"You have done enough, perhaps, to endanger yourself," said Lord Glenvarloch. "I pray you to be gone, and leave me to my fate."
The honest cook lingered, but a nearer burst of the horns apprized him that there was no time to lose; and, acquainting Nigel that he would leave the postern-door on the latch to secure his retreat in that direction, he bade God bless him, and farewell.
In the kindness of this humble countryman, flowing partly from national partiality, partly from a sense of long-remembered benefits, which had been scarce thought on by those who had bestowed them, Lord Glenvarloch thought he saw the last touch of sympathy which he was to receive in this cold and courtly region, and felt that he must now be sufficient to himself, or be utterly lost.
He traversed more than one alley, guided by the sounds of the chase, and met several of the inferior attendants upon the king's sport, who regarded him only as one of the spectators who were sometimes permitted to enter the Park by the concurrence of the officers about the Court. Still there was no appearance of James, or any of his principal courtiers, and Nigel began to think whether, at the risk of incurring disgrace similar to that which had attended the rash exploit of Richie Moniplies, he should not repair to the Palace-gate, in order to address the king on his return, when Fortune presented him the opportunity of doing so, in her own way.
He was in one of those long walks by which the Park was traversed, when he heard, first a distant rustling, then the rapid approach of hoofs shaking the firm earth on which he stood; then a distant halloo, warned by which he stood up by the side of the avenue, leaving free room for the passage of the chase. The stag, reeling, covered with foam, and blackened with sweat, his nostrils extended as he gasped for breath, made a shift to come up as far as where Nigel stood, and, without turning to bay, was there pulled down by two tall greyhounds of the breed still used by the hardy deer-stalkers of the Scottish Highlands, but which has been long unknown in England. One dog struck at the buck's throat, another dashed his sharp nose and fangs, I might almost say, into the animal's bowels. It would have been natural for Lord Glenvarloch, himself persecuted as if by hunters, to have thought upon the occasion like the melancholy Jacques; but habit is a strange matter, and I fear that his feelings on the occasion were rather those of the practised huntsman than of the moralist. He had no time, however, to indulge them, for mark what befell.
A single horseman followed the chase, upon a steed so thoroughly subjected to the rein, that it obeyed the touch of the bridle as if it had been a mechanical impulse operating on the nicest piece of machinery; so that, seated deep in his demipique saddle, and so trussed up there as to make falling almost impossible, the rider, without either fear or hesitation, might increase or diminish the speed at which he rode, which, even on the most animating occasions of the chase, seldom exceeded three-fourths of a gallop, the horse keeping his haunches under him, and never stretching forward beyond the managed pace of the academy. The security with which he chose to prosecute even this favourite, and, in the ordinary case, somewhat dangerous amusement, as well as the rest of his equipage, marked King James. No attendant was within sight; indeed, it was often a nice strain of flattery to permit the Sovereign to suppose he had outridden and distanced all the rest of the chase.
"Weel dune, Bash—weel dune, Battie!" he exclaimed as he came up. "By the honour of a king, ye are a credit to the Braes of Balwhither!— Haud my horse, man," he called out to Nigel, without stopping to see to whom he had addressed himself—"Haud my naig, and help me doun out o' the saddle—deil ding your saul, sirrah, canna ye mak haste before these lazy smaiks come up?—haud the rein easy—dinna let him swerve— now, haud the stirrup—that will do, man, and now we are on terra firma." So saying, without casting an eye on his assistant, gentle King Jamie, unsheathing the short, sharp hanger, (couteau de chasse,) which was the only thing approaching to a sword that he could willingly endure the sight of, drew the blade with great satisfaction across the throat of the buck, and put an end at once to its struggles and its agonies.
Lord Glenvarloch, who knew well the silvan duty which the occasion demanded, hung the bridle of the king's palfrey on the branch of a tree, and, kneeling duteously down, turned the slaughtered deer upon its back, and kept the quarree in that position, while the king, too intent upon his sport to observe any thing else, drew his couteau down the breast of the animal, secundum artem; and, having made a cross cut, so as to ascertain the depth of the fat upon the chest, exclaimed, in a sort of rapture, "Three inches of white fat on the brisket!—prime—prime—as I am a crowned sinner—and deil ane o' the lazy loons in but mysell! Seven—aught—aught tines on the antlers. By G—d, a hart of aught tines, and the first of the season! Bash and Battie, blessings on the heart's-root of ye! Buss me, my bairns, buss me. "The dogs accordingly fawned upon him, licked him with bloody jaws, and soon put him in such a state that it might have seemed treason had been doing its full work upon his anointed body." Bide doun, with a mischief to ye—bide doun, with a wanion," cried the king, almost overturned by the obstreperous caresses of the large stag-hounds. "But ye are just like ither folks, gie ye an inch and ye take an ell.—And wha may ye be, friend? "he said, now finding leisure to take a nearer view of Nigel, and observing what in his first emotion of silvan delight had escaped him,—" Ye are nane of our train, man. In the name of God, what the devil are ye?"
"An unfortunate man, sire," replied Nigel.
"I dare say that," answered the king, snappishly, "or I wad have seen naething of you. My lieges keep a' their happiness to themselves; but let bowls row wrang wi' them, and I am sure to hear of it."
"And to whom else can we carry our complaints but to your Majesty, who is Heaven's vicegerent over us!" answered Nigel.
"Right, man, right—very weel spoken," said the king; "but you should leave Heaven's vicegerent some quiet on earth, too."
"If your Majesty will look on me," (for hitherto the king had been so busy, first with the dogs, and then with the mystic operation of breaking, in vulgar phrase, cutting up the deer, that he had scarce given his assistant above a transient glance,) "you will see whom necessity makes bold to avail himself of an opportunity which may never again occur."
King James looked; his blood left his cheek, though it continued stained with that of the animal which lay at his feet, he dropped the knife from his hand, cast behind him a faltering eye, as if he either meditated flight or looked out for assistance, and then exclaimed,— "Glenvarlochides! as sure as I was christened James Stewart. Here is a bonny spot of work, and me alone, and on foot too!" he added, bustling to get upon his horse.
"Forgive me that I interrupt you, my liege," said Nigel, placing himself between the king and his steed; "hear me but a moment!"
"I'll hear ye best on horseback," said the king. "I canna hear a word on foot, man, not a word; and it is not seemly to stand cheek-for- chowl confronting us that gate. Bide out of our gate, sir, we charge you on your allegiance.—The deil's in them a', what can they be doing?"
"By the crown that you wear, my liege," said Nigel, "and for which my ancestors have worthily fought, I conjure you to be composed, and to hear me but a moment!"
That which he asked was entirely out of the monarch's power to grant. The timidity which he showed was not the plain downright cowardice, which, like a natural impulse, compels a man to flight, and which can excite little but pity or contempt, but a much more ludicrous, as well as more mingled sensation. The poor king was frightened at once and angry, desirous of securing his safety, and at the same time ashamed to compromise his dignity; so that without attending to what Lord Glenvarloch endeavoured to explain, he kept making at his horse, and repeating, "We are a free king, man,—we are a free king—we will not be controlled by a subject.—In the name of God, what keeps Steenie? And, praised be his name, they are coming—Hillo, ho—here, here— Steenie, Steenie!"
