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The Fair Maid of Perth
by Sir Walter Scott
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"I understand your tale," said Eachin; "but I shall find it difficult to make you credit mine, knowing the race of which I am descended, and especially that I am the son of him whom we have this day laid in the tomb—well that he lies where he will never learn what you are now to hear! Look, my father, the light which I bear grows short and pale, a few minutes will extinguish it; but before it expires, the hideous tale will be told. Father, I am—a COWARD! It is said at last, and the secret of my disgrace is in keeping of another!"

The young man sunk back in a species of syncope, produced by the agony of his mind as he made the fatal communication. The glover, moved as well by fear as by compassion, applied himself to recall him to life, and succeeded in doing so, but not in restoring him to composure. He hid his face with his hands, and his tears flowed plentifully and bitterly.

"For Our Lady's sake, be composed," said the old man, "and recall the vile word! I know you better than yourself: you are no coward, but only too young and inexperienced, ay, and somewhat too quick of fancy, to have the steady valour of a bearded man. I would hear no other man say that of you, Conachar, without giving him the lie. You are no coward: I have seen high sparks of spirit fly from you even on slight enough provocation."

"High sparks of pride and passion!" said the unfortunate youth; "but when saw you them supported by the resolution that should have backed them? The sparks you speak of fell on my dastardly heart as on a piece of ice which could catch fire from nothing: if my offended pride urged me to strike, my weakness of mind prompted me the next moment to fly."

"Want of habit," said Simon; "it is by clambering over walls that youths learn to scale precipices. Begin with slight feuds; exercise daily the arms of your country in tourney with your followers."

"And what leisure is there for this?" exclaimed the young chief, starting as if something horrid had occurred to his imagination. "How many days are there betwixt this hour and Palm Sunday, and what is to chance then? A list inclosed, from which no man can stir, more than the poor bear who is chained to his stake. Sixty living men, the best and fiercest—one alone excepted!—which Albyn can send down from her mountains, all athirst for each other's blood, while a king and his nobles, and shouting thousands besides, attend, as at a theatre, to encourage their demoniac fury! Blows clang and blood flows, thicker, faster, redder; they rush on each other like madmen, they tear each other like wild beasts; the wounded are trodden to death amid the feet of their companions! Blood ebbs, arms become weak; but there must be no parley, no truce, no interruption, while any of the maimed wretches remain alive! Here is no crouching behind battlements, no fighting with missile weapons: all is hand to hand, till hands can no longer be raised to maintain the ghastly conflict! If such a field is so horrible in idea, what think you it will be in reality?"

The glover remained silent.

"I say again, what think you?"

"I can only pity you, Conachar," said Simon. "It is hard to be the descendant of a lofty line—the son of a noble father—the leader by birth of a gallant array, and yet to want, or think you want, for still I trust the fault lies much in a quick fancy, that over estimates danger—to want that dogged quality which is possessed by every game cock that is worth a handful of corn, every hound that is worth a mess of offal. But how chanced it that, with such a consciousness of inability to fight in this battle, you proffered even now to share your chiefdom with my daughter? Your power must depend on your fighting this combat, and in that Catharine cannot help you."

"You mistake, old man," replied Eachin: "were Catharine to look kindly on the earnest love I bear her, it would carry me against the front of the enemies with the mettle of a war horse. Overwhelming as my sense of weakness is, the feeling that Catharine looked on would give me strength. Say yet—oh, say yet—she shall be mine if we gain the combat, and not the Gow Chrom himself, whose heart is of a piece with his anvil, ever went to battle so light as I shall do! One strong passion is conquered by another."

"This is folly, Conachar. Cannot the recollection of your interest, your honour, your kindred, do as much to stir your courage as the thoughts of a brent browed lass? Fie upon you, man!"

"You tell me but what I have told myself, but it is in vain," replied Eachin, with a sigh. "It is only whilst the timid stag is paired with the doe that he is desperate and dangerous. Be it from constitution; be it, as our Highland cailliachs will say, from the milk of the white doe; be it from my peaceful education and the experience of your strict restraint; be it, as you think, from an overheated fancy, which paints danger yet more dangerous and ghastly than it is in reality, I cannot tell. But I know my failing, and—yes, it must be said!—so sorely dread that I cannot conquer it, that, could I have your consent to my wishes on such terms, I would even here make a pause, renounce the rank I have assumed, and retire into humble life."

"What, turn glover at last, Conachar?" said Simon. "This beats the legend of St. Crispin. Nay—nay, your hand was not framed for that: you shall spoil me no more doe skins."

"Jest not," said Eachin, "I am serious. If I cannot labour, I will bring wealth enough to live without it. They will proclaim me recreant with horn and war pipe. Let them do so. Catharine will love me the better that I have preferred the paths of peace to those of bloodshed, and Father Clement shall teach us to pity and forgive the world, which will load us with reproaches that wound not. I shall be the happiest of men; Catharine will enjoy all that unbounded affection can confer upon her, and will be freed from apprehension of the sights and sounds of horror which your ill assorted match would have prepared for her; and you, father Glover, shall occupy your chimney corner, the happiest and most honoured man that ever—"

"Hold, Eachin—I prithee, hold," said the glover; "the fir light, with which this discourse must terminate, burns very low, and I would speak a word in my turn, and plain dealing is best. Though it may vex, or perhaps enrage, you, let me end these visions by saying at once: Catharine can never be yours. A glove is the emblem of faith, and a man of my craft should therefore less than any other break his own. Catharine's hand is promised—promised to a man whom you may hate, but whom you must honour—to Henry the armourer. The match is fitting by degree, agreeable to their mutual wishes, and I have given my promise. It is best to be plain at once; resent my refusal as you will—I am wholly in your power. But nothing shall make me break my word."

The glover spoke thus decidedly, because he was aware from experience that the very irritable disposition of his former apprentice yielded in most cases to stern and decided resolution. Yet, recollecting where he was, it was with some feelings of fear that he saw the dying flame leap up and spread a flash of light on the visage of Eachin, which seemed pale as the grave, while his eye rolled like that of a maniac in his fever fit. The light instantly sunk down and died, and Simon felt a momentary terror lest he should have to dispute for his life with the youth, whom he knew to be capable of violent actions when highly excited, however short a period his nature could support the measures which his passion commenced. He was relieved by the voice of Eachin, who muttered in a hoarse and altered tone:

"Let what we have spoken this night rest in silence for ever. If thou bring'st it to light, thou wert better dig thine own grave."

Thus speaking, the door of the hut opened, admitting a gleam of moonshine. The form of the retiring chief crossed it for an instant, the hurdle was then closed, and the shieling left in darkness.

Simon Glover felt relieved when a conversation fraught with offence and danger was thus peaceably terminated. But he remained deeply affected by the condition of Hector MacIan, whom he had himself bred up.

"The poor child," said he, "to be called up to a place of eminence, only to be hurled from it with contempt! What he told me I partly knew, having often remarked that Conachar was more prone to quarrel than to fight. But this overpowering faint heartedness, which neither shame nor necessity can overcome, I, though no Sir William Wallace, cannot conceive. And to propose himself for a husband to my daughter, as if a bride were to find courage for herself and the bridegroom! No—no, Catharine must wed a man to whom she may say, 'Husband, spare your enemy'—not one in whose behalf she must cry, 'Generous enemy, spare my husband!"

Tired out with these reflections, the old man at length fell asleep. In the morning he was awakened by his friend the Booshalloch, who, with something of a blank visage, proposed to him to return to his abode on the meadow at the Ballough. He apologised that the chief could not see Simon Glover that morning, being busied with things about the expected combat; and that Eachin MacIan thought the residence at the Ballough would be safest for Simon Glover's health, and had given charge that every care should be taken for his protection and accommodation.

Niel Booshalloch dilated on these circumstances, to gloss over the neglect implied in the chief's dismissing his visitor without a particular audience.

"His father knew better," said the herdsman. "But where should he have learned manners, poor thing, and bred up among your Perth burghers, who, excepting yourself, neighbour Glover, who speak Gaelic as well as I do, are a race incapable of civility?"

Simon Glover, it may be well believed, felt none of the want of respect which his friend resented on his account. On the contrary, he greatly preferred the quiet residence of the good herdsman to the tumultuous hospitality of the daily festival of the chief, even if there had not just passed an interview with Eachin upon a subject which it would be most painful to revive.

To the Ballough, therefore, he quietly retreated, where, could he have been secure of Catharine's safety, his leisure was spent pleasantly enough. His amusement was sailing on the lake in a little skiff, which a Highland boy managed, while the old man angled. He frequently landed on the little island, where he mused over the tomb of his old friend Gilchrist MacIan, and made friends with the monks, presenting the prior with gloves of martens' fur, and the superior officers with each of them a pair made from the skin of the wildcat. The cutting and stitching of these little presents served to beguile the time after sunset, while the family of the herdsman crowded around, admiring his address, and listening to the tales and songs with which the old man had skill to pass away a heavy evening.

It must be confessed that the cautious glover avoided the conversation of Father Clement, whom he erroneously considered as rather the author of his misfortunes than the guiltless sharer of them. "I will not," he thought, "to please his fancies, lose the goodwill of these kind monks, which may be one day useful to me. I have suffered enough by his preachments already, I trow. Little the wiser and much the poorer they have made me. No—no, Catharine and Clement may think as they will; but I will take the first opportunity to sneak back like a rated hound at the call of his master, submit to a plentiful course of haircloth and whipcord, disburse a lusty mulct, and become whole with the church again."

