In the mean time, King Robert, afraid lest his brother should resume the painful subject from which he had just escaped, called aloud to the prior of the Dominicans, "I hear the trampling of horse. Your station commands the courtyard, reverend father. Look from the window, and tell us who alights. Rothsay, is it not?"
"The noble Earl of March, with his followers," said the prior.
"Is he strongly accompanied?" said the King. "Do his people enter the inner gate?"
At the same moment, Albany whispered the King, "Fear nothing, the Brandanes of your household are under arms."
The King nodded thanks, while the prior from the window answered the question he had put. "The Earl is attended by two pages, two gentlemen, and four grooms. One page follows him up the main staircase, bearing his lordship's sword. The others halt in the court, and—Benedicite, how is this? Here is a strolling glee woman, with her viol, preparing to sing beneath the royal windows, and in the cloister of the Dominicans, as she might in the yard of an hostelrie! I will have her presently thrust forth."
"Not so, father," said the King. "Let me implore grace for the poor wanderer. The joyous science, as they call it, which they profess, mingles sadly with the distresses to which want and calamity condemn a strolling race; and in that they resemble a king, to whom all men cry, 'All hail!' while he lacks the homage and obedient affection which the poorest yeoman receives from his family. Let the wanderer remain undisturbed, father; and let her sing if she will to the yeomen and troopers in the court; it will keep them from quarrelling with each other, belonging, as they do, to such unruly and hostile masters."
So spoke the well meaning and feeble minded prince, and the prior bowed in acquiescence. As he spoke, the Earl of March entered the hall of audience, dressed in the ordinary riding garb of the time, and wearing his poniard. He had left in the anteroom the page of honour who carried his sword. The Earl was a well built, handsome man, fair complexioned, with a considerable profusion of light coloured hair, and bright blue eyes, which gleamed like those of a falcon. He exhibited in his countenance, otherwise pleasing, the marks of a hasty and irritable temper, which his situation as a high and powerful feudal lord had given him but too many opportunities of indulging.
"I am glad to see you, my Lord of March," said the King, with a gracious inclination of his person. "You have been long absent from our councils."
"My liege," answered March with a deep reverence to the King, and a haughty and formal inclination to the Duke of Albany, "if I have been absent from your Grace's councils, it is because my place has been supplied by more acceptable, and, I doubt not, abler, counsellors. And now I come but to say to your Highness, that the news from the English frontier make it necessary that I should return without delay to my own estates. Your Grace has your wise and politic brother, my Lord of Albany, with whom to consult, and the mighty and warlike Earl of Douglas to carry your counsels into effect. I am of no use save in my own country; and thither, with your Highness's permission, I am purposed instantly to return, to attend my charge, as Warden of the Eastern Marches."
"You will not deal so unkindly with us, cousin," replied the gentle monarch. "Here are evil tidings on the wind. These unhappy Highland clans are again breaking into general commotion, and the tranquillity even of our own court requires the wisest of our council to advise, and the bravest of our barons to execute, what may be resolved upon. The descendant of Thomas Randolph will not surely abandon the grandson of Robert Bruce at such a period as this?"
"I leave with him the descendant of the far famed James of Douglas," answered March. "It is his lordship's boast that he never puts foot in stirrup but a thousand horse mount with him as his daily lifeguard, and I believe the monks of Aberbrothock will swear to the fact. Surely, with all the Douglas's chivalry, they are fitter to restrain a disorderly swarm of Highland kerne than I can be to withstand the archery of England and power of Henry Hotspur? And then, here is his Grace of Albany, so jealous in his care of your Highness's person, that he calls your Brandanes to take arms when a dutiful subject like myself approaches the court with a poor half score of horse, the retinue of the meanest of the petty barons who own a tower and a thousand acres of barren heath. When such precautions are taken where there is not the slightest chance of peril—since I trust none was to be apprehended from me—your royal person will surely be suitably guarded in real danger."
"My Lord of March," said the Duke of Albany, "the meanest of the barons of whom you speak put their followers in arms even when they receive their dearest and nearest friends within the iron gate of their castle; and, if it please Our Lady, I will not care less for the King's person than they do for their own. The Brandanes are the King's immediate retainers and household servants, and an hundred of them is but a small guard round his Grace, when yourself, my lord, as well as the Earl of Douglas, often ride with ten times the number."
"My Lord Duke," replied March, "when the service of the King requires it, I can ride with ten times as many horse as your Grace has named; but I have never done so either traitorously to entrap the King nor boastfully to overawe other nobles."
"Brother Robert," said the King, ever anxious to be a peacemaker, "you do wrong even to intimate a suspicion of my Lord of March. And you, cousin of March, misconstrue my brother's caution. But hark—to divert this angry parley—I hear no unpleasing touch of minstrelsy. You know the gay science, my Lord of March, and love it well. Step to yonder window, beside the holy prior, at whom we make no question touching secular pleasures, and you will tell us if the music and play be worth listening to. The notes are of France, I think. My brother of Albany's judgment is not worth a cockle shell in such matters, so you, cousin, must report your opinion whether the poor glee maiden deserves recompense. Our son and the Douglas will presently be here, and then, when our council is assembled, we will treat of graver matters."
With something like a smile on his proud brow, March withdrew into the recess of the window, and stood there in silence beside the prior, like one who, while he obeyed the King's command, saw through and despised the timid precaution which it implied, as an attempt to prevent the dispute betwixt Albany and himself. The tune, which was played upon a viol, was gay and sprightly in the commencement, with a touch of the wildness of the troubadour music. But, as it proceeded, the faltering tones of the instrument, and of the female voice which accompanied it, became plaintive and interrupted, as if choked by the painful feelings of the minstrel.
The offended earl, whatever might be his judgment in such matters on which the King had complimented him, paid, it may be supposed, little attention to the music of the female minstrel. His proud heart was struggling between the allegiance he owed his sovereign, as well as the love he still found lurking in his bosom for the person of his well natured king, and a desire of vengeance arising out of his disappointed ambition, and the disgrace done to him by the substitution of Marjory Douglas to be bride of the heir apparent, instead of his betrothed daughter. March had the vices and virtues of a hasty and uncertain character, and even now, when he came to bid the King adieu, with the purpose of renouncing his allegiance as soon as he reached his own feudal territories, he felt unwilling, and almost unable, to resolve upon a step so criminal and so full of peril. It was with such dangerous cogitations that he was occupied during the beginning of the glee maiden's lay; but objects which called his attention powerfully, as the songstress proceeded, affected the current of his thoughts, and riveted them on what was passing in the courtyard of the monastery. The song was in the Provencal dialect, well understood as the language of poetry in all the courts of Europe, and particularly in Scotland. It was more simply turned, however, than was the general cast of the sirventes, and rather resembled the lai of a Norman minstrel. It may be translated thus:
The Lay of Poor Louise.
Ah, poor Louise! The livelong day She roams from cot to castle gay; And still her voice and viol say, Ah, maids, beware the woodland way; Think on Louise.
Ah, poor Louise! The sun was high; It smirch'd her cheek, it dimm'd her eye. The woodland walk was cool and nigh, Where birds with chiming streamlets vie To cheer Louise.
Ah, poor Louise! The savage bear Made ne'er that lovely grove his lair; The wolves molest not paths so fair. But better far had such been there For poor Louise.
Ah, poor Louise! In woody wold She met a huntsman fair and bold; His baldrick was of silk and gold, And many a witching tale he told To poor Louise.
Ah, poor Louise! Small cause to pine Hadst thou for treasures of the mine; For peace of mind, that gift divine, And spotless innocence, were thine. Ah, poor Louise!
Ah, poor Louise! Thy treasure's reft. I know not if by force or theft, Or part by violence, part by gift; But misery is all that's left To poor Louise,
Let poor Louise some succour have! She will not long your bounty crave, Or tire the gay with warning stave; For Heaven has grace, and earth a grave For poor Louise.
The song was no sooner finished than, anxious lest the dispute should be revived betwixt his brother and the Earl of March, King Robert called to the latter, "What think you of the minstrelsy, my lord? Methinks, as I heard it even at this distance, it was a wild and pleasing lay."
"My judgment is not deep my lord; but the singer may dispense with my approbation, since she seems to have received that of his Grace of Rothsay, the best judge in Scotland."
"How!" said the King in alarm; "is my son below?"
"He is sitting on horseback by the glee maiden," said March, with a malicious smile on his cheek, "apparently as much interested by her conversation as her music."
"How is this, father prior?" said the King.
But the prior drew back from the lattice. "I have no will to see, my lord, things which it would pain me to repeat."
"How is all this?" said the King, who coloured deeply, and seemed about to rise from his chair; but changed his mind, as if unwilling, perhaps, to look upon some unbecoming prank of the wild young prince, which he might not have had heart to punish with necessary severity. The Earl of March seemed to have a pleasure in informing him of that of which doubtless he desired to remain ignorant.
"My liege," he cried, "this is better and better. The glee maiden has not only engaged the ear of the Prince of Scotland, as well as of every groom and trooper in the courtyard, but she has riveted the attention of the Black Douglas, whom we have not known as a passionate admirer of the gay science. But truly, I do not wonder at his astonishment, for the Prince has honoured the fair professor of song and viol with a kiss of approbation."
"How!" cried the King, "is David of Rothsay trifling with a glee maiden, and his wife's father in presence? Go, my good father abbot, call the Prince here instantly. Go, my dearest brother—" And when they had both left the room, the King continued, "Go, good cousin of March; there will be mischief, I am assured of it. I pray you go, cousin, and second my lord prior's prayers with my commands."