The Duke of Buckingham galloped up, followed by several courtiers and attendants of the royal chase, and commenced with his usual familiarity,—"I see Fortune has graced our dear dad, as usual.—But what's this?"
"What is it? It is treason for what I ken," said the king; "and a' your wyte, Steenie. Your dear dad and gossip might have been murdered, for what you care."
"Murdered? Secure the villain!" exclaimed the Duke. "By Heaven, it is Olifaunt himself!" A dozen of the hunters dismounted at once, letting their horses run wild through the park. Some seized roughly on Lord Glenvarloch, who thought it folly to offer resistance, while others busied themselves with the king. "Are you wounded, my liege—are you wounded?"
"Not that I ken of," said the king, in the paroxysm of his apprehension, (which, by the way, might be pardoned in one of so timorous a temper, and who, in his time, had been exposed to so many strange attempts)—"Not that I ken of—but search him—search him. I am sure I saw fire-arms under his cloak. I am sure I smelled powder—I am dooms sure of that."
Lord Glenvarloch's cloak being stripped off, and his pistols discovered, a shout of wonder and of execration on the supposed criminal purpose, arose from the crowd now thickening every moment. Not that celebrated pistol, which, though resting on a bosom as gallant and as loyal as Nigel's, spread such cause less alarm among knights and dames at a late high solemnity—not that very pistol caused more temporary consternation than was so groundlessly excited by the arms which were taken from Lord Glenvarloch's person; and not Mhic-Allastar-More himself could repel with greater scorn and indignation, the insinuations that they were worn for any sinister purposes.
"Away with the wretch—the parricide—the bloody-minded villain!" was echoed on all hands; and the king, who naturally enough set the same value on his own life, at which it was, or seemed to be, rated by others, cried out, louder than all the rest, "Ay, ay—away with him. I have had enough of him and so has the country. But do him no bodily harm—and, for God's sake, sirs, if ye are sure ye have thoroughly disarmed him, put up your swords, dirks, and skenes, for you will certainly do each other a mischief."
There was a speedy sheathing of weapons at the king's command; for those who had hitherto been brandishing them in loyal bravado, began thereby to call to mind the extreme dislike which his Majesty nourished against naked steel, a foible which seemed to be as constitutional as his timidity, and was usually ascribed to the brutal murder of Rizzio having been perpetrated in his unfortunate mother's presence before he yet saw the light.
At this moment, the Prince, who had been hunting in a different part of the then extensive Park, and had received some hasty and confused information of what was going forward, came rapidly up, with one or two noblemen in his train, and amongst others Lord Dalgarno. He sprung from his horse and asked eagerly if his father were wounded.
"Not that I am sensible of, Baby Charles—but a wee matter exhausted, with struggling single-handed with the assassin.—Steenie, fill up a cup of wine—the leathern bottle is hanging at our pommel.—Buss me, then, Baby Charles," continued the monarch, after he had taken this cup of comfort; "O man, the Commonwealth and you have had a fair escape from the heavy and bloody loss of a dear father; for we are pater patriae, as weel as pater familias.-Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus tarn cari capitis!-Woe is me, black cloth would have been dear in England, and dry een scarce!"
And, at the very idea of the general grief which must have attended his death, the good-natured monarch cried heartily himself.
"Is this possible?" said Charles, sternly; for his pride was hurt at his father's demeanour on the one hand, while on the other, he felt the resentment of a son and a subject, at the supposed attempt on the king's life. "Let some one speak who has seen what happened—My Lord of Buckingham!"
"I cannot say my lord," replied the Duke, "that I saw any actual violence offered to his Majesty, else I should have avenged him on the spot."
"You would have done wrong, then, in your zeal, George," answered the Prince; "such offenders were better left to be dealt with by the laws. But was the villain not struggling with his Majesty?"
"I cannot term it so, my lord," said the Duke, who, with many faults, would have disdained an untruth; "he seemed to desire to detain his Majesty, who, on the contrary, appeared to wish to mount his horse; but they have found pistols on his person, contrary to the proclamation, and, as it proves to be by Nigel Olifaunt, of whose ungoverned disposition your Royal Highness has seen some samples, we seem to be justified in apprehending the worst."
"Nigel Olifaunt!" said the Prince; "can that unhappy man so soon have engaged in a new trespass? Let me see those pistols."
"Ye are not so unwise as to meddle with such snap-haunces, Baby Charles?" said James—"Do not give him them, Steenie—I command you on your allegiance! They may go off of their own accord, whilk often befalls.—You will do it, then?—Saw ever a man sic wilful bairns as we are cumbered with!—Havena we guardsmen and soldiers enow, but you must unload the weapons yoursell—you, the heir of our body and dignities, and sae mony men around that are paid for venturing life in our cause?"
But without regarding his father's exclamations, Prince Charles, with the obstinacy which characterised him in trifles, as well as matters of consequence, persisted in unloading the pistols with his own hand, of the double bullets with which each was charged. The hands of all around were held up in astonishment at the horror of the crime supposed to have been intended, and the escape which was presumed so narrow.
Nigel had not yet spoken a word—he now calmly desired to be heard.
"To what purpose?" answered the Prince coldly. "You knew yourself accused of a heavy offence, and, instead of rendering yourself up to justice, in terms of the proclamation, you are here found intruding yourself on his Majesty's presence, and armed with unlawful weapons."
"May it please you, sir," answered Nigel, "I wore these unhappy weapons for my own defence; and not very many hours since they were necessary to protect the lives of others."
"Doubtless, my lord," answered the Prince, still calm and unmoved,— "your late mode of life, and the associates with whom you have lived, have made you familiar with scenes and weapons of violence. But it is not to me you are to plead your cause."
"Hear me—hear me, noble Prince!" said Nigel, eagerly. "Hear me! You— even you yourself—may one day ask to be heard, and in vain."
"How, sir," said the Prince, haughtily—"how am I to construe that, my lord?"
"If not on earth, sir," replied the prisoner, "yet to Heaven we must all pray for patient and favourable audience."
"True, my lord," said the Prince, bending his head with haughty acquiescence; "nor would I now refuse such audience to you, could it avail you. But you shall suffer no wrong. We will ourselves look into your case."
"Ay, ay," answered the king, "he hath made appellatio ad Casarem—we will interrogate Glenvarlochides ourselves, time and place fitting; and, in the meanwhile, have him and his weapons away, for I am weary of the sight of them."
In consequence of directions hastily given, Nigel was accordingly removed from the presence, where, however, his words had not altogether fallen to the ground. "This is a most strange matter, George," said the Prince to the favourite; "this gentleman hath a good countenance, a happy presence, and much calm firmness in his look and speech. I cannot think he would attempt a crime so desperate and useless."
