and so thick the tapestry that lined
it; and he slept on undisturbed by the warlike sound.

He dreamt of Anna; her upbraiding eyes were fixed on his, and he heard
her voice like a confused murmur in his ear; every expression of her
face was before him as of old, by turns tender and love-like, haughty
and sad.  Then her features changed, and rapidly as thought became those
of his unhappy and almost forgotten Countess, in all her pallid beauty,
her infantile smiles and black beseeching eyes.  Anon they changed
again, and, fading or altering into others, grew more and more like
those of Mary the Queen, with her pure broad open brow, and deep dark
thoughtful eye; her aquiline nose and haughty nostrils; her smiling
mouth and dimpled chin.  A sound awoke him.

He started, and arose to find the very face of which he dreamt before
him; the same eyes and laughing little mouth, so full of archness and
drollery.

It was, indeed, Mary the Queen, in her little lace coif, her velvet hood
and ruff, her long diamond stomacher and longer fardingale, just as we
see her in the old paintings at Holyrood.  She was leaning on the arm of
her sister, the stately Countess of Argyle; the Earl of Moray, Hob
Ormiston, and French Paris, were grouped, with several ladies, a pace or
two behind, and all were attentively regarding Bothwell, whose strong
figure, cased in his close-fitting vest and velvet hose, seemed a model
of manly symmetry and grace, as his features, dark, regular, and
classic, did of that kind of beauty which we find in the pictures of the
old Italians—the white and martial forehead, with its short black curly
hair, the straight nose and jetty eyebrows, the curved mouth, and
well-defined chin.

"Madame—Madame! is this a dream?" exclaimed Bothwell, starting from his
couch, and, though giddy with debility, kneeling before her with a
reverence almost unknown in the Scottish court since her father’s days.
"To what is my house of Hermitage indebted for the unmerited honour of
this sudden visit?  Have the Liddesdale thieves been at Jedburgh gates?"

"Oh, Jesu Maria!—no," said the Queen. "I hope that if all the Elliots
came, and the Armstrongs too, that with Erskine’s archer guard and the
burgesses, we could have maintained yonder town, with its tall
bastel-houses, till the lord warden sent his lances to our rescue."

"Then hath the English marshal of Berwick or his prickers dared"—began
the Earl again, as with a kindling eye he looked round for his sword.

"Nay, nay, my dear Earl—thou thinkest ever but of blows and battle.
Thou hast none other than thy dull-witted messenger to thank for a visit
from all this good company."

"Pate of Prickinghaugh!"

"Ah, _mon Dieu!_ the same," replied Mary, laughing at the name.  "Well,
this Maitre Preekinhaw brought us tidings that thou wert either dead or
dying.  So, setting out with a small train from Jedburgh, with my noble
brother, the Earl, (here Bothwell, with an eye that was full of irony,
exchanged a profound bow with Moray,) I rode hither, intent on learning
in person the truth or falsity of this sad news; and that I might, if
they were so, avenge on the whole sirname of Elliot, the loss of the
only Scottish peer that would draw his sword at the command of his
sovereign.  So you see, Monseigneur Bothwell, that whatever the
Protestants say of poor Mary Stuart, she is not ungrateful for service
promptly rendered."

"Oh, Madame!" said the Earl, in a thick voice, as he clasped his hands,
and bent his eyes on the ground; "you overpower me! I never deemed thee
otherwise than something angelic, and such I find thee now."

"Ah!" replied the Queen merrily, as she seated herself; "every pretty
woman is so in the eyes of a brave gallant!"

The Earl bowed profoundly; but how little did the gay and thoughtless
queen divine the secret sentiment that made his voice to tremble, and
his eye, that was ever so clear, and calm, and dark, to flash and
sparkle.

While French Paris and little Calder served round confections,
refreshments, and wine, in slender Venetian glasses, fruit on silver
salvers, and milk-possets in crystal jugs; and while the grave Earl of
Moray, the burly Hob of Ormiston, and the courtly young Lieutenant of
the Archers, chatted with the ladies at the further end of that long and
stately chamber, the lofty and painted casements of which overlooked the
steep bank on which the double donjon of the castle rose, and from its
height commanded a view of the far-stretching Hermitage, winding like an
azure snake through the green and pastoral valley—the queen, with all
that vivacity and French gaiety of manner which were so natural to her,
was detailing the particulars of that celebrated ride to Hermitage,
which was to bear so prominent a place in all the histories of her
actions, and which has always been adduced by her enemies as a proof of
what had never entered her mind—a passion for Bothwell, to whom she had
never evinced any other sentiment than gratitude.

On hearing the alarming tidings of his death, as brought by Pate of
Prickinghaugh, she had immediately set out from Jedburgh; and,
accompanied by her brother Moray and a slender retinue, penetrated into
the wild and mountainous district between Liddesdale and Teviotdale—a
journey twenty-five miles in length—obstructed by every local
difficulty; steep rocks and deep morasses, foaming waters, peat haggs,
and slippery scaurs—to her a terra incognita—where the solitary peels of
moss-troopers and savage outlaws, perched like eagles’ nests on the
hill-summits, overlooked the pastoral glens below.  In an almost
impassable morass her horse sank to the saddle-girths; and she was only
rescued from her perilous condition with the utmost difficulty.  The
place is still named _The Queen’s Mire_.

Of all these past dangers she spoke with a raillery that made yet more
charming her great beauty, which the exercise of so long a ride in the
pure morning air had greatly enhanced; and the Earl, as he gazed upon
her, thought in his secret heart that never was there a being more
beautiful and glorious.

Anna and his Countess were alike forgotten!

Mary, the dream of his boyhood at the gay Tournelles—Mary, the bright,
the beautiful, and joyous girl of seventeen—rose on his memory as he had
seen her, when bestowed in marriage on the sickly Dauphin. Now that
being, so long and so hopelessly his idol, was before him, expanded into
one of those magnificent women that are believed to exist only in the
most enthusiastic visions of the poet and the painter; she was with him,
seated by his side, in his own stronghold of Hermitage, amid the
wilderness of Liddesdale.

They were looking into each other’s dark eyes, and Bothwell felt his
heart tremble; for thoughts both wild and strange were floating through
his mind.  But they faded away when again he gazed on the pure serene
brow and clear full gaze of Mary, who in her heedlessness and conscious
rectitude, never dreamt of the view the Earl was taking, and the
censorious world would yet take, of that unfortunate visit to his castle
of Hermitage.

"And so it was the falsity of this drunken jackman, Pate of the
Prickinghaugh, that led your grace into this deadly peril," said
Bothwell.  "Sir John of Bolton," he added to his friend, who stood near,
and who, at a silver chain, wore an embossed key of the same metal,
indicative of his office as Captain of Hermitage; "thou wilt look well
to this, and see if a month or two in the pit will cure him of exceeding
in his cups for the future."

"Nay, nay!" exclaimed the Queen, turning pale, "God and Saint Mary
forbid!  If I forgive him, surely thou well mayest."

"Your Majesty will excuse me—I am sufficiently rebuked by that glance of
displeasure. But this man is only a rascally border pricker."

"True, my lord," said Hepburn; "but one over whom thou hast no control."

"How! doth he not follow my banner?"

"Yes—but merely as an excuse to plunder the Elliots on the one hand and
the Armstrongs on the other.  He brings twenty tall troopers, all
well-lanced and horsed; his kinsman, Watt of the Puddingburn, brings as
many more from his tower on the Liddle; and these would each and all be
notable disturbers of the wardenrie, did it not suit Pate’s humour at
present to follow your banner."

"Droll personages!" said the Queen; "but, Lord Bothwell, thou shouldest
feel nought but gratitude to this moss-trooper, when it is to his
mistake alone thou art indebted for this visit from me."

"I was upon the point of saying so," rejoined the Earl, who felt, he
knew not why, a confused sense of awkwardness and timidity, hitherto
unknown to him; and this caused pauses in the conversation which served
to increase his confusion; for the more he taxed his mind for gay
topics, the more seriously he became embarassed.

"Fidelé," said the Queen, in her softest tone to a favourite Italian
greyhound, which, with a silver bell jangling at its neck, leaped
gracefully upon her brocaded dress. "Fair Fidelé, of all the world thou
alone lovest thy mistress best; and in good sooth I may well love thee
better than the world, for thou lovest me for myself alone.  Ah!
Monsieur Bothwell, thou knowest not how dearly I love all little dogs,
and parrots, and pigeons, and every little animal.  I have quite a large
family to feed every morning at Holyrood.  Monsieur my uncle, the
Cardinal de Guise, has sent me a beautiful cage full of red-legged
partridges; and my kinsman, the Marquis d’Elboeuff, has brought me from
Madame my aunt, the good Prioress of Rheims, a vase full of the most
beautiful little fishes, which I mean to put into Lochmaben.  I fear
thou wilt think all this very childish in me, who am a queen—and queen
of such an austere people;" and, while shaking a bunch of grapes at the
leaping hound, she began to sing—

    "Bon jour, mon coeur,
      Bon jour, ma douce vie!
    Bon jour, mon oeil,
      Bon jour, ma chere amie!"


She ceased suddenly; the hound looked up wistfully in her face, her eyes
filled with tears, and Bothwell seemed disturbed.

"Your Majesty is thinking of France?" said he in a low tone.

"Nay, I am thinking of poor David Rizzio," replied the Queen sadly.
"’Twas a song of his.  But I have heard it elsewhere."

"You loved much to hear this old man sing."

"Oh yes! for the long forgotten memories, the buried hopes, and all the
tenderness of his soft French, and softer Italian airs, called up within
me—drew me ever away from the bitter present to brood upon the happy
past, or to muse upon the dubious future. Oh, thou canst not know how
dearly I love music!  Music and sunshine—I wish I was a bird!  Poor old
Rizzio!" she continued, with sparkling eyes.  "Though indifferent in
person, he was the best in the suite of the Count de Mezezzo, the
Savoyard ambassador; and was a gentleman of such attainments as few in
Scotland save thyself can boast. How my heart fires within me, when I
think of the dark and savage noblesse who destroyed him!  So illiterate
and unlettered; and yet these base barons, not one of whom could sign
his own barbarous name, were the men who broke my gallant father’s
heart, who debarred my mother the rights of sepulchre, and who have
dared to become the spiritual judges of my people, levelling in the dust
the church that was founded on a rock, and against which not even the
gates of hell were to prevail!"

"For Heaven’s sake, madame, hush!—walls have ears."

"_Les murielles ont des orielles_; it was a saying of _ma bon mere_,
Catharine de Medicis," said the Queen ironically.

"Nothing that is said in Hermitage shall go beyond its walls," replied
the Earl, who was pleased to find that the courtiers at the lower end of
the room were intently viewing the landscape, or observing a game at
Troy between the Lady Argyle and the flippant page, French Paris, who
was a great proficient.  The whole group was partly concealed by a loose
festoon of arras that divided the chamber.  "But," continued the Earl,
who despised Rizzio as an upstart favourite, and, like all the nobility,
regretted his death but little; "the destruction of a royal favourite is
nothing new in Scotland.  There was the Raid of Lauder brig, where Angus
and the nobles hanged half King James’s court over the parapet in
horse-halters—but I beseech your majesty to think of these things no
more."

"True!  Few can recall the past with pleasure, and Mary Stuart least of
all," replied the Queen, whose melancholy eyes filled again with tears;
and then Bothwell knew that she was thinking of the weak and profligate
debauchee, on whom, in the first flush of youth and love, she had thrown
away her hand and heart, and crown; "so pray, my good lord, let us talk
of whatever is most pleasing to yourself."

"Then I must talk of—thee."

"Ah!" rejoined the Queen, with one of those artless and engaging smiles
which a pretty woman always assumes on receiving a compliment; "and do
you really think often of me?"

"Madame," replied the Earl in a low voice, while his colour came and
went, and he could hear his heart beating; "I have thought more than I
have ever dared to tell."

"Jesu Maria!" laughed the Queen, clapping her white hands; "have you
lost your tongue?"

"Nay, madame—my heart!"

"That is very serious—but search for another, Monseigneur Bothwell."

The voice of the Earl trembled as he replied, "I want no other
but—_thine_!"

At this daring avowal, a blush crossed the queen’s cheek; but, supposing
that the Earl was merely pursuing a jocular strain of gallantly, she
replied—

"Oh fie! remember, Lord Earl, that at Versailles, the old hunting-lodge
of Francis I. (all that is long—oh! very long—ago), thou didst taunt me
with being without a heart."

"I did, as I now remember me," said Bothwell, over whose brow a shadow
passed. "That was ere your grace became Dauphiness—yet it seems as if
’twere yesterday. But you have a heart, madame—one that is warm,
affectionate, and well worth the winning."

"Well!" replied Mary, rising with a cold and haughty smile, as she
thought of Darnley; "it is already lost and won."

"By one who appreciates its value?"

The queen gave him a glance full of reproach, for she felt all the taunt
contained in the quiet query.

"I hope so!" she said.

"Dear madame," replied the Earl, in the same low, earnest voice; "you
can neither deceive yourself nor me by these replies. The Lord Darnley
is my foe; but you are aware that I speak more in a sentiment of dutiful
love towards your majesty, than enmity to him who stirred up John of
Park, and the whole clan Elliot, to slay me.  On him thou hast
sacrificed a love the bravest of our Scottish peers, and the proudest
princes of Europe—Charles of France, Carlos of Spain, and the Archduke
of Austria—have sued for in vain.  Oh, madame!" continued the Earl, with
pathos in his voice, while his cheek flushed and his eye kindled as he
recalled the boyish love of his early day, when he had first seen Mary
at the court of France.  "I know that the human heart can love truly,
fondly, and sincerely, but once—and once only.  Let that love be
blighted or crushed, and all future impressions are but fancies, to be
begun with a smile and relinquished without a sigh.  Oh, yes! there is
an amount of love, of ardour, of agony, despair, that we feel but once,
and then we become deadened and callous.  Oh! who in a second love ever
felt the same freshness, the same depth of anxiety, the same fear and
hope and joy, that alternately filled his heart in the dawn of that
first passion, that grew like a flower in Eden, and fills the whole
creation with happiness, rendering us blind and oblivious of all save
the object we love?"

"And since when has your volatile lordship known all this?" asked Mary,
with her usual raillery.

"Madame, since I first beheld—thee!" replied the Earl; and, borne away
by the gush of his old and long-cherished love, he sank on his knee, and
pressed to his lips the hand of Mary, over whose fair brow and beautiful
face a deep and crimson blush of anger passed, as the shadow of a summer
cloud flits over a corn-field.

"Rise, my lord!" she said with a hauteur that froze her admirer.  "Lord
Bothwell, thou art in a dream!"

"It was, indeed, a dream," replied the Earl sadly, as he thought of the
double vows that separated them for ever. "St. Bothan help me! a dream
of other days, that can return no more!  Oh, madame, I pray you, pardon
me"——

"I do pardon thee," replied the Queen, with one of her calm smiles; but
added, significantly, "I think ’tis time we were riding from Hermitage."

"So soon! after your escape—your fatigue—and when a storm is gathering?
See, the peaks of Millenwood-fell and Tudhope-head are veiled in mist."

"This instant!" replied Mary, with one of those gestures which there was
no disputing.  "Jane, Lady Argyle, we are about to depart.  Sir John
Hepburn, summon our train."

"Permit me, madame, to accompany you. Ho!—French Paris—my armour!"——

"Lord Bothwell—in thy wounded state! I command thee, nay!"

"True—true; I thank your majesty," stammered the Earl, whose head swam
between the effect of his wound and this interview. "But Hob Ormiston,
with his train of lances, will see you to the gates of Jedburgh."

In five minutes more Mary was gone, after being only two hours in
Hermitage, as the Lord Scrope saith quaintly, "to Bothwell’s great
pleasure and contentment."  There was a clatter of horses in the court,
a discharge of brass cannon from the keep, and all again was as still in
the great and solitary castle of Hermitage as in the pit below it.

From a window the wounded Earl watched the train of the queen and her
ladies, the tall and mail-clad figures of Ormiston and his men, with
their long spears glinting in the glow of the western sun, as they
followed the windings of the mountain stream, and traversed the long and
desolate dell that led to Jedburgh.

They disappeared in the distance; and then, overcome by excitement and
loss of blood, the Earl threw himself upon a couch, from which he did
not rise for many days.

On Mary’s return to Jedburgh, a severe cold, caught during this visit to
Hermitage, ended in a fever, that was aggravated by a pain or
constitutional weakness in her side, of which she had long complained;
and notwithstanding that she lay on a couch of sickness so deadly, that
Monsieur Picauet, her physician, despaired of her life, the conduct of
Darnley was singularly cruel and ungrateful.  A letter of the French
ambassador shews, that he treated with contempt the tidings sent to him
of the queen’s illness, and that he remained spending his time in
idleness and dissipation at Glasgow.  It is probable that though his
absence wounded her pride, it caused her no great grief, as she had
almost ceased to love him.

The Earl of Bothwell, though not without a strong dash of that
profligacy which tainted the Scottish nobles in the age succeeding the
Reformation, was immensely inferior as a _roué_ to Darnley; whose
coldness, insolence, and brutality, formed a vivid contrast to the
artfully preferred addresses, readily performed services, and gallant
demeanour, of the handsome Earl.

A month passed away.

Bothwell remained at Hermitage under the care of Mass John; the queen at
Jedburgh under the more able hands of M. Picauet, and slowly recovering
from her illness.  Hob Ormiston, and other barons, guarded her with a
thousand lances, while Darnley remained at his father’s house of
Limmerfield, near Glasgow, wiling away the days in hunting and hawking
by Kelvin grove and Campsie fells; and spending the nights in dicing,
drinking, and "wantonesse" in the bordels and hostellaries of the Tron
and Drygate.

Meanwhile, Konrad continued to be a close prisoner at Hermitage; for the
Earl, though urged on one hand by Ormiston to dispatch him by brief
border law, was advised on the other, by the gentle Hepburn of Bolton,
to transmit him to the Justice Court.

Thus he wavered; for a sentiment of pity, while it withheld the
execution of either of these measures, struggled with a sense of the
danger that might spring from the secret his prisoner possessed; and
then at times there came a demon’s whisper that urged the proud Earl to
destroy!

Konrad neither sued for mercy or liberty; but feeling happy in the
nourished hope that Anna was now under the sure protection of the queen,
he awaited with patience whatever fate had in store for him.

Thus day after day rolled on, and he never saw other face than that of
French Paris; who, as the most trusted of all Bothwell’s numerous
retinue, was alone permitted to approach him.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                            *ALISON CRAIG.*

    And death and life she hated equally,
      And nothing saw, for her despair,
    But dreadful time, dreadful eternity,
      No comfort anywhere;
    Remaining utterly confused with fears,
      And ever worse with growing time,
    And ever unrelieved by dismal tears,
      And all alone in crime.
        _Tennyson._


Poor Anna!  All that she had made Konrad endure by her desertion, was
now endured by her in turn, with the additional bitterness, that the
retribution was merited; and the memory of the last glance of Konrad’s
melancholy eyes, when he parted with her at the gate of the hostellary,
was indelibly engraven on her mind.

The Earl of Morton, the most treacherous, cruel, and debauched man of
that profligate age, had her now completely in his power, and could,
when he chose, make her his victim either by secret flattery or open
force; he could keep her in some quiet dwelling of the city, or send her
to his strong castle of Dalkeith, where she would never have been heard
of again; but this godly upholder of the new faith preferred the former
and more gentle course.

In St. Mary’s Wynd, not many yards from the famous Red Lion, and on the
west side thereof, stood a small edifice, having three rows of gothic
windows, the upper being more than half on the roof, all grated by half
circular baskets of iron, and having a low-ribbed doorway, bearing on
its lintel a pious legend in old contracted Latin.

In Catholic days this had been a convent for Cistertian nuns, and an
hospital founded and dedicated in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, by
some pious citizen, whose name and era local history has failed to
record. This hospital was so poor, that its inmates were supported by
the voluntary contributions of the good and charitable; its revenues
were so small, that the salary of the chaplain in 1499 was only sixteen
shillings and eight-pence yearly.

The change of manners and religion had wrought their wonders here as
elsewhere; for the little gothic oratory, where the fair Cistertians in
their white tunics, scapularies, and hoods, had offered up their prayers
to God, and to his mother their patron; the little hospital, where the
sisters of mercy had attended to the sick and infirm; the kitchen, where
they fed the poor; and the gloomy dormitories, where they slept on their
hard pallets between the nocturnal and the matin prayers—had all been
wofully perverted from such purposes; for, favoured by the Earl of Arran
and other gay courtiers, on the universal plunder of the temporalities,
this edifice had been gifted to Alison Craig, a celebrated courtesan,
who, though living under protection of the "godly Erl of Arrane," as
Knox tells us, in language which we choose not to repeat, yet contrived
to be on very friendly terms with many other nobles, some of whom were
his deadly enemies.

Though deeming her a lady of high birth, the appearance of Alison Craig
did not prepossess the timid Anna much in her favour, when, on the noon
of the day after parting with Konrad, she was introduced by Morton with
much mock formality.  The dame was seated before a little mirror of
thick plate-glass inserted in a ponderous oak frame, that nearly filled
up the recess of a little window, overlooking what had once been the
convent garden, but was now a piece of waste ground, extending to the
back of a neighbouring close.  The windows at the other end overlooked
the wynd, which was then a central and great thoroughfare, being the
only entrance to the city from the southern roads.

The apartment was in confusion; a broken sword and a velvet mantle were
lying on the floor, attesting that a brawl had taken place there
overnight; the candles had all burned down in their sockets, and the
girandoles were covered with grease; a close smell of wine and perfume
made the atmosphere of the panneled chamber oppressive.