More than a fortnight had passed since the glover had arrived at Ballough, and he began to wonder that he had not heard news of Catharine or of Henry Wynd, to whom he concluded the provost had communicated the plan and place of his retreat. He knew the stout smith dared not come up into the Clan Quhele country, on account of various feuds with the inhabitants, and with Eachin himself, while bearing the name of Conachar; but yet the glover thought Henry might have found means to send him a message, or a token, by some one of the various couriers who passed and repassed between the court and the headquarters of the Clan Quhele, in order to concert the terms of the impending combat, the march of the parties to Perth, and other particulars requiring previous adjustment. It was now the middle of March, and the fatal Palm Sunday was fast approaching.

Whilst time was thus creeping on, the exiled glover had not even once set eyes upon his former apprentice. The care that was taken to attend to his wants and convenience in every respect showed that he was not forgotten; but yet, when he heard the chieftain's horn ringing through the woods, he usually made it a point to choose his walk in a different direction. One morning, however, he found himself unexpectedly in Eachin's close neighbourhood, with scarce leisure to avoid him, and thus it happened.

As Simon strolled pensively through a little silvan glade, surrounded on either side with tall forest trees, mixed with underwood, a white doe broke from the thicket, closely pursued by two deer greyhounds, one of which griped her haunch, the other her throat, and pulled her down within half a furlong of the glover, who was something startled at the suddenness of the incident. The ear and piercing blast of a horn, and the baying of a slow hound, made Simon aware that the hunters were close behind, and on the trace of the deer. Hallooing and the sound of men running through the copse were heard close at hand. A moment's recollection would have satisfied Simon that his best way was to stand fast, or retire slowly, and leave it to Eachin to acknowledge his presence or not, as he should see cause. But his desire of shunning the young man had grown into a kind of instinct, and in the alarm of finding him so near, Simon hid himself in a bush of hazels mixed with holly, which altogether concealed him. He had hardly done so ere Eachin, rosy with exercise, dashed from the thicket into the open glade, accompanied by his foster father, Torquil of the Oak. The latter, with equal strength and address, turned the struggling hind on her back, and holding her forefeet in his right hand, while he knelt on her body, offered his skene with the left to the young chief, that he might cut the animal's throat.

"It may not be, Torquil; do thine office, and take the assay thyself. I must not kill the likeness of my foster—"

This was spoken with a melancholy smile, while a tear at the same time stood in the speaker's eye. Torquil stared at his young chief for an instant, then drew his sharp wood knife across the creature's throat with a cut so swift and steady that the weapon reached the backbone. Then rising on his feet, and again fixing a long piercing look on his chief, he said: "As much as I have done to that hind would I do to any living man whose ears could have heard my dault (foster son) so much as name a white doe, and couple the word with Hector's name!"

If Simon had no reason before to keep himself concealed, this speech of Torquil furnished him with a pressing one.

"It cannot be concealed, father Torquil," said Eachin: "it will all out to the broad day."

"What will out? what will to broad day?" asked Torquil in surprise.

"It is the fatal secret," thought Simon; "and now, if this huge privy councillor cannot keep silence, I shall be made answerable, I suppose, for Eachin's disgrace having been blown abroad."

Thinking thus anxiously, he availed himself at the same time of his position to see as much as he could of what passed between the afflicted chieftain and his confidant, impelled by that spirit of curiosity which prompts us in the most momentous, as well as the most trivial, occasions of life, and which is sometimes found to exist in company with great personal fear.

As Torquil listened to what Eachin communicated, the young man sank into his arms, and, supporting himself on his shoulder, concluded his confession by a whisper into his ear. Torquil seemed to listen with such amazement as to make him incapable of crediting his ears. As if to be certain that it was Eachin who spoke, he gradually roused the youth from his reclining posture, and, holding him up in some measure by a grasp on his shoulder, fixed on him an eye that seemed enlarged, and at the same time turned to stone, by the marvels he listened to. And so wild waxed the old man's visage after he had heard the murmured communication, that Simon Glover apprehended he would cast the youth from him as a dishonoured thing, in which case he might have lighted among the very copse in which he lay concealed, and occasioned his discovery in a manner equally painful and dangerous. But the passions of Torquil, who entertained for his foster child even a double portion of that passionate fondness which always attends that connexion in the Highlands took a different turn.

"I believe it not," he exclaimed; "it is false of thy father's child, false of thy mother's son, falsest of my dault! I offer my gage to heaven and hell, and will maintain the combat with him that shall call it true. Thou hast been spellbound by an evil eye, my darling, and the fainting which you call cowardice is the work of magic. I remember the bat that struck the torch out on the hour that thou wert born—that hour of grief and of joy. Cheer up, my beloved. Thou shalt with me to Iona, and the good St. Columbus, with the whole choir of blessed saints and angels, who ever favoured thy race, shall take from thee the heart of the white doe and return that which they have stolen from thee."

Eachin listened, with a look as if he would fain have believed the words of the comforter.

"But, Torquil," he said, "supposing this might avail us, the fatal day approaches, and if I go to the lists, I dread me we shall be shamed."

"It cannot be—it shall not!" said Torquil. "Hell shall not prevail so far: we will steep thy sword in holy water, place vervain, St. John's Wort, and rowan tree in thy crest. We will surround thee, I and thy eight brethren: thou shalt be safe as in a castle."

Again the youth helplessly uttered something, which, from the dejected tone in which it was spoken, Simon could not understand, while Torquil's deep tones in reply fell full and distinct upon his ear.

"Yes, there may be a chance of withdrawing thee from the conflict. Thou art the youngest who is to draw blade. Now, hear me, and thou shalt know what it is to have a foster father's love, and how far it exceeds the love even of kinsmen. The youngest on the indenture of the Clan Chattan is Ferquhard Day. His father slew mine, and the red blood is seething hot between us; I looked to Palm Sunday as the term that should cool it. But mark! Thou wouldst have thought that the blood in the veins of this Ferquhard Day and in mine would not have mingled had they been put into the same vessel, yet hath he cast the eyes of his love upon my only daughter Eva, the fairest of our maidens. Think with what feelings I heard the news. It was as if a wolf from the skirts of Farragon had said, 'Give me thy child in wedlock, Torquil.' My child thought not thus: she loves Ferquhard, and weeps away her colour and strength in dread of the approaching battle. Let her give him but a sign of favour, and well I know he will forget kith and kin, forsake the field, and fly with her to the desert."

"He, the youngest of the champions of Clan Chattan, being absent, I, the youngest of the Clan Quhele, may be excused from combat" said Eachin, blushing at the mean chance of safety thus opened to him.

"See now, my chief;" said Torquil, "and judge my thoughts towards thee: others might give thee their own lives and that of their sons—I sacrifice to thee the honour of my house."

"My friend—my father," repeated the chief, folding Torquil to his bosom, "what a base wretch am I that have a spirit dastardly enough to avail myself of your sacrifice!"

"Speak not of that. Green woods have ears. Let us back to the camp, and send our gillies for the venison. Back, dogs, and follow at heel."

The slowhound, or lyme dog, luckily for Simon, had drenched his nose in the blood of the deer, else he might have found the glover's lair in the thicket; but its more acute properties of scent being lost, it followed tranquilly with the gazehounds.

When the hunters were out of sight and hearing, the glover arose, greatly relieved by their departure, and began to move off in the opposite direction as fast as his age permitted. His first reflection was on the fidelity of the foster father.

"The wild mountain heart is faithful and true. Yonder man is more like the giants in romaunts than a man of mould like ourselves; and yet Christians might take an example from him for his lealty. A simple contrivance this, though, to finger a man from off their enemies' chequer, as if there would not be twenty of the wildcats ready to supply his place."

Thus thought the glover, not aware that the strictest proclamations were issued, prohibiting any of the two contending clans, their friends, allies, and dependants, from coming within fifty miles of Perth, during a week before and a week after the combat, which regulation was to be enforced by armed men.

So soon as our friend Simon arrived at the habitation of the herdsman, he found other news awaiting him. They were brought by Father Clement, who came in a pilgrim's cloak, or dalmatic, ready to commence his return to the southward, and desirous to take leave of his companion in exile, or to accept him as a travelling companion.

"But what," said the citizen, "has so suddenly induced you to return within the reach of danger?"

"Have you not heard," said Father Clement, "that, March and his English allies having retired into England before the Earl of Douglas, the good earl has applied himself to redress the evils of the commonwealth, and hath written to the court letters desiring that the warrant for the High Court of Commission against heresy be withdrawn, as a trouble to men's consciences, that the nomination of Henry of Wardlaw to be prelate of St. Andrews be referred to the Parliament, with sundry other things pleasing to the Commons? Now, most of the nobles that are with the King at Perth, and with them Sir Patrick Charteris, your worthy provost, have declared for the proposals of the Douglas. The Duke of Albany had agreed to them—whether from goodwill or policy I know not. The good King is easily persuaded to mild and gentle courses. And thus are the jaw teeth of the oppressors dashed to pieces in their sockets, and the prey snatched from their ravening talons. Will you with me to the Lowlands, or do you abide here a little space?"

Neil Booshalloch saved his friend the trouble of reply.

"He had the chief's authority," he said, "for saying that Simon Glover should abide until the champions went down to the battle."