"You forget, my liege," said March, with the voice of a deeply offended person, "the father of Elizabeth of Dunbar were but an unfit intercessor between the Douglas and his royal son in law."
"I crave your pardon, cousin," said the gentle old man. "I own you have had some wrong; but my Rothsay will be murdered—I must go myself."
But, as he arose precipitately from his chair, the poor king missed a footstep, stumbled, and fell heavily to the ground, in such a manner that, his head striking the corner of the seat from which he had risen, he became for a minute insensible. The sight of the accident at once overcame March's resentment and melted his heart. He ran to the fallen monarch, and replaced him in his seat, using, in the tenderest and most respectful manner, such means as seemed most fit to recall animation.
Robert opened his eyes, and gazed around with uncertainty. "What has happened?—are we alone?—who is with us?"
"Your dutiful subject, March," replied the Earl.
"Alone with the Earl of March!" repeated the King, his still disturbed intellect receiving some alarm from the name of a powerful chief whom he had reason to believe he had mortally offended.
"Yes, my gracious liege, with poor George of Dunbar, of whom many have wished your Majesty to think ill, though he will be found truer to your royal person at the last than they will."
"Indeed, cousin, you have had too much wrong; and believe me, we shall strive to redress—"
"If your Grace thinks so, it may yet be righted," interrupted the Earl, catching at the hopes which his ambition suggested: "the Prince and Marjory Douglas are nearly related—the dispensation from Rome was informally granted—their marriage cannot be lawful—the Pope, who will do much for so godly a prince, can set aside this unchristian union, in respect of the pre-contract. Bethink you well, my liege," continued the Earl, kindling with a new train of ambitious thoughts, to which the unexpected opportunity of pleading his cause personally had given rise—"bethink you how you choose betwixt the Douglas and me. He is powerful and mighty, I grant. But George of Dunbar wears the keys of Scotland at his belt, and could bring an English army to the gates of Edinburgh ere Douglas could leave the skirts of Carintable to oppose them. Your royal son loves my poor deserted girl, and hates the haughty Marjory of Douglas. Your Grace may judge the small account in which he holds her by his toying with a common glee maiden even in the presence of her father."
The King had hitherto listened to the Earl's argument with the bewildered feelings of a timid horseman, borne away by an impetuous steed, whose course he can neither arrest nor direct. But the last words awakened in his recollection the sense of his son's immediate danger.
"Oh, ay, most true—my son—the Douglas! Oh, my dear cousin, prevent blood, and all shall be as you will. Hark, there is a tumult—that was the clash of arms!"
"By my coronet, by my knightly faith, it is true!" said the Earl, looking from the window upon the inner square of the convent, now filled with armed men and brandished weapons, and resounding with the clash of armour. The deep vaulted entrance was crowded with warriors at its farthest extremity, and blows seemed to be in the act of being exchanged betwixt some who were endeavouring to shut the gate and others who contended to press in.
"I will go instantly," said the Earl of March, "and soon quell this sudden broil. Humbly I pray your Majesty to think on what I have had the boldness to propose."
"I will—I will, fair cousin," said the King, scarce knowing to what he pledged himself; "do but prevent tumult and bloodshed!"
Fair is the damsel, passing fair; Sunny at distance gleams her smile; Approach—the cloud of woful care Hangs trembling in her eye the while.
Lucinda, a Ballad.
We must here trace a little more correctly the events which had been indistinctly seen from the window of the royal apartments, and yet more indistinctly reported by those who witnessed them. The glee maiden, already mentioned, had planted herself where a rise of two large broad steps, giving access to the main gateway of the royal apartments, gained her an advantage of a foot and a half in height over those in the court, of whom she hoped to form an audience. She wore the dress of her calling, which was more gaudy than rich, and showed the person more than did the garb of other females. She had laid aside an upper mantle, and a small basket which contained her slender stock of necessaries; and a little French spaniel dog sat beside them, as their protector. An azure blue jacket, embroidered with silver, and sitting close to the person, was open in front, and showed several waistcoats of different coloured silks, calculated to set off the symmetry of the shoulders and bosom, and remaining open at the throat. A small silver chain worn around her neck involved itself amongst these brilliant coloured waistcoats, and was again produced from them; to display a medal of the same metal, which intimated, in the name of some court or guild of minstrels, the degree she had taken in the gay or joyous science. A small scrip, suspended over her shoulders by a blue silk riband; hung on her left side.
Her sunny complexion, snow white teeth, brilliant black eyes, and raven locks marked her country lying far in the south of France, and the arch smile and dimpled chin bore the same character. Her luxuriant raven locks, twisted around a small gold bodkin, were kept in their position by a net of silk and gold. Short petticoats, deep laced with silver, to correspond with the jacket, red stockings which were visible so high as near the calf of the leg, and buskins of Spanish leather, completed her adjustment, which, though far from new, had been saved as an untarnished holiday suit, which much care had kept in good order. She seemed about twenty-five years old; but perhaps fatigue and wandering had anticipated the touch of time in obliterating the freshness of early youth.
We have said the glee maiden's manner was lively, and we may add that her smile and repartee were ready. But her gaiety was assumed, as a quality essentially necessary to her trade, of which it was one of the miseries, that the professors were obliged frequently to cover an aching heart with a compelled smile. This seemed to be the case with Louise, who, whether she was actually the heroine of her own song, or whatever other cause she might have for sadness, showed at times a strain of deep melancholy thought, which interfered with and controlled the natural flow of lively spirits which the practice of the joyous science especially required. She lacked also, even in her gayest sallies, the decided boldness and effrontery of her sisterhood, who were seldom at a loss to retort a saucy jest, or turn the laugh against any who interrupted or interfered with them.
It may be here remarked, that it was impossible that this class of women, very numerous in that age, could bear a character generally respectable. They were, however, protected by the manners of the time; and such were the immunities they possessed by the rights of chivalry, that nothing was more rare than to hear of such errant damsels sustaining injury or wrong, and they passed and repassed safely, where armed travellers would probably have encountered a bloody opposition. But though licensed and protected in honour of their tuneful art, the wandering minstrels, male or female, like similar ministers to the public amusement, the itinerant musicians, for instance, and strolling comedians of our own day, led a life too irregular and precarious to be accounted a creditable part of society. Indeed, among the stricter Catholics, the profession was considered as unlawful.
Such was the damsel who, with viol in hand, and stationed on the slight elevation we have mentioned, stepped forward to the bystanders and announced herself as a mistress of the gay science, duly qualified by a brief from a Court of Love and Music held at Aix, in Provence, under the countenance of the flower of chivalry, the gallant Count Aymer; who now prayed that the cavaliers of merry Scotland, who were known over the wide world for bravery and courtesy, would permit a poor stranger to try whether she could afford them any amusement by her art. The love of song was like the love of fight, a common passion of the age, which all at least affected, whether they were actually possessed by it or no; therefore the acquiescence in Louise's proposal was universal. At the same time, an aged, dark browed monk who was among the bystanders thought it necessary to remind the glee maiden that, since she was tolerated within these precincts, which was an unusual grace, he trusted nothing would be sung or said inconsistent with the holy character of the place.
The glee maiden bent her head low, shook her sable locks, and crossed herself reverentially, as if she disclaimed the possibility of such a transgression, and then began the song of "Poor Louise." which we gave at length in the last chapter.
Just as she commenced, she was stopped by a cry of "Room—room—place for the Duke of Rothsay!"
"Nay, hurry no man on my score," said a gallant young cavalier, who entered on a noble Arabian horse, which he managed with exquisite grace, though by such slight handling of the reins, such imperceptible pressure of the limbs and sway of the body, that to any eye save that of an experienced horseman the animal seemed to be putting forth his paces for his own amusement, and thus gracefully bearing forward a rider who was too indolent to give himself any trouble about the matter.
The Prince's apparel, which was very rich, was put on with slovenly carelessness. His form, though his stature was low, and his limbs extremely slight, was elegant in the extreme; and his features no less handsome. But there was on his brow a haggard paleness, which seemed the effect of care or of dissipation, or of both these wasting causes combined. His eyes were sunk and dim, as from late indulgence in revelry on the preceding evening, while his cheek was inflamed with unnatural red, as if either the effect of the Bacchanalian orgies had not passed away from the constitution, or a morning draught had been resorted to, in order to remove the effects of the night's debauchery.
Such was the Duke of Rothsay, and heir of the Scottish crown, a sight at once of interest and compassion. All unbonneted and made way for him, while he kept repeating carelessly, "No haste—no haste: I shall arrive soon enough at the place I am bound for. How's this—a damsel of the joyous science? Ay, by St. Giles! and a comely wench to boot. Stand still, my merry men; never was minstrelsy marred for me. A good voice, by the mass! Begin me that lay again, sweetheart."
Louise did not know the person who addressed her; but the general respect paid by all around, and the easy and indifferent manner in which it was received, showed her she was addressed by a man of the highest quality. She recommenced her lay, and sung her best accordingly; while the young duke seemed thoughtful and rather affected towards the close of the ditty. But it was not his habit to cherish such melancholy affections.
"This is a plaintive ditty, my nut brown maid," said he, chucking the retreating glee maiden under the chin, and detaining her by the collar of her dress, which was not difficult, as he sat on horseback so close to the steps on which she stood. "But I warrant me you have livelier notes at will, ma bella tenebrosa; ay, and canst sing in bower as well as wold, and by night as well as day."
"I am no nightingale, my lord," said Louise, endeavouring to escape a species of gallantry which ill suited the place and circumstances—a discrepancy to which he who addressed it to her seemed contemptuously indifferent.