Alison Craig was tall and corpulent, and about thirty-five years of age.
Her features, which were not without beauty, were somewhat coarse, and
undisguisedly bold and wanton in expression.  She wore no other
head-dress than her own luxuriant hair extravagantly frizzled, and
having a bob-jewel dropping on her forehead, which was as white as
daffodil water could make it.  She wore a huge double ruff, a long
peaked stomacher of damask brocade, a petticoat of prodigious
circumference, and sleeves barrelled and hooped; while, contrary to the
modest fashion of the time, she displayed very much of a fair neck and
full bosom, which the Earl of Morton immediately kissed on his entrance,
to the no small astonishment of Anna, who began to think it was the
fashion of the country.

A slovenly damsel was rouging the pallid cheeks of the fair Cyprian,
whose plump fingers were toying with a rare jewel, that Morton
recognised as one he had frequently seen at the neck of King Henry, whom
he knew to be one of Alison’s patrons, though a mortal foe to Arran,
Chatelherault, and all the clan of Hamilton.

"Sweetheart, good-morrow," said the Earl, running his fingers through
the perfumed tresses of Alison.  "I have brought thee a pretty page, of
whom, as thou valuest the friendship of Morton, particular care must be
taken."

"What is the friendship of Morton to me?" she asked with an air of
pretty disdain.  "Thou seest this bauble?"

"’Twas once that blockhead, Darnley’s. Woman, thou holdest that which
has been worn by the most beautiful queen in Europe!"

"And may be worn by a queen again, gif this giglet Mary were dead or set
aside."

"How?" said Morton, knitting his brow, for the woman’s insolence
irritated him, "at what dost thou dare to hint?"

"What Darnley has dared to promise—here, ay—here in this very chamber!"

"Go to, woman! thou art stark mad, and he had been drunk, like a fool as
he is. But let us not quarrel, pretty sweetheart; for seest thou"——and
here the Earl whispered something in the ear of the woman, whose eyes
were lighted with a malicious smile as she surveyed Anna.  "Thou wilt
see to this?  I know thee of old, sweet dulcibelle—eh?"

"My lord, when thou art good to me, I will obey thy pleasure in all
things."

"And now tell me what news are abroad in the city, for I have not been
within its gates yet?"

"Nought but Bothwell’s expedition to the borders, and the queen’s wrath
at the luke-warm loyalty and cautious valour of such as thee, and thy
boon-fellow the Earl of Moray."

Morton smiled, as he patted her painted cheek, and said—

"Thou art sarcastic, and out of humour, sweet mistress; what lackest
thou?"

"A runlet of right Rhenish to bathe me in.  Thou knowest, Lord Earl,
that all the great ladies of our court bathe so; for its powers, say
physicians, are miraculous on the skin."

"Thou shalt have the Rhenish, only excuse me, I pray, ever drinking any
of that wine with thee thereafter.  Any thing more?"

"Perfume: I lack some, and must have it from Monsieur Picauet."

"How! will no other than the queen’s physician and perfumer serve thee?
Thou shalt have the essences, too, and"——

"A hundred angels of silver, too—eh?"

"A hundred yelling devils!" replied the Earl.

"I will not require thy page with so many attendants."

"Thou art a cunning gipsy," said Morton, grinning under his long beard,
and taking a purse from his girdle, where (as pockets were not then
invented) it hung beside his dagger.  "Here are eighty for thee; and not
one devilish tester more can I give, even were it to purchase my own
salvation—so, now let us kiss and be friends."

Alison was now in excellent humour; she sang a few snatches of
"Gilquhiskar," and "Troly loly Lemendow," two merry old ditties, while
she played with Morton’s preposterous beard, and acted the coquette, and
he affected the gallant—each in secret despising the other.  But after a
time, relinquishing the frizzling of her locks and adjustment of her
Elizabethan pearl bobs, Alison turned her attention to the crowd of
jostling passengers, that now, as the morning had advanced, and the
Porte of St. Mary was open, streamed through the wynd.

Meanwhile that Anna, timid, confused, and broken-spirited, in her
character of page, had retired a little into the background, Alison
Craig was amusing the Earl by quizzing the appearance and gait of every
person who passed—handling them with all due severity.

"Marry, come up! look, Lord Earl! yonder goeth Master George Buchanan,
in his conical beaver and threadbare cloak, with a great book under his
arm.  Tantony! but he looketh very rusty to be Director of the
Chancery—but, lo!" she exclaimed, as a burly country gentleman, in a
whalebone ruff, and barrelled doublet of green broad cloth, with a great
broadsword belted about him, and his lady riding lovingly on a pillion
behind him, ambled up the street; "’Tis the old laird of Braid, and Dame
Marjory Fairly, his gudewife."

"They are just married, sweetheart—else why ride they so lovingly?"

"Nay! they have been wedded these thirty years, and had two tall sons
shot at the siege of Leith, by Monsieur Brissac," replied the lady, with
an explosion of laughter. "But the laird is a gomeral, and his dame in
her great tub-fardingale—O Jesu! see yonder gay galliard, with a feather
in his hat and a falcon on his thumb!"

"’Tis Master Sebastian, who playeth the viol at Holyrood."

"Ah! the Savoyard.  And, lo you! there goeth the Knight of Spott,
without a cloak to hide his threadbare doublet.  Well! were I thee, Sir
Knight, I would buy me worse garments, or avoid the city.  But I warrant
he hath spent his last bodle on a can of Flemish beer at the Red Lion."

"He is a gentleman of my following," said the Earl with a frown.  "His
gudesire spent his all in the wars of King James, and fell at Flodden
like a true Scottish knight, with his pennon before and his kindred
behind him; his son, else, had been a richer man to-day."

"Gramercy me! here cometh Mistress Cullen, too, in her top-knots and
flaunters, walking daintily, as if she trod on egg-shells, with a lace
ruff under her saucy chin, and her nose in the air.  St. Mary! she wears
three bob-jewels while I have only one."

A very pretty woman, whose face was shewn to the utmost advantage by her
little white coif, and whose uplifted train displayed her handsome
ankles cased in stockings of red silk, stept mincingly up the wynd; and
as this was a lady with whom Morton had an intrigue, and whose husband
he ultimately put to death in furtherance thereof, he assumed his
beaver-hat and walking-sword, hurriedly kissed Alison, and patted the
cheek of the page, saying significantly—

"When next we meet again, little one, I hope to see thee in more fitting
attire."

But as he bowed himself out, by the bright glance of his cunning eyes
Anna knew with terror that the secret of her sex had been discovered.

And she was left alone with this dangerous woman, of whose character she
was wholly ignorant, though her surprise and suspicion were naturally
excited by the too evident lightness of her demeanour.  As the worthy
Dame Craig knew neither French nor Norwegian, and Anna had no Scottish,
the latter was wholly at a loss to make her story known; and resolved to
await in patience an opportunity of ending all her tribulation, by
throwing herself at the feet of Mary, which she doubted not to have soon
an opportunity of doing, when in the train of a lady who was on such
terms of intimacy with the most powerful nobles of the court.

On waking next morning, she found on a chair by her couch, in lieu of
the well-worn doublet with which poor Konrad had disguised her, a double
ruff of Brussels lace, a peaked stomacher of blue Genoese velvet, sewn
with seed pearls, and a skirt of blue Florence silk, covered with the
richest needlework: there was a suite of beautiful jewels for her hair;
bracelets, and a carcanet of rubies for her neck, all of one set.
These, and the entrance of one of Dame Alison’s flippant and tawdry
damsels, announced to Anna that now all disguise was at an end.

The jewels had been sent by the Earl, who, by force or fraud (but seldom
by purchase), had always an immense assortment of such things at his
castle of Dalkeith, in the vaults of which he is said by tradition to
have buried twelve casks filled with plate, precious stones, and
bullion, the plunder of desecrated churches, demolished abbeys, and
stormed fortalices.

At ten in the morning he paid her a visit, fresh from St. Giles’ church,
where, to please the public, he had been compelled to attend one of Mr.
John Knox’s furious ebullitions against "antichrist and the belly-gods
of Rome," and against that queen and court who were introducing into the
land "muffs and masks, fans and toupets, whilk better became the harlots
of Italie than the modest and discreet women of Scotland."

The gallant Earl was intoxicated by the air of innocence and purity that
pervaded the beauty and saddened manner of his intended victim; and the
sentiments she inspired lent a charm to his manner that increased the
natural grace of his very handsome person, which was arrayed in a suit
of the finest black velvet, slashed with pink satin.

We must make this a brief chapter, says the Magister Absalom quaintly in
his MSS., as the scene hath long lost the odour of sanctity.

Confused, silent, and with her eyes full of tears, the helpless and
lonely Anna heard all his addresses in the broken French he had acquired
among Mary’s courtiers, without knowing what they imported, till
suddenly the whole danger of her situation flashed like lightning on her
mind, and, rising from her chair, she drew back, and with a crimsoned
cheek, a dilated eye that filled with fire, exclaimed—

"Forbear, Lord Earl!  I am Anna, Countess of Bothwell!"

Impressed by her air, and thunderstruck by the announcement, Morton
stood for a minute silent and irresolute; but so accomplished a
gentleman and courtier was not to be easily rebuffed; and approaching
with an air in which the deepest respect was curiously mingled with
impudence and surprise, he led her to a chair—entreated her to forgive
him, to be calm, and to tell by what chance he had the happiness—the
unmerited honour—of being introduced to the wife of his dearest
_friend_, in a manner so very odd.

Won by the frank air and oily address of this polished noble, the too
facile Anna, with all the usual accompaniments of tears and hesitation,
related her story; and Morton heard it in attentive silence, but with a
secret glow of pleasure and triumph that he could not conceal, for it
sparkled in his dark hazel eyes, and glowed in his olive cheek. But, to
Anna, these seemed indicative of his generous indignation at Bothwell’s
faithlessness and cruelty; whereas, the factious Earl felt only joy at
the prospect of having it now in his power to stop the successful career
of the rising favourite—to set him at feud with the powerful house of
Huntly—to bring upon him the wrath of a most immaculate and irascible
kirk, and the scorn of a virtuous queen.

"By the devil’s teeth, but this is glorious!" thought he; "I must hie me
to Lord Moray."

Begging that Anna would compose herself—would be patient—would trust the
management of her affairs implicitly to him, and all would yet be well,
he left her, courteously saluting her hand, and whispering terrible
denunciations of vengeance against Alison Craig if she permitted any one
to have access to her—allowed her to escape—or failed to treat her with
the utmost respect and kindness.

He then mounted his horse, and accompanied by Hume of Spott, and Douglas
of Whittinghame, with sixty armed horsemen, set off on the spur for the
mansion of the Lord Moray, the massive tower of Donibristle, situated on
a beautifully wooded promontory of the Fifeshire coast, and washed by
the waters of the Forth.  But it so happened that the intriguing Earl
was elsewhere; and, as there were neither post-offices nor electric
telegraphs in those days, several weeks elapsed ere those noble peers,
and comrades in many a feudal broil and desperate scheme of power, could
meet and mature their plans, which, however deep, were ultimately
frustrated by the Earl of Bothwell himself, as will be shown in the two
following chapters.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                         *FOUR CHOICE SPIRITS.*

    Belyve as the boom o’ the mid mirk hour
      Bang out wi’ clang and mane;
    Clang after clang, frae St. Giles’s tower,
    Where the fretted ribs, like a boortree bower,
      Make a royal crown o’ stane.
        _Mems. of Edinburgh._


A month, we have said, had passed away.

Konrad of Saltzberg still remained a captive in the hands of Bothwell,
who was constantly urged by the savage and unscrupulous Baron of
Ormiston to put him to death, as the best and surest means of stifling
for ever the secret he possessed.  But a sentiment of pity for the wrong
he knew the captive had suffered at his hands, warmed his generosity,
prevented him stooping to so deliberate an act of baseness and cruelty,
and saved Konrad for a time.

He dreaded setting him at liberty, and therefore took a middle course;
and, resolving to trust the ultimatum to fate, transmitted his captive
to Edinburgh, escorted by French Paris and ten moss-troopers, who
consigned him to the care of Crichton of Elliock, the queen’s advocate,
as a border outlaw.  While awaiting his examination before the council,
he was placed under the sure surveillance of Hepburn of Bolton and the
Royal Archers, in the old tower of Holyrood, which had been built by
John, Duke of Albany.

By this time the queen had recovered from her illness; and, guarded by
her archers and a thousand border lances on horseback, arrived at
Edinburgh on the 24th of November, and resided alternately at the Palace
and at Craigmillar, a castle three miles south of the city.  Though his
wounds were barely healed, Bothwell, with a small retinue, immediately
left Hermitage, and followed her to the capital, while Moray and Morton
were plotting and laying their schemes in Fifeshire.

Thus were all the parties of our drama situated on the 24th of November,
1566, when this chapter opens.

The night was cloudy and dull; a cold wind swept in gusts through the
narrow streets, and not a star was visible, for one of those dense
mists, named a _harr_ by the Edinburghers, had risen from the German
Sea, and settled over the city.  The High Street had long been deserted
by all save four belated revellers, who were muffled in their mantles,
and wandering about without any apparent object.

At midnight, the aspect of the greatest thoroughfare of Edinburgh was
then peculiarly desolate and gloomy.  It was destitute of lamps, though
paved with huge square stones, as an old writer informs us, and bordered
by edifices "so stately in appearance, that single houses may be
compared to palaces."  Many of these mansions rose from stately arcades
of carved stone.  One great arch at the head of Merlyn’s Wynd was
profusely decorated; and before it lay six stones, marking the grave of
the great city paviour, John Merlyn, who was so vain of his having been
the first to causeway the High Street, that he requested to be buried
beneath it. Another magnificent edifice, built in 1430, adorned by
gothic niches, containing the effigies of saints and warriors, reared up
its imposing façade near Peebles’ Wynd, and Hugo Arnot, in whose time it
was extant, avers that no modern building in the city could be compared
with it.

Dark and shadowy, looming like ranks of giant Titans through the flying
mist, the striking outlines of these fantastic mansions overshadowed the
way; and under the gloomier shade of their groined arcades, our four
friends, muffled and masked, wandered to and fro without having any
decided object in view.

They were no other than the Earl of Bothwell, the Marquis d’Elboeuff,
and their friends, Hob of Ormiston, and John Maitland, lord of
Coldinghame, brother of the famous Lethington, who, though a gay roué,
held the offices of Lord Privy Seal and Prior of Coldinghame—the Priory
he held _in commendam_.  They had all been drinking joyously overnight
at Adam Ainslie’s, and had now sallied forth bent on brawl and mischief,
despite the burgh acts, which were very stringent regarding "night
walkers;" for the bailies had enacted that each night at the hour of
ten, after forty strokes had been given by the great bell of the High
Kirk, (the old name of _St. Giles_ had been voted idolatrous,) any
person found walking in the streets should be summarily imprisoned
during the pleasure of the provost; while, for the better maintenance of
a nightly watch, the city was divided into thirty districts, over each
of which were two captains, a merchant and craftsman, empowered to keep
the peace of the burgh by dint of jeddard axe and Scottish spear.

But our four gallants had sallied forth prepared for every emergency.
Bothwell was completely mailed in the fashion of the time, all save the
head, on which he wore a blue bonnet, and his legs, which were defended
by his bombasted trunks and quilted hosen.  The Marquis d’Elboeuff was
similarly accoutred, but wore one of those strong and plain salades,
which had only one horizontal slit for the eyes, and he bore on his left
arm a light French rondelle or buckler; but Ormiston and Coldinghame
wore only pyne doublets, or undercoats of defence quilted with wire, and
so called from having been first worn by _pions_, or foot-soldiers.
They were all disguised by black velvet masks and dark mantles, under
which they carried their swords and daggers.

"How goeth the night, Marquis?" asked Bothwell, as they stumbled along
the dark street, breaking their shins against the outside stairs that
then in hundreds encumbered the way.

"By St. Denis!" lisped the French noble in his broken dialect; "I know
not, for I never was rich enough to buy me a horologue."

"How! is thine appanage of Elboeuff in the Rumois so poor?"

"’Tis past midnight," said Coldinghame; "I heard St. Giles toll twelve."

"A bonny hour and a merry for thee to be abroad, Lord Prior, when thou
oughtest be saving thy nocturnal," said Bothwell.

"True; but belonging, as I do, to the Reformed kirk, I own no monastic
law; no! by the most immaculate Jupiter!" bawled the lay prior as he
swaggered along; "’Tis very long since I abjured the follies of the
Church of Rome."

"She lost much by thy defection," said Bothwell, scornfully; "but devil
take me, Prior, if thou art not very drunk."

"By the body o’ Bacchus, thou art no better than a horned owl to say so!
But keep your rapiers ready, sirs; for yonder is a tall fellow who seems
disposed to bar the way."

"Where? _ventre bleu!_" exclaimed d’Elboeuff, drawing his sword.

"Where?—where?" asked the others.

"Why, right on the crown of the causeway; and, fore Heaven! he _doth_
seem a marvellously tall fellow."

"By cock and pie! ’tis the city cross, thou blind bat!"

"Right, Ormiston!" replied Bothwell; "but his reverence is so drunk that
he knows not a cross from a cow.  Past midnight? soh! a famous hour for
such regular men as we to be strolling along the streets, like knights
of the post; and thou, bully Hob, art without thine armour."

"I have a pyne doublet that would turn the bolt of an arblast—double
quilted."

"The streets are dull, and I am very sleepy," stammered Coldinghame.

"Speak not of sleep, my Lord Privy Seal," said the Earl; "for we have a
notable brawl to make yet.  We must show these rascally bailies that
their night-watch and captains of the thirty wards had no reference to
us, who are lords and barons of Parliament."

"Thou hast ever some wicked thought in thy gomeral’s costard.  A brawl!
with whom, pray?"

"With _thee_, Lord Prior, if thou talkest thus!" rejoined Bothwell,
adjusting his mantle, angrily.

"_Vrai Dieu!_ chevaliers," said the Frenchman; "after so happy a night,
don’t quarrel, I pray you."

"I would give a score of bright bonnet-pieces to meet a few of Moray’s
or Morton’s swashbucklers coming down the street just now!  I am in the
right mood for a fray," said Black Hob.  "Suppose we ring the Tron bell,
and shout fire, sack, and the English!"

"Or break into the house of some rascally bourgeoise, and carry off his
pretty wife," said the Marquis d’Elboeuff.  "Oh, _ventre bleu!_ de
Brissac, de Vendome, and I, have played that prank many a night among
the Hugonets in the Rue de Marmousets, and the dear rogues in the Rue de
Glatigy"——

"At Paris, thou meanest," said Bothwell; "but our wooden-headed burghers
set a value upon their conjugal ware different from your countrymen.
The price French, is by francs and livres; the price Scottish, blows and
steel blades.  One might as well venture into a wasps’ nest."

"_Nom d’un Pape!_  Bothwell is growing tame," retorted the Marquis.  "I
knew that being once regularly wedded would spoil him."

"_Once!_" laughed Ormiston.  "I warrant him"——

"Peace, gomeral!" thundered the Earl, placing his gauntleted hand on
Hob’s mouth. "What wert thou about to say, i’ the devil’s name?"

"Only that I would wish to show some of these fanatical Protestants
that, being doubly damned, they have no right to keep their wives and
daughters, or handmaidens, all to themselves."

"_Tete Dieu!_" cried d’Elboeuff, brandishing his rapier; "ah, the
selfish Hugonets!—we must teach them the new law.  Who will follow me?
for Bothwell seemeth white-livered."

"Dost thou gibe me, Marquis?  God wot! I should like to see thee ettle
at aught that I will not surpass."

"Then here is a house.  Draw, chevaliers!—_vive la joie!_ let us beat up
the door, knock down the bourgeoise, and carry off the first pretty
woman to my hotel in the Cowgate!"

Lord Coldinghame grasped his cloak, saying—

"Beelzebub!  Marquis, art thou mad?  ’Tis the house of Master John
Knox."

"A million of thunders!" grumbled the Frenchman, falling back abashed on
hearing that formidable name; "we should have the whole city about our
ears.  But come—_allons_! I will show ye a place better suited for such
merry rogues as we than the house of that arch-heretic.  There is Madame
Alisong Cragg—a notable lady of joy!"

"Bravo, Marquis! thou art right!" exclaimed Bothwell; "my rascal, French
Paris, tells me there is a famous foreign beauty concealed
there—brought, ’tis said, by Morton or Arran.  And dost thou know that
the ambassador of Duke Philibert of Savoy—what is his name?"

"The Count di Mezezzo."

"Ah! the same—saw her yesterday as he rode past, and hath raved about
her ever since."

"Monsieur l’Ambassadeur has the eyes of Argus for a pretty woman; so
_allons, messieurs!_" said the gay Frenchman, and they all staggered
arm-in-arm down the wynd.

"Hark! listen!" said Bothwell.

They halted under the windows of Dame Craig’s dwelling; some of these
were partly open, and emitted into the misty street the odour of a close
room and a luxurious supper—the fumes of wine and a night debauch.
Through the thick gratings that defended them, flakes of light streamed
into the dark and gloomy wynd, while a clear and manly voice was heard
to sing one of those blasphemous ballads which were so obnoxious to
Queen Mary—

    "Ane cursed _fox_ hath lain in the rocks,
      Hidden this many a day,
    Devouring sheep; but a _hunter_ shall scare
      This cursed fox away.

    "The hunter is Christ, that spurs in haste,
      His hounds are St. Peter and Paul;
    The Pope is the fox, and _Rome_ is the rocks,
      That rub us to the gall.

    "Poor Pope! had to sell the Tantony bell,
      And pardons for ilka thing;
    Remission of sins in old sheep skins,
      Our souls from hell to bring.

    "With bulls of lead, white wax and red,
      And other whiles of green;
    This cursed fox, enclosed in a box,
      Such devilry never was seen."