In this answer the citizen saw something not quite consistent with his own perfect freedom of volition; but he cared little for it at the time, as it furnished a good apology for not travelling along with the clergyman.

"An exemplary man," he said to his friend Niel Booshalloch, as soon as Father Clement had taken leave—"a great scholar and a great saint. It is a pity almost he is no longer in danger to be burned, as his sermon at the stake would convert thousands. O Niel Booshalloch, Father Clement's pile would be a sweet savouring sacrifice and a beacon to all decent Christians! But what would the burning of a borrel ignorant burgess like me serve? Men offer not up old glove leather for incense, nor are beacons fed with undressed hides, I trow. Sooth to speak, I have too little learning and too much fear to get credit by the affair, and, therefore, I should, in our homely phrase, have both the scathe and the scorn."

"True for you," answered the herdsman.



CHAPTER XXX.

We must return to the characters of our dramatic narrative whom we left at Perth, when we accompanied the glover and his fair daughter to Kinfauns, and from that hospitable mansion traced the course of Simon to Loch Tay; and the Prince, as the highest personage, claims our immediate attention.

This rash and inconsiderate young man endured with some impatience his sequestered residence with the Lord High Constable, with whose company, otherwise in every respect satisfactory, he became dissatisfied, from no other reason than that he held in some degree the character of his warder. Incensed against his uncle and displeased with his father, he longed, not unnaturally, for the society of Sir John Ramorny, on whom he had been so long accustomed to throw himself for amusement, and, though he would have resented the imputation as an insult, for guidance and direction. He therefore sent him a summons to attend him, providing his health permitted; and directed him to come by water to a little pavilion in the High Constable's garden, which, like that of Sir John's own lodgings, ran down to the Tay. In renewing an intimacy so dangerous, Rothsay only remembered that he had been Sir Join Ramorny's munificent friend; while Sir John, on receiving the invitation, only recollected, on his part, the capricious insults he had sustained from his patron, the loss of his hand, and the lightness with which he had treated the subject, and the readiness with which Rothsay had abandoned his cause in the matter of the bonnet maker's slaughter. He laughed bitterly when he read the Prince's billet.

"Eviot," he said, "man a stout boat with six trusty men—trusty men, mark me—lose not a moment, and bid Dwining instantly come hither.

"Heaven smiles on us, my trusty friend," he said to the mediciner. "I was but beating my brains how to get access to this fickle boy, and here he sends to invite me."

"Hem! I see the matter very clearly," said Dwining. "Heaven smiles on some untoward consequences—he! he! he!"

"No matter, the trap is ready; and it is baited, too, my friend, with what would lure the boy from a sanctuary, though a troop with drawn weapons waited him in the churchyard. Yet is it scarce necessary. His own weariness of himself would have done the job. Get thy matters ready—thou goest with us. Write to him, as I cannot, that we come instantly to attend his commands, and do it clerkly. He reads well, and that he owes to me."

"He will be your valiancie's debtor for more knowledge before he dies—he! he! he! But is your bargain sure with the Duke of Albany?"

"Enough to gratify my ambition, thy avarice, and the revenge of both. Aboard—aboard, and speedily; let Eviot throw in a few flasks of the choicest wine, and some cold baked meats."

"But your arm, my lord, Sir John? Does it not pain you?"

"The throbbing of my heart silences the pain of my wound. It beats as it would burst my bosom."

"Heaven forbid!" said Dwining; adding, in a low voice—"It would be a strange sight if it should. I should like to dissect it, save that its stony case would spoil my best instruments."

In a few minutes they were in the boat, while a speedy messenger carried the note to the Prince.

Rothsay was seated with the Constable, after their noontide repast. He was sullen and silent; and the earl had just asked whether it was his pleasure that the table should be cleared, when a note, delivered to the Prince, changed at once his aspect.

"As you will," he said. "I go to the pavilion in the garden—always with permission of my Lord Constable—to receive my late master of the horse."

"My lord!" said Lord Errol.

"Ay, my lord; must I ask permission twice?"

"No, surely, my lord," answered the Constable; "but has your Royal Highness recollected that Sir John Ramorny—"

"Has not the plague, I hope?" replied the Duke of Rothsay. "Come, Errol, you would play the surly turnkey, but it is not in your nature; farewell for half an hour."

"A new folly!" said Errol, as the Prince, flinging open a lattice of the ground parlour in which they sat, stept out into the garden—"a new folly, to call back that villain to his counsels. But he is infatuated."

The Prince, in the mean time, looked back, and said hastily:

"Your lordship's good housekeeping will afford us a flask or two of wine and a slight collation in the pavilion? I love the al fresco of the river."

The Constable bowed, and gave the necessary orders; so that Sir John found the materials of good cheer ready displayed, when, landing from his barge, he entered the pavilion.

"It grieves my heart to see your Highness under restraint," said Ramorny, with a well executed appearance of sympathy.

"That grief of thine will grieve mine," said the Prince. "I am sure here has Errol, and a right true hearted lord he is, so tired me with grave looks, and something like grave lessons, that he has driven me back to thee, thou reprobate, from whom, as I expect nothing good, I may perhaps obtain something entertaining. Yet, ere we say more, it was foul work, that upon the Fastern's Even, Ramorny. I well hope thou gavest not aim to it."

"On my honour, my lord, a simple mistake of the brute Bonthron. I did hint to him that a dry beating would be due to the fellow by whom I had lost a hand; and lo you, my knave makes a double mistake. He takes one man for another, and instead of the baton he uses the axe."

"It is well that it went no farther. Small matter for the bonnet maker; but I had never forgiven you had the armourer fallen—there is not his match in Britain. But I hope they hanged the villain high enough?"

"If thirty feet might serve," replied Ramorny.

"Pah! no more of him," said Rothsay; "his wretched name makes the good wine taste of blood. And what are the news in Perth, Ramorny? How stands it with the bona robas and the galliards?"

"Little galliardise stirring, my lord," answered the knight. "All eyes are turned to the motions of the Black Douglas, who comes with five thousand chosen men to put us all to rights, as if he were bound for another Otterburn. It is said he is to be lieutenant again. It is certain many have declared for his faction."

"It is time, then, my feet were free," said Rothsay, "otherwise I may find a worse warder than Errol."

"Ah, my lord! were you once away from this place, you might make as bold a head as Douglas."

"Ramorny," said the Prince, gravely, "I have but a confused remembrance of your once having proposed something horrible to me. Beware of such counsel. I would be free—I would have my person at my own disposal; but I will never levy arms against my father, nor those it pleases him to trust."

"It was only for your Royal Highness's personal freedom that I was presuming to speak," answered Ramorny. "Were I in your Grace's place, I would get me into that good boat which hovers on the Tay, and drop quietly down to Fife, where you have many friends, and make free to take possession of Falkland. It is a royal castle; and though the King has bestowed it in gift on your uncle, yet surely, even if the grant were not subject to challenge, your Grace might make free with the residence of so near a relative."

"He hath made free with mine," said the Duke, "as the stewartry of Renfrew can tell. But stay, Ramorny—hold; did I not hear Errol say that the Lady Marjory Douglas, whom they call Duchess of Rothsay, is at Falkland? I would neither dwell with that lady nor insult her by dislodging her."

"The lady was there, my lord," replied Ramorny; "I have sure advice that she is gone to meet her father."

"Ha! to animate the Douglas against me? or perhaps to beg him to spare me, providing I come on my knees to her bed, as pilgrims say the emirs and amirals upon whom a Saracen soldan bestows a daughter in marriage are bound to do? Ramorny, I will act by the Douglas's own saying, 'It is better to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak.' I will keep both foot and hand from fetters."

"No place fitter than Falkland," replied Ramorny. "I have enough of good yeomen to keep the place; and should your Highness wish to leave it, a brief ride reaches the sea in three directions."

"You speak well. But we shall die of gloom yonder. Neither mirth, music, nor maidens—ha!" said the heedless Prince.

"Pardon me, noble Duke; but, though the Lady Marjory Douglas be departed, like an errant dame in romance, to implore succour of her doughty sire, there is, I may say, a lovelier, I am sure a younger, maiden, either presently at Falkland or who will soon be on the road thither. Your Highness has not forgotten the Fair Maid of Perth?"

"Forget the prettiest wench in Scotland! No—any more than thou hast forgotten the hand that thou hadst in the Curfew Street onslaught on St. Valentine's Eve."

"The hand that I had! Your Highness would say, the hand that I lost. As certain as I shall never regain it, Catharine Glover is, or will soon be, at Falkland. I will not flatter your Highness by saying she expects to meet you; in truth, she proposes to place herself under the protection of the Lady Marjory."

"The little traitress," said the Prince—"she too to turn against me? She deserves punishment, Ramorny."

"I trust your Grace will make her penance a gentle one," replied the knight.

"Faith, I would have been her father confessor long ago, but I have ever found her coy."

"Opportunity was lacking, my lord," replied Ramorny; "and time presses even now."

"Nay, I am but too apt for a frolic; but my father—"

"He is personally safe," said Ramorny, "and as much at freedom as ever he can be; while your Highness—"

"Must brook fetters, conjugal or literal—I know it. Yonder comes Douglas, with his daughter in his hand, as haughty and as harsh featured as himself, bating touches of age."

"And at Falkland sits in solitude the fairest wench in Scotland," said Ramorny. "Here is penance and restraint, yonder is joy and freedom."

"Thou hast prevailed, most sage counsellor," replied Rothsay; "but mark you, it shall be the last of my frolics."