"I profess neither love nor favour to the young man," answered Buckingham, whose high-spirited ambition bore always an open character: "but I cannot but agree with your Highness, that our dear gossip hath been something hasty in apprehending personal danger from him."
"By my saul, Steenie, ye are not blate, to say so!" said the king. "Do I not ken the smell of pouther, think ye? Who else nosed out the Fifth of November, save our royal selves? Cecil, and Suffolk, and all of them, were at fault, like sae mony mongrel tikes, when I puzzled it out: and trow ye that I cannot smell pouther? Why, 'sblood, man, Joannes Barclaius thought my ingine was in some measure inspiration, and terms his history of the plot, Series patefacti divinitus parricidii; and Spondanus, in like manner, saith of us, Divinitus evasit."
"The land was happy in your Majesty's escape," said the Duke of Buckingham, "and not less in the quick wit which tracked that labyrinth of treason by so fine and almost invisible a clew."
"Saul, man, Steenie, ye are right! There are few youths have sic true judgment as you, respecting the wisdom of their elders; and, as for this fause, traitorous smaik, I doubt he is a hawk of the same nest. Saw ye not something papistical about him? Let them look that he bears not a crucifix, or some sic Roman trinket, about him."
"It would ill become me to attempt the exculpation of this unhappy man," said Lord Dalgarno, "considering the height of his present attempt, which has made all true men's blood curdle in their veins. Yet I cannot avoid intimating, with all due submission to his Majesty's infallible judgment, in justice to one who showed himself formerly only my enemy, though he now displays himself in much blacker colours, that this Olifaunt always appeared to me more as a Puritan than as a Papist."
"Ah, Dalgarno, art thou there, man?" said the king. "And ye behoved to keep back, too, and leave us to our own natural strength and the care of Providence, when we were in grips with the villain!"
"Providence, may it please your most Gracious Majesty, would not fail to aid, in such a strait, the care of three weeping kingdoms," said Lord Dalgarno.
"Surely, man—surely," replied the king—"but a sight of your father, with his long whinyard, would have been a blithe matter a short while syne; and in future we will aid the ends of Providence in our favour, by keeping near us two stout beef-eaters of the guard.—And so this Olifaunt is a Puritan?—not the less like to be a Papist, for all that—for extremities meet, as the scholiast proveth. There are, as I have proved in my book, Puritans of papistical principles—it is just a new tout on an old horn."
Here the king was reminded by the Prince, who dreaded perhaps that he was going to recite the whole Basilicon Doron, that it would be best to move towards the Palace, and consider what was to be done for satisfying the public mind, in whom the morning's adventure was likely to excite much speculation. As they entered the gate of the Palace, a female bowed and presented a paper, which the king received, and, with a sort of groan, thrust it into his side pocket. The Prince expressed some curiosity to know its contents. "The valet in waiting will tell you them," said the king, "when I strip off my cassock. D'ye think, Baby, that I can read all that is thrust into my hands? See to me, man,—(he pointed to the pockets of his great trunk breeches, which were stuffed with papers)—"We are like an ass—that we should so speak—stooping betwixt two burdens. Ay, ay, Asinus fortis accumbens inter terminos, as the Vulgate hath it—Ay, ay, Vidi terrain quod esset optima, et supposui humerum ad portandum, et factus sum tributis serviens—I saw this land of England, and became an overburdened king thereof."
"You are indeed well loaded, my dear dad and gossip," said the Duke of Buckingham, receiving the papers which King James emptied out of his pockets.
"Ay, ay," continued the monarch; "take them to you per aversionem, bairns—the one pouch stuffed with petitions, t'other with pasquinadoes; a fine time we have on't. On my conscience, I believe the tale of Cadmus was hieroglyphical, and that the dragon's teeth whilk he sowed were the letters he invented. Ye are laughing, Baby Charles?—Mind what I say.—When I came here first frae our ain country, where the men are as rude as the weather, by my conscience, England was a bieldy bit; one would have thought the king had little to do but to walk by quiet waters, per aquam refectionis. But, I kenna how or why, the place is sair changed—read that libel upon us and on our regimen. The dragon's teeth are sown, Baby Charles; I pray God they bearna their armed harvest in your day, if I suld not live to see it. God forbid I should, for there will be an awful day's kemping at the shearing of them."
"I shall know how to stifle the crop in the blade,—ha, George?" said the Prince, turning to the favourite with a look expressive of some contempt for his father's apprehensions, and full of confidence in the superior firmness and decision of his own counsels.
While this discourse was passing, Nigel, in charge of a pursuivant-at- arms, was pushed and dragged through the small town, all the inhabitants of which, having been alarmed by the report of an attack on the king's life, now pressed forward to see the supposed traitor. Amid the confusion of the moment, he could descry the face of the victualler, arrested into a stare of stolid wonder, and that of the barber grinning betwixt horror and eager curiosity. He thought that he also had a glimpse of his waterman in the green jacket.
He had no time for remarks, being placed in a boat with the pursuivant and two yeomen of the guard, and rowed up the river as fast as the arms of six stout watermen could pull against the tide. They passed the groves of masts which even then astonished the stranger with the extended commerce of London, and now approached those low and blackened walls of curtain and bastion, which exhibit here and there a piece of ordnance, and here and there a solitary sentinel under arms, but have otherwise so little of the military terrors of a citadel. A projecting low-browed arch, which had loured over many an innocent, and many a guilty head, in similar circumstances, now spread its dark frowns over that of Nigel. The boat was put close up to the broad steps against which the tide was lapping its lazy wave. The warder on duty looked from the wicket, and spoke to the pursuivant in whispers. In a few minutes the Lieutenant of the Tower appeared, received, and granted an acknowledgment for the body of Nigel, Lord Glenvarloch.
Ye towers of Julius! London's lasting shame; With many a foul and midnight murder fed! Gray.
Such is the exclamation of Gray. Bandello, long before him, has said something like it; and the same sentiment must, in some shape or other, have frequently occurred to those, who, remembering the fate of other captives in that memorable state-prison, may have had but too much reason to anticipate their own. The dark and low arch, which seemed, like the entrance to Dante's Hell, to forbid hope of regress— the muttered sounds of the warders, and petty formalities observed in opening and shutting the grated wicket—the cold and constrained salutation of the Lieutenant of the fortress, who showed his prisoner that distant and measured respect which authority pays as a tax to decorum, all struck upon Nigel's heart, impressing on him the cruel consciousness of captivity.
"I am a prisoner," he said, the words escaping from him almost unawares; "I am a prisoner, and in the Tower !"
The Lieutenant bowed—"And it is my duty," he said, "to show your lordship your chamber, where, I am compelled to say, my orders are to place you under some restraint. I will make it as easy as my duty permits."
Nigel only bowed in return to this compliment, and followed the Lieutenant to the ancient buildings on the western side of the parade, and adjoining to the chapel, used in those days as a state-prison, but in ours as the mess-room of the officers of the guard upon duty at the fortress. The double doors were unlocked, the prisoner ascended a few steps, followed by the Lieutenant, and a warder of the higher class. They entered a large, but irregular, low-roofed, and dark apartment, exhibiting a very scanty proportion of furniture. The warder had orders to light a fire, and attend to Lord Glenvarloch's commands in all things consistent with his duty; and the Lieutenant, having made his reverence with the customary compliment, that he trusted his lordship would not long remain under his guardianship, took his leave.