On hearing this doggerel ballad,[*] Bothwell and his friends drew their
swords in deliberate anger, intent, less on a brawl, than on punishing
the singer; for this ditty was one of those which, by the efforts of the
more zealous clergy, had been set to the ancient music of the Catholic
church, and were usually sung by the lowest rabble, "to ferment that
wild spirit of fanaticism, which in the following age involved the
nation in blood, and overturned the state of three kingdoms."


[*] For which see Andre Hart’s _Godly Ballade Buik_.—NOTE by the
Magister Absalom.


Neither Bothwell nor d’Elboeuff were very rigid Catholics, yet they
burned to punish this irreligious ribaldry, coming as it did from a
place which, in their younger days, had been appropriated to purposes so
very different.  Black Ormiston and John of Coldinghame cared not a
bodle about the matter; but, nevertheless, they muffled their mantles
about their left arms, adjusted their masks, and assailed the house with
drawn swords.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                            *THE GLEEWOMEN.*

    Fiorello.—Hallo! house here!  Hey, good people!
        Hallo! house here!  Faith, you sleep ill!
    Bartolo.—Who can this be?  Ugly fellow!
      Drunken rascal! thus to bellow!
          _The Barber of Seville._


Furiously they knocked, and immediately the lights were extinguished,
the singing ceased, and the windows were closed.  Again and again they
thundered on the planking of the nail-studded door, till the solid walls
of the house were shaken, but there was no attention paid.

"Ho, within there!" cried Bothwell; "Alison, devil take thee, art thou
deaf or drunk?"

"_Ventre St. Gris!_" grumbled the Marquis, skipping aside, as a stoup of
water was poured from the upper story upon his laced mantle.  "I will
spit them all like larks. _Tonnere!_ but I will."

"Hallo! ’ware your costards, sirs!" exclaimed Ormiston, as a large
billet of wood came down next.  "Cock and pie! the garrison shew
mettle."

"Who are without there?" asked a man, through one of those reconnoitring
holes with which all the doors in the city were then provided; but they
could perceive the voice to be a feigned one.  "What ribald cullions are
ye?"

"The godly Earl of Arran, and his friend Master John Knox!" replied
Bothwell, in a snuffling voice, amid a shout of laughter.

"Lewd varlet, thou liest! for the Lord Arran is here a-bed."

"Oho! then, tell him there are four tall fellows here, each of whom is
better than he; so bid him take sword and cloak and come forth, lest we
burn the house and Dame Alison to boot, for we have vowed a vow to make
entrance."

"Help! help!  Axes and staves! Armour! armour!  Fie!" screamed the
shrill voices of Alison Craig and several of her gleewomen and
companions from the upper windows.  "Thieves! stouthrief! and
hamesucken!  Help! help!"

"_Sacré bleu!_ what a devil of a noise thou makest, Madame Alisong!"
cried d’Elboeuff.  "_Ma belle coquette—ma chère madame_."

While Bothwell and Coldinghame were endeavouring to burst open the door
(using as much energy as if the whole salvation of men depended upon
their success), it was suddenly opened; a strong glare of light flashed
into the gloomy wynd, and a tall cavalier, masked and muffled in a
mantle of scarlet velvet, and wealing a very broad beaver flapped down
over his eyes, appeared in the passage, armed with a long glittering
sword and bowl-hilted dagger for parrying.  He burst out, and commenced
hewing right and left; but, finding his escape barred in every
direction, he fell on desperately, bending all his energies to slay
Bothwell, who encountered him hand to hand.

Daringly they fought for some twenty passes, the fire flashing from
their swords, when the stranger suddenly broke away and escaped, leaving
behind his rich mantle, of which the Earl immediately possessed himself.

"Scarlet taffeta—lined with white satin—laeed with gold, too!  Now,
whose ware may this be?"

"The King’s!" said Ormiston and others.

"Darnley’s—now, by Heaven!—"

"Send it to her Majesty," said Hob, "with Madame Craig’s leal service."

"Nay, by St. Bothan!  I will wear it under King Henry’s nose at Court
to-morrow," replied the madcap noble, as they all burst into the house
with their drawn swords, and made a tremendous uproar by rushing from
room to room, up the narrow wooden stairs, and through the pannelled
corridors, pursuing the shrieking glee-girls with oaths and boisterous
laughter.  In one apartment they found the remains of the feast, and
several flasks of good wine, which they immediately confiscated for
their own use, and then made more noise than ever.

Alison Craig was dragged from her hiding-place in an oak almrie by the
reformed Prior of Coldinghame, who placed his rapier at her throat, and
threatened instant death if she did not produce the fair Ribaude, whom
the Lord Morton had committed to her charge.

"Aroint thee, dame!" said Bothwell.  "We will have thee ducked on the
cuckstule as a scold, and pilloried for dancing round the summer-pole,
which thou knowest to be alike contrary to the Bible and John Knox."

Pouring forth alternate threats of vengeance and entreaties to desist,
Alison, whose well-rouged cheeks and painted brow were by turns blanched
with terror and crimsoned with rage, led them reluctantly towards an
apartment which, in former days, had been a little private oratory for
the Lady Superior, or Reverend Mother.  The pointed door was of oak,
carved with the emblems of religion—the crown of thorns, and the hands
and feet pierced by nails; the sacred heart and the cross were still
there, but they ornamented what the change of manners had made the abode
of a gleewoman.

Bothwell, whose whole spirit was now bent on mischief and frolic, with
one kick of his heavy buff boot split the old door in two, and, as the
falling fragments unfolded, to his consternation he beheld—Anna
Rosenkrantz!

Pale, terrified, and motionless as a statue, she was standing about six
paces from him, and near a little table, on which lay her crucifix and
missal, in evidence that she had been praying devoutly.  Her cheeks were
blanched, her eyes were dilated, and her lip curled slightly with anger
at the insults she anticipated; but with a serene brow, and aspect of
modesty and dignity, she drew herself up to her full height, and with
her stately train sweeping behind, and her high ruff bristling with
starch and pride, confronted these violent intruders, the two principals
of whom she failed to recognise under the black velvet masks—an article
of wearing apparel which the residence of so many French, Spanish, and
Italian ambassadors, had now made common among the Scottish noblesse.

"Death and confusion!" muttered the Earl, falling back a pace.

"Cock and pie!" said Ormiston, under his bushy mustaches; "we have
started the wrong game."

"Aha, my _belle_ coquette!" said d’Elboeuff, advancing with his blandest
smile, and kissing his hands as he bowed to the rosettes at his knees;
"_ma jolie damoiselle—comment vous en va?_"

"Hold, Marquis! we are in error," said the Earl, in a deep and fierce
whisper, as he grasped the arm of the French noble, and drew him back.

Though Anna did not hear the words, there was something in their accent
and in the air of Bothwell that struck a chord in her memory; her colour
heightened, and her eyes lit up.  He saw in a moment that he would be
recognised; and, pushing his friends before him by main strength down
the narrow stair, he drove them into the street—an unexpected
proceeding—which filled them with so much rage, that their swords would
infallibly have been turned against him had other work not been prepared
for them.

Now the blaze of torches filled the narrow wynd, glinting on its
fantastic architecture, its grated windows, and carved outshots, on the
steel caps, green doublets, and arrow-heads of a band of Mary’s Archer
Guard, which hurried to the scene of the uproar, led by their captain on
horseback, in a handsome suit of light armour, to assist the two civic
commanders of that district—a baxter and a dagger-maker—who, with twenty
citizens in steel bonnets and jacks, and armed with partisan and
whinger, had also sallied forth to maintain the peace of the burgh.

Dreading that, if taken, he would be unmasked, discovered, and brought
before Mary, and, by being involved in an adventure so dishonourable,
lose perhaps her favour for ever, Bothwell fought desperately up the
street, and wounded several of the archers, shouting all the while, "A
Hamilton! a Hamilton!" to mislead the assailants as to his identity, and
make them suppose him to be the young Earl of Arran, who was known to be
slightly deranged by his love for the queen.

On hearing the war-cry of his house, the clang of the swords and axes,
and all the uproar excited by such a brawl, (where the parties engaged
were well protected by defensive armour), Gavin Hamilton, abbot of
Kilwinning, a younger son of the Duke of Chatelherault, with a few of
his retinue, sallied forth in armour to aid the Earl and his three
friends, who had gradually changed the scene of their conflict to the
broad central street of the city, up which they were pressing with great
vigour.

The arrival of the gallant abbot, caused a continuance of the brawl with
renewed energy and fury, and the dense masses pressing to the centre,
shouted on one side, "A Hamilton!" on the other, "A Darnley! a Darnley!"
and swayed too and fro, from the turreted platform of the city cross to
the Tron beam, where the merchandise was weighed; while the clangour of
bells, and the clamour of the arming citizens, uniting with the fury of
the fray, drowned the cries of the wounded, and the twanging of the
bows, as the royal archers shot at random into the mist and gloom.

The deacons of the crafts were crying "Armour! armour!  Axes and
staves!"  Craigmillar, the provost, was buckling on his harness in his
strong dwelling at Peebles Wynd, and the council were mustering in their
usual place of meeting, the Holy Blood Aisle in St. Giles’ Church; but
the arrival of the Earls of Huntly and Moray with a fresh band of
archers, compelled the Abbot of Kilwinning to make a hasty retreat.
Black Hob escaped with him, and reached in safety his own dwelling in
the Netherbow, above Bassyndine the printer’s establishment; but
Bothwell and his two remaining friends were made prisoners, disarmed,
deprived of their masks, and rather unceremoniously conducted to
Holyrood.

"I thought, good-brother of mine, thou hadst got rid of thy follies, and
become a very Carthusian," said the young Earl of Huntly, with some
little scorn, to Bothwell, as he returned him his magnificent rapier.

"Ah—indeed!" said the other with a polite smile.

"My sister—Jane—thy countess," continued Huntly gravely; "from being
quiet, silent, and dejected, since thou leftest Bothwell castle, hath
become delirious—yea, frantic; and canst thou tell me aught of this
Anna, of whom she raves incessantly?"

"By the holy Paul!" replied Bothwell, with admirable coolness, "I know
no more than thou.  ’Tis some phantom of her brain, and this horrible
calamity hath so oppressed me, that"——

"Thou plungest into every mad extravagance and folly.  Thou spendest thy
days among dicemen and drinkers, thy nights among wantons and gleewomen,
with such blockheads as Ormiston and d’Elboeuff, to bury all memory of
my sister—ha! is it?"

"Exactly; ’tis the wisest mode and the merriest, by the mass!  So a fair
good-morning, my Lord—well-a-day, fair, noble Moray!" said the Earl,
bowing to the nobles of his escort as he raised his plumed bonnet, and
entered the little doorway of the Duke of Albany’s tower.  A dark frown
knit the broad brow of the young Highland noble, as he watched the
Earl’s retreating figure, and he muttered in Gaelic between his teeth—

"Had not my sister vowed before the altar of God to love, obey, and
cherish thee, by all that is sacred on earth and blessed in heaven,
false Lord of Bothwell, this dagger had rung on thy breast-bone!"

Elboeuff and the Prior of Coldinghame were also conducted to separate
chambers, where, just as daylight began to glint on the city vanes, and
to lighten the gloomy courts and cloisters of the ancient palace, they
were securely locked up, and left to their own confused reflections, and
the occupation of nursing their bruises.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                      *A MOMENT LONG WISHED FOR.*

    Bright queen! illustrious nymph, whose gentle sway
    Fair Caledonia’s hardy sons obey;
    Whose sacred hand the royal sceptre bears—-
    The ancient sceptre of two thousand years.
    Oh, great descendant of a noble line!
    Thy rank superior, but thy worth divine;
    Beyond thy sex with every virtue bless’d;
    Beyond thy birth of dignity possess’d!
      _Buchanan to Mary Stuart, 1659._


The red October sun was gleaming on the casements of Holyrood, and
filling the north and western sides of its courts (the palace then had
five) with light and warmth, while the southern remained in shadow.  The
royal standard waved on the tower of James V., then the northern and
most lofty part of this palace, which was burned by the fanatics of
Cromwell, and was much more irregular in architectural design, and very
different in aspect from the present stately edifice, which the skill of
Sir William Bruce engrafted on the old remains.

The queen’s archers were bustling about the gothic porch and outer
gates, with their bows strung and belts bristling with arrows; the tramp
of hoofs, the clatter of harness, the voices of pages, grooms, and
yeomen, rang in the royal stables, and all the usual stir and business
of the day were commencing, though somewhat earlier—for on that morning
the Privy Council were to meet, and already the Lord Chancellor, Morton,
Stewart the High Treasurer, the Secretary of the Kingdom, Macgill of
Rankeillor, the Lord Clerk Register, and many other nobles and officers
of state, were arriving, attended by their usual retinues of armed
horsemen, and quarrelsome swashbucklers on foot, clad in half armour,
with swords, targets, and pistolettes, and having the badges of their
feudal lords fixed to their basinets.

Elbowing his way through the mass of pages, valets, and men-at-arms,
that filled the outer court, and whistling merrily as he went, the
handsome young lieutenant of the royal archers, Sir John Hepburn of
Bolton, was seen clad in his gayest attire—a green velvet doublet
trimmed with scarlet, and laced with gold, a purple mantle, and blue
bonnet garnished with a white feather.  He ascended the narrow and
winding staircase of the Albany tower, where Konrad was confined, and
into which he was admitted by an archer of his own band, who was posted
as sentinel in the corridor.

By Bothwell’s directions, Konrad had been treated like a knight or
gentleman rather than an outlawed moss-trooper, or broken borderman,
under which name he was charged with an attempt to slay the queen’s
lieutenant.

Calm and collected, but sad and thoughtful, he was leaning against the
grated window, and watching the October sunrise, the warm light of which
was rendering yet more red the faded foliage of the copsewood that lay
to the eastward of the palace, and the old red walls of the Abbey
church, where at that moment the queen was kneeling on St. David’s
grave, and praying at the same altar before which her sires had prayed
four hundred years before.

Konrad’s garments were now rather nondescript, and considerably worn;
his beard and mustaches had been long untrimmed; his eyes were hollow,
and his cheeks were becoming ghastly and wan.

"What manner of man art thou?" asked Bolton, who now saw Konrad for the
first time, and remarked, with surprise, the contrast of his address and
attire.  "Thou lookest somewhat like a follower of the lord of little
Egypt—perchance thou art the great Johnnie Faa himself?  Mass! man, but
thou art an odd specimen of the tatterdemalion!"

"Sir," replied Konrad, mildly, "I am a foreigner, and must be excused if
I cannot decern the politeness of your queries."

"Foreigner—eh!" rejoined the young laird of Bolton, who, though far from
being ill-natured, had a blunt manner; "a fiddler, I warrant! as if we
had not enow and to spare, before David Rizzio was dirked in the next
room.  Mass! we have Jehan d’Amiot, the French conjurer, who foretold
Davy’s death; we have Sebastian, the violer; Francisco Rizzio; French
Paris; and the devil knoweth how many more about us.  Dost thou play the
guitar, or the viol-de-gambo?"

"I play neither," replied Konrad, haughtily.

"Then in what dost thou excel? for all these foreign knaves excel us
poor Scottish barbarians in some slight of hand."

"I can handle the bow, the arblast, the backsword and dagger, the
morglay and ghisarma, with all of which, Sir Archer, I am very much at
your service."

"Now, God be with thee!" replied Bolton, frankly clapping him on the
shoulder; "thou art a right cock o’ the game.  I love thy mood; and, if
I can see thee well through this ugly business—by St. Bothan of Hepburn
I will!  But thou hast a powerful foe in the Earl of Bothwell, with whom
thou art about to be confronted, though he (madcap that he is!) has
fallen into a small escapado with a certain gay damsel of the city, whom
I have sent twelve of my archers to bring before the council, by Lord
Morton’s order; but come with me, sir, for the queen requires your
presence."

"The queen!" reiterated Konrad, but thinking only of Anna.  "Oh, the
long-wished moment must be come at last! ’Tis well—I hasten to implore
her clemency, and to trust to her justice."

The apartment in which the council met was in that part of the monastery
of Holyrood which had been decorated by the late king, James V.; it was
wainscoted, and had been painted with various devices by Sir Thomas
Galbraith, the royal limner; but part was hung with that ancient
tapestry which is still preserved in the newer palace, and represents
the battles of Constantine.  The ceiling was blue, studded with
_fleur-de-lys_, in compliment to the late queen mother, Mary of
Lorraine; but the floor had been fashioned by the early monks of the
Holy Rood, in the old Scottish manner, before the invention of
saw-mills, and when trees were simply split by wedges, and the boards
roughly dressed by the adze or axe, and then secured with nails having
heads of polished iron as broad as penny pieces.

This primitive style is still to be seen at Castle Grant, in Strathspey.

The deep-mouthed fireplace was a gothic arch, rich with cabbage leaves
and sculptured roses; it contained one of those massive old grates,
surmounted by an enormous thistle, which we may still see in James V.’s
tower; and above it hung a portrait of the late Cardinal Beatoun, with
his grave dark eyes and red baretta.

The table was covered with green cloth; the _Regiam Majestatem_,
_Quoniam Attachiamenta_, and other ancient tomes; the silver mace and
seal of Council lay upon it, together with a mass of parchments and
papers, before which sat he of the keen eye and thoughtful brow,
Secretary Lethington, with two servitors or clerks beside him.  Morton,
with his high ruff and long beard; Moray, with his smart mustache and
close shorn hair; Glencairn, stern of eye, ferocious in aspect, and
sheathed in steel; Lindesay, his aged compeer, armed in the fashion of a
by-gone age, having the globular corselet, the angled tuilles, and long
sollerets of James III., with other peers—took their places at the
board, but remained standing and uncovered; for the door by which the
queen was to approach the throne was now thrown open, and the scarlet
liveries and gilt partisans of the yeoman of the guard were visible
below the festooned arras of the entrance.

A party of the archer guard occupied the lower end of this long chamber,
which was lighted by a range of well-barred windows that faced the lofty
crags of Salisbury.  In one of these lounged Hepburn of Bolton, leaning
on his long sword, and with his soldierlike frankness conversing freely
with Konrad, notwithstanding that the latter was there that day to
answer for stouthrief and border felony—two charges which poor Konrad
(the victim of circumstances) would find it very difficult to answer.
But now a thrill shot through his heart; for, amid much bustle and some
noise, the Earl of Bothwell, the Marquis d’Elboeuff, and John of
Coldinghame, were ushered in, and, bowing to the lords, retired a
little; for they were there rather as culprits than privy councillors,
and looked about them with haughty and supercilious smiles.

"Dost thou know, Marquis," whispered the irritated Earl, loudly enough
to be heard by all; "that to me there seemeth something intensely
despicable in such a baron as I, who can muster five thousand horse,
being arraigned before a _woman_, like a rascally page or a chamber
wench?"

"_Certainement_—and I before my little niece!  _Milles tonneres!_"
replied the Marquis, pulling up his ruff, which was all bristling with
whalebone.

"I feel at this moment a profound veneration for thy musty old Salique
law, which"——

"_Peste!_ here comes her majesty the Queen!" interrupted the Frenchman,
bowing till the point of the long toledo tilted up his mantle at an
angle of forty-five degrees.

Dressed in plain black velvet, slashed at the bosom and shoulders with
white satin, having her long train borne by the ladies Mary Fleming and
Mary Beatoun, with a long lace veil floating from her stately head, a
little close ruff under her chin, and the order of the Thistle sparkling
on her neck, Mary entered, and with a graceful inclination of her head
and a bright smile to all—looking more like the queen of some fair clime
of love and song than of fierce and fanatical Scotland—swept up to the
throne and took her seat under its purple canopy, while her ladies and
their pages retired a little behind it.

Then only in her twenty-fourth year, Mary seemed fresh and blooming as
the _Venus Celestis_ of the ancients; for she had just come from her
morning bathing, in the little turreted bath that still remains at the
western corner of the royal garden; and where tradition asserts that she
bathed in white wine; but a pure and limpid spring yet wells up beneath
the floor, to contradict the legend.

She was accompanied by Darnley, whose magnificent doublet of cloth of
gold was gleaming with jewels and seed pearls; but his face was pale,
and his eyes were languid, bloodshot, and restless: his scarf was torn;
his plumes were broken; something very like a female coif was hanging
from a slash in his trunk breeches; and it was evident that he had been
rambling with other debauchees the livelong night.  Several gentlemen of
the Lennox accompanied him, and as they entered somewhat
unceremoniously, brushed past Bothwell and d’Elboeuff; but the former
grasped one by the mantle, saying—

"Mahoud! fellow, dost thou take us for Lennox lairds?  Back, sir! we
hold our fiefs by knights’ service, not by pimp tenure."

Between the hostile and intriguing spirits who crowded that gloomy
chamber, many a deep, dark scowl was furtively exchanged.

Darnley, who was perfumed to excess, and carried a pouncet-box, bestowed
all his attention, as usual, on Mariette Hubert, a maid of honour, and
darkly and fixedly the lieutenant of the archers watched his insidious
attentions.  Darnley bent malignant eyes on Bothwell, who, in bravado,
wore the well-known scarlet mantle; and Bothwell and Konrad were
scowling at each other in turns; for the former felt no small dread of a
_dénouement_, by which he might lose for ever that which was only
dawning upon him, and under the sunshine of which he had begun to
cherish, in secret, such daring and alluring hopes—the favour of the
queen.

"Well-a-day, fair, my Lords of Bothwell and d’Elboeuff," said the
petulant young King; "you made a notable brawl in our good burgh last
night.  Beat off the watch, and wounded six of the royal archers, and
yet to be made captives—Ha! ha! came it of lack of skill, or lack of
will?"

"Of neither!" replied the Earl, with a smiling lip; "as I believe your
majesty very well knoweth—Ha! ha!  I picked up this mantle in the fray.
I hope you know the owner, and admire its fashion?"

"Is it dagger-proof?" asked the King, with affected ease.