"What hast thou there, darling?" he added, removing his hold from her collar to the scrip which she carried.
Glad was Louise to escape his grasp, by slipping the knot of the riband, and leaving the little bag in the Prince's hand, as, retiring back beyond his reach, she answered, "Nuts, my lord, of the last season."
The Prince pulled out a handful of nuts accordingly. "Nuts, child! they will break thine ivory teeth, hurt thy pretty voice," said Rothsay, cracking one with his teeth, like a village schoolboy.
"They are not the walnuts of my own sunny clime, my lord," said Louise; "but they hang low, and are within the reach of the poor."
"You shall have something to afford you better fare, poor wandering ape," said the Duke, in a tone in which feeling predominated more than in the affected and contemptuous gallantry of his first address to the glee maiden.
At this moment, as he turned to ask an attendant for his purse, the Prince encountered the stern and piercing look of a tall black man, seated on a powerful iron grey horse, who had entered the court with attendants while the Duke of Rothsay was engaged with Louise, and now remained stupefied and almost turned to stone by his surprise and anger at this unseemly spectacle. Even one who had never seen Archibald Earl of Douglas, called the Grim, must have known him by his swart complexion, his gigantic frame, his buff coat of bull's hide, and his air of courage, firmness, and sagacity, mixed with indomitable pride. The loss of an eye in battle, though not perceptible at first sight, as the ball of the injured organ remained similar to the other, gave yet a stern, immovable glare to the whole aspect.
The meeting of the royal son in law with his terrible stepfather [father in law] was in circumstances which arrested the attention of all present; and the bystanders waited the issue with silence and suppressed breath, lest they should lose any part of what was to ensue.
When the Duke of Rothsay saw the expression which occupied the stern features of Douglas, and remarked that the Earl did not make the least motion towards respectful, or even civil, salutation, he seemed determined to show him how little respect he was disposed to pay to his displeased looks. He took his purse from his chamberlain.
"Here, pretty one," he said, "I give thee one gold piece for the song thou hast sung me, another for the nuts I have stolen from thee, and a third for the kiss thou art about to give me. For know, my pretty one, that when fair lips, and thine for fault of better may be called so, make sweet music for my pleasure, I am sworn to St. Valentine to press them to mine."
"My song is recompensed nobly," said Louise, shrinking back; "my nuts are sold to a good market; farther traffic, my lord, were neither befitting you nor beseeming me."
"What! you coy it, my nymph of the highway?" said the Prince, contemptuously. "Know damsel, that one asks you a grace who is unused to denial."
"It is the Prince of Scotland—the Duke of Rothsay," said the courtiers around, to the terrified Louise, pressing forward the trembling young woman; "you must not thwart his humor."
"But I cannot reach your lordship," she said, timidly, "you sit so high on horseback."
"If I must alight," said Rothsay, "there shall be the heavier penalty. What does the wench tremble for? Place thy foot on the toe of my boot, give me hold of thy hand. Gallantly done!" He kissed her as she stood thus suspended in the air, perched upon his foot and supported by his hand; saying, "There is thy kiss, and there is my purse to pay it; and to grace thee farther, Rothsay will wear thy scrip for the day."
He suffered the frightened girl to spring to the ground, and turned his looks from her to bend them contemptuously on the Earl of Douglas, as if he had said, "All this I do in despite of you and of your daughter's claims."
"By St. Bride of Douglas!" said the Earl, pressing towards the Prince, "this is too much, unmannered boy, as void of sense as honour! You know what considerations restrain the hand of Douglas, else had you never dared—"
"Can you play at spang cockle, my lord?" said the Prince, placing a nut on the second joint of his forefinger, and spinning it off by a smart application of the thumb. The nut struck on Douglas's broad breast, who burst out into a dreadful exclamation of wrath, inarticulate, but resembling the growl of a lion in depth and sternness of expression.
"I cry your pardon, most mighty lord," said the Duke of Rothsay, scornfully, while all around trembled; "I did not conceive my pellet could have wounded you, seeing you wear a buff coat. Surely, I trust, it did not hit your eye?"
The prior, despatched by the King, as we have seen in the last chapter, had by this time made way through the crowd, and laying hold on Douglas's rein, in a manner that made it impossible for him to advance, reminded him that the Prince was the son of his sovereign; and the husband of his daughter.
"Fear not, sir prior," said Douglas. "I despise the childish boy too much to raise a finger against him. But I will return insult for insult. Here, any of you who love the Douglas, spurn me this quean from the monastery gates; and let her be so scourged that she may bitterly remember to the last day of her life how she gave means to an unrespective boy to affront the Douglas."
Four or five retainers instantly stepped forth to execute commands which were seldom uttered in vain, and heavily would Louise have atoned for an offence of which she was alike the innocent, unconscious, and unwilling instrument, had not the Duke of Rothsay interfered.
"Spurn the poor glee woman!" he said, in high indignation; "scourge her for obeying my commands! Spurn thine own oppressed vassals, rude earl—scourge thine own faulty hounds; but beware how you touch so much as a dog that Rothsay hath patted on the head, far less a female whose lips he hath kissed!"
Before Douglas could give an answer, which would certainly have been in defiance, there arose that great tumult at the outward gate of the monastery, already noticed, and men both on horseback and on foot began to rush headlong in, not actually fighting with each other, but certainly in no peaceable manner.
One of the contending parties, seemingly, were partizans of Douglas, known by the cognizance of the bloody heart; the other were composed of citizens of the town of Perth. It appeared they had been skirmishing in earnest when without the gates, but, out of respect to the sanctified ground, they lowered their weapons when they entered, and confined their strife to a war of words and mutual abuse.
The tumult had this good effect, that it forced asunder, by the weight and press of numbers, the Prince and Douglas, at a moment when the levity of the former and the pride of the latter were urging both to the utmost extremity. But now peacemakers interfered on all sides. The prior and the monks threw themselves among the multitude, and commanded peace in the name of Heaven, and reverence to their sacred walls, under penalty of excommunication; and their expostulations began to be listened to. Albany, who was despatched by his royal brother at the beginning of the fray, had not arrived till now on the scene of action. He instantly applied himself to Douglas, and in his ear conjured him to temper his passion.
"By St. Bride of Douglas, I will be avenged!" said the Earl. "No man shall brook life after he has passed an affront on Douglas."
"Why, so you may be avenged in fitting time," said Albany; "but let it not be said that, like a peevish woman, the Great Douglas could choose neither time nor place for his vengeance. Bethink you, all that we have laboured at is like to be upset by an accident. George of Dunbar hath had the advantage of an audience with the old man; and though it lasted but five minutes, I fear it may endanger the dissolution of your family match, which we brought about with so much difficulty. The authority from Rome has not yet been obtained."
"A toy!" answered Douglas, haughtily; "they dare not dissolve it."
"Not while Douglas is at large, and in possession of his power," answered Albany. "But, noble earl, come with me, and I will show you at what disadvantage you stand."
Douglas dismounted, and followed his wily accomplice in silence. In a lower hall they saw the ranks of the Brandanes drawn up, well armed in caps of steel and shirts of mail. Their captain, making an obeisance to Albany, seemed to desire to address him.
"What now, MacLouis?" said the Duke.
"We are informed the Duke of Rothsay has been insulted, and I can scarce keep the Brandanes within door."
"Gallant MacLouis," said Albany, "and you, my trusty Brandanes, the Duke of Rothsay, my princely nephew, is as well as a hopeful gentleman can be. Some scuffle there has been, but all is appeased."
He continued to draw the Earl of Douglas forward. "You see, my lord," he said in his ear, "that, if the word 'arrest' was to be once spoken, it would be soon obeyed, and you are aware your attendants are few for resistance."
Douglas seemed to acquiesce in the necessity of patience for the time. "If my teeth," he said, "should bite through my lips, I will be silent till it is the hour to speak out."
George of March, in the meanwhile, had a more easy task of pacifying the Prince. "My Lord of Rothsay," he said, approaching him with grave ceremony, "I need not tell you that you owe me something for reparation of honour, though I blame not you personally for the breach of contract which has destroyed the peace of my family. Let me conjure you, by what observance your Highness may owe an injured man, to forego for the present this scandalous dispute."
"My lord, I owe you much," replied Rothsay; "but this haughty and all controlling lord has wounded mine honour."
"My lord, I can but add, your royal father is ill—hath swooned with terror for your Highness's safety."
"Ill!" replied the Prince—"the kind, good old man swooned, said you, my Lord of March? I am with him in an instant."
The Duke of Rothsay sprung from his saddle to the ground, and was dashing into the palace like a greyhound, when a feeble grasp was laid on his cloak, and the faint voice of a kneeling female exclaimed, "Protection, my noble prince!—protection for a helpless stranger!"
"Hands off, stroller!" said the Earl of March, thrusting the suppliant glee maiden aside.
But the gentler prince paused. "It is true," he said, "I have brought the vengeance of an unforgiving devil upon this helpless creature. O Heaven! what a life, is mine, so fatal to all who approach me! What to do in the hurry? She must not go to my apartments. And all my men are such born reprobates. Ha! thou at mine elbow, honest Harry Smith? What dost thou here?"
"There has been something of a fight, my lord," answered our acquaintance the smith, "between the townsmen and the Southland loons who ride with the Douglas; and we have swinged them as far as the abbey gate."
"I am glad of it—I am glad of it. And you beat the knaves fairly?"