Nigel would have asked some questions of the warder, who remained to put the apartment into order, but the man had caught the spirit of his office. He seemed not to hear some of the prisoner's questions, though of the most ordinary kind, did not reply to others, and when he did speak, it was in a short and sullen tone, which, though not positively disrespectful, was such as at least to encourage no farther communication.
Nigel left him, therefore, to do his work in silence, and proceeded to amuse himself with the melancholy task of deciphering the names, mottoes, verses, and hieroglyphics, with which his predecessors in captivity had covered the walls of their prison-house. There he saw the names of many a forgotten sufferer mingled with others which will continue in remembrance until English history shall perish. There were the pious effusions of the devout Catholic, poured forth on the eve of his sealing his profession at Tyburn, mingled with those of the firm Protestant, about to feed the fires of Smithfield. There the slender hand of the unfortunate Jane Grey, whose fate was to draw tears from future generations, might be contrasted with the bolder touch which impressed deep on the walls the Bear and Ragged Staff, the proud emblem of the proud Dudleys. It was like the roll of the prophet, a record of lamentation and mourning, and yet not unmixed with brief interjections of resignation, and sentences expressive of the firmest resolution.[Footnote: These memorials of illustrious criminals, or of innocent persons who had the fate of such, are still preserved, though at one time, in the course of repairing the rooms, they were in some danger of being whitewashed. They are preserved at present with becoming respect, and have most of them been engraved.—See BAYLEY'S History and Antiquities of the Tower of London.]
In the sad task of examining the miseries of his predecessors in captivity, Lord Glenvarloch was interrupted by the sudden opening of the door of his prison-room. It was the warder, who came to inform him, that, by order of the Lieutenant of the Tower, his lordship was to have the society and attendance of a fellow-prisoner in his place of confinement. Nigel replied hastily, that he wished no attendance, and would rather be left alone; but the warder gave him to understand, with a kind of grumbling civility, that the Lieutenant was the best judge how his prisoners should be accommodated, and that he would have no trouble with the boy, who was such a slip of a thing as was scarce worth turning a key upon.—"There, Giles," he said, "bring the child in."
Another warder put the "lad before him" into the room, and, both withdrawing, bolt crashed and chain clanged, as they replaced these ponderous obstacles to freedom. The boy was clad in a grey suit of the finest cloth, laid down with silver lace, with a buff-coloured cloak of the same pattern. His cap, which was a Montero of black velvet, was pulled over his brows, and, with the profusion of his long ringlets, almost concealed his face. He stood on the very spot where the warder had quitted his collar, about two steps from the door of the apartment, his eyes fixed on the ground, and every joint trembling with confusion and terror. Nigel could well have dispensed with his society, but it was not in his nature to behold distress, whether of body or mind, without endeavouring to relieve it.
"Cheer up," he said, "my pretty lad. We are to be companions, it seems, for a little time—at least I trust your confinement will be short, since you are too young to have done aught to deserve long restraint. Come, come—do not be discouraged. Your hand is cold and trembles? the air is warm too—but it may be the damp of this darksome room. Place you by the fire.—What! weeping-ripe, my little man? I pray you, do not be a child. You have no beard yet, to be dishonoured by your tears, but yet you should not cry like a girl. Think you are only shut up for playing truant, and you can pass a day without weeping, surely."
The boy suffered himself to be led and seated by the fire, but, after retaining for a long time the very posture which he assumed in sitting down, he suddenly changed it in order to wring his hands with an air of the bitterest distress, and then, spreading them before his face, wept so plentifully, that the tears found their way in floods through his slender fingers.
Nigel was in some degree rendered insensible to his own situation, by his feelings for the intense agony by which so young and beautiful a creature seemed to be utterly overwhelmed; and, sitting down close beside the boy, he applied the most soothing terms which occurred, to endeavour to alleviate his distress; and, with an action which the difference of their age rendered natural, drew his hand kindly along the long hair of the disconsolate child. The lad appeared so shy as even to shrink from this slight approach to familiarity—yet, when Lord Glenvarloch, perceiving and allowing for his timidity, sat down on the farther side of the fire, he appeared to be more at his ease, and to hearken with some apparent interest to the arguments which from time to time Nigel used, to induce him to moderate, at least, the violence of his grief. As the boy listened, his tears, though they continued to flow freely, seemed to escape from their source more easily, his sobs were less convulsive, and became gradually changed into low sighs, which succeeded each other, indicating as much sorrow, perhaps, but less alarm, than his first transports had shown.
"Tell me who and what you are, my pretty boy," said Nigel.—"Consider me, child, as a companion, who wishes to be kind to you, would you but teach him how he can be so."
"Sir—my lord, I mean," answered the boy, very timidly, and in a voice which could scarce be heard even across the brief distance which divided them, "you are very good—and I—am very unhappy—"
A second fit of tears interrupted what else he had intended to say, and it required a renewal of Lord Glenvarloch's good-natured expostulations and encouragements, to bring him once more to such composure as rendered the lad capable of expressing himself intelligibly. At length, however, he was able to say—"I am sensible of your goodness, my lord—and grateful for it—but I am a poor unhappy creature, and, what is worse, have myself only to thank for my misfortunes."
"We are seldom absolutely miserable, my young acquaintance," said Nigel, "without being ourselves more or less responsible for it—I may well say so, otherwise I had not been here to-day—but you are very young, and can have but little to answer for."
"O sir! I wish I could say so—I have been self-willed and obstinate— and rash and ungovernable—and now—now, how dearly do I pay the price of it!"
"Pshaw, my boy," replied Nigel; "this must be some childish frolic— some breaking out of bounds—some truant trick—And yet how should any of these have brought you to the Tower?—There is something mysterious about you, young man, which I must inquire into."
"Indeed, indeed, my lord, there is no harm about me," said the boy, more moved it would seem to confession by the last words, by which he seemed considerably alarmed, than by all the kind expostulations and arguments which Nigel had previously used. "I am innocent—that is, I have done wrong, but nothing to deserve being in this frightful place."
"Tell me the truth, then," said Nigel, in a tone in which command mingled with encouragement; "you have nothing to fear from me, and as little to hope, perhaps—yet, placed as I am, I would know with whom I speak."
"With an unhappy—boy, sir—and idle and truantly disposed, as your lordship said," answered the lad, looking up, and showing a countenance in which paleness and blushes succeeded each other, as fear and shamefacedness alternately had influence. "I left my father's house without leave, to see the king hunt in the Park at Greenwich; there came a cry of treason, and all the gates were shut—I was frightened, and hid myself in a thicket, and I was found by some of the rangers and examined—and they said I gave no good account of myself—and so I was sent hither."