"I trust so," replied Ramorny; "for, when at liberty, you may make a good accommodation with your royal father."

"I will write to him, Ramorny. Get the writing materials. No, I cannot put my thoughts in words—do thou write."

"Your Royal Highness forgets," said Ramorny, pointing to his mutilated arm.

"Ah! that cursed hand of yours. What can we do?"

"So please your Highness," answered his counsellor, "if you would use the hand of the mediciner, Dwining—he writes like a clerk."

"Hath he a hint of the circumstances? Is he possessed of them?"

"Fully," said Ramorny; and, stepping to the window, he called Dwining from the boat.

He entered the presence of the Prince of Scotland, creeping as if he trode upon eggs, with downcast eyes, and a frame that seemed shrunk up by a sense of awe produced by the occasion.

"There, fellow, are writing materials. I will make trial of you; thou know'st the case—place my conduct to my father in a fair light."

Dwining sat down, and in a few minutes wrote a letter, which he handed to Sir John Ramorny.

"Why, the devil has aided thee, Dwining," said the knight. "Listen, my dear lord. 'Respected father and liege sovereign—Know that important considerations induce me to take my departure from this your court, purposing to make my abode at Falkland, both as the seat of my dearest uncle Albany, with whom I know your Majesty would desire me to use all familiarity, and as the residence of one from whom I have been too long estranged, and with whom I haste to exchange vows of the closest affection from henceforward.'"

The Duke of Rothsay and Ramorny laughed aloud; and the physician, who had listened to his own scroll as if it were a sentence of death, encouraged by their applause, raised his eyes, uttered faintly his chuckling note of "He! he!" and was again grave and silent, as if afraid he had transgressed the bounds of reverent respect.

"Admirable!" said the Prince—"admirable! The old man will apply all this to the Duchess, as they call her, of Rothsay. Dwining, thou shouldst be a secretis to his Holiness the Pope, who sometimes, it is said, wants a scribe that can make one word record two meanings. I will subscribe it, and have the praise of the device."

"And now, my lord," said Ramorny, sealing the letter and leaving it behind, "will you not to boat?"

"Not till my chamberlain attends with some clothes and necessaries, and you may call my sewer also."

"My lord," said Ramorny, "time presses, and preparation will but excite suspicion. Your officers will follow with the mails tomorrow. For tonight, I trust my poor service may suffice to wait on you at table and chamber."

"Nay, this time it is thou who forgets," said the Prince, touching the wounded arm with his walking rod. "Recollect, man, thou canst neither carve a capon nor tie a point—a goodly sewer or valet of the mouth!"

Ramorny grinned with rage and pain; for his wound, though in a way of healing, was still highly sensitive, and even the pointing a finger towards it made him tremble.

"Will your Highness now be pleased to take boat?"

"Not till I take leave of the Lord Constable. Rothsay must not slip away, like a thief from a prison, from the house of Errol. Summon him hither."

"My Lord Duke," said Ramorny, "it may be dangerous to our plan."

"To the devil with danger, thy plan, and thyself! I must and will act to Errol as becomes us both."

The earl entered, agreeable to the Prince's summons.

"I gave you this trouble, my lord," said Rothsay, with the dignified courtesy which he knew so well how to assume, "to thank you for your hospitality and your good company. I can enjoy them no longer, as pressing affairs call me to Falkland."

"My lord," said the Lord High Constable, "I trust your Grace remembers that you are—under ward."

"How!—under ward? If I am a prisoner, speak plainly; if not, I will take my freedom to depart."

"I would, my lord, your Highness would request his Majesty's permission for this journey. There will be much displeasure."

"Mean you displeasure against yourself, my lord, or against me?"

"I have already said your Highness lies in ward here; but if you determine to break it, I have no warrant—God forbid—to put force on your inclinations. I can but entreat your Highness, for your own sake—"

"Of my own interest I am the best judge. Good evening to you, my lord."

The wilful Prince stepped into the boat with Dwining and Ramorny, and, waiting for no other attendance, Eviot pushed off the vessel, which descended the Tay rapidly by the assistance of sail and oar and of the ebb tide.

For some space the Duke of Rothsay appeared silent and moody, nor did his companions interrupt his reflections. He raised his head at length and said: "My father loves a jest, and when all is over he will take this frolic at no more serious rate than it deserves—a fit of youth, with which he will deal as he has with others. Yonder, my masters, shows the old hold of Kinfauns, frowning above the Tay. Now, tell me, John Ramorny, how thou hast dealt to get the Fair Maid of Perth out of the hands of yonder bull headed provost; for Errol told me it was rumoured that she was under his protection."

"Truly she was, my lord, with the purpose of being transferred to the patronage of the Duchess—I mean of the Lady Marjory of Douglas. Now, this beetle headed provost, who is after all but a piece of blundering valiancy, has, like most such, a retainer of some slyness and cunning, whom he uses in all his dealings, and whose suggestions he generally considers as his own ideas. Whenever I would possess myself of a landward baron, I address myself to such a confidant, who, in the present case, is called Kitt Henshaw, an old skipper upon the Tay, and who, having in his time sailed as far as Campvere, holds with Sir Patrick Charteris the respect due to one who has seen foreign countries. This his agent I have made my own, and by his means have insinuated various apologies in order to postpone the departure of Catharine for Falkland."

"But to what good purpose?"

"I know not if it is wise to tell your Highness, lest you should disapprove of my views. I meant the officers of the Commission for inquiry into heretical opinions should have found the Fair Maid at Kinfauns, for our beauty is a peevish, self willed swerver from the church; and certes, I designed that the knight should have come in for his share of the fines and confiscations that were about to be inflicted. The monks were eager enough to be at him, seeing he hath had frequent disputes with them about the salmon tithe."

"But wherefore wouldst thou have ruined the knight's fortunes, and brought the beautiful young woman to the stake, perchance?"

"Pshaw, my Lord Duke! monks never burn pretty maidens. An old woman might have been in some danger; and as for my Lord Provost, as they call him, if they had clipped off some of his fat acres, it would have been some atonement for the needless brave he put on me in St. John's church."

"Methinks, John, it was but a base revenge," said Rothsay.

"Rest ye contented, my lord. He that cannot right himself by the hand must use his head. Well, that chance was over by the tender hearted Douglas's declaring in favour of tender conscience; and then, my lord, old Henshaw found no further objections to carrying the Fair Maid of Perth to Falkland, not to share the dulness of the Lady Marjory's society, as Sir Patrick Charteris and she herself doth opine, but to keep your Highness from tiring when we return from hunting in the park."

There was again a long pause, in which the Prince seemed to muse deeply. At length he spoke. "Ramorny, I have a scruple in this matter; but if I name it to thee, the devil of sophistry, with which thou art possessed, will argue it out of me, as it has done many others. This girl is the most beautiful, one excepted, whom I ever saw or knew; and I like her the more that she bears some features of—Elizabeth of Dunbar. But she, I mean Catharine Glover, is contracted, and presently to be wedded, to Henry the armourer, a craftsman unequalled for skill, and a man at arms yet unmatched in the barrace. To follow out this intrigue would do a good fellow too much wrong."

"Your Highness will not expect me to be very solicitous of Henry Smith's interest," said Ramorny, looking at his wounded arm.

"By St. Andrew with his shored cross, this disaster of thine is too much harped upon, John Ramorny! Others are content with putting a finger into every man's pie, but thou must thrust in thy whole gory hand. It is done, and cannot be undone; let it be forgotten."

"Nay, my lord, you allude to it more frequently than I," answered the knight—"in derision, it is true; while I—but I can be silent on the subject if I cannot forget it."

"Well, then, I tell thee that I have scruple about this intrigue. Dost thou remember, when we went in a frolic to hear Father Clement preach, or rather to see this fair heretic, that he spoke as touchingly as a minstrel about the rich man taking away the poor man's only ewe lamb?"

"A great matter, indeed," answered Sir John, "that this churl's wife's eldest son should be fathered by the Prince of Scotland! How many earls would covet the like fate for their fair countesses? and how many that have had such good luck sleep not a grain the worse for it?"

"And if I might presume to speak," said the mediciner, "the ancient laws of Scotland assigned such a privilege to every feudal lord over his female vassals, though lack of spirit and love of money hath made many exchange it for gold."

"I require no argument to urge me to be kind to a pretty woman; but this Catharine has been ever cold to me," said the Prince.

"Nay, my lord," said Ramorny, "if, young, handsome, and a prince, you know not how to make yourself acceptable to a fine woman, it is not for me to say more."

"And if it were not far too great audacity in me to speak again, I would say," quoth the leech, "that all Perth knows that the Gow Chrom never was the maiden's choice, but fairly forced upon her by her father. I know for certain that she refused him repeatedly."

"Nay, if thou canst assure us of that, the case is much altered," said Rothsay. "Vulcan was a smith as well as Harry Wynd; he would needs wed Venus, and our chronicles tell us what came of it."

"Then long may Lady Venus live and be worshipped," said Sir John Ramorny, "and success to the gallant knight Mars who goes a-wooing to her goddess-ship!"

The discourse took a gay and idle turn for a few minutes; but the Duke of Rothsay soon dropped it. "I have left," he said, "yonder air of the prison house behind me, and yet my spirits scarce revive. I feel that drowsy, not unpleasing, yet melancholy mood that comes over us when exhausted by exercise or satiated with pleasure. Some music now, stealing on the ear, yet not loud enough to make us lift the eye, were a treat for the gods."