"Fairly, does your Highness ask?" said Henry. "Why, ay! We were stronger in numbers, to be sure; but no men ride better armed than those who follow the Bloody Heart. And so in a sense we beat them fairly; for, as your Highness knows, it is the smith who makes the man at arms, and men with good weapons are a match for great odds."
While they thus talked, the Earl of March, who had spoken with some one near the palace gate, returned in anxious haste. "My Lord Duke!—my Lord Duke! your father is recovered, and if you haste not speedily, my Lord of Albany and the Douglas will have possession of his royal ear."
"And if my royal father is recovered," said the thoughtless Prince, "and is holding, or about to hold, counsel with my gracious uncle and the Earl of Douglas, it befits neither your lordship nor me to intrude till we are summoned. So there is time for me to speak of my little business with mine honest armourer here."
"Does your Highness take it so?" said the Earl, whose sanguine hopes of a change of favour at court had been too hastily excited, and were as speedily checked. "Then so let it be for George of Dunbar."
He glided away with a gloomy and displeased aspect; and thus out of the two most powerful noblemen in Scotland, at a time when the aristocracy so closely controlled the throne, the reckless heir apparent had made two enemies—the one by scornful defiance and the other by careless neglect. He heeded not the Earl of March's departure, however, or rather he felt relieved from his importunity.
The Prince went on in indolent conversation with our armourer, whose skill in his art had made him personally known to many of the great lords about the court.
"I had something to say to thee, Smith. Canst thou take up a fallen link in my Milan hauberk?"
"As well, please your Highness, as my mother could take up a stitch in the nets she wove. The Milaner shall not know my work from his own."
"Well, but that was not what I wished of thee just now," said the Prince, recollecting himself: "this poor glee woman, good Smith, she must be placed in safety. Thou art man enough to be any woman's champion, and thou must conduct her to some place of safety."
Henry Smith was, as we have seen, sufficiently rash and daring when weapons were in question. But he had also the pride of a decent burgher, and was unwilling to place himself in what might be thought equivocal circumstances by the sober part of his fellow citizens.
"May it please your Highness," he said, "I am but a poor craftsman. But, though my arm and sword are at the King's service and your Highness's, I am, with reverence, no squire of dames. Your Highness will find, among your own retinue, knights and lords willing enough to play Sir Pandarus of Troy; it is too knightly a part for poor Hal of the Wynd."
"Umph—hah!" said the Prince. "My purse, Edgar." (His attendant whispered him.) "True—true, I gave it to the poor wench. I know enough of your craft, sir smith, and of craftsmen in general, to be aware that men lure not hawks with empty hands; but I suppose my word may pass for the price of a good armour, and I will pay it thee, with thanks to boot, for this slight service."
"Your Highness may know other craftsmen," said the smith; "but, with reverence, you know not Henry Gow. He will obey you in making a weapon, or in wielding one, but he knows nothing of this petticoat service."
"Hark thee, thou Perthshire mule," said the Prince, yet smiling, while he spoke, at the sturdy punctilio of the honest burgher; "the wench is as little to me as she is to thee. But in an idle moment, as you may learn from those about thee, if thou sawest it not thyself, I did her a passing grace, which is likely to cost the poor wretch her life. There is no one here whom I can trust to protect her against the discipline of belt and bowstring, with which the Border brutes who follow Douglas will beat her to death, since such is his pleasure."
"If such be the case, my liege, she has a right to every honest man's protection; and since she wears a petticoat—though I would it were longer and of a less fanciful fashion—I will answer for her protection as well as a single man may. But where am I to bestow her?"
"Good faith, I cannot tell," said the Prince. "Take her to Sir John Ramorny's lodging. But, no—no—he is ill at ease, and besides, there are reasons; take her to the devil if thou wilt, but place her in safety, and oblige David of Rothsay."
"My noble Prince," said the smith, "I think, always with reverence, that I would rather give a defenceless woman to the care of the devil than of Sir John Ramorny. But though the devil be a worker in fire like myself, yet I know not his haunts, and with aid of Holy Church hope to keep him on terms of defiance. And, moreover, how I am to convey her out of this crowd, or through the streets, in such a mumming habit may be well made a question."
"For the leaving the convent," said the Prince, "this good monk" (seizing upon the nearest by his cowl)—"Father Nicholas or Boniface—"
"Poor brother Cyprian, at your Highness's command," said the father.
"Ay—ay, brother Cyprian," continued the Prince—"yes. Brother Cyprian shall let you out at some secret passage which he knows of, and I will see him again to pay a prince's thanks for it."
The churchman bowed in acquiescence, and poor Louise, who, during this debate, had looked from the one speaker to the other, hastily said, "I will not scandalise this good man with my foolish garb: I have a mantle for ordinary wear."
"Why, there, Smith, thou hast a friar's hood and a woman's mantle to shroud thee under. I would all my frailties were as well shrouded. Farewell, honest fellow; I will thank thee hereafter."
Then, as if afraid of farther objection on the smith's part, he hastened into the palace.
Henry Gow remained stupefied at what had passed, and at finding himself involved in a charge at once inferring much danger and an equal risk of scandal, both which, joined to a principal share which he had taken, with his usual forwardness, in the fray, might, he saw, do him no small injury in the suit he pursued most anxiously. At the same time, to leave a defenceless creature to the ill usage of the barbarous Galwegians and licentious followers of the Douglas was a thought which his manly heart could not brook for an instant.
He was roused from his reverie by the voice of the monk, who, sliding out his words with the indifference which the holy fathers entertained, or affected, towards all temporal matters, desired them to follow him. The smith put himself in motion, with a sigh much resembling a groan, and, without appearing exactly connected with the monk's motions, he followed him into a cloister, and through a postern door, which, after looking once behind him, the priest left ajar. Behind them followed Louise, who had hastily assumed her small bundle, and, calling her little four legged companion, had eagerly followed in the path which opened an escape from what had shortly before seemed a great and inevitable danger.
Then up and spak the auld gudewife, And wow! but she was grim: "Had e'er your father done the like, It had been ill for him."
The party were now, by a secret passage, admitted within the church, the outward doors of which, usually left open, had been closed against every one in consequence of the recent tumult, when the rioters of both parties had endeavoured to rush into it for other purposes than those of devotion. They traversed the gloomy aisles, whose arched roof resounded to the heavy tread of the armourer, but was silent under the sandalled foot of the monk, and the light step of poor Louise, who trembled excessively, as much from fear as cold. She saw that neither her spiritual nor temporal conductor looked kindly upon her. The former was an austere man, whose aspect seemed to hold the luckless wanderer in some degree of horror, as well as contempt; while the latter, though, as we have seen, one of the best natured men living, was at present grave to the pitch of sternness, and not a little displeased with having the part he was playing forced upon him, without, as he was constrained to feel, a possibility of his declining it.
His dislike at his task extended itself to the innocent object of his protection, and he internally said to himself, as he surveyed her scornfully: "A proper queen of beggars to walk the streets of Perth with, and I a decent burgher! This tawdry minion must have as ragged a reputation as the rest of her sisterhood, and I am finely sped if my chivalry in her behalf comes to Catharine's ears. I had better have slain a man, were he the best in Perth; and, by hammer and nails, I would have done it on provocation, rather than convoy this baggage through the city."
Perhaps Louise suspected the cause of her conductor's anxiety, for she said, timidly and with hesitation: "Worthy sir, were it not better I should stop one instant in that chapel and don my mantle?"
"Umph, sweetheart, well proposed," said the armourer; but the monk interfered, raising at the same time the finger of interdiction.
"The chapel of holy St. Madox is no tiring room for jugglers and strollers to shift their trappings in. I will presently show thee a vestiary more suited to thy condition."
The poor young woman hung down her humbled head, and turned from the chapel door which she had approached with the deep sense of self abasement. Her little spaniel seemed to gather from his mistress's looks and manner that they were unauthorised intruders on the holy ground which they trode, and hung his ears, and swept the pavement with his tail, as he trotted slowly and close to Louise's heels.
The monk moved on without a pause. They descended a broad flight of steps, and proceeded through a labyrinth of subterranean passages, dimly lighted. As they passed a low arched door, the monk turned and said to Louise, with the same stern voice as before: "There, daughter of folly—there is a robing room, where many before you have deposited their vestments."
Obeying the least signal with ready and timorous acquiescence, she pushed the door open, but instantly recoiled with terror. It was a charnel house, half filled with dry skulls and bones.
"I fear to change my dress there, and alone. But, if you, father, command it, be it as you will."
"Why, thou child of vanity, the remains on which thou lookest are but the earthly attire of those who, in their day, led or followed in the pursuit of worldly pleasure. And such shalt thou be, for all thy mincing and ambling, thy piping and thy harping—thou, and all such ministers of frivolous and worldly pleasure, must become like these poor bones, whom thy idle nicety fears and loathes to look upon."
"Say not with idle nicety, reverend father," answered the glee maiden, "for, Heaven knows, I covet the repose of these poor bleached relics; and if, by stretching my body upon them, I could, without sin, bring my state to theirs, I would choose that charnel heap for my place of rest beyond the fairest and softest couch in Scotland."
"Be patient, and come on," said the monk, in a milder tone, "the reaper must not leave the harvest work till sunset gives the signal that the day's toil is over."
They walked forward. Brother Cyprian, at the end of a long gallery, opened the door of a small apartment, or perhaps a chapel, for it was decorated with a crucifix, before which burned four lamps. All bent and crossed themselves; and the priest said to the minstrel maiden, pointing to the crucifix, "What says that emblem?"
"That HE invites the sinner as well as the righteous to approach."