"No, but my doublet is," replied the Earl, with the same quiet air, and
a volume of courtly hatred and duplicity was exchanged with these
significant remarks; but Darnley resumed his cold smile, and once more
turned to the pretty Mariette, the sister of French Paris.

Konrad, whose handsome figure and pale features, with untrimmed beard
and short curly hair, Mary had been regarding from time to time with
true feminine interest, was now led forward by Maitland of Lethington,
who charged him with "treason, in rising in effeir of war against the
royal authority, fire-raising, stouthrief, and felony in Liddesdale,
under the umquhile John of Park, and for assailing openly in arms, with
that deceased traitor, the Lord Warden of the Three Marches, her grace’s
lieutenant, James Earl of Bothwell, within the bounds of his own barony
of Hermitage, where he was wounded deadly in peril of his life by the
blow of a jeddard staff."

"_Ma foi!_" said Mary, to her sister Argyle, "is he not a fair young
man, and a winsome, to die the death of an outlaw?  Approach, sir, and
reply to this terrible charge."

"Madame," said Konrad, kneeling on one knee, and again drawing himself
up to his full height, with an air that was not lost on the bright eyes
that regarded him with melancholy interest; "may it please your majesty
to hear my story? it is a short, but a sad one."

"Say forth!" replied the Queen, and Bothwell felt himself growing pale;
for he almost deplored his clemency, that had spared Konrad in
Liddesdale.

"Sweet madam!  I am a stranger here in the land of the Scots; I know not
their laws nor their fashions; I barely know enough of their language to
make myself understood; and if, in the tale I am about to tell, I seem
to become confused, or to forget myself, I pray your gentleness to
remember the great presence in which I stand, and excuse me.  A strange
combination of untoward circumstances, have brought me into the position
in which I this day find myself before you; but think not, gracious
madam, that I mean to draw upon your gentle pity, for life hath long
lost every charm to me; and, if it were spared, I have but one thought
now, and that is, after having accomplished the mission on which I
sought these shores, to return to my native Norway, and die a monk in
the cloisters of St Olaf at Upslo."

Konrad paused; his eyes moistened, and he sighed deeply.  The queen and
her ladies became intensely interested by this sad exordium; but the
Lords Lindesay and Glencairn, who were anxious to have Bothwell’s affair
brought under notice, could not repress signs of disgust and disdain, at
all this preamble and delay about hanging a pitiful border outlaw.

"Madam!  I am the last of the old house of Saltzberg, in the province of
Aggerhuis. I was born where"——

"Thou art not likely to die!" interrupted Glencairn, striking the table
with his gauntleted hand.  "God’s murrain! no.  Under favour of the
queen’s grace, I would submit to your lordships, if we are to sit here
listening to the tale of a cunning romaunt teller, when there are more
important matters anent quhilk we are this day convened in council.
Besides, I would remind your grace and lordships that this caitiff, in
defiance of our laws anent the abomination of the mass and the vile
idols of paganrie, hath avowit to our beards his intention of becoming
ane masse-priest, quhilk is a fact so bold, so sinful, and so malapert,
that I marvel sorely at your patience in hearing it silently; and
further, as I think the affirmit word of the Lord Bothwell and the Laird
of Ormiston, that the panel was taken in armour, in ane attempt to slay
that noble lord on the marches of his own barony of Hermitage, quhilk
includeth forcible hamesucken as well as homicide and outlawrie, are
all, I deem, more than enow to deserve sentence of death. Let him be
beheaded and quartered!"

Mary was about to speak, when the Lord Lindesay bluntly interrupted her.

"The Lord Earl of Glencairn hath (as he always doth) spoken well; and I
move that, incontinent, this knave be removit furth from this chamber,
and straight conveyit to the place of doom, as ane daredevil
moss-trooper, ane false and idolatrous mass-monger, and as a sign of
judgment to his compeers in all time coming.  What sayest thou, my Lord
of Morton?"

"With thee.  Better hang now than die a mass-priest, and be damned
incontinently!"

With a crimsoned cheek and a heaving breast, Mary turned from peer to
peer on hearing those successive insults levelled at her religion; but
she read the most stolid and iron bigotry in every face, save her
brother’s, who contrived to veil every emotion under a bland serenity of
visage that no eye could fathom.

"My lords, hold!" she exclaimed.  "Am I the daughter of James V.?—am I
your sovereign or your slave?  Will you dare to condemn or forgive in my
presence, without consulting me?  I say, this man _shall not die!_ even
though he had bent a spear against my own breast, as well as that of my
lieutenant, who, I know, can be as generous and forgiving as he is brave
and noble.  And well may he be forgiving, if I, the administrator of the
laws (St. Mary help me!) can afford to be so."

"Your majesty is right," said the Earl of Bothwell, who was anxious for
Konrad’s removal on any terms.  "I crave that he may be re-delivered to
me, to be treated as he deserves; and I hope your majesty knows me well
enough to believe that his usage will be generous."

"Then be it so.  Sir John Hepburn, deliver this prisoner to your lord
the Earl, who must bring him to me again, for I am dying with curiosity
to learn his story."

"Away with him, Bolton!" said the Earl, in a hasty whisper; "and see a’
God’s name thou keepest him close, permitting none to hold converse with
him, till I have him despatched to sure ward, at Bothwell or Hermitage."

And thus, the object of the long wished-for interview was frustrated,
and Konrad was hurried away by the archers; but at the moment he
retired, Bothwell turned about, and beheld what made him change colour
so perceptibly, that Darnley and others, whose eyes were seldom turned
from him, perceived it immediately.

The Earl of Morton, with an assumed air of the deepest respect, led in
Anna Rosenkrantz, who had just been conducted to the palace by a party
of Sir Arthur Erskine’s archers.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                         *ANNA AND THE QUEEN.*

      _Ruggiero._—Say what you please, and unsay what you will,
    Silisco loved your daughter; she loved him
    And pledged her faith—Oh, sad chance!
    Disastrous error! was it this destroyed
    The maiden’s faith! Why then shall pity plead
    Against all anger.
        _The Virgin Widow._


"Under favour of your majesty, and these noble lords," said the Earl of
Morton, with a most studiedly stolid aspect, "I have the pleasure to
present a lady of Norway, a subject of our warlike ally, Frederick of
Denmark, who claims the great honour of being _first_ Countess of
Bothwell."

It is impossible to describe the astonishment these words and the
appearance of Anna occasioned in all present.  Every eye was bent
inquiringly upon her, and the charge against Bothwell, d’Elboeuff, and
Coldinghame, was forgotten in this new aspect of affairs.

Shame and rage, but from very different motives, filled the breasts of
Bothwell and of Huntly.  The former was pale, though his dark eyes were
full of fire; but the brow of the latter was crimsoned by the generous
wrath of a fierce brother, jealous of his sister’s honour.  They both
started to their feet and grasped their swords, while their more
immediate friends began to draw near them with darkening faces.

"_Sacre nom de!_—Belzebub!"—muttered the perplexed d’Elboeuff, twirling
his mustaches; while Darnley’s face, and the faces of Bothwell’s
enemies, beamed with delight; and his mortal foe, the Earl of Moray,
though almost trembling with exultation, betrayed it not by one glance
or alteration of his grave and handsome face.  The queen seemed also
disturbed, and, under the stern and indignant flash of her keen dark
eyes, even Bothwell quailed, as calm, and cold, and statue-like she drew
herself up to her full height, and gazed upon the sinking and trembling
Anna, who, advancing to within one pace of the dais, sunk upon her
knees, and, clasping her hands, raised her bright eyes to Mary’s gentle
face, and, as she did so, all her glittering tresses rolled in a volume
over her neck and shoulders.  Remembering the undisguised admiration
which the Earl had ever professed for herself, Mary felt something of a
woman’s pique at this new and beautiful claimant on his heart, and, for
a moment, she almost gazed coldly upon her.

"Yea, madam," repeated Morton, striking his cane on the floor, "a lady
who accuseth James Earl of Bothwell of wedding, and ignobly deserting
her."

"’Tis false, Lord Earl!" exclaimed Bothwell, choking with passion, and
endeavouring to pull off his glove.  "By the joys of heaven, and the
pains of hell—’tis false!  I swear, ’tis false!"

"False!" reiterated Anna, in a piercing voice.  "Oh, Bothwell, Bothwell!
darest thou to say so—thou who didst lure me from my home, my happy
home! and a heart that loved me well?  Oh, do me justice, madam, ere I
die!  I am indeed his wife—his wife whom he swore, before the blessed
sign of our redemption, to love, to cherish, and to protect!"

"I vow, madam, she raves!" said the Earl, quietly, collecting all his
thoughts in secret desperation; for he found himself standing on the
edge of a precipice.

"Oh, madam! hear my mournful story; and condemn me not unheard."

"Do not listen to a word of it, madam," said the Earl; "I beg you will
not.  ’Tis all some rascally plot of my enemies to ruin me for ever in
the favour of your majesty, and my very good lord and kinsman, the Earl
of Huntly."

A smile, both dubious and scornful, lit the face of the Highland Earl,
who played ominously with his long dagger, while Bothwell reflected
bitterly on—

    "What a tangled web we weave,
    When first we practise to _deceive_."


"I conjure your majesty not to hear her!" he urged; "and yet, why should
I fear?  The honour of the house of Hepburn has been sustained
untarnished since old Adam of Hailes and Trapraine first unfurled his
pennon by the side of Bruce! and assuredly it cannot suffer now by the
artful story of a despicable gleewoman—Ha! ha!—a minion of the gallant
Lord of Morton."

"Let her speak for herself," said Mary; "I will not be cheated of this
story.  Rise, woman! and fearlessly and truly afford us proof of the
grave charge thou preferrest against this great and potent lord."

Thus encouraged, Anna, in moving accents, which her broken language made
yet more touching and simple, related her early love for Konrad, and
Konrad’s single-hearted devotion; and how the artful Earl had weaned all
her affections to himself; how he had so solemnly espoused her before
the altar of the Hermit of Bergen; had borne her far away from her home
to that strong castle in the solitary isle of Westeray, and had there
abandoned her for the arms of another.

"Jesu Maria!" said the Queen, with sadness and astonishment; "thy story
is like a chapter of the Hundred Tales.  ’Tis a melancholy one, in
sooth!  But, _ma bonne_, what proof canst thou afford us of all this?"

"My word, madam!" sobbed Anna; "my word only!—I am the daughter of a
belted knight, who died in battle."

"But this great lord will also give us his word that thou art false, and
can back his assertion by five thousand lances.  Now, in this bad world,
where every body is so false, who am I to believe?"

The Earl, who, during Anna’s pathetic address (every word of which stung
him to the soul), had been intently polishing his waist-buckle with his
leathern glove, now replied boldly—

"I trust that your majesty will believe me—whose word no man now living
hath ever dared to doubt—and believe me, when I declare the whole of
this fabrication to be the invention of some unknown enemy, to deprive
me of the little favour with which you have honoured me, as a return for
my dutiful devoir and loyal service in our raid into Liddesdale.  And I
think when _the place_ wherein this wretched woman was found, is taken
into consideration, that I need not trouble myself much in denying the
whole accusation."

"_Mon Dieu!_ my lord, thou sayest true!" replied Mary, struck with the
remark.  "I own that it throws suspicion on the whole; and I have lived
long enow among you to see the lengths courtiers will resort to, for
undermining each other."

"And this woman," continued the Earl, whose indignation increased with
his success; "this accursed harridan—this Alison Craig—why comes she not
to back the charge of her gleewoman?  I well know that the Lord Arran
will vouch for her truth and honesty—yea, and greater men than he!"

Arran grasped his Parmese dagger; but Darnley, to whom all this had
given intense delight, stayed his hand, and they exchanged glances
expressive of the sentiments that animated them; for both were
vindictive and malignant, and both had great command of feature and of
temper.

Poor Anna knew not until now the truth of what she had long ago
suspected—the vile nature of the dwelling to which Morton had so
infamously consigned her.  Now it all burst on her like a flash of
lightning, and she alternately became crimson with shame and anger, or
pale as death with a mortal sickness of heart; for she saw in the sudden
change of Mary’s demeanour, and the half quizzical, half pitying eyes of
the nobles, and the disdain of the maids of honour, how lightly her
story was valued.

A perfect paralysis seemed to possess her; near the steps of the throne
she sank upon her knees, with her hands clasped, her hair falling in
clusters over her face, and her heart full of agony, as she thought of
her father’s pride, her mother’s worth—of Konrad’s slighted love, and
old Sir Erick’s kindness.

Bothwell, anxious for her immediate removal, animated alike by pity and
anger, now approached the throne, and said—

"May it please your majesty, as Lord High Admiral, I was last night made
acquainted by the Water Bailie of Leith, that there is now at anchor
within a bowshot of the Mussel-cape, a certain ship of Denmark, the
Biornen, commanded by Christian Alborg, who will sail with this
evening’s tide; and I move that this poor frantic damsel, who declares
herself to be a subject of his Danish majesty, be sent on board, and
transmitted to her home; and, if a hundred merks of silver will smooth
the way to her, my purse shall not be lacking."

"Well, so be it!  The presence of this vessel is indeed opportune,"
replied the too facile queen.  "_De tout mon coeur!_ let her be removed,
and this weary council be adjourned for to-day, that we may ramble into
the garden, and see the bright sunshine and the autumnal flowers."

Obedient to a glance from his friend and chief, Sir John Hepburn, with a
few archers, approached to raise Anna, but she started to her full
height, shook back her heavy locks, and full, with flashing eyes and
nostrils curled with scorn, she gazed upon Bothwell.

Pale and rigid as a statue, all save the curving lip and dilating eye,
with an aspect serenely savage, she gazed upon her betrayer. Oh! at that
moment, wildly as she loved him, Anna could have stabbed him to the
heart.

"Farewell, Bothwell!" she said, with an icy smile; "in that dark time
which is coming, when sorrow and remorse shall harrow up thy coward
soul, thou wilt recall the passage of this hour—the wrongs I have
endured—the shame and the contumely I have suffered.  Hah! and in that
dark time of ruin and regret, (and she shook her clenched hand like an
enraged Pythoness,) remember Anna!"

And, as Bolton led her hurriedly away, the memory of that keen bright
glance from her wild dark eyes haunted Bothwell, when the hour she
foretold came upon him.

"Jesu!" said Mary, crossing herself; "what an eye! what a glance! she
must be an ill woman and a vile, to look thus. Argyle! _ma belle
Soeur!_—let us to the garden!"  She here turned round, as usual,
expecting Darnley’s proffered band to lead her forth. He was again
whispering to Mariette Hubert, from whose blushing cheeks and downcast
eyes there was no mistaking the purport of his addresses.  Mary thought
how different were the days,

                "When love was young, and Darnley kind!"

A shade crossed her snowy brow, a haughty smile curled her beautiful
lip, and she said somewhat peremptorily—

"Lord Bothwell—your hand!"

The Earl instantly drew off his perfumed gloves, and led the Queen from
the chair of state.  The whole of the nobles rose, the archers of the
guard drew back the heavy arras, the yeomen unfolded a strong glass door
that opened towards the palace garden and ancient cloisters of the Abbey
church—and from thence the Earl led Mary to her favourite seat, near the
venerable and elaborate dial-stone, while Darnley, her ladies, and
several courtiers, followed in groups.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                             *THE BOUQUET.*

    How near I am to happiness
    That Earth exceeds not! not another like it:
    The treasures of the deep are not so precious
    As the concealed comforts of a man,
    Lock’d up in woman’s love.
      _Women beware Women, 1567._


It was now, as we have said, October.

The falling leaves were brown and crisped; the air was cool and balmy;
but in lieu of the whistling of birds that marks the merry summer, there
was heard at times the harsh screaming of aquatic fowls, as they passed
landward.  The royal garden, which lies to the northward of the palace,
was then (as now) overlooked on the south by the embattled tower of
James V., the carved buttresses and aisle windows of the chapel royal;
and on the east by the old turreted chateau of Mary of Lorraine.  The
walks were then sheltered by thick and lofty hedges of privet, thorn,
and holly, according to the ancient fashion of landscape gardening; but
the latter alone retained their dark-green hue, and were studded by
scarlet berries.  There were balustraded terraces, a wilderness of walks
and hedges, treillages, and little canals; but the chief ornaments were
the mossy old fruit-trees, which had been planted and reared by the
industrious monks of Abbot Ballantyne’s days.

The sun shone joyously in the wide blue sky, and the old towers of the
palace, and the square campanile of the church of _SANCTÆ CRUCIS_
gleamed in the warm light.  The few flowers of the season, which the
care and skill of the royal gardener reared under glasses in a sheltered
place, expanded their little cups and scentless petals in the warmth;
and inspired with joy by the bright sunshine and the fragrant perfume
that a slight shower had drawn from the greensward, and the box-edged
parterres, Mary’s heart expanded like that of a beautiful bird; and
forgetful of the cares of state, and the bearded conclave she had just
left, she clapped her white hands, and with a girlish playfulness, (that
would have horrified John Knox, and petrified the General Assembly into
stone,) half hummed and half sang one of Ronsard’s sonnets.

Then, seating herself by the beautifully-carved horologue which bears
her name, and is still situated in the centre of the garden, fixed upon
a pedestal that rises from three octagon steps, she continued her
sonnet, while playing alternately with a bouquet presented to her by the
keeper of the gardens, and with Fidelé, her little Italian greyhound—the
gift of the Conte di Mezezzo, the Savoyard ambassador.

"Of all the poems of Pierre, le gentilhomme Vendomois," began the Earl,
as he leant against the pedestal, over which there drooped a venerable
weeping ash, and commenced a conversation, because he saw that Darnley
and the ladies of the court were promenading at a distance, and that
none observed him save his friend the Knight of Bolton.  "Yes, madam; of
all Ronsard’s poems, none has pleased me so much as that addressed to
your majesty, in which he portrays three nations—Scotland, France, and
England—contending around your cradle for which should possess you."

"And Monsieur Jupiter, to whom the three fair sisters referred their
claims, was most favourable to my dear and beautiful France.  Ah!
Jupiter was very sensible which I should love most," said the Queen;
then, after a pause, she added—"O what a glorious lover Pierre Ronsard
must be!"

"Oh, yes! think how tender are these lines;" and the Earl sang with a
good voice—

    "Bon jour, mon coeur; bon jour, ma douce vie;
    Bon jour, mon oeil; bon jour, ma chère amie;
      He! bon jour, ma touts belle.
      Ma mignardise, bon jour,
      Mes delices, mon coeur.
    Mon doux printempe, ma douce fleur nouvelle."


"_Mon Dieu!_" exclaimed Mary, with sudden animation; "I last heard those
lines"—

"At the Palace de la Tournelles."

"One night"——

"Under your window?"

"Then, Mother Mary! thou knowest the singer!"

"’Twas I!" said the Earl, with a low voice.

Mary coloured deeply.

"’Twas I!" he added; "on the night before your marriage with the
Dauphin, and my departure to Italy."

"Lord Earl, thou hast really a voice," said Mary, unwilling to perceive
the implication of his words.

"Love will achieve any thing, when it desires to please."

"Love!" laughed the joyous Queen, in her tone of raillery.  "I do not
think thou very well knowest what love ought to be."

"Ah! say not so.  When once kindled in a true heart," said the Earl,
laying his hand upon his breast, "it can only be extinguished by death."

"_Ma foi!_ but when a heart is so flexible that a sudden flame expands
within it to-day for one, and to-morrow for another," replied Mary,
(thinking of her gay husband, whose white feather was visible at times
above the holly hedges), "and can never love as—as one would wish to be
loved.  ’Tis oddly said, that few are wedded to those they first loved."

"True, madam," said the Earl, with a lower voice; "my own poor heart
hath known that too bitterly."

"Indeed!" laughed the Queen, "since when?"

"Since I first beheld thee, adorable Mary! a young and smiling maiden of
seventeen, standing by the side of the puny Dauphin at the Tournelles,
as his affianced bride," replied the Earl, as half kneeling he lightly
kissed her hand, while all the warm passion he had first cherished for
her, in the days of his heedless youth, swelled up in his bosom.

"This is too much, presumptuous lord!" said the Queen, suddenly becoming
grave, as she rose from her seat, and moved slowly away.  "I did but
begin in jest, and thou dost end in earnest."

"So it is ever with love, adorable madam!" replied the Earl, clasping
his hands.

"Silence!" said the Queen trembling; "thy words are full of sin.  One
whisper of this to Darnley, and thou art a lost man;" and she glided
away like a haughty Juno, with her long train and veil floating behind
her. At this threat Bothwell’s heart glowed alike with love and anger;
but he remained irresolute, and confounded by her sudden transition from
gaiety to gravity, and watched her approach the postern of James V.’s
tower. As she was about to enter, two aged, lean, and shrivelled hands,
were extended from the narrow-grated loophole of a strong and vaulted
chamber in the basement story, and these immediately arrested Mary’s
attention.  Folding her arms meekly upon her bosom, she bowed her head,
and on her pure and snowy brow the forbidden sign of the cross was
traced, and the hands were immediately withdrawn within the grating.

There, in that damp vault, lay Sir James Tarbet, a poor old priest, who
had been discovered saying mass at midnight in the ruined chapel of St.
Anthony on the Craig; and for this heinous crime had been consigned to a
dungeon by those champions of toleration, who enforced the iron laws of
the new _regimé_.

Softened by the old man’s blessing, and the sentiments it called up
within her, Mary, as she entered the tower, bowed to the Earl in token
of forgiveness, and dropped (but whether by chance or design, the
usually acute Magister Absalom sayeth not) her bouquet, of which the
enamoured lord immediately possessed himself, and placed in his bosom,
bowing almost to the earth as she disappeared.  His heart beat like
lightning; a new and triumphant glow expanded like a flame within it,
and he seemed to tread on air.