"Your Grace has but to speak your wishes, and the nymphs of the Tay are as favourable as the fair ones upon the shore. Hark! it is a lute."

"A lute!" said the Duke of Rothsay, listening; "it is, and rarely touched. I should remember that dying fall. Steer towards the boat from whence the music comes."

"It is old Henshaw," said Ramorny, "working up the stream. How, skipper!"

The boatman answered the hail, and drew up alongside of the Prince's barge.

"Oh, ho! my old friend!" said the Prince, recognising the figure as well as the appointments of the French glee woman, Louise. "I think I owe thee something for being the means of thy having a fright, at least, upon St. Valentine's Day. Into this boat with thee, lute, puppy dog, scrip and all; I will prefer thee to a lady's service who shall feed thy very cur on capons and canary."

"I trust your Highness will consider—" said Ramorny.

"I will consider nothing but my pleasure, John. Pray, do thou be so complying as to consider it also."

"Is it indeed to a lady's service you would promote me?" said the glee maiden. "And where does she dwell?"

"At Falkland," answered the Prince.

"Oh, I have heard of that great lady!" said Louise; "and will you indeed prefer me to your right royal consort's service?"

"I will, by my honour—whenever I receive her as such. Mark that reservation, John," said he aside to Ramorny.

The persons who were in the boat caught up the tidings, and, concluding a reconciliation was about to take place betwixt the royal couple, exhorted Louise to profit by her good fortune, and add herself to the Duchess of Rothsay's train. Several offered her some acknowledgment for the exercise of her talents.

During this moment of delay, Ramorny whispered to Dwining: "Make in, knave, with some objection. This addition is one too many. Rouse thy wits, while I speak a word with Henshaw."

"If I might presume to speak," said Dwining, "as one who have made my studies both in Spain and Arabia, I would say, my lord, that the sickness has appeared in Edinburgh, and that there may be risk in admitting this young wanderer into your Highness's vicinity."

"Ah! and what is it to thee," said Rothsay, "whether I choose to be poisoned by the pestilence or the 'pothecary? Must thou, too, needs thwart my humour?"

While the Prince thus silenced the remonstrances of Dwining, Sir John Ramorny had snatched a moment to learn from Henshaw that the removal of the Duchess of Rothsay from Falkland was still kept profoundly secret, and that Catharine Glover would arrive there that evening or the next morning, in expectation of being taken under the noble lady's protection.

The Duke of Rothsay, deeply plunged in thought, received this intimation so coldly, that Ramorny took the liberty of remonstrating. "This, my lord," he said, "is playing the spoiled child of fortune. You wish for liberty; it comes. You wish for beauty; it awaits you, with just so much delay as to render the boon more precious. Even your slightest desires seem a law to the Fates; for you desire music when it seems most distant, and the lute and song are at your hand. These things, so sent, should be enjoyed, else we are but like petted children, who break and throw from them the toys they have wept themselves sick for."

"To enjoy pleasure, Ramorny," said the Prince, "a man should have suffered pain, as it requires fasting to gain a good appetite. We, who can have all for a wish, little enjoy that all when we have possessed it. Seest thou yonder thick cloud, which is about to burst to rain? It seems to stifle me—the waters look dark and lurid—the shores have lost their beautiful form—"

"My lord, forgive your servant," said Ramorny. "You indulge a powerful imagination, as an unskilful horseman permits a fiery steed to rear until he falls back on his master and crushes him. I pray you shake off this lethargy. Shall the glee maiden make some music?"

"Let her; but it must be melancholy: all mirth would at this moment jar on my ear."

The maiden sung a melancholy dirge in Norman French; the words, of which the following is an imitation, were united to a tune as doleful as they are themselves:

Yes, thou mayst sigh, And look once more at all around, At stream and bank, and sky and ground. Thy life its final course has found, And thou must die.

Yes, lay thee down, And while thy struggling pulses flutter, Bid the grey monk his soul mass mutter, And the deep bell its death tone utter— Thy life is gone.

Be not afraid. 'Tis but a pang, and then a thrill, A fever fit, and then a chill, And then an end of human ill, For thou art dead.

The Prince made no observation on the music; and the maiden, at Ramorny's beck, went on from time to time with her minstrel craft, until the evening sunk down into rain, first soft and gentle, at length in great quantities, and accompanied by a cold wind. There was neither cloak nor covering for the Prince, and he sullenly rejected that which Ramorny offered.

"It is not for Rothsay to wear your cast garments, Sir John; this melted snow, which I feel pierce me to the very marrow, I am now encountering by your fault. Why did you presume to put off the boat without my servants and apparel?"

Ramorny did not attempt an exculpation; for he knew the Prince was in one of those humours, when to enlarge upon a grievance was more pleasing to him than to have his mouth stopped by any reasonable apology. In sullen silence, or amid unsuppressed chiding, the boat arrived at the fishing village of Newburgh. The party landed, and found horses in readiness, which, indeed, Ramorny had long since provided for the occasion. Their quality underwent the Prince's bitter sarcasm, expressed to Ramorny sometimes by direct words, oftener by bitter gibes. At length they were mounted and rode on through the closing night and the falling rain, the Prince leading the way with reckless haste. The glee maiden, mounted by his express order, attended them and well for her that, accustomed to severe weather, and exercise both on foot and horseback, she supported as firmly as the men the fatigues of the nocturnal ride. Ramorny was compelled to keep at the Prince's rein, being under no small anxiety lest, in his wayward fit, he might ride off from him entirely, and, taking refuge in the house of some loyal baron, escape the snare which was spread for him. He therefore suffered inexpressibly during the ride, both in mind and in body.

At length the forest of Falkland received them, and a glimpse of the moon showed the dark and huge tower, an appendage of royalty itself, though granted for a season to the Duke of Albany. On a signal given the drawbridge fell. Torches glared in the courtyard, menials attended, and the Prince, assisted from horseback, was ushered into an apartment, where Ramorny waited on him, together with Dwining, and entreated him to take the leech's advice. The Duke of Rothsay repulsed the proposal, haughtily ordered his bed to be prepared, and having stood for some time shivering in his dank garments beside a large blazing fire, he retired to his apartment without taking leave of anyone.

"You see the peevish humour of this childish boy, now," said Ramorny to Dwining; "can you wonder that a servant who has done so much for him as I have should be tired of such a master?"

"No, truly," said Dwining, "that and the promised earldom of Lindores would shake any man's fidelity. But shall we commence with him this evening? He has, if eye and cheek speak true, the foundation of a fever within him, which will make our work easy while it will seem the effect of nature."

"It is an opportunity lost," said Ramorny; "but we must delay our blow till he has seen this beauty, Catharine Glover. She may be hereafter a witness that she saw him in good health, and master of his own motions, a brief space before—you understand me?"

Dwining nodded assent, and added:

"There is no time lost; for there is little difficulty in blighting a flower exhausted from having been made to bloom too soon."



CHAPTER XXXI.

Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight, Sore given to revel and ungodly glee: Few earthly things found favour in his sight, Save concubines and carnal companie, And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree.

BYRON.

With the next morning the humour of the Duke of Rothsay was changed. He complained, indeed, of pain and fever, but they rather seemed to stimulate than to overwhelm him. He was familiar with Ramorny, and though he said nothing on the subject of the preceding night, it was plain he remembered what he desired to obliterate from the memory of his followers—the ill humour he had then displayed. He was civil to every one, and jested with Ramorny on the subject of Catharine's arrival.

"How surprised will the pretty prude be at seeing herself in a family of men, when she expects to be admitted amongst the hoods and pinners of Dame Marjory's waiting women! Thou hast not many of the tender sex in thy household, I take it, Ramorny?"

"Faith, none except the minstrel wench, but a household drudge or two whom we may not dispense with. By the way, she is anxiously inquiring after the mistress your Highness promised to prefer her to. Shall I dismiss her, to hunt for her new mistress at leisure?"

"By no means, she will serve to amuse Catharine. And, hark you, were it not well to receive that coy jillet with something of a mumming?"

"How mean you, my lord?"

"Thou art dull, man. We will not disappoint her, since she expects to find the Duchess of Rothsay: I will be Duke and Duchess in my own person."

"Still I do not comprehend."

"No one so dull as a wit," said the Prince, "when he does not hit off the scent at once. My Duchess, as they call her, has been in as great a hurry to run away from Falkland as I to come hither. We have both left our apparel behind. There is as much female trumpery in the wardrobe adjoining to my sleeping room as would equip a whole carnival. Look you, I will play Dame Marjory, disposed on this day bed here with a mourning veil and a wreath of willow, to show my forsaken plight; thou, John, wilt look starch and stiff enough for her Galwegian maid of honour, the Countess Hermigild; and Dwining shall present the old Hecate, her nurse—only she hath more beard on her upper lip than Dwining on his whole face, and skull to boot. He should have the commodity of a beard to set her forth conformably. Get thy kitchen drudges, and what passable pages thou hast with thee, to make my women of the bedroom. Hearest thou? about it instantly."

Ramorny hasted into the anteroom, and told Dwining the Prince's device.

"Do thou look to humour the fool," he said; "I care not how little I see him, knowing what is to be done."

"Trust all to me," said the physician, shrugging his shoulders. "What sort of a butcher is he that can cut the lamb's throat, yet is afraid to hear it bleat?"