"Ay, if the sinner put from him his sin," said the monk, whose tone of voice was evidently milder. "Prepare thyself here for thy journey."
Louise remained an instant or two in the chapel, and presently reappeared in a mantle of coarse grey cloth, in which she had closely muffled herself, having put such of her more gaudy habiliments as she had time to take off in the little basket which had before held her ordinary attire.
The monk presently afterwards unlocked a door which led to the open air. They found themselves in the garden which surrounded the monastery of the Dominicans.
"The southern gate is on the latch, and through it you can pass unnoticed," said the monk. "Bless thee, my son; and bless thee too, unhappy child. Remembering where you put off your idle trinkets, may you take care how you again resume them!"
"Alas, father!" said Louise, "if the poor foreigner could supply the mere wants of life by any more creditable occupation, she has small wish to profess her idle art. But—"
But the monk had vanished; nay, the very door though which she had just passed appeared to have vanished also, so curiously was it concealed beneath a flying buttress, and among the profuse ornaments of Gothic architecture.
"Here is a woman let out by this private postern, sure enough," was Henry's reflection. "Pray Heaven the good fathers never let any in! The place seems convenient for such games at bo peep. But, Benedicite, what is to be done next? I must get rid of this quean as fast as I can; and I must see her safe. For let her be at heart what she may, she looks too modest, now she is in decent dress, to deserve the usage which the wild Scot of Galloway, or the devil's legion from the Liddel, are like to afford her."
Louise stood as if she waited his pleasure which way to go. Her little dog, relieved by the exchange of the dark, subterranean vault for the open air, sprung in wild gambols through the walks, and jumped upon its mistress, and even, though more timidly, circled close round the smith's feet, to express its satisfaction to him also, and conciliate his favour.
"Down, Charlot—down!" said the glee maiden. "You are glad to get into the blessed sunshine; but where shall we rest at night, my poor Charlot?"
"And now, mistress," said the smith, not churlishly, for it was not in his nature, but bluntly, as one who is desirous to finish a disagreeable employment, "which way lies your road?"
Louise looked on the ground and was silent. On being again urged to say which way she desired to be conducted, she again looked down, and said she could not tell.
"Come—come," said Henry, "I understand all that: I have been a galliard—a reveller in my day, but it's best to be plain. As matters are with me now, I am an altered man for these many, many months; and so, my quean, you and I must part sooner than perhaps a light o' love such as you expected to part with—a likely young fellow."
Louise wept silently, with her eyes still cast on the ground, as one who felt an insult which she had not a right to complain of. At length, perceiving that her conductor was grown impatient, she faltered out, "Noble sir—"
"Sir is for a knight," said the impatient burgher, "and noble is for a baron. I am Harry of the Wynd, an honest mechanic, and free of my guild."
"Good craftsman, then," said the minstrel woman, "you judge me harshly, but not without seeming cause. I would relieve you immediately of my company, which, it may be, brings little credit to good men, did I but know which way to go."
"To the next wake or fair, to be sure," said Henry, roughly, having no doubt that this distress was affected for the purpose of palming herself upon him, and perhaps dreading to throw himself into the way of temptation; "and that is the feast of St. Madox, at Auchterarder. I warrant thou wilt find the way thither well enough."
"Aftr—Auchter—" repeated the glee maiden, her Southern tongue in vain attempting the Celtic accentuation. "I am told my poor plays will not be understood if I go nearer to yon dreadful range of mountains."
"Will you abide, then, in Perth?"
"But where to lodge?" said the wanderer.
"Why, where lodged you last night?" replied the smith. "You know where you came from, surely, though you seem doubtful where you are going?"
"I slept in the hospital of the convent. But I was only admitted upon great importunity, and I was commanded not to return."
"Nay, they will never take you in with the ban of the Douglas upon you, that is even too true. But the Prince mentioned Sir John Ramorny's; I can take you to his lodgings through bye streets, though it is short of an honest burgher's office, and my time presses."
"I will go anywhere; I know I am a scandal and incumbrance. There was a time when it was otherwise. But this Ramorny, who is he?"
"A courtly knight, who lives a jolly bachelor's life, and is master of the horse, and privado, as they say, to the young prince."
"What! to the wild, scornful young man who gave occasion to yonder scandal? Oh, take me not thither, good friend. Is there no Christian woman who would give a poor creature rest in her cowhouse or barn for one night? I will be gone with early daybreak. I will repay her richly. I have gold; and I will repay you, too, if you will take me where I may be safe from that wild reveller, and from the followers of that dark baron, in whose eye was death."
"Keep your gold for those who lack it, mistress," said Henry, "and do not offer to honest hands the money that is won by violing, and tabouring, and toe tripping, and perhaps worse pastimes. I tell you plainly, mistress, I am not to be fooled. I am ready to take you to any place of safety you can name, for my promise is as strong as an iron shackle. But you cannot persuade me that you do not know what earth to make for. You are not so young in your trade as not to know there are hostelries in every town, much more in a city like Perth, where such as you may be harboured for your money, if you cannot find some gulls, more or fewer, to pay your lawing. If you have money, mistress, my care about you need be the less; and truly I see little but pretence in all that excessive grief, and fear of being left alone, in one of your occupation."
Having thus, as he conceived, signified that he was not to be deceived by the ordinary arts of a glee maiden, Henry walked a few paces sturdily, endeavouring to think he was doing the wisest and most prudent thing in the world. Yet he could not help looking back to see how Louise bore his departure, and was shocked to observe that she had sunk upon a bank, with her arms resting on her knees and her head on her arms, in a situation expressive of the utmost desolation.
The smith tried to harden his heart. "It is all a sham," he said: "the gouge knows her trade, I'll be sworn, by St. Ringan."
At the instant something pulled the skirts of his cloak; and looking round, he saw the little spaniel, who immediately, as if to plead his mistress's cause, got on his hind legs and began to dance, whimpering at the same time, and looking back to Louise, as if to solicit compassion for his forsaken owner.
"Poor thing," said the smith, "there may be a trick in this too, for thou dost but as thou art taught. Yet, as I promised to protect this poor creature, I must not leave her in a swoon, if it be one, were it but for manhood's sake."
Returning, and approaching his troublesome charge, he was at once assured, from the change of her complexion, either that she was actually in the deepest distress, or had a power of dissimulation beyond the comprehension of man—or woman either.
"Young woman," he said, with more of kindness than he had hitherto been able even to assume, "I will tell you frankly how I am placed. This is St. Valentine's Day, and by custom I was to spend it with my fair Valentine. But blows and quarrels have occupied all the morning, save one poor half hour. Now, you may well understand where my heart and my thoughts are, and where, were it only in mere courtesy, my body ought to be."
The glee maiden listened, and appeared to comprehend him.
"If you are a true lover, and have to wait upon a chaste Valentine, God forbid that one like me should make a disturbance between you! Think about me no more. I will ask of that great river to be my guide to where it meets the ocean, where I think they said there was a seaport; I will sail from thence to La Belle France, and will find myself once more in a country in which the roughest peasant would not wrong the poorest female."
"You cannot go to Dundee today," said the smith. "The Douglas people are in motion on both sides of the river, for the alarm of the morning has reached them ere now; and all this day, and the next, and the whole night which is between, they will gather to their leader's standard, like Highlandmen at the fiery cross. Do you see yonder five or six men who are riding so wildly on the other side of the river? These are Annandale men: I know them by the length of their lances, and by the way they hold them. An Annandale man never slopes his spear backwards, but always keeps the point upright, or pointed forward."
"And what of them?" said the glee maiden. "They are men at arms and soldiers. They would respect me for my viol and my helplessness."
"I will say them no scandal," answered the smith. "If you were in their own glens, they would use you hospitably, and you would have nothing to fear; but they are now on an expedition. All is fish that comes to their net. There are amongst them who would take your life for the value of your gold earrings. Their whole soul is settled in their eyes to see prey, and in their hands to grasp it. They have no ears either to hear lays of music or listen to prayers for mercy. Besides, their leader's order is gone forth concerning you, and it is of a kind sure to be obeyed. Ay, great lords are sooner listened to if they say, 'Burn a church,' than if they say, 'Build one.'"
"Then," said the glee woman, "I were best sit down and die."
"Do not say so," replied the smith. "If I could but get you a lodging for the night, I would carry you the next morning to Our Lady's Stairs, from whence the vessels go down the river for Dundee, and would put you on board with some one bound that way, who should see you safely lodged where you would have fair entertainment and kind usage."
"Good—excellent—generous man!" said the glee maiden, "do this, and if the prayers and blessings of a poor unfortunate should ever reach Heaven, they will rise thither in thy behalf. We will meet at yonder postern door, at whatever time the boats take their departure."
"That is at six in the morning, when the day is but young."
"Away with you, then, to your Valentine; and if she loves you, oh, deceive her not!"
"Alas, poor damsel! I fear it is deceit hath brought thee to this pass. But I must not leave you thus unprovided. I must know where you are to pass the night."
"Care not for that," replied Louise: "the heavens are clear—there are bushes and boskets enough by the river side—Charlot and I can well make a sleeping room of a green arbour for one night; and tomorrow will, with your promised aid, see me out of reach of injury and wrong. Oh, the night soon passes away when there is hope for tomorrow! Do you still linger, with your Valentine waiting for you? Nay, I shall hold you but a loitering lover, and you know what belongs to a minstrel's reproaches."