"_Parbleu!_" said the Marquis d’Elboeuff, who had observed this scene,
and came pirouetting along the walk, looking like a great grasshopper,
with his long rapier and short mantle; "ha! ha! art thou still for the
Salique law?"

"Blockhead!" muttered the Earl impatiently.

"Remember that clause of it which saith, ’He who squeezes the hand of a
free woman shall pay a fine of fifteen golden sols.’"

"Ah! but callest thou the queen a free woman, when she is a slave to the
ten thousand caprices of yonder great baboon, her husband?" said the
Earl, as, with a bitterness he could not conceal, he abruptly left the
Marquis, and retired from the garden.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                        *JEALOUSY WITHOUT LOVE.*

      _Eud._—No! we must part.  ’Twill ask whole years of sorrow
    To purge away this guilt.  Then do not think
    Thy loss in me, is worth one dropping tear;
    But if thou wouldst be reconciled to Heaven,
    First sacrifice to Heaven that fatal passion
    Which caused thy fall.—Farewell, forget the lost!
        _Siege of Damascus._


In the Earl’s bosom every spark of affection for Anna had long since
died away, and his anger at her sudden appearance, in such a presence,
and with such a charge against him, now robbed her almost of his pity.
After a day and night spent in revelling, in the city, next evening he
returned to his own apartments that overlooked the southern court of the
palace, rejoicing alike at his narrow escape from disgrace, which was
entirely owing to Morton’s mismanagement, in consigning Anna to the
guardianship of Alison Craig, and at his sudden fortune in finding
himself so favoured by Mary; and, with a rapture almost childish, he
kissed the flower she had dropped so opportunely at the postern door,
and which, like a treasure, he still preserved.

But the Earl knew not that in avoiding Scylla he had fallen into
Charybdis; for on ascending to his apartments, up the stair to which he
was formally preceded by French Paris and little Calder, he found
himself confronted by one, of whom he now thought very little, but whose
dark eyes—so soft, so pleading, and so imploring—he was confounded and
abashed to meet;—the Countess!

She looked paler and thinner than when they had last met, and a pang of
remorse wrung the Earl’s heart as he surveyed her beautiful and slender
form, so evidently wasted by sorrow and suffering; but the momentary
sentiment passed away; ambition resumed its wonted power in his heart;
and, though he kissed his wife’s brow, it was done with an air so cold
and conventional that she withdrew from his embrace, and at that time he
cordially wished her ten thousand leagues away.

A moment the peer gazed upon her fair and sinless brow, and the steady
gaze of her full dark eye, and he felt himself immensely her inferior in
nobility of spirit, in truth, and love, and honour; and to his
overweening pride that momentary sense of humiliation was bitter in the
extreme.

"Welcome to Holyrood, Jane!" said he, assuming his usual gaiety of
manner.  "I warrant thou art come to upbraid me for playing the truant
so long from thee and the bonny banks of Bothwell."

"Nay, my lord, I am on the way to my father’s castle of Strathbolgie in
the Garioch, and I seek but one night’s shelter in these apartments.
To-morrow I will continue my journey."

"Heaven be praised!" thought the Earl, who found it necessary to affect
that proper regard which his cold expression showed plainly to have
evaporated.  "Seat thyself beside me, bonnibel—thou lookest sickly and
ill.  How comes this?"

"Canst thou ask?" she replied, with a mournful glance, and quietly
withdrawing from the arm with which he had endeavoured to encircle her.
"Thou hast been absent from me very long."

"And thou art tremendously angry with me, ladybird—is it not so?"

"Oh, no!" she replied gently; "but sorrowful—exceeding sorrowful."

"And so thou lovest me still, Jane?"

"More than thou dost me," she replied, with her eyes full of tears; and
Bothwell felt one small ray of his old love kindle in his heart.

"I would a thousand times rather that thou didst reproach me bitterly
than weep thus, Jane," said the Earl.  "Thy scorn I might repel; thine
anger I might meet; but thy tears—now, now, for Heaven’s sake and thine
own, be pacified; for I do love thee fondly still."

"Love me!" reiterated the Countess, half suffocated by tears.

"Do not doubt me, dear one," replied the Earl, in whose bosom at that
moment there was indeed something of a struggle; "be pacified, bonnibel!
See—here is a charming bouquet for thee; its perfume is alike reviving
and delicious.  I had it from the queen."

The Countess made no reply, but her tears fell faster.

"And she, having heard of thy arrival, desired me to give it to thee,"
said the lying Earl, glad to say any thing that would please her.

"Hah!" exclaimed the Countess, sharply, setting her teeth and growing
deadly pale; "is it so?  To me? thou shalt see me inhale its perfume,
_poisoned though it be_—for, oh, my husband! even death at thy hands is
welcome."  And tremblingly she pressed her beautiful face into the
bouquet, and then turned pale and placidly to the Earl.

"Poisoned!" he exclaimed, with astonishment. "Thou art mad, Jane!
Pshaw! dost thou think that Mary of Scotland, (that being, pure as the
new fallen snow,) is like her fiendish gudemother, Catherine of Medici,
a vendor of poisoned flowers, and gloves, and ribbons?  _Benedicite_!
Jane of Huntly, shame on thy vile suspicions!"

"Well, I thank Heaven it is all as thou sayest!" replied the Countess,
mildly; "but after all I have heard of the love passages between Mary
and thee at Hermitage, I expected somewhat worse."

"Love passages?  Woman, what hast thou dared to say?" asked the Earl,
gravely.

"Only a hint of what I have heard."

"From whom?"

"The Earl of Sutherland."

"Babbler that he is!" exclaimed Bothwell, with a dark frown.  "He hath
foully lied, and so become guilty of lese-majesty."

"Oh! do not look on me thus, my dear lord—I can bear any thing but your
frown. Thou wilt bring war, and death, and shame on the houses of
Bothwell and Aboyne; but I mean not to upbraid thee.  As thou sowest, so
shalt thou reap; but for thy own sake, for the sake of thine ancestors,
their name and fame and honour, the honour of me, whose peace thou hast
destroyed, whose love thou hast scorned, whose ties thou hast forgotten,
whose prospects thou hast blighted; I implore thee, by each and all of
these, to pause, lest thou art crushed by the fall of the castle thine
ambition is building."

"I thank thee, Lady Bothwell," replied the Earl, rising and putting on
his bonnet, the lofty plumes of which he shook with ineffable hauteur;
"I thank thee for these good intentions and kind regards, though, by the
mass!  I know not thine aim.  And so thou art bound for Strathbolgie on
the morrow, my gay Gordon?  Who of my people accompany thee?  Is it long
Cockburn of Langton, with his lances of the Merse?"

"Nay; ’tis the Earl of Sutherland."

A cloud gathered on Bothwell’s brow. The Earl of Sutherland had been a
lover of the Countess from her girlhood, and had only given up his
faithful suit on her accepting Bothwell; so there was a very unpleasant
association of ideas in the mind of the latter, who was generally apt to
view incidents through an evil medium.

"I trust the Lord Sutherland is well," he said scornfully; "and that his
bare-legged gillies, in brogues and breacan, will escort thee through
Strathbolgie, as safely as Bothwell’s knights in their Milan mail would
have done."

"His sister, the Lady Elinora, accompanies us," said the Countess
colouring deeply, even at the suspicions of this husband, who loved her
now no more.

"Then, my bonnibel, when thou goest hence to-morrow, fail not to make my
very particular commendations to the Lady Elinora Sutherland, and the
noble lord her brother, and so the benison of God be with thee, and him,
and her;" and making a profound bow, he swaggered from the apartment,
and hurried down-stairs, glad to escape from the presence of the unhappy
Countess.

His heart was moved when he saw her sink despairingly down on a
cushioned window-seat; but her having mentioned the Earl of Sutherland,
had armed his better spirit against her; and, not ill pleased that she
had given a legitimate cause for anger and jealousy, affording him an
apology to himself, he hurriedly crossed the palace yard, and without
any defined purpose, entered the Artillery Park, a large common that lay
to the eastward, and there he gave vent to his exciting reflections.

Mary was uppermost in his thoughts. The _flower_ had sealed his fate,
and that of Darnley too!  There had now opened before him a new vista of
the most alluring kind—a vista which he determined to pursue. The love
of the most beautiful of her sex—one occupying the summit of earthly
rank, with his own indomitable pride, ambition, and obstinacy, led him
on.  Were Darnley, the sickly boy-king, to die of the premature disease
that so evidently preyed upon him, or were he luckily to be slain in one
of the innumerable brawls and feuds in which his life of debauchery and
intrigue involved him, then Bothwell might hope to hold Mary, the
bright, the beautiful, and the winning, in his arms.  He already felt
the sceptre of Scotland in his grasp; he saw the house of Hepburn seated
on its throne; and Moray, Morton, Mar, and all who had ever hated;
feared, and wronged, or triumphed over him, in the days of his exile and
poverty, grovelling at his feet.

If Mary (as he was bold enough to believe) loved him in secret, as a man
of courage and gallantry it was _his_ part to progress, as she could not
make advances towards him. But Darnley must be removed; and how? for,
though weak and ailing, he might live long enough; and now was the time
to strike some vigorous political stroke, which might raise him
(Bothwell) to the giddy summit of his hopes, or hurl him for ever to
destruction and infamy.

"The die is cast!" he exclaimed.  "To this will I devote my life, my
soul, my existence; and my very energy will raise me even as a demigod
above my compeers. Yes, she loves me!  Curse on my blinded folly, that
saw it not before; and thrice cursed be this lordling of the Lennox,
that bars my path to rapture and to power!"

"Pho! hast thou not thy dagger?" said a voice.

The Earl turned, and beheld the lairds of Ormiston and Bolton; the
latter looking pale, and fierce, and agitated.

"How now, stout Bolton," said the Earl, "what hath ruffled thy easy
temper, and clouded that merry face of thine?"

"By the Rood of Broomholme!  I will slay him, even as Fynart slew his
ancestor at Lithgow Bridge, by one thrust of a sharp rapier—yea, in the
face of men!" exclaimed Bolton.

"Whom meanest thou?"

"The Lord Darnley!"

"Soh! a rare speech, and a bold one too, for the lieutenant of the
guard!" said the Earl.  "This is treason."

"But even-handed justice though," began Ormiston; "and by"——

"Now, peace with thy ’cock and pie.’"

"Bear with me a moment, my lord and friend, and I will tell thee how and
whence this anger sprung."

But the cause thereof is of so much importance to this history, that it
deserves a chapter to itself.



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                        *MARIETTE AND DARNLEY.*

    Lightly from fair to fair he flew.
    And loved to plead, lament, and sue;
    Suit lightly won, and short-lived pain!
    For monarchs seldom sigh in vain.
      _Scott._


Mariette Hubert, the sister of Nicholas Hubert or French Paris, one of
Mary’s favourite maids of honour, was the belle-ideal of a lively
Parisian girl of eighteen; her eyes were large, and dark, and laughing;
her features regular, piquant, and beautiful; her teeth like a row of
orient pearls.  She was always like a laughing Hebe: fresh, blooming,
and smiling.  Her black, glossy hair, was drawn upwards, from temples
whose snowy whiteness contrasted well with the sable wreaths.  She was
ever good humoured, and gay to a fault, with a strong dash of wilfulness
and coquetry.

In drollery, her lover, Sir John Hepburn, who had admired her long, was
her very counterpart; though, by the influence of circumstances and the
manners of the time, he was impetuous, obstinate, and quarrelsome; but
there were few gallants who were otherwise at that factious and
intriguing court.  Mariette, however, could smile him out of his anger,
laugh him out of his obstinacies, coquette with him to please him, and
with others to please herself.  She could prattle, too, and caress him
with a playfulness that were quite enchanting; and many a fierce feud
and desperate brawl were prevented by her tact, and by the power she
could exert over her lover, who, in virtue of his command in Mary’s
archer guard, was hourly brought in angry contact with the armed nobles
and their poor but proud followers; but never was he more enchanted than
when he discovered that his pretty and provoking Mariette, was a better
shot with the long bow at the butts, than the best archer in the royal
guard.

Though young Hepburn loved Mariette deeply and enthusiastically, he had
failed in inspiring the volatile and fanciful French girl with a passion
equal to his own.

She was gratified to find herself the object of attention, from one who
stood so high in the favour of Mary and the great Earl of Bothwell, and
who was esteemed one of the handsomest gallants at a court, which,
though shorn of the splendour that had characterised it under the late
King James, nevertheless retained within its circle all that was
splendid in Scotland.  With all her coquetry, she dreaded to trifle with
the jealousy of her assiduous lover; for there was in his bosom a latent
spark, that a little ruffling fanned into a flame; and in the use of his
sword, he possessed that cavalier-like prompitude, which was the leading
characteristic of the Scottish gentleman before he lost caste.

The love he bore Mariette had become so much a part of himself, that
Hepburn was no longer like other men, or what he had formerly been.  He
never had an idea in his head, of which Mariette did not form a part.
This passion affected his very manner, and interfered with his duties
and occupations, imparting a newness and peculiarity to his bearing and
manner, which drew upon him the raillery of Mary and her ladies, and the
wicked waggery of the fair object herself.

Though never perfectly certain of possessing her whole and undivided
heart, Hepburn received all the encouragement a lover could desire; for
Mariette loved to keep him in leading-strings, and attracted or repelled
him just as she was in the mood to dally or be petulant; and so between
hope and fear, and love and joy, a year had stolen away; and though
Hepburn fully considered Mariette as his ultimate wife, he knew not when
the volatile girl, who wore his bracelets and rings, and gave him
ribbons and ringlets in exchange, would yield her consent.

But a change came over the spirit of his dream, and suddenly he
discovered (he knew not why) a change in Mariette.

He had frequently observed the profligate young king by her side, and
then he began to experience a new and hitherto unknown agony gnawing at
his heart, and from thence it seemed to spread through every nerve and
fibre.  When they were together, he followed with painful interest every
movement and expression of Darnley, and could easily perceive that his
eyes were full of ardour when he gazed on Mariette, and that her
downcast face, so interesting by its waving locks and long dark lashes,
wore a soft smile whenever he whispered in her ear.

The lover’s impetuous heart became torn by wrath and jealousy, and
terrible ideas of revenge began to float before him; for, daring and
profligate as he knew Darnley to be, he was more than ever astonished at
his cool presumption in addressing Mariette Hubert as a lover under his
very eyes.

On the day succeeding that we have mentioned, when the famous scene took
place at the dial-stone in the royal garden, the lieutenant of the
archers, watching a time when the indefatigable royal _roué_ left
Mariette alone, approached her.  She was seated on a stone sofa; and she
who was wont to have eyes only for him, neither saw nor heard him, till
he lightly touched her soft shoulder, and then she raised her blushing
face, which immediately became ashy pale.

"Thou seemest absent, dear Mariette," said he.

"I wish that thou wert absent, too," she replied, pettishly, plucking
leaf by leaf a flower the king had given her.

"Mariette, look at me.  What hath come over thee?  Art thou bewitched?"
asked the young man, in a voice of anger and tenderness curiously
blended; for he could not stoop to acknowledge the suspicions which
filled his heart with bitterness and rage.  "Wherefore art thou now so
strange, so altered, so reserved, to one who loves thee so well, whose
every thought is of thee, and whose whole heart is full of thee?  Oh,
unkind Mariette!"

She changed colour and trembled; but, without raising her dark eyes,
continued in confusion and abstraction to pluck the leaves of the
flower.

"Grant me patience, Heaven!" muttered her impetuous lover, whose sorrow
still overpowered his rising wrath; "dearest Mariette, the gossips of
our court (God’s malison on them!) say that thy heart is changed towards
me; is—is this true?"

"No."

"By St. Bothan! that no sounds too like yes to mean anything else,"
exclaimed Bolton, giving way to his passion and jealousy; "but if thou
forgettest my faithful love, and preferrest the passing admiration of
this silken squire o’ dames—this carpet-king and holiday moth—whose
proffered love is alike insulting and dishonourable, marry, come up!  I
say, Mademoiselle Mariette—I wish thee joy!" and, with a profound bow
and glance of irony, he turned away.

Stung by his words and manner, which were partly assumed, Mariette
Hubert, who had been repenting the too serious encouragement given, and
still more a fatal promise made to the young king, now bent all her
thoughts upon him, and endeavoured to banish Hepburn from her memory;
while he, with all a lover’s indecision, walked slowly away, deploring
in his heart the outburst, which he was too proud and still too
indignant to repair.  Mariette gazed after him with her cheek flushing,
and her dark eyes full of fire, and so they parted—for the last time.

"Fool that I was to love a Frenchwoman!" thought the lover.

That night, as was his wont and duty, Hepburn, as lieutenant of the
guard, made his round of the archer sentinels posted at the various
gates of the palace, which was then, as we have said, a very irregular
but spacious edifice, containing five courts, with various offices,
stables, falconries, and kennels attached.

The night was dark and still, and a few large drops of rain plashed on
the pavement as he passed through the palace yard; while the red
sheet-lightning, flashing in the north, revealed at times the black
outline of the Calton hill.  Hepburn, in half armour, with his visor up,
entered the gardens by that ancient doorway which faces the south, and
is ornamented by the Scottish arms and order of the Thistle.  The clock
of the chapel tolled ten, and on passing the corner of James V.’s tower,
he looked up to the tall casements of the Queen’s apartments, to
discover the usual light in that of Mariette, though he knew she would
not be visible to him to-night.  Every window was dark as that of the
deserted chamber in which Rizzio was murdered, and the floor of which
was yet stained with his blood.

As Hepburn stood among the shrubbery, he perceived two figures approach
with all the caution of conspirators; and at once discovered one of
them, from his stature and bearing, to be the king.  He was muffled in a
mantle, and wore a mask and coat-of-mail. The other was his favourite
page, Master Andrew Macaige, and they carried between them a long light
ladder, which they had purloined from the stable yard.

Darnley clapped his hands, and then, from amid the square colossal mass
of James V.’s tower, which was all buried in darkness and obscurity, a
single ray of light shot forth into the garden, a female appeared, and,
while thoughts of grief, and wrath, and horror, poured like a deluge
upon the mind of Hepburn, he recognised his long-loved Mariette Hubert!
He remained in a stupor, and heard the ladder jar as the adventurous
prince placed it against the wall, and saw him, after wrapping his
mantle round his left arm, and belting his sword higher up, ascend with
considerable agility into the apartment, after which the window was
immediately closed, and the light extinguished.  The page carried off
the ladder to a secret place, not three yards from where Hepburn stood,
and, rolling himself up in his mantle, lay composedly down upon it to
sleep until he was summoned by the king.

The spell that had weighed like an incubus upon the faculties of the
lover, now passed away.  His first impulse prompted him to put his foot
upon the page’s neck and strangle him; his second, to wait the
reappearance of the king, and slay him without mercy.  But these fierce
promptings were left unacted, and he turned away to seek Bothwell, of
whose secret hopes and long-cherished rivalry and hatred to Darnley he
had seen so many proofs.  He raised his visor higher, for he felt almost
suffocated as he hurried through the cloisters.  There he met Hob of
Ormiston, also searching for the Earl, who, an archer informed them, had
just entered the Artillery Park.

With a manner that was marked by the deepest excitement, the young
knight related, not very coherently, the substance of the preceding
affair; and, unseen in the dark, a quiet laugh spread over Hob’s
malicious visage at the wrath and disappointment of his friend; but it
was otherwise with the Earl, who foresaw in all this something to
further his own ambitious schemes.

"I sought thee, Bothwell," said Hob, "to say, that an especial gentleman
of the Lord Morton’s train (no other than the knight of Spott), hath
come with the Earl’s best commendations to your lordship, and to say
that he and the Lord Moray, and one or two others thou wottest of, are
even now assembled at the castle of Craigmillar, where the queen went
about sunset, and where they crave your lordship’s suit, service, and
attendance.  I have ordered our horses!"—

"Thou ravest, Ormiston.  Morton and Moray are my mortal foes; and truly
no fault is it of mine that they breathe the breath of this life
to-nigh!  Anent what is this meeting?"

"The Lord Darnley," replied Ormiston, lowering his gruff voice.

"Ha!"

"And the best mode to rid Scotland and the queen too of his foolish
misgovernment, and the tyranny of Earl Matthew and the house of Lennox,
who, thou knowest, would gladly cut off thee and them, and every body
but themselves, if an opportunity occurred."

"By Jove, Hob! thou art a rash knave, and a bold one, to speak thus; but
thou knowest that the queen declined peremptorily the divorce offered
her by several Lords of the Parliament."

"True; hence this meeting, at which thou art expected to be leader and
chief, to obtain"——

"What?"

"A divorce from Darnley! that Mary may marry again, for her own
happiness and the commonweal of Scotland.  Thou well knowest how
miserable this popinjay squire maketh her.  And are we—bearded men who
rebelled against James V.—to submit to this new caterpillar?  I trow
not!"

Bothwell’s bosom glowed as Ormiston spoke; but he said sadly—

"Thou forgettest she is of the Church of Rome, and that, being so, she
may not wed again.  So what availeth a divorce?"

"Psha! ’tis long since I thought much about the Church of Rome."

"I am sure his Holiness, poor carle! deplored thy loss; but here is
French Paris with our horses.  Dismount, Nick, and give thy dapple to
Bolton; so now for Craigmillar—ho!  I go at all events."

They mounted and set forth by the old bridle road that ascended the hill
of St. John, and in a few minutes the great façade of the palace, the
tall and spectral edifices of the Canongate, the city, with its walls
and gates and twinkling lights, was left behind, as they debouched upon
the open country, which was all wood, and marsh, and pasture land, from
the outer walls to the castle of the Provost.  On their right, for a
mile or two, lay the common muir of the city, bordered by the bleak
hills of Braid; and on the left lay Salisbury’s ridgy craigs and
Arthur’s seat, with the deep blue loch of Duddingstone washing its base,
reflecting the stars in its bosom, and the dark shadow of the wooded
knoll, where, then a ruin, lay the old Saxon kirk in solitude.