"Tush, fear not my constancy: I cannot forget that he would have cast me into the cloister with as little regard as if he threw away the truncheon of a broken lance. Begone—yet stay; ere you go to arrange this silly pageant, something must be settled to impose on the thick witted Charteris. He is like enough, should he be left in the belief that the Duchess of Rothsay is still here, and Catharine Glover in attendance on her, to come down with offers of service, and the like, when, as I need scarce tell thee, his presence would be inconvenient. Indeed, this is the more likely, that some folks have given a warmer name to the iron headed knight's great and tender patronage of this damsel."

"With that hint, let me alone to deal with him. I will send him such a letter, that for this month he shall hold himself as ready for a journey to hell as to Falkland. Can you tell me the name of the Duchess's confessor?"

"Waltheof, a grey friar."

"Enough—then here I start."

In a few minutes, for he was a clerk of rare celerity, Dwining finished a letter, which he placed in Ramorny's hand.

"This is admirable, and would have made thy fortune with Rothsay. I think I should have been too jealous to trust thee in his household, save that his day is closed."

"Read it aloud," said Dwining, "that we may judge if it goes trippingly off."

And Ramorny read as follows: "By command of our high and mighty Princess Marjory, Duchess of Rothsay, and so forth, we Waltheof, unworthy brother of the order of St. Francis, do thee, Sir Patrick Charteris, knight of Kinfauns, to know, that her Highness marvels much at the temerity with which you have sent to her presence a woman of whose fame she can judge but lightly, seeing she hath made her abode, without any necessity, for more than a week in thine own castle, without company of any other female, saving menials; of which foul cohabitation the savour is gone up through Fife, Angus, and Perthshire. Nevertheless, her Highness, considering the ease as one of human frailty, hath not caused this wanton one to be scourged with nettles, or otherwise to dree penance; but, as two good brethren of the convent of Lindores, the Fathers Thickskull and Dundermore, have been summoned up to the Highlands upon an especial call, her Highness hath committed to their care this maiden Catharine, with charge to convey her to her father, whom she states to be residing beside Loch Tay, under whose protection she will find a situation more fitting her qualities and habits than the Castle of Falkland, while her Highness the Duchess of Rothsay abides there. She hath charged the said reverend brothers so to deal with the young woman as may give her a sense of the sin of incontinence, and she commendeth thee to confession and penitence.—Signed, Waltheof, by command of an high and mighty Princess"; and so forth.

When he had finished, "Excellent—excellent!" Ramorny exclaimed. "This unexpected rebuff will drive Charteris mad! He hath been long making a sort of homage to this lady, and to find himself suspected of incontinence, when he was expecting the full credit of a charitable action, will altogether confound him; and, as thou say'st, it will be long enough ere he come hither to look after the damsel or do honour to the dame. But away to thy pageant, while I prepare that which shall close the pageant for ever."

It was an hour before noon, when Catharine, escorted by old Henshaw and a groom of the Knight of Kinfauns, arrived before the lordly tower of Falkland. The broad banner which was displayed from it bore the arms of Rothsay, the servants who appeared wore the colours of the Prince's household, all confirming the general belief that the Duchess still resided there. Catharine's heart throbbed, for she had heard that the Duchess had the pride as well as the high courage of the house of Douglas, and felt uncertain touching the reception she was to experience. On entering the castle, she observed that the train was smaller than she had expected, but, as the Duchess lived in close retirement, she was little surprised at this. In a species of anteroom she was met by a little old woman, who seemed bent double with age, and supported herself upon an ebony staff.

"Truly thou art welcome, fair daughter," said she, saluting Catharine, "and, as I may say, to an afflicted house; and I trust (once more saluting her) thou wilt be a consolation to my precious and right royal daughter the Duchess. Sit thee down, my child, till I see whether my lady be at leisure to receive thee. Ah, my child, thou art very lovely indeed, if Our Lady hath given to thee a soul to match with so fair a body."

With that the counterfeit old woman crept into the next apartment, where she found Rothsay in the masquerading habit he had prepared, and Ramorny, who had evaded taking part in the pageant, in his ordinary attire.

"Thou art a precious rascal, sir doctor," said the Prince; "by my honour, I think thou couldst find in thy heart to play out the whole play thyself, lover's part and all."

"If it were to save your Highness trouble," said the leech, with his usual subdued laugh.

"No—no," said Rothsay, "I never need thy help, man; and tell me now, how look I, thus disposed on the couch—languishing and ladylike, ha?"

"Something too fine complexioned and soft featured for the Lady Marjory of Douglas, if I may presume to say so," said the leech.

"Away, villain, and marshal in this fair frost piece—fear not she will complain of my effeminacy; and thou, Ramorny, away also."

As the knight left the apartment by one door, the fictitious old woman ushered in Catharine Glover by another. The room had been carefully darkened to twilight, so that Catharine saw the apparently female figure stretched on the couch without the least suspicion.

"Is that the maiden?" asked Rothsay, in a voice naturally sweet, and now carefully modulated to a whispering tone. "Let her approach, Griselda, and kiss our hand."

The supposed nurse led the trembling maiden forward to the side of the couch, and signed to her to kneel. Catharine did so, and kissed with much devotion and simplicity the gloved hand which the counterfeit duchess extended to her.

"Be not afraid," said the same musical voice; "in me you only see a melancholy example of the vanity of human greatness; happy those, my child, whose rank places them beneath the storms of state."

While he spoke, he put his arms around her neck and drew her towards him, as if to salute her in token of welcome. But the kiss was bestowed with an earnestness which so much overacted the part of the fair patroness, that Catharine, concluding the Duchess had lost her senses, screamed aloud.

"Peace, fool! it is I—David of Rothsay."

Catharine looked around her; the nurse was gone, and the Duke tearing off his veil, she saw herself in the power of a daring young libertine.

"Now be present with me, Heaven!" she said; "and Thou wilt, if I forsake not myself."

As this resolution darted through her mind, she repressed her disposition to scream, and, as far as she might, strove to conceal her fear.

"The jest hath been played," she said, with as much firmness as she could assume; "may I entreat that your Highness will now unhand me?" for he still kept hold of her arm.

"Nay, my pretty captive, struggle not—why should you fear?"

"I do not struggle, my lord. As you are pleased to detain me, I will not, by striving, provoke you to use me ill, and give pain to yourself, when you have time to think."

"Why, thou traitress, thou hast held me captive for months," said the Prince, "and wilt thou not let me hold thee for a moment?"

"This were gallantry, my lord, were it in the streets of Perth, where I might listen or escape as I listed; it is tyranny here."

"And if I did let thee go, whither wouldst thou fly?" said Rothsay. "The bridges are up, the portcullis down, and the men who follow me are strangely deaf to a peevish maiden's squalls. Be kind, therefore, and you shall know what it is to oblige a prince."

"Unloose me, then, my lord, and hear me appeal from thyself to thyself, from Rothsay to the Prince of Scotland. I am the daughter of an humble but honest citizen. I am, I may well nigh say, the spouse of a brave and honest man. If I have given your Highness any encouragement for what you have done, it has been unintentional. Thus forewarned, I entreat you to forego your power over me, and suffer me to depart. Your Highness can obtain nothing from me, save by means equally unworthy of knighthood or manhood."

"You are bold, Catharine," said the Prince, "but neither as a knight nor a man can I avoid accepting a defiance. I must teach you the risk of such challenges."

While he spoke, he attempted to throw his arms again around her; but she eluded his grasp, and proceeded in the same tone of firm decision.

"My strength, my lord, is as great to defend myself in an honourable strife as yours can be to assail me with a most dishonourable purpose. Do not shame yourself and me by putting it to the combat. You may stun me with blows, or you may call aid to overpower me; but otherwise you will fail of your purpose."

"What a brute you would make me!" said the Prince. "The force I would use is no more than excuses women in yielding to their own weakness."

He sat down in some emotion.

"Then keep it," said Catharine, "for those women who desire such an excuse. My resistance is that of the most determined mind which love of honour and fear of shame ever inspired. Alas! my lord, could you succeed, you would but break every bond between me and life, between yourself and honour. I have been trained fraudulently here, by what decoys I know not; but were I to go dishonoured hence, it would be to denounce the destroyer of my happiness to every quarter of Europe. I would take the palmer's staff in my hand, and wherever chivalry is honoured, or the word Scotland has been heard, I would proclaim the heir of a hundred kings, the son of the godly Robert Stuart, the heir of the heroic Bruce, a truthless, faithless man, unworthy of the crown he expects and of the spurs he wears. Every lady in wide Europe would hold your name too foul for her lips; every worthy knight would hold you a baffled, forsworn caitiff, false to the first vow of arms, the protection of woman and the defence of the feeble."

Rothsay resumed his seat, and looked at her with a countenance in which resentment was mingled with admiration. "You forget to whom you speak, maiden. Know, the distinction I have offered you is one for which hundreds whose trains you are born to bear would feel gratitude."

"Once more, my lord," resumed Catharine, "keep these favours for those by whom they are prized; or rather reserve your time and your health for other and nobler pursuits—for the defence of your country and the happiness of your subjects. Alas, my lord, how willingly would an exulting people receive you for their chief! How gladly would they close around you, did you show desire to head them against the oppression of the mighty, the violence of the lawless, the seduction of the vicious, and the tyranny of the hypocrite!"