"I cannot leave you, damsel," answered the armourer, now completely melted. "It were mere murder to suffer you to pass the night exposed to the keenness of a Scottish blast in February. No—no, my word would be ill kept in this manner; and if I should incur some risk of blame, it is but just penance for thinking of thee, and using thee, more according to my own prejudices, as I now well believe, than thy merits. Come with me, damsel; thou shalt have a sure and honest lodging for the night, whatsoever may be the consequence. It would be an evil compliment to my Catharine, were I to leave a poor creature to be starved to death, that I might enjoy her company an hour sooner."
So saying, and hardening himself against all anticipations of the ill consequences or scandal which might arise from such a measure, the manly hearted smith resolved to set evil report at defiance, and give the wanderer a night's refuge in his own house. It must be added, that he did this with extreme reluctance, and in a sort of enthusiasm of benevolence.
Ere our stout son of Vulcan had fixed his worship on the Fair Maid of Perth, a certain natural wildness of disposition had placed him under the influence of Venus, as well as that of Mars; and it was only the effect of a sincere attachment which had withdrawn him entirely from such licentious pleasures. He was therefore justly jealous of his newly acquired reputation for constancy, which his conduct to this poor wanderer must expose to suspicion; a little doubtful, perhaps, of exposing himself too venturously to temptation; and moreover in despair to lose so much of St. Valentine's Day, which custom not only permitted, but enjoined him to pass beside his mate for the season. The journey to Kinfauns, and the various transactions which followed, had consumed the day, and it was now nearly evensong time.
As if to make up by a speedy pace for the time he was compelled to waste upon a subject so foreign to that which he had most at heart, he strode on through the Dominicans' gardens, entered the town, and casting his cloak around the lower part of his face, and pulling down his bonnet to conceal the upper, he continued the same celerity of movement through bye streets and lanes, hoping to reach his own house in the Wynd without being observed. But when he had continued his rate of walking for ten minutes, he began to be sensible it might be too rapid for the young woman to keep up with him. He accordingly looked behind him with a degree of angry impatience, which soon turned into compunction, when he saw that she was almost utterly exhausted by the speed which she had exerted.
"Now, marry, hang me up for a brute," said Henry to himself. "Was my own haste ever so great, could it give that poor creature wings? And she loaded with baggage too! I am an ill nurtured beast, that is certain, wherever women are in question; and always sure to do wrong when I have the best will to act right.
"Hark thee, damsel; let me carry these things for thee. We shall make better speed that I do so."
Poor Louise would have objected, but her breath was too much exhausted to express herself; and she permitted her good natured guardian to take her little basket, which, when the dog beheld, he came straight before Henry, stood up, and shook his fore paws, whining gently, as if he too wanted to be carried.
"Nay, then, I must needs lend thee a lift too," said the smith, who saw the creature was tired:
"Fie, Charlot!" said Louise; "thou knowest I will carry thee myself."
She endeavoured to take up the little spaniel, but it escaped from her; and going to the other side of the smith, renewed its supplication that he would take it up.
"Charlot's right," said the smith: "he knows best who is ablest to bear him. This lets me know, my pretty one, that you have not been always the bearer of your own mail: Charlot can tell tales."
So deadly a hue came across the poor glee maiden's countenance as Henry spoke, that he was obliged to support her, lest she should have dropped to the ground. She recovered again, however, in an instant or two, and with a feeble voice requested her guide would go on.
"Nay—nay," said Henry, as they began to move, "keep hold of my cloak, or my arm, if it helps you forward better. A fair sight we are; and had I but a rebeck or a guitar at my back, and a jackanapes on my shoulder, we should seem as joyous a brace of strollers as ever touched string at a castle gate.
"Snails!" he ejaculated internally, "were any neighbour to meet me with this little harlotry's basket at my back, her dog under my arm, and herself hanging on my cloak, what could they think but that I had turned mumper in good earnest? I would not for the best harness I ever laid hammer on, that any of our long tongued neighbours met me in this guise; it were a jest would last from St. Valentine's Day to next Candlemas."
Stirred by these thoughts, the smith, although at the risk of making much longer a route which he wished to traverse as swiftly as possible, took the most indirect and private course which he could find, in order to avoid the main streets, still crowded with people, owing to the late scene of tumult and agitation. But unhappily his policy availed him nothing; for, in turning into an alley, he met a man with his cloak muffled around his face, from a desire like his own to pass unobserved, though the slight insignificant figure, the spindle shanks, which showed themselves beneath the mantle, and the small dull eye that blinked over its upper folds, announced the pottingar as distinctly as if he had carried his sign in front of his bonnet. His unexpected and most unwelcome presence overwhelmed the smith with confusion. Ready evasion was not the property of his bold, blunt temper; and knowing this man to be a curious observer, a malignant tale bearer, and by no means well disposed to himself in particular, no better hope occurred to him than that the worshipful apothecary would give him some pretext to silence his testimony and secure his discretion by twisting his neck round.
But, far from doing or saying anything which could warrant such extremities, the pottingar, seeing himself so close upon his stalwart townsman that recognition was inevitable, seemed determined it should be as slight as possible; and without appearing to notice anything particular in the company or circumstances in which they met, he barely slid out these words as he passed him, without even a glance towards his companion after the first instant of their meeting: "A merry holiday to you once more, stout smith. What! thou art bringing thy cousin, pretty Mistress Joan Letham, with her mail, from the waterside—fresh from Dundee, I warrant? I heard she was expected at the old cordwainer's."
As he spoke thus, he looked neither right nor left, and exchanging a "Save you!" with a salute of the same kind which the smith rather muttered than uttered distinctly, he glided forward on his way like a shadow.
"The foul fiend catch me, if I can swallow that pill," said Henry Smith, "how well soever it may be gilded. The knave has a shrewd eye for a kirtle, and knows a wild duck from a tame as well as e'er a man in Perth. He were the last in the Fair City to take sour plums for pears, or my roundabout cousin Joan for this piece of fantastic vanity. I fancy his bearing was as much as to say, 'I will not see what you might wish me blind to'; and he is right to do so, as he might easily purchase himself a broken pate by meddling with my matters, and so he will be silent for his own sake. But whom have we next? By St. Dunstan, the chattering, bragging, cowardly knave, Oliver Proudfute!"
It was, indeed, the bold bonnet maker whom they next encountered, who, with his cap on one side, and trolling the ditty of—
"Thou art over long at the pot, Tom, Tom," —gave plain intimation that he had made no dry meal.
"Ha! my jolly smith," he said, "have I caught thee in the manner? What, can the true steel bend? Can Vulcan, as the minstrel says, pay Venus back in her own coin? Faith, thou wilt be a gay Valentine before the year's out, that begins with the holiday so jollily."
"Hark ye, Oliver," said the displeased smith, "shut your eyes and pass on, crony. And hark ye again, stir not your tongue about what concerns you not, as you value having an entire tooth in your head."
"I betray counsel? I bear tales, and that against my brother martialist? I would not tell it even to my timber soldan! Why, I can be a wild galliard in a corner as well as thou, man. And now I think on't, I will go with thee somewhere, and we will have a rouse together, and thy Dalilah shall give us a song. Ha! said I not well?"
"Excellently," said Henry, longing the whole time to knock his brother martialist down, but wisely taking a more peaceful way to rid himself of the incumbrance of his presence—"excellently well! I may want thy help, too, for here are five or six of the Douglasses before us: they will not fail to try to take the wench from a poor burgher like myself, so I will be glad of the assistance of a tearer such as thou art."
"I thank ye—I thank ye," answered the bonnet maker; "but were I not better run and cause ring the common bell, and get my great sword?"
"Ay, ay, run home as fast as you can, and say nothing of what you have seen."
"Who, I? Nay, fear me not. Pah! I scorn a tale bearer."
"Away with you, then. I hear the clash of armour."
This put life and mettle into the heels of the bonnet maker, who, turning his back on the supposed danger, set off at a pace which the smith never doubted would speedily bring him to his own house.
"Here is another chattering jay to deal with," thought the smith; "but I have a hank over him too. The minstrels have a fabliau of a daw with borrowed feathers—why, this Oliver is The very bird, and, by St. Dunstan, if he lets his chattering tongue run on at my expense, I will so pluck him as never hawk plumed a partridge. And this he knows."
As these reflections thronged on his mind, he had nearly reached the end of his journey, and, with the glee maiden still hanging on his cloak, exhausted, partly with fear, partly with fatigue, he at length arrived at the middle of the wynd, which was honoured with his own habitation, and from which, in the uncertainty that then attended the application of surnames, he derived one of his own appellatives. Here, on ordinary days, his furnace was seen to blaze, and four half stripped knaves stunned the neighbourhood with the clang of hammer and stithy. But St. Valentine's holiday was an excuse for these men of steel having shut the shop, and for the present being absent on their own errands of devotion or pleasure. The house which adjoined to the smithy called Henry its owner; and though it was small, and situated in a narrow street, yet, as there was a large garden with fruit trees behind it, it constituted upon the whole a pleasant dwelling. The smith, instead of knocking or calling, which would have drawn neighbours to doors and windows, drew out a pass key of his own fabrication, then a great and envied curiosity, and opening the door of his house, introduced his companion into his habitation.
The apartment which received Henry and the glee maiden was the kitchen, which served amongst those of the smith's station for the family sitting room, although one or two individuals, like Simon Glover, had an eating room apart from that in which their victuals were prepared. In the corner of this apartment, which was arranged with an unusual attention to cleanliness, sat an old woman, whose neatness of attire, and the precision with which her scarlet plaid was drawn over her head, so as to descend to her shoulders on each side, might have indicated a higher rank than that of Luckie Shoolbred, the smith's housekeeper. Yet such and no other was her designation; and not having attended mass in the morning, she was quietly reposing herself by the side of the fire, her beads, half told, hanging over her left arm; her prayers, half said, loitering upon her tongue; her eyes, half closed, resigning themselves to slumber, while she expected the return of her foster son, without being able to guess at what hour it was likely to happen. She started up at the sound of his entrance, and bent her eye upon his companion, at first with a look of the utmost surprise, which gradually was exchanged for one expressive of great displeasure.