Skirting the lake, they struck into the horse-way, that, between
thickets of fir, led straight to the venerable stronghold of the knights
of Gourtoun, which they saw looming before them in the starlight, with
its great square keep and double flanking towers, barbican, and ditch.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

           *THE PLOT THICKENS—THE CONFERENCE OF CRAIGMILLAR.*

    There’s many a feud still slumbering in its ashes,
    Whose embers yet are red.  Nobles we have
    Stout as old Greysteel, and as hot as Bothwell.
      _Auchindrane._


The celebrated conference of Craigmillar, is recorded too particularly
in our national history to be expatiated on here; nevertheless, a brief
notice is necessary to preserve the unity of the Magister Absalom’s
narrative.

In the apartment of the Lord Argyle, in that old feudal fortress, met
Bothwell and his brother-in-law Huntly, with Moray—openly their friend,
and secretly their foe—for frequently had they conspired each other’s
death by secret fraud and open violence; and Moray had personally
defeated, and caused the death of the old Earl, George of Huntly, at the
recent battle of Corrichie.  There, too, came the secretary of state,
the great Sir William Maitland of Lethington, who, notwithstanding his
skill in government and statecraft, lost his head in the desperate game
of politics seven years after.

This conference was held around the dais on which stood the couch of
Argyle, who was labouring under a severe illness.

Long and eloquently the talented secretary expatiated on the evils that
had resulted to the Scottish people, from Mary’s ill-assorted marriage
with the young and profligate Lord of Darnley; the rebellion it had
brought forth among the adherents of Chatelherault, in the west; among
the Gordons in the north; and the general discontent it had occasioned
by the peculiar religious tenets of the house of Lennox—a marriage
against which Master Knox had bitterly and abusively inveighed, and
which, to the loving, trusting, and devoted Mary, had become a source of
hourly misery; for the passing love of the profligate, unmindful of her
exalted rank, her matchless beauty, her sweetness of manner and charming
vivacity, had wandered to many inferior and unworthy objects.  Among
these he had squandered his patrimony, and the revenues of a crown which
he disgraced; thus, completely estranging the heart of the queen, by a
career of insult, neglect, and riot; by the hourly scandals he committed
in her palaces, and chief of all by the murder of her harmless
secretary—thus, making the breach irreparable by his lacking the art and
condescension to repair it.

He spoke, too, of those powerful barons who were still enduring
banishment as accessories to the destruction of the hapless Rizzio,
whose overweening pride and Italian birth had been his only crime;
barons, noble in descent and venerated in name—the kinsmen of those he
addressed; the veteran Kerr, whose ponderous ghisarma had done his
country such service at Pinkiecleugh; Patrick Lord Ruthven, then lying
ill of a deadly sickness in an English frontier village; the Laird of
Pitarrow and the Tutor of Pitcurr all brave Scottish knights, who were
enduring great misery in the land of our hereditary foes, by the seizure
of their ancestral castles and the confiscation of their estates; and
who, by the subversion of the house of Lennox, would be restored to
their country and friends, and released from a degrading position among
Englishmen—and the change he would propose, could only be effected by
the divorce of the young queen from her cousin.

The Earl of Moray, (who, with Morton, had been the secretary’s active
colleague in the Rizzio murder,) for private and ambitious views of his
own, from an early period had vehemently opposed her marriage, and even
proceeded so far as to take up arms against it in 1565.  He still, as we
are told, "pursued the old conspiracy against the king’s life," urging
the divorce with all his eloquence; and it may easily be believed that,
though his mortal foe, Bothwell seconded him on this occasion with an
ardour the source of which the wily Earl was not slow in perceiving;
and, together, they spared not the powers of invention and persuasion in
obviating Argyle’s many doubts that the queen "would consent to a
measure so indelicate and unpleasant as a divorce."

Full of ardour, as this new ray of hope dawned upon him at a time so
opportune, the Earl was more eloquent even than the subtle secretary;
but the morning sun shone through the barred windows, as red amid
October clouds he rose above Soltra edge, ere they came to a decision;
and the Earl of Moray, and Lethington, the Machiavel of Mary’s court,
undertook to urge the measure upon her with all their eloquence and
skill. Bothwell, with proper delicacy, and policy too, declined being
one of the deputation, for whose success he would have prayed, had he
not forgotten the way, in these days of reformation and misrule.

They left the apartment on their mission, for the queen was now up, and
said to be walking in the castle garden, where she daily offered food to
four stately swans that floated on the lake, which, in the form of a
gigantic P, (the first letter of Preston, the baron’s name,) occupied
one half of the ground.  It is still distinctly traceable to the
southward of the ruins, and was then supplied by the same springs that
filled the moat on the north.

Bothwell leaned against a window, watching the sunrise, and he could
hear his own heart beating.  Exhausted by illness, and the fatigue of
the conference, Argyle, after his page had given him a drink of ptisan
from a silver cup, had fallen sound asleep.  Huntly, perplexed and full
of bitter thoughts, turned over the leaves of an old brass-bound and
wooden-boarded tome—The Chronicle of ye novel and valiant Earle of
Flanders quho married the Devil; and he lay back, half-hidden in the
deep recess of the tower window, and never once addressed his
brother-in-law, to whose ambitious aspirations, and open neglect of his
beautiful sister, he was now no stranger.  And thus, though his eyes
were on Jehan Trepperel’s black-letter pages, it was perfectly apparent,
by his knitted brows and sullen silence, that his thoughts were
elsewhere.

The sun soared high in the blue vault; white as snow the morning mists
rolled up from the dell that was traversed by Lothian burn, on the
margin of which, a little hamlet of neatly ornamented cottages had been
built for the French attendants of Mary; and these, though changed in
aspect, are still known as Little France.  The pale smoke ascended in
columns into the pure air from the village of Niddry Mareschal, which,
with its chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin by Wauchope, baron of
Niddry, nestled among the brown autumnal copsewood to the east. The
woods of Edmiston were bare and yellow; and the hill on which the lords
of Craigmillar had reared up their strong square tower of the twelfth
century, was arid with whins, and gloomy with clumps of the dark
Scottish fir.

The time, and importance of the circumstances under which he viewed it,
deeply impressed every feature of that morning landscape on the Earl’s
memory.  His fate, and that of Scotland too, hung perhaps upon the
queen’s decision; and love and pride, ambition to achieve, and revenge
to gratify, all kindled a glow of anxiety in his bosom, that amounted to
torture.

Slowly the minutes passed on!

An hour wore away; he thought they would never reappear.  Argyle still
slept, and Huntly had at last become absorbed in the pages of "The
Valziant Earle;" for, thanks to the tutorship of old Gavin Dunbar, he
could read a little.

At last the deputation returned; Huntly closed his book, Argyle woke up,
and Moray gave one of his cold and mild smiles on seeing Bothwell’s
paleness and anxiety.

"She hath consented, sirs?" he asked in a breathless tone.

"Nay, my lord, she declined so peremptorily that we felt our heads shake
on our shoulders," replied the secretary; "and, by the rood!  I never
knew my statecraft and natural oiliness of tongue so far fail me in
doing service to myself and friends.  So here endeth all hope of a
divorce; for, though King Henry hateth and feareth her, as a burnt child
doth the fire, and though she wept bitterly—yea, like an abandoned Dido,
at his coldness and cruelty, and small love for her—she avows that she
will rather die than divorce him."

"And wherefore, thinkest thou, Sir William?"

"He was her first love, and only one; and, changed though he be, her
heart yet yearneth towards him; for though a queen, we find her a very
woman yet."

"Then farewell, my lords," said the Earl, assuming his cloak and mantle;
"I must wend townward betimes;" and he hurried to the court-yard,
summoning Ormiston and Hepburn, who had been stretched on benches by the
hall fire, the one asleep, and the other nursing his wrath. They all
mounted and galloped back to the city.

"Well, my lord, how went the conference?" asked Hob.

"She hath declined—proudly and wrathfully declined!"

"Cock and pie!"

"Yea, Ormiston, with anger and with tears."

"All woman’s caprice.  Tears!  Tush! they should give thee hope.  The
world"—

"Malediction on the world; it smiles on all but me."

"For thy comfort, I will tell thee a project which hath just been put
into my head.’

"By whom?"

"The devil, who, as thou knowest, never lies dead in the ditch.
Approach me"—and, raising his visor, Ormiston whispered something to the
Earl, who started; and Hepburn, who watched them with a keen eye,
exclaimed—

"Speak forth, Hob of Ormiston; for I see there is assassination in thine
eye, and here stand I, John Hepburn of Bolton, ready to be thine
abettor, in any deed of stouthrief or bloodshed; for I am frantic in
heart, frenzied in head, and ready to ride above my stirrups in the
blood of the Stuarts of Lennox!"

"No, no," replied the Earl; "Hepburn, thou hast thine own wrongs, and
mayest avenge them; but Ormiston, what is this thou hast said to me?
No, no, get thee behind me, thou tall limb of Satan, I will have none of
thy tempting."

Ormiston gave one of his deep hoarse laughs that shook every joint of
the mail in which his muscular figure was sheathed; and, spurring their
steeds, they rode furiously back to the city, by the old road that then
passed close to the solitary chapel of St. John the Baptist, on the
burgh-muir, and entered Edinburgh by the Old Horse Wynd, a street that
led to the porch of Holyrood Palace.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                            *FATHER TARBET.*

    Let us be patient! these severe afflictions
      Not from the ground arise;
    But often times celestial benedictions
      Assume this dark disguise.
        _Longfellow._


Three months passed away, and the spring of 1567 was at hand.

Bothwell’s love for Mary had grown more and more a part of his
existence, fostered as it was by the cunning of her brother the Earl of
Moray, whose boundless ambition made him hope that ultimately something
great might accrue to himself, were this wild passion properly moulded;
for Moray had early formed a hope of usurping the throne—a hope based
upon the queen’s unpopularity as a catholic, his own great influence,
and the helpless infancy of his nephew, James, the little crown prince
of Scotland.

"He hated Darnley," says Robertson; "and was no less hated by him.  In
order to be revenged, he entered into a sudden friendship with Bothwell,
his ancient and mortal enemy.  He encouraged him to crime, by giving him
hopes of marrying the queen. All this was done with a design to throw
upon the queen herself the imputation of being accessory to the murder
(of Darnley), and under that pretext to destroy Bothwell next—to depose
and imprison her, and to retain the sceptre which he had wrested out of
her hands."

The "godly" Earl saw all this in the distance; and the mistaken
Bothwell, whose daring hopes and unruly ambition he fostered and
cajoled, now sought his society as sedulously as before he had shunned
it. He had long been rid of Anna, who had been conveyed to her native
Norway, in charge of Christian Alborg, in the Biornen; and as for his
Countess, who resided in her father’s solitary castle of Strathbolgie,
among the woods and wilds of the Garioch, he never bestowed a thought on
her.  While her own brother, borne away by the tide of politics, and
infected by the spirit of ambition and intrigue that pervaded all, had
resolved to sacrifice even her to the giant projects formed by Bothwell
and the nobles of his faction.

Mary had resided alternately in Holyrood, and at her summer castle of
Craigmillar; but since the scene by the garden-dial, had never again
given the Earl an opportunity of addressing her alone; and, even in the
presence of her courtiers, she curbed her natural vivacity and gaiety of
manner, and addressed him with marked reserve.

In the old tower of Holyrood, enclosed by strong grilles and vigilant
archers of the guard, Konrad passed three months in hopeless and tedious
monotony—hopeless, because he knew not what might be his fate; and
tedious, because unmarked by any change, save the day-dawn and the
sunset, the morning visit of the archer who brought his breakfast, and
the nightly one of the warder, who secured all gates and doors when St.
Giles’ bell struck ten.

So passed the time.

Winter came, and the bleak summit of the Calton was covered with snow;
the trees around the palace, and the old orchards that crowned the
Abbeyhill, were leafless and bare; and drearily looked the chapel-royal
and ancient cloisters, with snow mantling their carved battlements and
time-worn knosps and pinnacles.

Then the poor prisoner sighed for his native hills, and night, after
night his dreams brought them before him in all their wild sublimity and
picturesque desolation.  Again he was among them in all the happiness of
boyhood, with Anna by his side, as she had beea in the days when first
he learned to love her—when they had sought the wild daisy and the
mountain bee by the green base of the lofty Dovrefeldt, whose summit was
glistening with impending glaciers, and crowned by eternal snows; whose
old primeval forests were the abode of the bear and eagle, and its
unfathomed caverns, of Druid ghosts, of demon dwarfs, and one-eyed
gnomes; whose sides were terrible with chasms split by the hammer of
Thor, and overshadowed by the petrified giants whom, in the days of
other years, his breath had turned into stone.  In his dreams, too, he
heard the dash of the free and boundless ocean that rolled on his native
shore; and he saw the vast Moskenstrom, that dark and fearful abyss,
around which for ever boil the eternal waves; in whose deep whirl the
largest wrecks are sucked like reeds down—down—to be carried through the
bowels of the inner earth, and vomited on the desolate shores of the
Bothnian Gulf; and from these stirring dreams of his distant home, and
the love and freedom of his boyhood, poor Konrad awoke, in agony to find
himself a captive and a slave, a prisoner without a crime; in a foreign
land, unpitied and uncared for, and without, a hope of reprieve, save
death. Often he exclaimed aloud, as he clasped his lettered hands; for
loneliness had taught him to commune with himself—

"How many a giant project have I formed in secresy and solitude, when
inspired alike by the ardour of youth and love, and here they end!  Oh,
Anna! dearly hath thy perfidy cost the heart that loved thee well."

He was often visited by Hepburn of Bolton, who, by Bothwell’s
directions, had him under his immediate guardianship; and, being a blunt
and soldierly young man, whose heart had been as yet unseared by
jealousy or disappointment, and then felt happy in the ideal love of his
Mariette, to console the prisoner, brought now and then a staup of
Rochelle under his mantle; and was wont to converse with him so
winningly and frankly, that he learned the particulars of his story, and
the errand which made him seek the Scottish shore.

"St. Bothan! but thou art a rare fellow, Master Konrad," said Bolton.
"Loving this damsel, and yet labouring to restore her to the arms of a
rival.  Rare platonism—by the mass!"

"Sir, thou knowest not the pure sentiment of love that animated me.  So
refined was my passion for this fair being, that so far from being happy
in possessing her, if she loved me not, I would have preferred to see
her happiness increased by the love of a rival"——

"Mass! if I understand either this or thee," said the lieutenant of the
archers, sipping his Rochelle with a face of perplexity.  "But I pray
Heaven I may never have reason to argue thus with myself!  A blow from
my poniard, or a bowshot at fifty paces, were worth a thousand such
homilies."

"Oh, yes!" continued Konrad, clasping his hands; "my love, though deep,
and passionate, and true, was divested of every sensual thought.  I had
schooled myself to joy when Anna rejoiced; to sorrow when Anna wept."

"I am no casuist," said Bolton; "but I think thou feedest thy
imagination rather than thy love, which must die, as it is hopeless."

"It sought her happiness, not my own—and thus it cannot die."

The young Scottish knight could not perceive this altogether; but he
admired Konrad without knowing why, and, to cheer his solitude,
introduced to the same prison Sir James Tarbet, the old priest before
mentioned, and who had still a few weeks of his term of captivity to
endure—a captivity imposed on all who dared to celebrate mass, since it
had been forbidden by law as an idolatrous ceremony, dedicated to the
devil and scarlet woman.

This good man, who was now in his seventieth year, had served his
country in his youth at the fields of Flodden, Solway Moss, and
Pinkiecleugh, and, though bent by the infirmities of age and three
spear-wounds, somewhat of the old bearing of the knight shone through
the mild manner and chastened aspect of the Catholic priest; and in his
eye and voice there were those mild and winning expressions, which the
followers of Ignatius Loyola are said alone to acquire. His forehead was
high, and his failing locks were thin.  His magnificent beard, white as
snow, lent a dignity to his aspect; and his figure had a stateliness, of
which not even his tattered doublet of grey cloth, his hodden mantle,
and ruffless shirt, could deprive it. And yet, though changed in aspect,
the time had been, when, sheathed in bright armour, he had spurred his
barbed horse through the thickest battalions of Surrey and Somerset;
and, in the rich vestments of a canon of St. Giles, had held aloft the
consecrated host on the great altar of that grand Cathedral, when the
sance bell rang, the organ pealed through all its echoing aisles, and
while thousands of Edina’s best and bravest, her noblest and her
greatest, knelt with bent knees and bowed heads on the pavement of the
chancel, choir, and nave, before the glittering star of the upheld
Eucharist.

By his manner, when bestowing upon him a silent benediction, Eonrad at
once recognised a priest of the ancient church, and he kissed the old
man’s hand with fervour.

"For what art thou here, father?" he asked.

"For worshiping God as he has been worshipped since his son left the
earth," replied the old man.  "But now Scotland’s apostate priests and
unlettered barons have discovered, that the forms and prayers of fifteen
centuries are idolatrous and superstitious, and severe laws are laid
upon us.  A gentleman pays a hundred pounds to the crown if he be
discovered at mass; a yeoman forty for the first fault, and death for
the second."

"I would then, father, that I were back in old Norway, and thou with me;
for there we can worship God as we will."

Interested by the young man’s gentle manner, Sir James Tarbet requested
to be informed of the crime for which he suffered; and Konrad, who had
but a confused idea of the chain of circumstances by which he was then a
prisoner, attributed the whole to the malevolence of Bothwell; and when
he concluded the history of his life and troubles—for to the aged canon
he told every thing with confidence and hope, and without reservation—he
mingled with it several threats of ultimate vengeance on the author of
his long oppression, and Anna’s wrongs.

"This must not be!" replied the priest. "By studying vengeance thou
keepest open thine own wounds, and pourest salt into them, so that they
never heal, or are forgotten.  Forgive this sinful Earl, and thou
conquerest him; forgive him for the sake of the sisterly love thou
bearest this Lady Anna, who loves him so well.  ’Be patient,’ saith a
wise Arabian, ’and the leaf of the mulberry-tree will become satin.’  By
avoiding misery, thou wilt find happiness; for misery tormenteth itself.
O my son! if, like me, thou wert aged and insensible to every emotion
save pity and compassion, thou wouldst know that the expectation of
eternal happiness in the world that is to come, will raise one far above
the petty strife and turmoil of this."

Konrad sighed, but made no reply.

"One virtue," continued the priest, "will counterbalance a hundred
vices; and if the Earl of Bothwell—ha! thou knittest thy brow with wrath
and hatred.  Remember that he who cherisheth either, is like unto the
fallen angels."

"I am but a mere man, father; and know that none would scorn me more for
woman weakness than that proud noble, were I to say unto him—Earl
Bothwell, I forgive thee!"

"Nay—bethink thee! he is most deserving of scorn who scorneth the
humble; even as he is the weakest who oppresseth the weak."

"True it is, father!" exclaimed Konrad, striking together his fettered
hands; "then here end all my visions of love and honour—my day-dreams of
ambition and joy."

"Say not of joy, or to what purpose serve my exhortations?"

"Father," said Konrad; "I am very desolate and broken in spirit, and
there are moments in my times of exceeding misery and depression, when I
would willingly seek in the church for that refuge which our holy
religion affords us; but I fear I am too much wedded to the world, and
am too young for a sacrifice so serious."

"Say not so!" replied Sir James Tarbet, with animation, for at such a
crisis of the Catholic church such sentiments were priceless to its
upholders.  "Youth lendeth additional grace to the practice of religion.
Of this I will talk with thee more anon; and I trust that the day may
come when I shall see thee hold aloft the blessed sacrament, on that
holy altar which this infatuated people have prostrated for a time—I
say, but for a time; for lo! again I see it rising phoenix-like from its
ashes, in greater splendour than ever the middle ages saw!"

Fired by the energy of the priest, who seemed like something ethereal,
as the noon-day sun streamed in a blaze of glory through the grated
window on his kindling eyes and silver beard, and soothed by his manner
and discourse, Konrad felt a new and hitherto unknown glow in his bosom,
especially when the old man knelt down, saying—

"Pray with me, for this is the festival of Saint Edmund, the king and
martyr; but, like many another consecrated day, it passes now in
Scotland’s hills and glens, unmarked by piety and prayer; for now, her
sons can view with apathy the ruins of her altars, and the grass growing
green in the aisles where their fathers prayed, and where their bones
repose."



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                             *THE WHISPER.*

    Thence rugged toil attends his mazy way,
    And misery marks him for her prey;
    _Sedition, envy, murder, passion, strife,_
    Spread horror o’er his path of life;
    These to the hated mansion lead,
    Where cheerless age reclines his drooping head.
      _Sophocles._


The whisper of Hob of Ormiston had not been lost on the Earl; hourly it
haunted him; he thought of it by day, he dreamt of it by night.

Amid the pleasures of the table, the noise of the midnight revel, the
ceremonies of the court, the debates of the council, the solemnities of
the church, in the glare of the noonday sun, and, worst of all, in the
silence of the voiceless night, that fatal whisper was in his ear, and
fanning the latent spark of hell that lay smouldering in his heart.

He deemed himself predestined to accomplish that terrible advice; but
still his soul recoiled within itself, and even the ardour of his love
for Mary, and his hatred of her husband, were stifled for a time at the
terrible contemplation.  Life lost its pleasures—power and feudal
splendour their zest; his employments were neglected; his attire,
usually so magnificent, was never as it used to be—for a change had come
over him, and that change was apparent to all.  Mary could perceive
that, at times, a dusky fire filled his dark and gloomy eyes, and then
she immediately shunned their gaze.  His brow had become pale and
veined, and marked by thought and care.  The gentle queen pitied him;
and when compelled to address him (for he was still her most
distinguished courtier), she did so with a kindness and reserve that
only added fuel to the secret flame that preyed upon the Earl’s heart.