The Duke of Rothsay, whose virtuous feelings were as easily excited as they were evanescent, was affected by the enthusiasm with which she spoke. "Forgive me if I have alarmed you, maiden," he said "thou art too noble minded to be the toy of passing pleasure, for which my mistake destined thee; and I, even were thy birth worthy of thy noble spirit and transcendent beauty, have no heart to give thee; for by the homage of the heart only should such as thou be wooed. But my hopes have been blighted, Catharine: the only woman I ever loved has been torn from me in the very wantonness of policy, and a wife imposed on me whom I must ever detest, even had she the loveliness and softness which alone can render a woman amiable in my eyes. My health is fading even in early youth; and all that is left for me is to snatch such flowers as the short passage from life to the grave will now present. Look at my hectic cheek; feel, if you will, my intermitting pulse; and pity me and excuse me if I, whose rights as a prince and as a man have been trampled upon and usurped, feel occasional indifference towards the rights of others, and indulge a selfish desire to gratify the wish of the passing moment."

"Oh, my lord!" exclaimed Catharine, with the enthusiasm which belonged to her character—"I will call you my dear lord, for dear must the heir of Bruce be to every child of Scotland—let me not, I pray, hear you speak thus! Your glorious ancestor endured exile, persecution, the night of famine, and the day of unequal combat, to free his country; do you practise the like self denial to free yourself. Tear yourself from those who find their own way to greatness smoothed by feeding your follies. Distrust yon dark Ramorny! You know it not, I am sure—you could not know; but the wretch who could urge the daughter to courses of shame by threatening the life of the aged father is capable of all that is vile, all that is treacherous!"

"Did Ramorny do this?" said the Prince.

"He did indeed, my lord, and he dares not deny it."

"It shall be looked to," answered the Duke of Rothsay. "I have ceased to love him; but he has suffered much for my sake, and I must see his services honourably requited."

"His services! Oh, my lord, if chronicles speak true, such services brought Troy to ruins and gave the infidels possession of Spain."

"Hush, maiden—speak within compass, I pray you," said the Prince, rising up; "our conference ends here."

"Yet one word, my Lord Duke of Rothsay," said Catharine, with animation, while her beautiful countenance resembled that of an admonitory angel. "I cannot tell what impels me to speak thus boldly; but the fire burns within me, and will break out. Leave this castle without an hour's delay; the air is unwholesome for you. Dismiss this Ramorny before the day is ten minutes older; his company is most dangerous."

"What reason have you for saying this?"

"None in especial," answered Catharine, abashed at her own eagerness—"none, perhaps, excepting my fears for your safety."

"To vague fears the heir of Bruce must not listen. What, ho! who waits without?"

Ramorny entered, and bowed low to the Duke and to the maiden, whom, perhaps, he considered as likely to be preferred to the post of favourite sultana, and therefore entitled to a courteous obeisance.

"Ramorny," said the Prince, "is there in the household any female of reputation who is fit to wait on this young woman till we can send her where she may desire to go?"

"I fear," replied Ramorny, "if it displease not your Highness to hear the truth, your household is indifferently provided in that way; and that, to speak the very verity, the glee maiden is the most decorous amongst us."

"Let her wait upon this young person, then, since better may not be. And take patience, maiden, for a few hours."

Catharine retired.

"So, my lord, part you so soon from the Fair Maid of Perth? This is, indeed, the very wantonness of victory."

"There is neither victory nor defeat in the case," returned the Prince, drily. "The girl loves me not; nor do I love her well enough to torment myself concerning her scruples."

"The chaste Malcolm the Maiden revived in one of his descendants!" said Ramorny.

"Favour me, sir, by a truce to your wit, or by choosing a different subject for its career. It is noon, I believe, and you will oblige me by commanding them to serve up dinner."

Ramorny left the room; but Rothsay thought he discovered a smile upon his countenance, and to be the subject of this man's satire gave him no ordinary degree of pain. He summoned, however, the knight to his table, and even admitted Dwining to the same honour. The conversation was of a lively and dissolute cast, a tone encouraged by the Prince, as if designing to counterbalance the gravity of his morals in the morning, which Ramorny, who was read in old chronicles, had the boldness to liken to the continence of Scipio.

The banquet, nothwithstanding the Duke's indifferent health, was protracted in idle wantonness far beyond the rules of temperance; and, whether owing simply to the strength of the wine which he drank, or the weakness of his constitution, or, as it is probable, because the last wine which he quaffed had been adulterated by Dwining, it so happened that the Prince, towards the end of the repast, fell into a lethargic sleep, from which it seemed impossible to rouse him. Sir John Ramorny and Dwining carried him to his chamber, accepting no other assistance than that of another person, whom we will afterwards give name to.

Next morning, it was announced that the Prince was taken ill of an infectious disorder; and, to prevent its spreading through the household, no one was admitted to wait on him save his late master of horse, the physician Dwining, and the domestic already mentioned; one of whom seemed always to remain in the apartment, while the others observed a degree of precaution respecting their intercourse with the rest of the family, so strict as to maintain the belief that he was dangerously ill of an infectious disorder.



CHAPTER XXXII.

In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire, With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales Of woeful ages, long ago betid: And, ere thou bid goodnight, to quit their grief, Tell thou the lamentable fall of me.

King Richard II Act V. Scene I.

Far different had been the fate of the misguided heir of Scotland from that which was publicly given out in the town of Falkland. His ambitious uncle had determined on his death, as the means of removing the first and most formidable barrier betwixt his own family and the throne. James, the younger son of the King, was a mere boy, who might at more leisure be easily set aside. Ramorny's views of aggrandisement, and the resentment which he had latterly entertained against his masters made him a willing agent in young Rothsay's destruction. Dwining's love of gold, and his native malignity of disposition, rendered him equally forward. It had been resolved, with the most calculating cruelty, that all means which might leave behind marks of violence were to be carefully avoided, and the extinction of life suffered to take place of itself by privation of every kind acting upon a frail and impaired constitution. The Prince of Scotland was not to be murdered, as Ramorny had expressed himself on another occasion, he was only to cease to exist. Rothsay's bedchamber in the Tower of Falkland was well adapted for the execution of such a horrible project. A small, narrow staircase, scarce known to exist, opened from thence by a trapdoor to the subterranean dungeons of the castle, through a passage by which the feudal lord was wont to visit, in private and in disguise, the inhabitants of those miserable regions. By this staircase the villains conveyed the insensible Prince to the lowest dungeon of the castle, so deep in the bowels of the earth, that no cries or groans, it was supposed, could possibly be heard, while the strength of its door and fastenings must for a long time have defied force, even if the entrance could have been discovered. Bonthron, who had been saved from the gallows for the purpose, was the willing agent of Ramorny's unparalleled cruelty to his misled and betrayed patron.

This wretch revisited the dungeon at the time when the Prince's lethargy began to wear off, and when, awaking to sensation, he felt himself deadly cold, unable to move, and oppressed with fetters, which scarce permitted him to stir from the dank straw on which he was laid. His first idea was that he was in a fearful dream, his next brought a confused augury of the truth. He called, shouted, yelled at length in frenzy but no assistance came, and he was only answered by the vaulted roof of the dungeon. The agent of hell heard these agonizing screams, and deliberately reckoned them against the taunts and reproaches with which Rothsay had expressed his instinctive aversion to him. When, exhausted and hopeless, the unhappy youth remained silent, the savage resolved to present himself before the eyes of his prisoner. The locks were drawn, the chain fell; the Prince raised himself as high as his fetters permitted; a red glare, against which he was fain to shut his eyes, streamed through the vault; and when he opened them again, it was on the ghastly form of one whom he had reason to think dead. He sunk back in horror.

"I am judged and condemned," he exclaimed, "and the most abhorred fiend in the infernal regions is sent to torment me!"

"I live, my lord," said Bonthron; "and that you may live and enjoy life, be pleased to sit up and eat your victuals."

"Free me from these irons," said the Prince, "release me from this dungeon, and, dog as thou art, thou shalt be the richest man in Scotland."

"If you would give me the weight of your shackles in gold," said Bonthron, "I would rather see the iron on you than have the treasure myself! But look up; you were wont to love delicate fare—behold how I have catered for you."

The wretch, with fiendish glee, unfolded a piece of rawhide covering the bundle which he bore under' his arm, and, passing the light to and fro before it, showed the unhappy Prince a bull's head recently hewn from the trunk, and known in Scotland as the certain signal of death. He placed it at the foot of the bed, or rather lair, on which the Prince lay.

"Be moderate in your food," he said; "it is like to be long ere thou getst another meal."

"Tell me but one thing, wretch," said the Prince. "Does Ramorny know of this practice?"

"How else hadst thou been decoyed hither? Poor woodcock, thou art snared!" answered the murderer.

With these words, the door shut, the bolts resounded, and the unhappy Prince was left to darkness, solitude, and misery. "Oh, my father!—my prophetic father! The staff I leaned on has indeed proved a spear!"

We will not dwell on the subsequent hours, nay, days, of bodily agony and mental despair.

But it was not the pleasure of Heaven that so great a crime should be perpetrated with impunity.