"I am an unhappy, a most unhappy being," said Lord Glenvarloch, rising and walking through the apartment; "nothing approaches me but shares my own bad fate! Death and imprisonment dog my steps, and involve all who are found near me. Yet this boy's story sounds strangely.—You say you were examined, my young friend—Let me pray you to say whether you told your name, and your means of gaining admission into the Park—if so, they surely would not have detained you?"
"O, my lord," said the boy, "I took care not to tell them the name of the friend that let me in; and as to my father—I would not he knew where I now am for all the wealth in London!"
"But do you not expect," said Nigel, "that they will dismiss you till you let them know who and what you are?"
"What good will it do them to keep so useless a creature as myself?" said the boy; "they must let me go, were it but out of shame."
"Do not trust to that—tell me your name and station—I will communicate them to the Lieutenant—he is a man of quality and honour, and will not only be willing to procure your liberation, but also, I have no doubt, will intercede with your father. I am partly answerable for such poor aid as I can afford, to get you out of this embarrassment, since I occasioned the alarm owing to which you were arrested; so tell me your name, and your father's name."
"My name to you? O never, never!" answered the boy, in a tone of deep emotion, the cause of which Nigel could not comprehend.
"Are you so much afraid of me, young man," he replied, "because I am here accused and a prisoner? Consider, a man may be both, and deserve neither suspicion nor restraint. Why should you distrust me? You seem friendless, and I am myself so much in the same circumstances, that I cannot but pity your situation when I reflect on my own. Be wise; I have spoken kindly to you—I mean as kindly as I speak."
"O, I doubt it not, I doubt it not, my lord," said the boy, "and I could tell you all—that is, almost all."
"Tell me nothing, my young friend, excepting what may assist me in being useful to you," said Nigel.
"You are generous, my lord," said the boy; "and I am sure—O sure, I might safely trust to your honour—But yet—but yet—I am so sore beset—I have been so rash, so unguarded—I can never tell you of my folly. Besides, I have already told too much to one whose heart I thought I had moved—yet I find myself here."
"To whom did you make this disclosure?" said Nigel.
"I dare not tell," replied the youth.
"There is something singular about you, my young friend," said Lord Glenvarloch, withdrawing with a gentle degree of compulsion the hand with which the boy had again covered his eyes; "do not pain yourself with thinking on your situation just at present—your pulse is high, and your hand feverish—lay yourself on yonder pallet, and try to compose yourself to sleep. It is the readiest and best remedy for the fancies with which you are worrying yourself."
"I thank you for your considerate kindness, my lord," said the boy; "with your leave I will remain for a little space quiet in this chair- -I am better thus than on the couch. I can think undisturbedly on what I have done, and have still to do; and if God sends slumber to a creature so exhausted, it shall be most welcome."
So saying, the boy drew his hand from Lord Nigel's, and, drawing around him and partly over his face the folds of his ample cloak, he resigned himself to sleep or meditation, while his companion, notwithstanding the exhausting scenes of this and the preceding day, continued his pensive walk up and down the apartment.
Every reader has experienced, that times occur, when far from being lord of external circumstances, man is unable to rule even the wayward realm of his own thoughts. It was Nigel's natural wish to consider his own situation coolly, and fix on the course which it became him as a man of sense and courage to adopt; and yet, in spite of himself, and notwithstanding the deep interest of the critical state in which he was placed, it did so happen that his fellow-prisoner's situation occupied more of his thoughts than did his own. There was no accounting for this wandering of the imagination, but also there was no striving with it. The pleading tones of one of the sweetest voices he had ever heard, still rung in his ear, though it seemed that sleep had now fettered the tongue of the speaker. He drew near on tiptoe to satisfy himself whether it were so. The folds of the cloak hid the lower part of his face entirely; but the bonnet, which had fallen a little aside, permitted him to see the forehead streaked with blue veins, the closed eyes, and the long silken eyelashes.
"Poor child," said Nigel to himself, as he looked on him, nestled up as it were in the folds of his mantle, "the dew is yet on thy eyelashes, and thou hast fairly wept thyself asleep. Sorrow is a rough nurse to one so young and delicate as thou art. Peace be to thy slumbers, I will not disturb them. My own misfortunes require my attention, and it is to their contemplation that I must resign myself."
He attempted to do so, but was crossed at every turn by conjectures which intruded themselves as before, and which all regarded the sleeper rather than himself. He was angry and vexed, and expostulated with himself concerning the overweening interest which he took in the concerns of one of whom he knew nothing, saving that the boy was forced into his company, perhaps as a spy, by those to whose custody he was committed—but the spell could not be broken, and the thoughts which he struggled to dismiss, continued to haunt him.
Thus passed half an hour, or more; at the conclusion of which, the harsh sound of the revolving bolts was again heard, and the voice of the warder announced that a man desired to speak with Lord Glenvarloch. "A man to speak with me, under my present circumstances!- -Who can it be?" And John Christie, his landlord of Paul's Wharf, resolved his doubts, by entering the apartment. "Welcome—most welcome, mine honest landlord!" said Lord Glenvarloch. "How could I have dreamt of seeing you in my present close lodgings?" And at the same time, with the frankness of old kindness, he walked up to Christie and offered his hand; but John started back as from the look of a basilisk.
"Keep your courtesies to yourself, my lord," said he, gruffly; "I have had as many of them already as may serve me for my life."
"Why, Master Christie," said Nigel, "what means this? I trust I have not offended you?"
"Ask me no questions, my lord," said Christie, bluntly. "I am a man of peace—I came not hither to wrangle with you at this place and season. Just suppose that I am well informed of all the obligements from your honour's nobleness, and then acquaint me, in as few words as may be, where is the unhappy woman—What have you done with her?"
"What have I done with her!" said Lord Glenvarloch—"Done with whom? I know not what you are speaking of."
"Oh, yes, my lord," said Christie; "play surprise as well as you will, you must have some guess that I am speaking of the poor fool that was my wife, till she became your lordship's light-o'-love."
"Your wife! Has your wife left you? and, if she has, do you come to ask her of me?"
"Yes, my lord, singular as it may seem," returned Christie, in a tone of bitter irony, and with a sort of grin widely discording from the discomposure of his features, the gleam of his eye, and the froth which stood on his lip, "I do come to make that demand of your lordship. Doubtless, you are surprised I should take the trouble; but, I cannot tell, great men and little men think differently. She has lain in my bosom, and drunk of my cup; and, such as she is, I cannot forget that—though I will never see her again—she must not starve, my lord, or do worse, to gain bread, though I reckon your lordship may think I am robbing the public in trying to change her courses."
"By my faith as a Christian, by my honour as a gentleman," said Lord Glenvarloch, "if aught amiss has chanced with your wife, I know nothing of it. I trust in Heaven you are as much mistaken in imputing guilt to her, as in supposing me her partner in it."