The coldness, separation, and unconcealed dislike between Mary and King
Henry still continued, and they were, to all appearance, irreconcilable;
till he, after running headlong on a frightful career of luxury and mad
riot at Glasgow, where he was residing at his father’s mansion of
Limmerfield, was seized with a deadly fever, which ended in that
dreadful and loathsome disease, the smallpox, then very prevalent in the
west country. And now, when prostrated in all his energies, abandoned by
friends and foes, by the panders, and jockies, and boon companions among
whom he had squandered his health and wealth, his own peace and the
peace of his queen and wife—she nobly was the _first_ who flew to his
succour.

With a small train she departed in haste to the infant capital of the
west; and Bothwell, who, with all his love, could not accompany her on
such a visit, (though he admired her the more for it,) accompanied by
Ormiston and Bolton, set out for the house of Whittinghame, a stately
fortalice in his constabulary of Haddington, and belonging to Archibald
Douglas, a kinsman and adherent of the Earl of Morton.

By a strange coincidence, rather than a mutual compact, many other peers
and barons who were hostile to the house of Lennox and its heir, were
then also visiting the intriguing lord of Whittinghame; and, like
several rills uniting in a river, the whole current of their
conversation, thoughts, and sentiments, were bent on the destruction of
the Stuarts of Lennox, either by secret and Machiavelian fraud, or in
the good old Scottish fashion, with the displayed banner and uplifted
spear.

The darkness of a winter night had closed over the keep and woods of
Whittinghame; there was no snow on the ground, but as the sky was
starless the gloom was intense. Sheet-lightning at times illumined the
far horizon, and brought forward strong in relief from the lurid
background, the black and towering cones of Gulane hill and Berwick’s
lofty law—that landmark of the German sea—but all was still, and not a
branch stirring in the leafless woods, when silently and noiselessly,
all well armed, masked, and muffled in their mantles, the guests of the
lord of Whittinghame assembled under the sepulchral shadow of a great
and venerable yew-tree, that still stands near the castle wall, and is
pointed out to the curious as the scene of their meeting.

Thick and impervious, the yew cast its umbrageous shade above them, and
formed a fitting canopy for such a conclave of darkness and desperation;
and heavily the chill dew dripped from the pendant branches.

There were present four peers and several of the lesser barons; Argyle,
the proud but wavering Huntly, and Morton, cool and determined, and
Bothwell, now the arch conspirator and Cataline of the conclave, with
knit brows and clenched hands; a bloodless cheek, and lips compressed
and pallid; a tongue that trembled alternately between the very load of
eloquence that oppressed it, and the darkness of the purpose to which
that dangerous eloquence was directed.

How little did some of these conspirators divine the other sentiment, so
wild and guilty, that was making public utility an excuse for regicide;
and that filled with an agony, almost amounting to suffocation, the
breast of Scotland’s greatest earl.

Near him stood his friend and evil mentor, that double-tongued master of
intrigue and prince of plotters, Maitland the secretary, with his broad
and massive brow, so high, so pale, and intellectual, his eagle eye and
thin lips; and black Ormiston, the muscular and strong, whose qualities
were those of the body only—the iron baron of his time, unscrupulous and
bloodthirsty; from childhood inured to rapine, strife, and slaughter;
while Bolton, the young and handsome, inspired to seek all the vengeance
that rivalry and scorned love could prompt, was by turns as fierce as
Morton, as politic and cruel as Maitland, as sullen as Argyle.

And there in whispers, under that old sepulchral yew, was debated and
resolved on that deed of treason, of darkness, and of horror, that from
Scotland’s capital was to send forth an echo over Europe—an echo that
would never die—the murder of King Henry, as a fool and tyrant, who had
rendered himself intolerable to the people. What passed is unknown, for
history has failed to record it; and not even the voluminous rolls of
Magister Absalom Beyer can supply the blank, save in one instance.
Ormiston, with a treachery at which we blush in a Scottish baron,
proposed that the Norwegian prisoner in Holyrood might easily be made a
valuable tool in the affair; and that, by some adroitness, the whole
blame of the projected assassination might be thrown upon him.  This
motion, which exactly suited his own ideas and taste, was warmly
applauded by the Earl of Morton, and agreed to by the others, who cared
not a jot about the matter.

The die was cast—the deed resolved on.

Then from beneath his mantle, the learned knight of Pittendriech, the
Lord President of the supreme court, (a man still famous for his works
on Scottish law,) drew forth a parchment, written and prepared with more
than legal accuracy, and more than wolfish cruelty, by which they each
and all bound themselves to stand by each other, in weal or woe, in
victory or triumph, in defeat and death, with tower and vassal, life and
limb; and to this bond they each in succession placed their seals and
marks, or signatures; and feebly fell the light of a flickering taper on
their pale visages and fierce eyes, as they appended their dishonoured
titles to that Draconian deed, which the pale secretary received, and
put up in his secret pocket, with such a smile as Satan would have done
the assignment of their souls.[*]


[*] Mr. Carte, from a letter of Monsieur de Fenelon, 5th January, 1574,
acquaints us, that Ormiston confessed that the Earl of Bothwell shewed
him a paper subscribed by the Earls of Argyle, Huntly, and Morton, Sir
James Balfour, and Secretary Maitland, promising him assistance in
murdering the king. Various other authors give us proofs of the
existence of the document.—See _Goodal_, vol. i.


Now with some precipitation they all prepared to separate.

"Farewell, laird of Whittinghame!" said Bothwell, as he leaped upon his
horse, feeling that the probable excitement of a hard gallop would be a
relief from his own thoughts, or more congenial with their impetuosity;
"and farewell, my lords and gentlemen!  Now for the bloody game, and
Scotland be thou my chess-board of battle! There shall I make knights
and queens, and rooks and pawns, to move at my will, and to vanish when
I list.  Mount, Ormiston! and ho—for Edinburgh!"



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                      *THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD.*

    _Victorian_.  Let me hear thy voice, and I am happy;
    For every tone, like some secret incantation,
    Calls up the buried past to plead for me—
    Speak my beloved—speak onto my heart,
    Whatever fills and agitates thine own.
      _The Spanish Student, Act III._


With the dogged resolution of one who neither will nor knows how to
swerve from a purpose, Bothwell, with Ormiston and Bolton, laid their
plans with Morton and others for the accomplishment of their terrible
compact.

Any qualms the Earl had, were nearly stifled by the intelligence of
Mary’s complete reconciliation with her husband, for whom all her
natural tenderness, as the first love and choice of her heart, returned;
and, notwithstanding the loathly and disfiguring disease under which he
laboured, and the great personal risk incurred by herself, like a
"ministering angel" she hung over the sick-bed of the repentant
profligate, who frequently implored her pardon and forgiveness—and in
tears poor Mary blessed and forgave him.

Exaggerated tidings of these passages fired the fierce soul of the Earl
with jealousy and wrath, at what he deemed the mere caprice of a pretty
woman; but the gage had been thrown to fate, and a cloud was gathering
over Mary’s thorny crown, which as yet she neither saw nor felt.

His youth, and the natural strength of his constitution, enabled the
young king to surmount that disease which had baffled the skill of
Maitre Picauet, the half quack, half astrologer leech, who attended him;
and, as soon as he was convalescent, the queen had him conveyed in a
soft litter, by easy stages, to the capital, hoping that by the luxuries
procurable there, the purity of the air, and better attendance, he might
be fully restored to health and to her.

Upon this the conspirators, still alive to their intentions, sent the
Lord President of the College of Justice to make offer of an ancient
mansion that was situated on rising ground to the southward of
Edinburgh, exposed to the pure breeze beyond the city walls, from the
woods of the burgh-muir, and the beautiful sheet of water which they
bordered.  The unsuspecting Mary gratefully accepted the courteous
offer, and there the poor young king was conveyed to——die.

This house belonged to the Lord President’s brother, Robert Balfour,
Provost of "the Collegiate Kirk of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the
Fields."  It had long been uninhabited; and was situated, says Buchanan,
in a lonesome and solitary place, between the ruins of two churches,
"where no noise or outcry could be heard."  It stood without the city
walls, on the site now occupied by Drummond Street.

Small, ancient, and massive, it was probably coeval with its church,
which had been built in 1220 by Alexander II.  Its front faced the west;
and from thence a view from the windows extended over fields to the
hamlet of Lauriston.  Its northern gable was so close to the strong wall
of the city, that its principal door was but one pace distant from an
arched postern which is still discernible in the former, and was then
flanked by a massive tower.  To the westward lay the Kirk-of-Field, a
great cross church with buttressed walls and pointed windows, for so it
is shown in a print of 1544.  To the eastward lay the ruins of the
Dominican monastery, which had been burned down in 1528. Of these the
fragment of a tower still survived, with an ancient gate, bearing in
Saxon characters the same legend still remaining to this day in the wall
of the Kirk-of-Field Wynd, which now bears another name—

                 Ave Maria, gratia plena Dominus Terum,

_i.e._, "Hail Mary! full with grace—the Lord be with you."  On the south
the fields extended to the spacious common muir of the city, which was
shaded by many a Druid oak; and to the eastward the ground descended
suddenly into the lonely valley at the foot of Salisbury craigs.  To the
north lay the long line of the city ramparts, with the barrier-portes of
the Kirk-of-Field and Bristo, with their round arches flanked by strong
towers, where the brass culverins scowled through deep embrasures, and
the heads of Rizzio’s minor murderers grinned on iron spikes.

The humble dwelling in which Mary’s incaution and the conspirators’
cunning had lodged the young king, was a two-storied house; a small
corridor, having a room on each side, led to a tower behind, wherein
(after the Scottish fashion) a circular stair gave access to the upper
story, which contained but two apartments, corresponding with two on the
ground floor.

Darnley occupied one; the queen had the chamber below, and beneath it
were those vaults of which the conspirators made a use so fatal; on the
south lay a spacious garden shaded by many venerable fruit-trees, which
had been reared by prebendaries of St. Mary.

It was now the month of February, 1567.

Thaws, and the increasing heat of the sun, had dispelled the snow from
moor and mountain side, though a little still lingered on the peaks of
the beautiful Pentlands.  The atmosphere was teeming with humid vapours,
and the ice that had so long bound the loch of the city, had been
dissipated, and once more the snowy swan and the sable coot floated on
its azure bosom.  The thatch on the cottage roofs of Lauriston was once
again of emerald green, and the tufted grass began to droop, where for
the past winter the icicle had hung.

Each morning, as he rose above Arthur’s Seat, the sun shone more merrily
on the barred windows of the close chamber where the sick king lay; and
he heard the voices of the mavis and merle, as they sang on the dewy
trees of the ancient orchard.  A showery Candlemas-tide had come and
gone, unmarked by ceremony or prayer; but old people congratulated each
other on the prospect of a beautiful spring, as they repeated the
ancient saw—

    "Gif Candlemass is fair and clear,
    We’ll hae twa winters in the year;"

and merrily the hoodie-crow cawed in the blue sky, and the sparrow
twittered on the budding hedges, while the ploughman whistled on the
rigs of Lauriston and St. Leonard, and urged through the teeming earth
their old Scottish ploughs, that were drawn by four oxen, and had but
one stilt, like those described by Virgil in his first Georgic.

Darnley was slowly recovering, and the young queen, animated perhaps
more by pity than affection, still attended him with an assiduity that
was no less remarkable than praiseworthy.  One of his pages slept
constantly in the chamber, and was ever at his call by day and by night;
while Mary, when not attending the council at Holyrood, with a few
attendants occupied the rooms below.

Many of the nobles came to the house daily, and Bothwell among them,
making dutiful enquiries concerning the progress of the king’s illness
rather than his health; for many of them hoped he yet would die, and so
save them from the guilty deed designed.

It was the evening of the 10th February, and every part of the plan for
the accomplishment of the king’s destruction was in progress: an
opportunity alone was waited.

In the antechamber of his apartment, a little room, hung with some of
that rich arras which Mary had brought with her from France, she was
seated with the young prince upon her knee—then a flaxen-haired and
hazel-eyed infant of eight months.  Mary was paler than usual; for many
a night-watch by Darnley’s fever couch had injured her health, and
increased that pain of which she so frequently complained, in her side.
The prince’s nurse or governess, Annabella of Tullibardine, the
venerable Countess of Mar, attired in a great tub fardingale of black
brocaded satin, and a towering linen coif of Queen Margaret’s days,
leaned on the back of Mary’s chair, toying with the infant, and making
it crow and smile.

Bolton, as lieutenant of the archers, stood in the recess of a window at
the lower end of the room, accoutred in half armour, and having his
helmet lying near him; and Bothwell, clad in black velvet, magnificently
embroidered with Venetian gold, his sword and waistbelt, his poniard and
bonnet blazing with jewels, as his blue velvet mantle did with spangles,
stood in another, clanking his gold spurs, and pointing his
well-perfumed and pomatumed mustaches; for, however deep and deadly his
projects, he now never omitted an opportunity of appearing to the best
advantage in Mary’s presence; and on this evening nothing could surpass
the splendour of his aspect and the gallantry of his air.

How little could Mary conceive the guilty hopes then animating his proud
heart, and the dark purposes concealed under an exterior so
prepossessing!

"My Lady Mar!" said she, stopping suddenly in her play with the infant,
on whom she was pouring all that maternal tenderness, which was the
stronger because there was no other object with whom to share her love;
"how goeth the time?  Is it the hour at which Picauet the leech desired
his grace to receive the ptisan?"

"I have no horologue," replied the aged Countess.  "Beside, I deem them
the work of sorcerers; but Sir John Hepburn can see the dial-stone at
the corner there.  What sayeth the gun?"

"’Tis three by the dial, noble lady," replied the archer, peering
through the grated casement.

"_Jesu!_" exclaimed the Queen; "_comme le temps passe_!  ’Tis time I
were busking me for Sebastian’s bridal.  Lord Bothwell—thou knowest the
Chevalier Sebastian?  He is one of my foreign musicians, who is to be
wedded to-night at Holyrood, where, in the old fashion, I have promised
to put the bride to bed.  _Ma foi!_ but ’tis droll!"

"Indeed!" responded the Earl, scarcely knowing what he said.

"What! hast thou not heard that I am to give a ball in consequence,
despite Knox and his rebellious sermons?  Did not the master of the
household, Sir Gilbert Balfour, invite thee?"

"True, madam; but I have to keep a tryst with the Knight of Ormiston,
which will—will preclude, as thou—pardon me, I mean your Majesty, will
perceive"——  The Earl paused; he was seriously embarrassed, and his face
became deadly pale; but he was relieved on the arras covering the door
of Darnley’s chamber being softly raised, and a slight but handsome
page—a pale and delicate boy—richly attired in a jaquette of carnation
velvet, laced and buttoned with gold, with his well-rounded legs encased
in white silk hosen—appeared, and said in a low and hurried voice—

"Madam—his majesty is asking for the ptisan ordered by your physician,
Martin de Picauet."

"It will be ready in a minute," said the stately old noblewoman, as she
peered with her keen eyes into a silver pot, which had been simmering on
the warm hearthstone, and contained one of those medicinal decoctions
for which the dames of other days were so famous—a notable ptisan, made
of barley boiled with raisins, liquorice, and other ingredients, which
she carefully stirred widdershins; that is, the reverse of the sun’s
course, otherwise its whole power, virtue, and efficacy, would have been
lost.  "Lord Bothwell," said she, "wilt thou favour me so far as to see
that his grace takes the whole of this, my medicated draught?"

"I assure you, noble madam, that my good friend Bolton is much more of a
nurse, and hath more of a lady’s nature, than I," replied the Earl, who
found it impossible, at one and the same time, to love Mary and
sympathize with her husband, whom he sincerely wished to take his speedy
departure to a better world.  Mary gave him one keen, reproachful
glance; but Hepburn, who was anxious to behold, but with no
compassionate eye, the man whom he had doomed to destruction—for the
memory of the night-scene in the garden of Holyrood still rankled in his
memory—that night, since when he had never seen his loved and lost
Mariette, for the profligate king had spirited her away.  Now the full
glow of hatred rose darkly in his haughty and resentful heart; so,
taking from the countess the old peg-tankard containing the ptisan, he
raised the arras and entered the chamber of Darnley; but almost at the
same moment the page and the anxious old countess followed.

Bothwell, who had been relieved by the presence of others, now trembled;
for the continual restraint he imposed upon his ardour, made him feel
how dangerous was the predicament in which he stood.  Should he not shun
this dark temptation, that was gradually verging him, like a rudderless
ship, on the shoals of destruction?  Should he not fly the witcheries of
Mary, and the charm of her presence, while he yet had the power?  No!
For the hatred he cherished against Darnley, the secret favour which he
fondly imagined was borne him in Mary’s heart, his own unbounded
ambition and haughty pride, all forbade such a measure.

His better angel wept, and Bothwell stayed!

He drew nearer the queen.

There, in the full glory of the setting sun, in the curtained recess of
that tall pointed window, sat the young and royal mother, in all the
bloom of four-and-twenty, and the charms of her innocence and beauty.
The little prince (he who, in future times, would "a twofold ball and
treble sceptre carry,") lay in her lap, pulling with his dimpled hands
the massive tresses of her bright auburn hair, that, like the softest
silk, unbound by his playfulness, rolled over her thick ruff, and pure
alabaster neck.

The Earl thought her more beautiful and touching in her maternity, then
she seemed when in all her maiden loveliness at the court of the
Tournelles.  Mary, who felt a little confused on finding herself alone
with one to whose secret hopes she was now no stranger, never once
raised her dark eyes to the glowing face that she knew full well was
bent with ardour upon her; and, though secure in the innocence of her
own heart, she felt that she was in a dangerous vicinity; and, blushing
at the recollection of the garden scene, never once addressed the Earl,
who, restrained by etiquette, remained silent and in his place, playing
with the gold tassel of his long rapier.

How loveable, how amiable Mary seemed, and how different from her cousin
of England, the puissant Elizabeth; in her cold and stale virginity—her
old maiden folly, and youthful frippery; her dancing at seventy years of
age before the ambassadors of Scotland and Spain, to shew how very young
she was!

As the Earl gazed upon Mary, love filled his mind with the most
glittering illusions, and cast a halo round her that dazzled bun. He
almost fancied himself the husband of the beautiful being before him,
and the father of the little cherub on her knee; a glow, to which his
heart had yet been a stranger, swelled up within it, as the brief
hallucination became more complete.  His passing flame for Anna and his
Countess—his schemes of power and grandeur—were all forgotten and merged
in the joy that filled his bosom.  There was something almost pure and
holy in it; and he felt, that were he really what he strove to imagine
himself, he would become an altered man—he could for evermore be good,
and just, and saintly.

The sound of a shrill silver whistle (there were then no handbells) from
the next room where Darnley lay sick, dispelled the illusion; the queen
hurriedly placed her babe in its cradle of carved oak, and hastened
away, with buoyancy in her step, and anxiety in her eye.

Dark as midnight was the expression that lowered on Bothwell’s brow,
when thus brought suddenly back to the world of realities, and, like a
flood, the stern compact made under that baleful yew at
Whittinghame—that doubly attested bond of blood—the danger to be dared
and the deed to be done, all rushed upon his memory, and he smote his
pale forehead, as with confusion and agony he staggered under the very
gush of his own dreadful thoughts.

But there was no time to be lost.

The sun was verging towards the Pentland’s western peaks.  He had to
meet his friends at the lodging of the laird of Ormiston in the High
Street, for much had yet to be done ere.......

He thrust away the thought, and, bowing to the Countess of Mar, drew his
mantle about him and rushed away.



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                           *THE KING’S PAGE.*

      And thou, my heart,
    That idly tremblest at the thought of death,
    Soon in the tomb thy anxious pulse shall cease
    To slumber in eternal rest.
        _Panthea, a Tragedy._


The chamber was dark, for its grated windows faced the east, and the
time was evening; the curtains were half drawn, to exclude the light,
which was already partly secluded by a great gloomy bastel-house of the
town rampart.  The walls of the room were panneled, and, like the
ceiling, painted with a variety of grotesque designs, amid which, as
usual, the thistle and fleur-de-lys bore conspicuous places; but,
according to the ancient and primitive mode, the floor was strewn with
green rushes, freshly pulled from the margin of the neighbouring
lake.[*]

[*] Hentzner, in his _Itineray_, writing of Queen Elizabeth’s chamber at
Greenwich, says, "the floor, after the English mode, was strewed with
_hay_," evidently meaning rushes—See _Brand_.

The young king was sleeping heavily and uneasily.

Raised upon a dais of steps, his bed was ancient and massive; the posts,
of walnut-tree, were covered with quaint designs, and carved into four
tall figures, having the heads of men, with eagle’s wings and lion’s
bodies; rising from pedestals, they seemed like dusky demons upholding
the canopy of a tomb; for the festoons of the bed were of crimson
velvet, flowered by the fair hands of Mary and her ladies; the seats of
the high-backed chairs were all of the same costly materials.

Sharpened and attenuated by disease, Darnley’s features glimmered in the
subdued light, like those of a rigid corpse; and the myriad pustules
incident to the hideous ailment under which he suffered, were apparent
to the louring eye of Bolton, who, remembering that night in the garden
of Holyrood, gazed upon him with sensations akin to those of a tigress
robbed of her cubs; and the age was not one when men sat placidly under
a sense of wrong, or repressed their impulses either of good or evil.

He gave the goblet to the page, whose hand trembled, and whose eye was
averted as he received it; then, creeping softly to the side of the
slumberer, he placed an arm affectionately under his head, raised it,
awoke him, and placed the ptisan to his parched lips, and thirstily
Darnley drank of the grateful beverage.