Catharine Glover and the glee woman, neglected by the other inmates, who seemed to be engaged with the tidings of the Prince's illness, were, however, refused permission to leave the castle until it should be seen how this alarming disease was to terminate, and whether it was actually an infectious sickness. Forced on each other's society, the two desolate women became companions, if not friends; and the union drew somewhat closer when Catharine discovered that this was the same female minstrel on whose account Henry Wynd had fallen under her displeasure. She now heard his complete vindication, and listened with ardour to the praises which Louise heaped on her gallant protector. On the other hand, the minstrel, who felt the superiority of Catharine's station and character, willingly dwelt upon a theme which seemed to please her, and recorded her gratitude to the stout smith in the little song of "Bold and True," which was long a favourite in Scotland.

Oh, bold and true, In bonnet blue, That fear or falsehood never knew, Whose heart was loyal to his word, Whose hand was faithful to his sword— Seek Europe wide from sea to sea, But bonny blue cap still for me!

I've seen Almain's proud champions prance, Have seen the gallant knights of France, Unrivall'd with the sword and lance, Have seen the sons of England true, Wield the brown bill and bend the yew. Search France the fair, and England free, But bonny blue cap still for me!

In short, though Louise's disreputable occupation would have been in other circumstances an objection to Catharine's voluntarily frequenting her company, yet, forced together as they now were, she found her a humble and accommodating companion.

They lived in this manner for four or five days, and, in order to avoid as much as possible the gaze, and perhaps the incivility, of the menials in the offices, they prepared their food in their own apartment. In the absolutely necessary intercourse with domestics, Louise, more accustomed to expedients, bolder by habit, and desirous to please Catharine, willingly took on herself the trouble of getting from the pantler the materials of their slender meal, and of arranging it with the dexterity of her country.

The glee woman had been abroad for this purpose upon the sixth day, a little before noon; and the desire of fresh air, or the hope to find some sallad or pot herbs, or at least an early flower or two, with which to deck their board, had carried her into the small garden appertaining to the castle. She re-entered her apartment in the tower with a countenance pale as ashes, and a frame which trembled like an aspen leaf. Her terror instantly extended itself to Catharine, who could hardly find words to ask what new misfortune had occurred.

"Is the Duke of Rothsay dead?"

"Worse! they are starving him alive."

"Madness, woman!"

"No—no—no—no!" said Louise, speaking under her breath, and huddling her words so thick upon each other that Catharine could hardly catch the sense. "I was seeking for flowers to dress your pottage, because you said you loved them yesterday; my poor little dog, thrusting himself into a thicket of yew and holly bushes that grow out of some old ruins close to the castle wall, came back whining and howling. I crept forward to see what might be the cause—and, oh! I heard a groaning as of one in extreme pain, but so faint, that it seemed to arise out of the very depth of the earth. At length, I found it proceeded from a small rent in the wall, covered with ivy; and when I laid my ear close to the opening, I could hear the Prince's voice distinctly say, 'It cannot now last long'—and then it sunk away in something like a prayer."

"Gracious Heaven! did you speak to him?"

"I said, 'Is it you, my lord?' and the answer was, 'Who mocks me with that title?' I asked him if I could help him, and he answered with a voice I shall never forget, 'Food—food! I die of famine!' So I came hither to tell you. What is to be done? Shall we alarm the house?"

"Alas! that were more likely to destroy than to aid," said Catharine.

"And what then shall we do?" said Louise.

"I know not yet," said Catharine, prompt and bold on occasions of moment, though yielding to her companion in ingenuity of resource on ordinary occasions: "I know not yet, but something we will do: the blood of Bruce shall not die unaided."

So saying, she seized the small cruise which contained their soup, and the meat of which it was made, wrapped some thin cakes which she had baked into the fold of her plaid, and, beckoning her companion to follow with a vessel of milk, also part of their provisions, she hastened towards the garden.

"So, our fair vestal is stirring abroad?" said the only man she met, who was one of the menials; but Catharine passed on without notice or reply, and gained the little garden without farther interruption.

Louise indicated to her a heap of ruins, which, covered with underwood, was close to the castle wall. It had probably been originally a projection from the building; and the small fissure, which communicated with the dungeon, contrived for air, had terminated within it. But the aperture had been a little enlarged by decay, and admitted a dim ray of light to its recesses, although it could not be observed by those who visited the place with torchlight aids.

"Here is dead silence," said Catharine, after she had listened attentively for a moment. "Heaven and earth, he is gone!"

"We must risk something," said her companion, and ran her fingers over the strings of her guitar.

A sigh was the only answer from the depth of the dungeon. Catharine then ventured to speak. "I am here, my lord—I am here, with food and drink."

"Ha! Ramorny! The jest comes too late; I am dying," was the answer.

"His brain is turned, and no wonder," thought Catharine; "but whilst there is life, there may be hope."

"It is I, my lord, Catharine Glover. I have food, if I could pass it safely to you."

"Heaven bless thee, maiden! I thought the pain was over, but it glows again within me at the name of food."

"The food is here, but how—ah, how can I pass it to you? the chink is so narrow, the wall is so thick! Yet there is a remedy—I have it. Quick, Louise; cut me a willow bough, the tallest you can find."

The glee maiden obeyed, and, by means of a cleft in the top of the wand, Catharine transmitted several morsels of the soft cakes, soaked in broth, which served at once for food and for drink.

The unfortunate young man ate little, and with difficulty, but prayed for a thousand blessings on the head of his comforter. "I had destined thee to be the slave of my vices," he said, "and yet thou triest to become the preserver of my life! But away, and save thyself."

"I will return with food as I shall see opportunity," said Catharine, just as the glee maiden plucked her sleeve and desired her to be silent and stand close.

Both crouched among the ruins, and they heard the voices of Ramorny and the mediciner in close conversation.

"He is stronger than I thought," said the former, in a low, croaking tone. "How long held out Dalwolsy, when the knight of Liddesdale prisoned him in his castle of Hermitage?"

"For a fortnight," answered Dwining; "but he was a strong man, and had some assistance by grain which fell from a granary above his prison house."

"Were it not better end the matter more speedily? The Black Douglas comes this way. He is not in Albany's secret. He will demand to see the Prince, and all must be over ere he comes."

They passed on in their dark and fatal conversation.

"Now gain we the tower," said Catharine to her companion, when she saw they had left the garden. "I had a plan of escape for myself; I will turn it into one of rescue for the Prince. The dey woman enters the castle about vesper time, and usually leaves her cloak in the passage as she goes into the pantlers' office with the milk. Take thou the cloak, muffle thyself close, and pass the warder boldly; he is usually drunken at that hour, and thou wilt go as the dey woman unchallenged through gate and along bridge, if thou bear thyself with confidence. Then away to meet the Black Douglas; he is our nearest and only aid."

"But," said Louise, "is he not that terrible lord who threatened me with shame and punishment?"

"Believe it," said Catharine, "such as thou or I never dwelt an hour in the Douglas's memory, either for good or evil. Tell him that his son in law, the Prince of Scotland dies—treacherously famished—in Falkland Castle, and thou wilt merit not pardon only, but reward."

"I care not for reward," said Louise; "the deed will reward itself. But methinks to stay is more dangerous than to go. Let me stay, then, and nourish the unhappy Prince, and do you depart to bring help. If they kill me before you return, I leave you my poor lute, and pray you to be kind to my poor Charlot."

"No, Louise," replied Catharine, "you are a more privileged and experienced wanderer than I—do you go; and if you find me dead on your return, as may well chance, give my poor father this ring and a lock of my hair, and say, Catharine died in endeavouring to save the blood of Bruce. And give this other lock to Henry; say, Catharine thought of him to the last, and that, if he has judged her too scrupulous touching the blood of others, he will then know it was not because she valued her own."

They sobbed in each other's arms, and the intervening hours till evening were spent in endeavouring to devise some better mode of supplying the captive with nourishment, and in the construction of a tube, composed of hollow reeds, slipping into each other, by which liquids might be conveyed to him. The bell of the village church of Falkland tolled to vespers. The dey, or farm woman, entered with her pitchers to deliver the milk for the family, and to hear and tell the news stirring. She had scarcely entered the kitchen when the female minstrel, again throwing herself in Catharine's arms, and assuring her of her unalterable fidelity, crept in silence downstairs, the little dog under her arm. A moment after, she was seen by the breathless Catharine, wrapt in the dey woman's cloak, and walking composedly across the drawbridge.

"So," said the warder, "you return early tonight, May Bridget? Small mirth towards in the hall—ha, wench! Sick times are sad times!"

"I have forgotten my tallies," said the ready witted French woman, "and will return in the skimming of a bowie."

She went onward, avoiding the village of Falkland, and took a footpath which led through the park. Catharine breathed freely, and blessed God when she saw her lost in the distance. It was another anxious hour for Catharine which occurred before the escape of the fugitive was discovered. This happened so soon as the dey girl, having taken an hour to perform a task which ten minutes might have accomplished, was about to return, and discovered that some one had taken away her grey frieze cloak. A strict search was set on foot; at length the women of the house remembered the glee maiden, and ventured to suggest her as one not unlikely to exchange an old cloak for a new one. The warder, strictly questioned, averred he saw the dey woman depart immediately after vespers; and on this being contradicted by the party herself, he could suggest, as the only alternative, that it must needs have been the devil.

As, however, the glee woman could not be found, the real circumstances of the case were easily guessed at; and the steward went to inform Sir John Ramorny and Dwining, who were now scarcely ever separate, of the escape of one of their female captives. Everything awakens the suspicions of the guilty. They looked on each other with faces of dismay, and then went together to the humble apartment of Catharine, that they might take her as much as possible by surprise while they inquired into the facts attending Louise's disappearance.

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