"Fie! fie! my lord," said Christie, "why will you make it so tough? She is but the wife of a clod-pated old chandler, who was idiot enough to marry a wench twenty years younger than himself. Your lordship cannot have more glory by it than you have had already; and, as for advantage and solace, I take it Dame Nelly is now unnecessary to your gratification. I should be sorry to interrupt the course of your pleasure; an old wittol should have more consideration of his condition. But, your precious lordship being mewed up here among other choice jewels of the kingdom, Dame Nelly cannot, I take it, be admitted to share the hours of dalliance which—"Here the incensed husband stammered, broke off his tone of irony, and proceeded, striking his staff against the ground—"O that these false limbs of yours, which I wish had been hamstrung when they first crossed my honest threshold, were free from the fetters they have well deserved! I would give you the odds of your youth, and your weapon, and would bequeath my soul to the foul fiend if I, with this piece of oak, did not make you such an example to all ungrateful, pick-thank courtiers, that it should be a proverb to the end of time, how John Christie swaddled his wife's fine leman!"
"I understand not your insolence," said Nigel, "but I forgive it, because you labour under some strange delusion. In so far as I can comprehend your vehement charge, it is entirely undeserved on my part. You seem to impute to me the seduction of your wife—I trust she is innocent. For me, at least, she is as innocent as an angel in bliss. I never thought of her—never touched her hand or cheek, save in honourable courtesy."
"O, ay—courtesy!—that is the very word. She always praised your lordship's honourable courtesy. Ye have cozened me between ye, with your courtesy. My lord—my lord, you came to us no very wealthy man— you know it. It was for no lucre of gain I took you and your swash- buckler, your Don Diego yonder, under my poor roof. I never cared if the little room were let or no; I could live without it. If you could not have paid for it, you should never have been asked. All the wharf knows John Christie has the means and spirit to do a kindness. When you first darkened my honest doorway, I was as happy as a man need to be, who is no youngster, and has the rheumatism. Nelly was the kindest and best-humoured wench—we might have a word now and then about a gown or a ribbon, but a kinder soul on the whole, and a more careful, considering her years, till you come—and what is she now!—But I will not be a fool to cry, if I can help it. What she is, is not the question, but where she is; and that I must learn, sir, of you."
"How can you, when I tell you," replied Nigel, "that I am as ignorant as yourself, or rather much more so? Till this moment, I never heard of any disagreement betwixt your dame and you."
"That is a lie," said John Christie, bluntly.
"How, you base villain!" said Lord Glenvarloch—"do you presume on my situation? If it were not that I hold you mad, and perhaps made so by some wrong sustained, you should find my being weaponless were no protection, I would beat your brains out against the wall."
"Ay, ay," answered Christie, "bully as ye list. Ye have been at the ordinaries, and in Alsatia, and learned the ruffian's rant, I doubt not. But I repeat, you have spoken an untruth, when you said you knew not of my wife's falsehood; for, when you were twitted with it among your gay mates, it was a common jest among you, and your lordship took all the credit they would give you for your gallantry and gratitude."
There was a mixture of truth in this part of the charge which disconcerted Lord Glenvarloch exceedingly; for he could not, as a man of honour, deny that Lord Dalgarno, and others, had occasionally jested with him on the subject of Dame Nelly, and that, though he had not played exactly le fanfaron des vices qu'il n'avoit pas, he had not at least been sufficiently anxious to clear himself of the suspicion of such a crime to men who considered it as a merit. It was therefore with some hesitation, and in a sort of qualifying tone, that he admitted that some idle jests had passed upon such a supposition, although without the least foundation in truth. John Christie would not listen to his vindication any longer. "By your own account," he said, "you permitted lies to be told of you injest. How do I know you are speaking truth, now you are serious? You thought it, I suppose, a fine thing to wear the reputation of having dishonoured an honest family,—who will not think that you had real grounds for your base bravado to rest upon? I will not believe otherwise for one, and therefore, my lord, mark what I have to say. You are now yourself in trouble—As you hope to come through it safely, and without loss of life and property, tell me where this unhappy woman is. Tell me, if you hope for heaven—tell me, if you fear hell—tell me, as you would not have the curse of an utterly ruined woman, and a broken-hearted man, attend you through life, and bear witness against you at the Great Day, which shall come after death. You are moved, my lord, I see it. I cannot forget the wrong you have done me. I cannot even promise to forgive it—but—tell me, and you shall never see me again, or hear more of my reproaches."
"Unfortunate man," said Lord Glenvarloch, "you have said more, far more than enough, to move me deeply. Were I at liberty, I would lend you my best aid to search out him who has wronged you, the rather that I do suspect my having been your lodger has been in some degree the remote cause of bringing the spoiler into the sheepfold."
"I am glad your lordship grants me so much," said John Christie, resuming the tone of embittered irony with which he had opened the, singular conversation; "I will spare you farther reproach and remonstrance—your mind is made up, and so is mine.—So, ho, warder!" The warder entered, and John went on,—"I want to get out, brother. Look well to your charge—it were better that half the wild beasts in their dens yonder were turned loose upon Tower Hill, than that this same smooth-faced, civil-spoken gentleman, were again returned to honest men's company!"
So saying, he hastily left the apartment; and Nigel had full leisure to lament the waywardness of his fate, which seemed never to tire of persecuting him for crimes of which he was innocent, and investing him with the appearances of guilt which his mind abhorred. He could not, however, help acknowledging to himself, that all the pain which he might sustain from the present accusation of John Christie, was so far deserved, from his having suffered himself, out of vanity, or rather an unwillingness to encounter ridicule, to be supposed capable of a base inhospitable crime, merely because fools called it an affair of gallantry; and it was no balsam to the wound, when he recollected what Richie had told him of his having been ridiculed behind his back by the gallants of the ordinary, for affecting the reputation of an intrigue which he had not in reality spirit enough to have carried on. His simulation had, in a word, placed him in the unlucky predicament of being rallied as a braggart amongst the dissipated youths, with whom the reality of the amour would have given him credit; whilst, on the other hand, he was branded as an inhospitable seducer by the injured husband, who was obstinately persuaded of his guilt.
How fares the man on whom good men would look With eyes where scorn and censure combated, But that kind Christian love hath taught the lesson— That they who merit most contempt and hate, Do most deserve our pity.— Old Play.
It might have seemed natural that the visit of John Christie should have entirely diverted Nigel's attention from his slumbering companion, and, for a time, such was the immediate effect of the chain of new ideas which the incident introduced; yet, soon after the injured man had departed, Lord Glenvarloch began to think it extraordinary that the boy should have slept so soundly, while they talked loudly in his vicinity. Yet he certainly did not appear to have stirred. Was he well—was he only feigning sleep? He went close to him to make his observations, and perceived that he had wept, and was still weeping, though his eyes were closed. He touched him gently on the shoulder—the boy shrunk from his touch, but did not awake. He pulled him harder, and asked him if he was sleeping.
"Do they waken folk in your country to know whether they are asleep or no?" said the boy, in a peevish tone.
"No, my young sir," answered Nigel; "but when they weep in the manner you do in your sleep, they awaken them to see what ails them."
"It signifies little to any one what ails me," said the boy.