At that moment a ray of sunset, reflected from the wall of the adjacent
bastel-house, lit up the chamber, and the hollow recess of that great
bed, where the kingly sufferer lay; and through the disguise of a page’s
jaquette and ruff, the trunk hosen and shorn hair, Bolton recognised
Mariette Hubert—his lost, his fallen Mariette, with her arm round
Darnley’s head, that head pressed against her breast; and this was under
his own eyes.

He gave an involuntary start—an exclamation rose to his lips, but died
there; and all he had lately heard of this false page’s tenderness and
assiduity, flashed like fire upon his memory, and his hand wandered to
the halft of his dagger, for grimly the thoughts of assassination and
revenge floated before him.

Darnley kissed her hand as he sank back exhausted; thus showing that he
was aware of her sex, and a blindness seemed to fall upon the eyes of
Bolton, for he had loved that French coquette with all the depth and
truth of a brave and romantic heart; but the sight of all this
tenderness lavished on a rival, and the consciousness that Mariette,
whom he would have raised to the rank of a Scottish baron’s wife, was
content to be the mistress of this profligate king, entered like ice
into his heart.  There was a terrible expression in his face, when
Mariette gave him one furtive glance of her timid eyes, and saw that she
was discovered.

Fascinated and terrified by the sad and tender, yet serpent-like gaze of
her former lover, she dared not remove her eyes; but sank down on the
dais of the bed, and, clasping her hands, said in a low voice,—

"Ah, monsieur! forgive me?  If ever thou didst love, in pity now forgive
me!  Thou knowest not what I have endured since I wronged thee—and how I
have endeavoured to atone for it"——

"By such a scene as this?" replied Bolton, with a bitter smile; "but
enough!  I hope his majesty hath enjoyed his draught of the ptisan; for
I doubt mickle if my Lady Mar will make such another browst—for _him_ at
least."

"Dost thou think he will die?" asked Mariette, breathlessly.

"_Not_ of the fever!" replied Bolton, grimly.  "But be true to thy
charge, Mademoiselle Hubert—anon I will be with thee."

"Thou—when?" asked Mariette, gathering courage from his stoical coldness
of manner.

"_To-night!_" he replied, with a smile that terrified her, as he took
the ptisan cap from her passive hand, and left the chamber by a door
opposite to that by which he had entered.

There was an agony in his heart that impelled him to seek solitude.
Descending the turnpike stair by three steps at a time, and issuing into
the fields, he traversed the path that led under the city walls towards
the Porte of St. Mary’s Wynd.

The shadows of evening deepened into those of night, and the hour
approached when Mary was to set forth to attend the espousal of her
favourite damsel, Margaret Corewood, to Sebastian the musician; which
ceremony, with her usual love of gaiety and society, she resolved to
celebrate by a ball, or, as it was then named, a _hall_.

A strong instance of Mary’s returning love for her husband, was this
night evinced by her leaving the hall at nine o’clock, and hurrying back
to the lonely house of the Kirk-of-Field, with a few attendants, to
visit him once more before the dancing began.

Whether the marriage of Margaret Corewood had brought back the memory of
their own, in all its first freshness, in Mary’s ardent mind, or that
joy to behold the changed manner and subdued aspect of her haughty and
profligate husband, had rekindled her early love for him, is unknown;
but this last interview between them was marked by unusual tenderness.

She kissed him repeatedly, soothed him by her winning and playful
manner—and, placing a valuable ring upon his hand, blessed him with
fervour; and then, with a light heart and a happy spirit, hurried away
to finish the festivities at Holyrood, and "put the bride to bed."

The malevolent Buchanan, who, forgetful of many a favour, was Mary’s
bitterest enemy, and but for whose elegant Latin the vulgar Edinburgh
gossip of 1567 would never have reached us, states, that during this
interview the queen was aware that the conspirators were placing powder
in the chambers below. But the depositions taken in the presence of the
Lords of the Secret Council evince the contrary; and Camden assures us,
that Buchanan, on his death-bed, deplored with tears the falsehoods he
had handed down to posterity.

It is remarkable that a presentiment of his approaching fate haunted the
mind of the young king, who frequently said that he knew he was to be
slain.  He became sad and thoughtful; and, chanting the 55th Psalm, fell
asleep with his head on the shoulder of Mariette Hubert.



                             *CHAPTER XXV.*

                   *IN THREE HOURS IT WILL BE TIME.*

    Thou sure and firm-set earth!
    Hear not my footsteps, which way they walk, for fear
    Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
    And take the present horror from a time
    Which now suits with it.
      _Macbeth._


Evening drew on, while, buried in deep thought, the Earl walked from the
house of the Kirk-of-Field, without knowing whence his steps led, until
he found himself on the hill of St. Leonard, where the ruined chapel,
dedicated to that holy hermit, overlooked the deep and grassy vale that
lay between it and the imposing craigs of Salisbury, whose brows of
rugged basalt towered up against the blue sky in rigid outline.

All around these ruins was desolate and bare; and, save a few sheep
browsing on the sprouting herbage, there was no living thing near him.
Bothwell could hear the pulses of his heart.  He leant against the shaft
of Umfraville’s cross—a time-worn relic of antiquity, that in those days
stood on the pathway near the chapel; and, folding his arms in his
mantle, endeavoured to compose and arrange the tumult of his thoughts.

The spring evening was serene, and the scenery beautiful.  Afar off,
amid a blaze of saffron, the sun’s flaming circle seemed to rest on the
western flank of the magnificent Pentland chain; and each mountain came
forward in strong warm light, while the valleys between were veiled in
shadow.

The sound of a distant bell fell on the ear of the Earl.

"Seven o’clock," said he; "in three hours it will be time!"

Sheltered by towering hills, and overhung by the aspiring city, he saw
the old monastic palace, sleeping, as it were, at the bottom of a dell,
all seemed so still around it; and far beyond lay the dark blue German
sea, dotted with the sails of Flemish crayers and galleys of Rochelle;
but its bosom grew darker as the daylight died away behind the distant
hills.

The shadows grew longer and darker, and obscurity veiled the valley
where the palace lay.

Full upon Edina’s castled rock and all her lofty hills, fell the last
light of the western sun, from between glowing bars of golden cloud; and
their giant shadows, broad, vast, and dewy, were thrown to the eastward,
becoming, as the sun sunk, longer and longer, till they reached the
ocean, that rolled upon the almost desert shore of the Figgate muir. The
gradual fading of the light amid the mountain solitude that overhung the
city, soothed and saddened the Earl, for the spot was wild and lonely;
the black eagle and the osprey then built their nests in the craigs of
Salisbury; and the red fox and the dun fuimart reared their cubs
undisturbed in the valley below.

He felt an agitation and a compunction hitherto unknown, in his bosom;
and, as the day faded, he watched its decline with the anxiety of a man
who was to die at nightfall.

The shadows ascended from the low places to the higher, rising slowly,
surely, broadly, like a transparent tide, on the trunks of the lofty
oaks that shaded the city muir, on the slopes of Arthur’s Seat and
Samson’s stony ribs, on St. Giles’s diademed tower, and the castle’s
bannered keep—up, up the Pentlands’ sides it crept slowly and silently,
the coming night (that night which was never to be forgotten by him),
till the last gleam of the west died away on the heath-clad peak of
Torduff, the loftiest of that magnificent chain of mountains.

It was gone! the whole hills were sunk in sombre shadow; the evening
star began to twinkle above the ruined spire of St. Mary’s Kirk, and
night and silence stole upon the world together.

"Would this night were over!" muttered the Earl, passing his hand across
his clammy brow.  "Would to God it were!—God! how dare I to name
_him_?".....

He gave one long, keen glance at the distant house of the Kirk-of-Field,
and saw its lofty outline, with crowstepped roofs and turnpike tower,
standing in dark relief between him and the blushing west; a light was
beginning to twinkle in one of the apartments.

It was from that where Darnley lay.

Already, with remorse, Bothwell thought of poor Konrad of Saltzberg; for
aware that, in its first fury, the popular vengeance would require some
victim to glut its outpouring, Ormiston—ever cool, calculating and
ruthless—had recommended, as we have stated, that the friendless
foreigner should be involved in that night’s deed of darkness; and
rendered almost blindly selfish, in the magnitude of the risk about to
be incurred by himself and so many great nobles, he had assented to this
additional act of cruelty.

"Alms, noble Earl, for God and our blessed Lady’s sake!" said a voice
near the ruined cross.  Bothwell started and turned, and encountered the
reverend figure of Sir James Tarbet, leaning on a long staff; and stung
to the soul by the momentary contemplation of this old man’s poverty and
humility, when contrasted with his own pride and guilt, he turned
abruptly away.

"Thou hast not heeded me, Lord Earl," said the old man; "but may they
whose names I implored, bless thee not the less."

Touched by this resignation, he approached the poor priest with averted
eyes.

"Alms, sir! for the sake of the soul of old Earl Adam of Bothwell; had
he been alive, I had not needed to crave them to-day. He fell by my side
at Flodden; and this poor hand was raised to save him from the English
billmen."

Bothwell hurriedly placed his purse in the withered fingers of the
priest; and thus, with the greatest of all human virtues in his hand,
and the blackest of all human crimes in his heart, he drew his bonnet
over his eyes, and at a rapid pace, as if he would leave his own fierce
ambition and desperate thoughts behind him, began to descend the hill of
St. Leonard, towards the palace of Holyrood, where a line of brilliantly
illuminated windows recalled to his memory the royal ball given in
honour of the nuptials of Sebastian.



                            *CHAPTER XXVI.*

                      *THE OLD TOWNE OF HOLYROOD.*

    Mine is the fortune of a simple child,
      That in the glass his image looks upon;
    And by the shadow of himself beguiled,
      Breaks quick the brittle charm, and joy is gone.
    So gazed I—and I deemed my joy would last—
      On the bright image of my lady fair;
    But ah! the dream of my delight is past,
      And lore and rapture yield to dark despair.
        _Henri of Morunge, the Minnesinger._


Above the northern shoulder of Arthur’s Seat, the moon rose red and
fiery.  Slowly its lurid circle cleared the ridge of the darkened
mountain, and ascended into the grey sky, through which the clouds were
hurrying, like banners of black crape.

Konrad watched it from a slit in the prison wall where he was confined;
and even that slit, though scarcely four inches broad, was secured by a
cross bar of iron; and the pale moonlight and the cold wind played on
his face together, as they penetrated his strong chamber in the Albany
tower, and served but to make it seem more comfortless and desolate.

He was alone now; for Father Tarbet had been released, and "expelled the
walls of the city, with all his idolatrous crosses and pictures."

He and Konrad had parted in sorrow, and now every night he missed the
soothing prayers and kind consolations of the good old priest; and
imagined, with pity and indignation, the insults to which he was certain
of being exposed, when wandering in a Reformed and hostile land, without
a shelter for his venerable head.

From many of the palace windows, bright flakes of light fell on the
green holly-hedges and dewy grass of the royal gardens, and on the dusky
buttresses and pointed windows of the chapel, throwing their steady
radiance on the grim outline of James V.’s tower, and the aged sycamore
that shaded its massive wall.  A faint strain of music stole upon the
soft night wind, and then died away.

Again it came, and the chapel’s hollow aisles replied—again and again,
through the opened casements, burst in full chorus the music of the
queen’s Italian singers performing Sebastian’s bridal hymn.

The pulses of Konrad’s enthusiastic heart rose and fell with the music;
for he was borne away from himself on the stream of harmony that swept
past him.  The air resembled one that he had frequently heard Anna sing,
and all her memory came rushing on his mind.  Bowing his face upon his
hands, he pressed his flushed brow against the rusty bars, and groaned
aloud.

At that moment some one, who had entered his prison unheard, touched him
on the shoulder.  He started from his reverie, to be confronted by the
same dark and colossal figure, that met his gaze on the night when he
fell from the Terrace of Bergen into the Fiord below.  Tall, dusky, and
muffled in a mantle, he wore a black mask, partially concealing his
face; but his bright, fierce eyes shown through it like red stars.

"Groaning—eh! art thou sick?" he asked.

"Yes—of life!"

"Faith!  I thought it was the mulligrubs. God-den to thee, Konrad of
Saltzberg—whilk I believe is thy title—’tis long since we have spoken;
yet, methinks, thou mayest still remember me."

"I do, for mine enemy!" replied Konrad, whose indignation rose at the
voice.

"Cock and pie! say not that," replied Ormiston; "for may the great devil
spit me, if I owe thee any ill-will, or mean thee aught like mischief!"

"Then for what end dost thou seek me now?  I have endured here exceeding
misery.  Who is there that has known sorrow without some relief—despair
without hope—who, but I?  An irresistible current of misfortunes has
hurried me on, and—I am here—here, where I am almost forgetting the use
of my limbs, while life is in its bloom; yea, and the very tone of my
own voice.  What have I done among ye, sirs, in this land of Scotland,
to be treated thus?"

"By Jove! I can scarcely tell; but there are those about Holyrood who
say, that keeping thee caged up here, is only feeding what ought to be
hanged to feed the corbies; yet, if thou wouldest attain that liberty
for which thou longest, do as I bid thee, and thou shalt escape to thine
beloved Norway—God amend it! for the flavour of its sawdust bannocks and
sour ale are yet fresh in my memory."

"Thou hast some selfish end of thine own to serve in this."

"By cock and pie!  Sir Konrad, thou measurest thy friends by a low
standard, especially such a long-limbed one as I.  Thou canst not well
be worse.  Stay here, and thou wilt assuredly be hanged, whenever honest
Gilbert Balfour, the Master of the Household, grows tired of feeding
thee; follow me, and thou mayest escape."

"Thou sayest true; I cannot be worse; lead on—I follow thee!"

Ormiston gave him a mantle, unclasped the massive fetterlocks that
secured his stiffened ankles, and led him down the narrow stair of the
tower into the outer court of Holyrood, where Konrad almost tottered and
fell, on finding himself fully exposed to the keen night wind of
February; but black Ormiston, with rough kindness, forced him to take a
draught from a hunting-flask that hung at his girdle, and then gave him
a sword, saying,—

"If we are assailed, thou must stand by me!"

"To the death!" replied Konrad, as he grasped the sword, and felt his
spirit rise with his old energy and ardour on finding himself once again
armed, fetterless, and free.  His sinews became strong; his bosom fired;
his heart danced with joy; and, little dreaming of the treachery
designed him, or the trap into which he was falling, he shook the strong
hand of the gigantic Ormiston in token of confidence and thankfulness.

The greater part of the vast and irregular façade of Holyrood was buried
in darkness; the buildings were of various heights and ages, the highest
portion being that which now forms the north wing; and heavily its great
round towers and corbelled battlements loomed against the murky sky.

The moon was now veiled by a cloud; scarcely a star was visible; and the
chill wind whistled drearily in the empty courts, and through the low
gothic cloisters built by St. David I. for the monks of the Holy Cross.

Passing James V.’s tower, Ormiston led Konrad to the southern doorway of
the royal garden, and thereon he knocked thrice with the pommel of his
long heavy sword.

"Who is without there?" asked a voice.

"One who would _keep tryst_!" replied Ormiston, using Bothwell’s family
motto—the parole agreed upon.

The gate was immediately opened, and six or seven men well muffled in
dark mantles, and wearing swords and black velvet masks, came forth
cautiously, one at a time.  As they stepped into the palace-yard, the
clank of steel made it apparent to Konrad that they were all well armed;
and in their general bearing and aspect there was no mistaking them for
any thing else than what they were—conspirators; and, though he knew
them not, many of them were no other than the very men who had met
beneath that baleful yew-tree at the castle of Whittinghame.

"’Tis high time we were fairly set forth!" said one, in whom, by his
short stature and long beard, Ormiston recognised the Earl of Morton.

"True," added his vassal, the Laird of Whittinghame; "for the city
horologue has struck ten, and by that hour the queen was to leave for
Sebastian’s ball."

"Bothwell, thou hast wisely changed all thine outward trumpery," said
Ormiston.

"Behold," replied the Earl, displaying a coarse, canvass gaberdine above
a coat-of-mail, for which he had exchanged his ball costume, "a pair of
black velvet hoise, trimit with silver, and ane doublet of satin," as we
are minutely informed by the _Depositions in Proesentia Dominorum
Secreti Concilii_.

He carried in his hand a maul, to beat down doors or other obstructions.

The other conspirators, John of Bolton, Hob Ormiston of that Ilk, Hay of
Tallo, Hume of Spott, and John Binney, a vassal of Whittinghame, were
all well armed with coats-of-mail and pyne-doublets.  At the palace
porch, a gothic edifice, flanked on one side by a round tower, on the
other by a projecting turret, they were met by French Paris, leading a
sumpter-horse, laden with leathern mails.  These contained powder, taken
by the Earl from the royal store in the castle of Dunbar, of which he
was governor.

Konrad imagined correctly, that some of the voices of his strange
companions were not unfamiliar to his ear, but they conversed in low
whispers; and feeling no way very comfortable in the company of men
whose aspect, in armour and disguise, revealed that they were bent on
some mission of darkness and danger, he thought only of escape.  But, as
if this very thought was divined, Black Ormiston stuck to his skirts
like a burr; and, as they passed through the long dark arch of the
portal, he whispered hoarsely,—

"Attempt not to escape; for I have here a dague that shoots a
three-ounce ball, and I will not be slow in using it!"

Konrad, whose spirit could ill brook this, would have made some suitable
rejoinder; but at this moment two archers of the guard challenged.

"Who are there?"

"Friends," replied the Earl of Morton.

"What friends?"

"My Lord of Bothwell’s friends," and the whole party issued into the
Canongate.[*]


[*] Such really appears to have been the incautious answer given to the
various sentinels.—_Depositiones, I. P. D._


Where revealed by the mask, which came only down to his dark mustaches,
Bothwell’s face was white as marble; and, as they passed the Mint, he
looked up at the dark windows of David Rizzio’s empty mansion, which
stood at the corner of the Horse Wynd.

"He was slain just about this time last year," said the Earl.

"And this night will be avenged," replied Ormiston, as if to apologise
for the purpose which had brought them together.

At the back of the south garden, they were again challenged by two
archers with bent bows, and, replying in the same unguarded manner,
passed on.

They ascended the dark and silent Canongate, where not a sound was heard
save their own footfalls, and the dull tramp of the felt-shod
sumpter-horse that bore the powder mails; and, passing the lofty barrier
that divided the burghs by its strong round towers and double arch, they
descended with silence and rapidity the broad and spacious wynd of the
Blackfriars, and reached the foot unseen.

Here, we are told, they paused a moment, while Bolton purchased a
"candell frae Geordie Burnis wife in the Cowgate;" and at that time a
blaze of light, flashing along the narrow street, on the octagon turrets
of that picturesque old house, where whilome dwelt the great Cardinal of
St. Stephen, made them shrink under its shadow with some dismay; for lo!
the unconscious queen, attended by three Earls (two of whom were also
conspirators), Argyle, Huntly, and Cassilis, with her sister, the
Countess Jane, and other ladies, the whole escorted by Sir Arthur
Erskine’s archers, passed down the opposite wynd, en route for the
palace.  She was on foot; six soldiers of the guard bore a blue silk
canopy over her head, and twelve others carried torches.

She was returning to Holyrood, from her hurried visit to that very place
for which all these muffled men were bound—the lonely house of the
Kirk-of-Field!

On her beautiful face and smart hood, the black velvet of which
contrasted so well with her snowy brow, fell the full glare of the
streaming torches, imparting to her usually pale cheek a tinge of red,
and to her auburn hair the hue of gold.  Mary Erskine, sister to the
captain of the archers, bore her train, and the long stomacher from
which it fell was sparkling with jewels; for she was arrayed in all the
lavish richness of the time.

Intoxicated by her beauty, every scruple that the impressive gloom of
the night, and the cooler reflections of the last few hours, had raised
in the Earl’s breast, died away; and, with eyes that beamed with the
most eager and impassioned love, he saw her pass down the street, and
disappear.

Her light heart was full of visions of anticipated gaiety; and, already
revelling amid the brilliance, the music, and the dancers at Sebastian’s
ball, how little could she anticipate what was about to ensue!

Passing through Todrick’s Wynd, and the spacious gardens of the monks of
St. Dominic (where now the Infirmary stands), they issued from a little
postern in the city wall (the keys of which Bothwell had secured), and
found themselves under the shadow of _the House_ of the Kirk, which was
buried in obscurity and darkness, save where one solitary ray of faint
light streamed into the desolate garden, from the apartment where the
sick king lay.

Every eye was fixed upon it.

All around was silent as the grave; there was nothing stirring save the
branches of the leafless orchard, which creaked mournfully in the rising
wind, and the tufts of long reedy grass that waved in the rough masonry
of the dark old Flodden wall.

At times, the red rays of the moon shot forth tremulously between the
flying vapour upon that dreary spot, and the high sepulchral dwelling,
throwing light and shadow fitfully upon its dark discoloured walls.

The conspirators drew close together.

They were all pale as death; but their masks concealed the trepidation
that would, nevertheless, have been visible in every face, as their
voices betrayed it to be in every heart.

"Hist! dost thou not hear groans?" whispered Bothwell, plucking Black
Ormiston by the cloak.

"Groans!" reiterated the startled conspirator. "No"——

"By Heaven!  I even heard a low wailing cry upon the wind."

"Go to! if thou hearest this before, what wilt thou hear _after_?"

                     *      *      *      *      *

It is very remarkable that the Earl of Moray, (who is not said to have
had any share in this conspiracy,) on the morning of that day should
have left Holyrood suddenly, to visit his countess, who, he said, was
seriously ill at St. Andrews; and it is still more remarkable, that when
riding along the coast of Fife, attended by only one confidential
retainer, he should—as Bishop Lesly informs us—burst out with these
ominous words—

"This night, ere morning, the Lord Darnley shall lose his life!"



                         END OF VOLUME SECOND.



           M’CORQUODALE & CO., 24, CARDINGTON STREET, LONDON.
                             WORKS—NEWTON.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bothwell - or, The Days of Mary Queen of Scots" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home