"Now the saints bless mine eyesight, Henry Smith!" she exclaimed, very devoutly.
"Amen, with all my heart. Get some food ready presently, good nurse, for I fear me this traveller hath dined but lightly."
"And again I pray that Our Lady would preserve my eyesight from the wicked delusions of Satan!"
"So be it, I tell you, good woman. But what is the use of all this pattering and prayering? Do you not hear me? or will you not do as I bid you?"
"It must be himself, then, whatever is of it! But, oh! it is more like the foul fiend in his likeness, to have such a baggage hanging upon his cloak. Oh, Harry Smith, men called you a wild lad for less things; but who would ever have thought that Harry would have brought a light leman under the roof that sheltered his worthy mother, and where his own nurse has dwelt for thirty years?"
"Hold your peace, old woman, and be reasonable," said the smith. "This glee woman is no leman of mine, nor of any other person that I know of; but she is going off for Dundee tomorrow by the boats, and we must give her quarters till then."
"Quarters!" said the old woman. "You may give quarters to such cattle if you like it yourself, Harry Wynd; but the same house shall not quarter that trumpery quean and me, and of that you may assure yourself."
"Your mother is angry with me," said Louise, misconstruing the connexion of the parties. "I will not remain to give her any offence. If there is a stable or a cowhouse, an empty stall will be bed enough for Charlot and me."
"Ay—ay, I am thinking it is the quarters you are best used to," said Dame Shoolbred.
"Harkye, Nurse Shoolbred," said the smith. "You know I love you for your own sake and for my mother's; but by St. Dunstan, who was a saint of my own craft, I will have the command of my own house; and if you leave me without any better reason but your own nonsensical suspicions, you must think how you will have the door open to you when you return; for you shall have no help of mine, I promise you."
"Aweel, my bairn, and that will never make me risk the honest name I have kept for sixty years. It was never your mother's custom, and it shall never be mine, to take up with ranters, and jugglers, and singing women; and I am not so far to seek for a dwelling, that the same roof should cover me and a tramping princess like that."
With this the refractory gouvernante began in great hurry to adjust her tartan mantle for going abroad, by pulling it so forwards as to conceal the white linen cap, the edges of which bordered her shrivelled but still fresh and healthful countenance. This done, she seized upon a staff, the trusty companion of her journeys, and was fairly trudging towards the door, when the smith stepped between her and the passage.
"Wait at least, old woman, till we have cleared scores. I owe you for fee and bountith."
"An' that's e'en a dream of your own fool's head. What fee or bountith am I to take from the son of your mother, that fed, clad, and bielded me as if I had been a sister?"
"And well you repay it, nurse, leaving her only child at his utmost need."
This seemed to strike the obstinate old woman with compunction. She stopped and looked at her master and the minstrel alternately; then shook her head, and seemed about to resume her motion towards the door.
"I only receive this poor wanderer under my roof," urged the smith, "to save her from the prison and the scourge."
"And why should you save her?" said the inexorable Dame Shoolbred. "I dare say she has deserved them both as well as ever thief deserved a hempen collar."
"For aught I know she may or she may not. But she cannot deserve to be scourged to death, or imprisoned till she is starved to death; and that is the lot of them that the Black Douglas bears mal-talent against."
"And you are going to thraw the Black Douglas for the cake of a glee woman? This will be the worst of your feuds yet. Oh, Henry Gow, there is as much iron in your head as in your anvil!"
"I have sometimes thought this myself; Mistress Shoolbred; but if I do get a cut or two on this new argument, I wonder who is to cure them, if you run away from me like a scared wild goose? Ay, and, moreover, who is to receive my bonny bride, that I hope to bring up the wynd one of these days?"
"Ah, Harry—Harry," said the old woman, shaking her head, "this is not the way to prepare an honest man's house for a young bride: you should be guided by modesty and discretion, and not by chambering and wantonness."
"I tell you again, this poor creature is nothing to me. I wish her only to be safely taken care of; and I think the boldest Borderman in Perth will respect the bar of my door as much as the gate of Carlisle Castle. I am going down to Sim Glover's; I may stay there all night, for the Highland cub is run back to the hills, like a wolf whelp as he is, and so there is a bed to spare, and father Simon will make me welcome to the use of it. You will remain with this poor creature, feed her, and protect her during the night, and I will call on her before day; and thou mayst go with her to the boat thyself an thou wilt, and so thou wilt set the last eyes on her at the same time I shall."
"There is some reason in that," said Dame Shoolbred; "though why you should put your reputation in risk for a creature that would find a lodging for a silver twopence and less matter is a mystery to me."
"Trust me with that, old woman, and be kind to the girl."
"Kinder than she deserves, I warrant you; and truly, though I little like the company of such cattle, yet I think I am less like to take harm from her than you—unless she be a witch, indeed, which may well come to be the case, as the devil is very powerful with all this wayfaring clanjamfray."
"No more a witch than I am a warlock," said the honest smith: "a poor, broken hearted thing, that, if she hath done evil, has dreed a sore weird for it. Be kind to her. And you, my musical damsel, I will call on you tomorrow morning, and carry you to the waterside. This old woman will treat you kindly if you say nothing to her but what becomes honest ears."
The poor minstrel had listened to this dialogue without understanding more than its general tendency; for, though she spoke English well, she had acquired the language in England itself; and the Northern dialect was then, as now, of a broader and harsher character. She saw, however, that she was to remain with the old lady, and meekly folding her arms on her bosom, bent her head with humility. She next looked towards the smith with a strong expression of thankfulness, then, raising her eyes to heaven, took his passive hand, and seemed about to kiss the sinewy fingers in token of deep and affectionate gratitude.
But Dame Shoolbred did not give license to the stranger's mode of expressing her feelings. She thrust in between them, and pushing poor Louise aside, said, "No—no, I'll have none of that work. Go into the chimney nook, mistress, and when Harry Smith's gone, if you must have hands to kiss, you shall kiss mine as long as you like. And you, Harry, away down to Sim Glover's, for if pretty Mistress Catharine hears of the company you have brought home, she may chance to like them as little as I do. What's the matter now? is the man demented? are you going out without your buckler, and the whole town in misrule?"
"You are right, dame," said the armourer; and, throwing the buckler over his broad shoulders, he departed from his house without abiding farther question.
How in the noon of night that pibroch thrills, Savage and shrill! But with the breath which fills Their mountain pipe, so fill the mountaineers With the fierce native daring which instils The stirring memory of a thousand years.
We must now leave the lower parties in our historical drama, to attend to the incidents which took place among those of a higher rank and greater importance.
We pass from the hut of an armourer to the council room of a monarch, and resume our story just when, the tumult beneath being settled, the angry chieftains were summoned to the royal presence. They entered, displeased with and lowering upon each other, each so exclusively filled with his own fancied injuries as to be equally unwilling and unable to attend to reason or argument. Albany alone, calm and crafty, seemed prepared to use their dissatisfaction for his own purposes, and turn each incident as it should occur to the furtherance of his own indirect ends.
The King's irresolution, although it amounted even to timidity, did not prevent his assuming the exterior bearing becoming his situation. It was only when hard pressed, as in the preceding scene, that he lost his apparent composure. In general, he might be driven from his purpose, but seldom from his dignity of manner. He received Albany, Douglas, March, and the prior, those ill assorted members of his motley council, with a mixture of courtesy and loftiness, which reminded each haughty peer that he stood in the presence of his sovereign, and compelled him to do the beseeming reverence.
Having received their salutations, the King motioned them to be seated; and they were obeying his commands when Rothsay entered. He walked gracefully up to his father, and, kneeling at his footstool, requested his blessing. Robert, with an aspect in which fondness and sorrow were ill disguised, made an attempt to assume a look of reproof, as he laid his hand on the youth's head and said, with a sigh, "God bless thee, my thoughtless boy, and make thee a wiser man in thy future years!"
"Amen, my dearest father!" said Rothsay, in a tone of feeling such as his happier moments often evinced. He then kissed the royal hand, with the reverence of a son and a subject; and, instead of taking a place at the council board, remained standing behind the King's chair, in such a position that he might, when he chose, whisper into his father's ear.
The King next made a sign to the prior of St. Dominic to take his place at the table, on which there were writing materials, which, of all the subjects present, Albany excepted, the churchman was alone able to use. The King then opened the purpose of their meeting by saying, with much dignity:
"Our business, my lords, respected these unhappy dissensions in the Highlands, which, we learn by our latest messengers, are about to occasion the waste and destruction of the country, even within a few miles of this our own court. But, near as this trouble is, our ill fate, and the instigations of wicked men, have raised up one yet nearer, by throwing strife and contention among the citizens of Perth and those attendants who follow your lordships and others our knights and nobles. I must first, therefore, apply to yourselves, my lords, to know why our court is disturbed by such unseemly contendings, and by what means they ought to be repressed? Brother of Albany, do you tell us first your sentiments on this matter."
"Sir, our royal sovereign and brother," said the Duke, "being in attendance on your Grace's person when the fray began, I am not acquainted with its origin."
"And for me," said the Prince, "I heard no worse war cry than a minstrel wench's ballad, and saw no more dangerous bolts flying than hazel nuts."