"True," replied Lord Glenvarloch; "but you knew before you went to sleep how little I could assist you in your difficulties, and you seemed disposed, notwithstanding, to put some confidence in me."
"If I did, I have changed my mind," said the lad.
"And what may have occasioned this change of mind, I trow?" said Lord Glenvarloch. "Some men speak through their sleep—perhaps you have the gift of hearing in it?"
"No, but the Patriarch Joseph never dreamt truer dreams than I do."
"Indeed!" said Lord Glenvarloch. "And, pray, what dream have you had that has deprived me of your good opinion; for that, I think, seems the moral of the matter?"
"You shall judge yourself," answered the boy. "I dreamed I was in a wild forest, where there was a cry of hounds, and winding of horns, exactly as I heard in Greenwich Park."
"That was because you were in the Park this morning, you simple child," said Nigel.
"Stay, my lord," said the youth. "I went on in my dream, till, at the top of a broad green alley, I saw a noble stag which had fallen into the toils; and methought I knew that he was the very stag which the whole party were hunting, and that if the chase came up, the dogs would tear him to pieces, or the hunters would cut his throat; and I had pity on the gallant stag, and though I was of a different kind from him, and though I was somewhat afraid of him, I thought I would venture something to free so stately a creature; and I pulled out my knife, and just as I was beginning to cut the meshes of the net, the animal started up in my face in the likeness of a tiger, much larger and fiercer than any you may have seen in the ward of the wild beasts yonder, and was just about to tear me limb from limb, when you awaked me."
"Methinks," said Nigel, "I deserve more thanks than I have got, for rescuing you from such a danger by waking you. But, my pretty master, methinks all this tale of a tiger and a stag has little to do with your change of temper towards me."
"I know not whether it has or no," said the lad; "but I will not tell you who I am."
"You will keep your secret to yourself then, peevish boy," said Nigel, turning from him, and resuming his walk through the room; then stopping suddenly, he said—"And yet you shall not escape from me without knowing that I penetrate your mystery."
"My mystery!" said the youth, at once alarmed and irritated—"what mean you, my lord?"
"Only that I can read your dream without the assistance of a Chaldean interpreter, and my exposition is—that my fair companion does not wear the dress of her sex."
"And if I do not, my lord," said his companion, hastily starting up, and folding her cloak tight around her, "my dress, such as it is, covers one who will not disgrace it."
"Many would call that speech a fair challenge," said Lord Glenvarloch, looking on her fixedly; "women do not masquerade in men's clothes, to make use of men's weapons."
"I have no such purpose," said the seeming boy; "I have other means of protection, and powerful—but I would first know what is your purpose."
"An honourable and a most respectful one," said Lord Glenvarloch; "whatever you are—whatever motive may have brought you into this ambiguous situation, I am sensible—every look, word, and action of yours, makes me sensible, that you are no proper subject of importunity, far less of ill usage. What circumstances can have forced you into so doubtful a situation, I know not; but I feel assured there is, and can be, nothing in them of premeditated wrong, which should expose you to cold-blooded insult. From me you have nothing to dread."
"I expected nothing less from your nobleness, my lord," answered the female; "my adventure, though I feel it was both desperate and foolish, is not so very foolish, nor my safety here so utterly unprotected, as at first sight—and in this strange dress, it may appear to be. I have suffered enough, and more than enough, by the degradation of having been seen in this unfeminine attire, and the comments you must necessarily have made on my conduct—but I thank God that I am so far protected, that I could not have been subjected to insult unavenged." When this extraordinary explanation had proceeded thus far, the warder appeared, to place before Lord Glenvarloch a meal, which, for his present situation, might be called comfortable, and which, if not equal to the cookery of the celebrated Chevalier Beaujeu, was much superior in neatness and cleanliness to that of Alsatia. A warder attended to do the honours of the table, and made a sign to the disguised female to rise and assist him in his functions. But Nigel, declaring that he knew the youth's parents, interfered, and caused his companion to eat along with him. She consented with a sort of embarrassment, which rendered her pretty features yet more interesting. Yet she maintained with a natural grace that sort of good-breeding which belongs to the table; and it seemed to Nigel, whether already prejudiced in her favour by the extraordinary circumstances of their meeting, or whether really judging from what was actually the fact, that he had seldom seen a young person comport herself with more decorous propriety, mixed with ingenuous simplicity; while the consciousness of the peculiarity of her situation threw a singular colouring over her whole demeanour, which could be neither said to be formal, nor easy, nor embarrassed, but was compounded of, and shaded with, an interchange of all these three characteristics. Wine was placed on the table, of which she could not be prevailed on to taste a glass. Their conversation was, of course, limited by the presence of the warder to the business of the table: but Nigel had, long ere the cloth was removed, formed the resolution, if possible, of making himself master of this young person's history, the more especially as he now began to think that the tones of her voice and her features were not so strange to him as he had originally supposed. This, however, was a conviction which he adopted slowly, and only as it dawned upon him from particular circumstances during the course of the repast.
At length the prison-meal was finished, and Lord Glenvarloch began to think how he might most easily enter upon the topic he meditated, when the warder announced a visitor.
"Soh!" said Nigel, something displeased, "I find even a prison does not save one from importunate visitations."
He prepared to receive his guest, however, while his alarmed companion flew to the large cradle-shaped chair, which had first served her as a place of refuge, drew her cloak around her, and disposed herself as much as she could to avoid observation. She had scarce made her arrangements for that purpose when the door opened, and the worthy citizen, George Heriot, entered the prison-chamber.
He cast around the apartment his usual sharp, quick glance of observation, and, advancing to Nigel, said—"My lord, I wish I could say I was happy to see you."
"The sight of those who are unhappy themselves, Master Heriot, seldom produces happiness to their friends—I, however, am glad to see you."
He extended his hand, but Heriot bowed with much formal complaisance, instead of accepting the courtesy, which in those times, when the distinction of ranks was much guarded by etiquette and ceremony, was considered as a distinguished favour.
"You are displeased with me, Master Heriot," said Lord Glenvarloch, reddening, for he was not deceived by the worthy citizen's affectation of extreme reverence and respect.
"By no means, my lord," replied Heriot; "but I have been in France, and have thought it is well to import, along with other more substantial articles, a small sample of that good-breeding which the French are so renowned for."
"It is not kind of you," said Nigel, "to bestow the first use of it on an old and obliged friend."
Heriot only answered to this observation with a short dry cough, and then proceeded.
"Hem! hem! I say, ahem! My lord, as my French politeness may not carry me far, I would willingly know whether I am to speak as a friend, since your lordship is pleased to term me such; or whether I am, as befits my condition, to confine myself to the needful business which must be treated of between us."
"Speak as a friend by all means, Master Heriot," said Nigel; "I perceive you have adopted some of the numerous prejudices against me, if not all of them. Speak out, and frankly—what I cannot deny I will at least confess."
"And I trust, my lord, redress," said Heriot.
"So far as in my power, certainly," answered Nigel.