"And I," said the Earl of March, "could only perceive that the stout citizens of Perth had in chase some knaves who had assumed the Bloody Heart on their shoulders. They ran too fast to be actually the men of the Earl of Douglas."
Douglas understood the sneer, but only replied to it by one of those withering looks with which he was accustomed to intimate his mortal resentment. He spoke, however, with haughty composure.
"My liege," he said, "must of course know it is Douglas who must answer to this heavy charge, for when was there strife or bloodshed in Scotland, but there were foul tongues to asperse a Douglas or a Douglas's man as having given cause to them? We have here goodly witnesses. I speak not of my Lord of Albany, who has only said that he was, as well becomes him, by your Grace's side. And I say nothing of my Lord of Rothsay, who, as befits his rank, years, and understanding, was cracking nuts with a strolling musician. He smiles. Here he may say his pleasure; I shall not forget a tie which he seems to have forgotten. But here is my Lord of March, who saw my followers flying before the clowns of Perth. I can tell that earl that the followers of the Bloody Heart advance or retreat when their chieftain commands and the good of Scotland requires."
"And I can answer—" exclaimed the equally proud Earl of March, his blood rushing into his face, when the King interrupted him.
"Peace! angry lords," said the King, "and remember in whose presence you stand. And you, my Lord of Douglas, tell us, if you can, the cause of this mutiny, and why your followers, whose general good services we are most willing to acknowledge, were thus active in private brawl."
"I obey, my lord," said Douglas, slightly stooping a head that seldom bent. "I was passing from my lodgings in the Carthusian convent, through the High Street of Perth, with a few of my ordinary retinue, when I beheld some of the baser sort of citizens crowding around the Cross, against which there was nailed this placard, and that which accompanies it."
He took from a pocket in the bosom of his buff coat a human hand and a piece of parchment. The King was shocked and agitated.
"Read," he said, "good father prior, and let that ghastly spectacle be removed."
The prior read a placard to the following purpose:
"Inasmuch as the house of a citizen of Perth was assaulted last night, being St. Valentine's Eve, by a sort of disorderly night walkers, belonging to some company of the strangers now resident in the Fair City; and whereas this hand was struck from one of the lawless limmers in the fray that ensued, the provost and magistrates have directed that it should be nailed to the Cross, in scorn and contempt of those by whom such brawl was occasioned. And if any one of knightly degree shall say that this our act is wrongfully done, I, Patrick Charteris of Kinfauns, knight, will justify this cartel in knightly weapons, within the barrace; or, if any one of meaner birth shall deny what is here said, he shall be met with by a citizen of the Fair City of Perth, according to his degree. And so God and St. John protect the Fair City!"
"You will not wonder, my lord," resumed Douglas, "that, when my almoner had read to me the contents of so insolent a scroll, I caused one of my squires to pluck down a trophy so disgraceful to the chivalry and nobility of Scotland. Where upon, it seems some of these saucy burghers took license to hoot and insult the hindmost of my train, who wheeled their horses on them, and would soon have settled the feud, but for my positive command that they should follow me in as much peace as the rascally vulgar would permit. And thus they arrived here in the guise of flying men, when, with my command to repel force by force, they might have set fire to the four corners of this wretched borough, and stifled the insolent churls, like malicious fox cubs in a burning brake of furze."
There was a silence when Douglas had done speaking, until the Duke of Rothsay answered, addressing his father:
"Since the Earl of Douglas possesses the power of burning the town where your Grace holds your court, so soon as the provost and he differ about a night riot, or the terms of a cartel, I am sure we ought all to be thankful that he has not the will to do so."
"The Duke of Rothsay," said Douglas, who seemed resolved to maintain command of his temper, "may have reason to thank Heaven in a more serious tone than he now uses that the Douglas is as true as he is powerful. This is a time when the subjects in all countries rise against the law: we have heard of the insurgents of the Jacquerie in France; and of Jack Straw, and Hob Miller, and Parson Ball, among the Southron; and we may be sure there is fuel enough to catch such a flame, were it spreading to our frontiers. When I see peasants challenging noblemen, and nailing the hands of the gentry to their city cross, I will not say I fear mutiny—for that would be false—but I foresee, and will stand well prepared for, it."
"And why does my Lord Douglas say," answered the Earl of March, "that this cartel has been done by churls? I see Sir Patrick Charteris's name there, and he, I ween, is of no churl's blood. The Douglas himself, since he takes the matter so warmly, might lift Sir Patrick's gauntlet without soiling of his honour."
"My Lord of March," replied Douglas, "should speak but of what he understands. I do no injustice to the descendant of the Red Rover, when I say he is too slight to be weighed with the Douglas. The heir of Thomas Randolph might have a better claim to his answer."
"And, by my honour, it shall not miss for want of my asking the grace," said the Earl of March, pulling his glove off.
"Stay, my lord," said the King. "Do us not so gross an injury as to bring your feud to mortal defiance here; but rather offer your ungloved hand in kindness to the noble earl, and embrace in token of your mutual fealty to the crown of Scotland."
"Not so, my liege," answered March; "your Majesty may command me to return my gauntlet, for that and all the armour it belongs to are at your command, while I continue to hold my earldom of the crown of Scotland; but when I clasp Douglas, it must be with a mailed hand. Farewell, my liege. My counsels here avail not, nay, are so unfavourably received, that perhaps farther stay were unwholesome for my safety. May God keep your Highness from open enemies and treacherous friends! I am for my castle of Dunbar, from whence I think you will soon hear news. Farewell to you, my Lords of Albany and Douglas; you are playing a high game, look you play it fairly. Farewell, poor thoughtless prince, who art sporting like a fawn within spring of a tiger! Farewell, all—George of Dunbar sees the evil he cannot remedy. Adieu, all."
The King would have spoken, but the accents died on his tongue, as he received from Albany a look cautioning him to forbear. The Earl of March left the apartment, receiving the mute salutations of the members of the council whom he had severally addressed, excepting from Douglas alone, who returned to his farewell speech a glance of contemptuous defiance.
"The recreant goes to betray us to the Southron," he said; "his pride rests on his possessing that sea worn hold which can admit the English into Lothian [the castle of Dunbar]. Nay, look not alarmed, my liege, I will hold good what I say. Nevertheless, it is yet time. Speak but the word, my liege—say but 'Arrest him,' and March shall not yet cross the Earn on his traitorous journey."
"Nay, gallant earl," said Albany, who wished rather that the two powerful lords should counterbalance each other than that one should obtain a decisive superiority, "that were too hasty counsel. The Earl of March came hither on the King's warrant of safe conduct, and it may not consist with my royal brother's honour to break it. Yet, if your lordship can bring any detailed proof—"
Here they were interrupted by a flourish of trumpets.
"His Grace of Albany is unwontedly scrupulous today," said Douglas; "but it skills not wasting words—the time is past—these are March's trumpets, and I warrant me he rides at flight speed so soon as he passes the South Port. We shall hear of him in time; and if it be as I have conjectured, he shall be met with though all England backed his treachery."
"Nay, let us hope better of the noble earl," said the King, no way displeased that the quarrel betwixt March and Douglas had seemed to obliterate the traces of the disagreement betwixt Rothsay and his father in law; "he hath a fiery, but not a sullen, temper. In some things he has been—I will not say wronged, but disappointed—and something is to be allowed to the resentment of high blood armed with great power. But thank Heaven, all of us who remain are of one sentiment, and, I may say, of one house; so that, at least, our councils cannot now be thwarted with disunion. Father prior, I pray you take your writing materials, for you must as usual be our clerk of council. And now to business, my lords; and our first object of consideration must be this Highland cumber."
"Between the Clan Chattan and the Clan Quhele," said the prior, "which, as our last advices from our brethren at Dunkeld inform us, is ready to break out into a more formidable warfare than has yet taken place between these sons of Belial, who speak of nothing else than of utterly destroying one another. Their forces are assembling on each side, and not a man claiming in the tenth degree of kindred but must repair to the brattach of his tribe, or stand to the punishment of fire and sword. The fiery cross hath flitted about like a meteor in every direction, and awakened strange and unknown tribes beyond the distant Moray Firth—may Heaven and St. Dominic be our protection! But if your lordships cannot find remedy for evil, it will spread broad and wide, and the patrimony of the church must in every direction be exposed to the fury of these Amalekites, with whom there is as little devotion to Heaven as there is pity or love to their neighbour—may Our Lady be our guard! We hear some of them are yet utter heathens, and worship Mahound and Termagaunt."
"My lords and kinsmen," said Robert, "ye have heard the urgency of this case, and may desire to know my sentiments before you deliver what your own wisdom shall suggest. And, in sooth, no better remedy occurs to me than to send two commissioners, with full power from us to settle such debates as be among them, and at the same time to charge them, as they shall be answerable to the law, to lay down their arms, and forbear all practices of violence against each other."
"I approve of your Grace's proposal," said Rothsay; "and I trust the good prior will not refuse the venerable station of envoy upon this peacemaking errand. And his reverend brother, the abbot of the Carthusian convent, must contend for an honour which will certainly add two most eminent recruits to the large army of martyrs, since the Highlanders little regard the distinction betwixt clerk and layman in the ambassadors whom you send to them."
"My royal Lord of Rothsay," said the prior, "if I am destined to the blessed crown of martyrdom, I shall be doubtless directed to the path by which I am to attain it. Meantime, if you speak in jest, may Heaven pardon you, and give you light to perceive that it were better buckle on your arms to guard the possessions of the church, so perilously endangered, than to employ your wit in taunting her ministers and servants."