"Ah I my lord," continued Heriot, "that is a melancholy though a necessary restriction; for how lightly may any one do an hundred times more than the degree of evil which it may be within his power to repair to the sufferers and to society! But we are not alone here," he said, stopping, and darting his shrewd eye towards the muffled figure of the disguised maiden, whose utmost efforts had not enabled her so to adjust her position as altogether to escape observation. More anxious to prevent her being discovered than to keep his own affairs private, Nigel hastily answered-
"'Tis a page of mine; you may speak freely before him. He is of France, and knows no English."
"I am then to speak freely," said Heriot, after a second glance at the chair; "perhaps my words may be more free than welcome."
"Go on, sir," said Nigel, "I have told you I can bear reproof."
"In one word, then, my lord—why do I find you in this place, and whelmed with charges which must blacken a name rendered famous by ages of virtue?"
"Simply, then, you find me here," said Nigel, "because, to begin from my original error, I would be wiser than my father."
"It was a difficult task, my lord," replied Heriot; "your father was voiced generally as the wisest and one of the bravest men of Scotland."
"He commanded me," continued Nigel, "to avoid all gambling; and I took upon me to modify this injunction into regulating my play according to my skill, means, and the course of my luck."
"Ay, self opinion, acting on a desire of acquisition, my lord—you hoped to touch pitch and not to be defiled, "answered Heriot. "Well, my lord, you need not say, for I have heard with much regret, how far this conduct diminished your reputation. Your next error I may without scruple remind you of—My lord, my lord, in whatever degree Lord Dalgarno may have failed towards you, the son of his father should have been sacred from your violence."
"You speak in cold blood, Master Heriot, and I was smarting under a thousand wrongs inflicted on me under the mask of friendship."
"That is, he gave your lordship bad advice, and you," said Heriot—
"Was fool enough to follow his counsel," answered Nigel—"But we will pass this, Master Heriot, if you please. Old men and young men, men of the sword and men of peaceful occupation, always have thought, always will think, differently on such subjects."
"I grant," answered Heriot, "the distinction between the old goldsmith and the young nobleman—still you should have had patience for Lord Huntinglen's sake, and prudence for your own. Supposing your quarrel just—"
"I pray you to pass on to some other charge," said Lord Glenvarloch.
"I am not your accuser, my lord; but I trust in heaven, that your own heart has already accused you bitterly on the inhospitable wrong which your late landlord has sustained at your hand."
"Had I been guilty of what you allude to," said Lord Glenvarloch,— "had a moment of temptation hurried me away, I had long ere now most bitterly repented it. But whoever may have wronged the unhappy woman, it was not I—I never heard of her folly until within this hour."
"Come, my lord," said Heriot, with some severity, "this sounds too much like affectation. I know there is among our modern youth a new creed respecting adultery as well as homicide—I would rather hear you speak of a revision of the Decalogue, with mitigated penalties in favour of the privileged orders—I would rather hear you do this than deny a fact in which you have been known to glory."
"Glory!—I never did, never would have taken honour to myself from such a cause," said Lord Glenvarloch. "I could not prevent other idle tongues, and idle brains, from making false inferences."
"You would have known well enough how to stop their mouths, my lord," replied Heriot, "had they spoke of you what was unpleasing to your ears, and what the truth did not warrant.—Come, my lord, remember your promise to confess; and, indeed, to confess is, in this case, in some slight sort to redress. I will grant you are young—the woman handsome—and, as I myself have observed, light-headed enough. Let me know where she is. Her foolish husband has still some compassion for her—will save her from infamy—perhaps, in time, receive her back; for we are a good-natured generation we traders. Do not, my lord, emulate those who work mischief merely for the pleasure of doing so— it is the very devil's worst quality."
"Your grave remonstrances will drive me mad," said Nigel. "There is a show of sense and reason in what you say; and yet, it is positively insisting on my telling the retreat of a fugitive of whom I know nothing earthly."
"It is well, my lord," answered Heriot, coldly. "You have a right, such as it is, to keep your own secrets; but, since my discourse on these points seems so totally unavailing, we had better proceed to business. Yet your father's image rises before me, and seems to plead that I should go on."
"Be it as you will, sir," said Glenvarloch; "he who doubts my word shall have no additional security for it."
"Well, my lord.—In the Sanctuary at Whitefriars—a place of refuge so unsuitable to a young man of quality and character—I am told a murder was committed."
"And you believe that I did the deed, I suppose?"
"God forbid, my lord!" said Heriot. "The coroner's inquest hath sat, and it appeared that your lordship, under your assumed name of Grahame, behaved with the utmost bravery."
"No compliment, I pray you," said Nigel; "I am only too happy to find, that I did not murder, or am not believed to have murdered, the old man."
"True, my lord, said Heriot; "but even in this affair there lacks explanation. Your lordship embarked this morning in a wherry with a female, and, it is said, an immense sum of money, in specie and other valuables—but the woman has not since been heard of."
"I parted with her at Paul's Wharf," said Nigel, "where she went ashore with her charge. I gave her a letter to that very man, John Christie."
"Ay, that is the waterman's story; but John Christie denies that he remembers anything of the matter."
"I am sorry to hear this," said the young nobleman; "I hope in Heaven she has not been trepanned, for the treasure she had with her."
"I hope not, my lord," replied Heriot; "but men's minds are much disturbed about it. Our national character suffers on all hands. Men remember the fatal case of Lord Sanquhar, hanged for the murder of a fencing-master; and exclaim, they will not have their wives whored, and their property stolen, by the nobility of Scotland."
"And all this is laid to my door!" said Nigel; "my exculpation is easy."
"I trust so, my lord," said Heriot;—"nay, in this particular, I do not doubt it.—But why did you leave Whitefriars under such circumstances?"
"Master Reginald Lowestoffe sent a boat for me, with intimation to provide for my safety."
"I am sorry to say," replied Heriot, "that he denies all knowledge of your lordship's motions, after having dispatched a messenger to you with some baggage."
"The watermen told me they were employed by him."
"Watermen!" said Heriot; "one of these proves to be an idle apprentice, an old acquaintance of mine—the other has escaped; but the fellow who is in custody persists in saying he was employed by your lordship, and you only."
"He lies!" said Lord Glenvarloch, hastily;—"He told me Master Lowestoffe had sent him.—I hope that kind-hearted gentleman is at liberty?"
"He is," answered Heriot; "and has escaped with a rebuke from the benchers, for interfering in such a matter as your lordship's. The Court desire to keep well with the young Templars in these times of commotion, or he had not come off so well."
"That is the only word of comfort I have heard from you," replied Nigel. "But this poor woman,—she and her trunk were committed to the charge of two porters."
"So said the pretended waterman; but none of the fellows who ply at the wharf will acknowledge the employment.—I see the idea makes you uneasy, my lord; but every effort is made to discover the poor woman's place of retreat—if, indeed, she yet lives.—And now, my lord, my errand is spoken, so far as it relates exclusively to your lordship; what remains, is matter of business of a more formal kind."
"Let us proceed to it without delay," said Lord Glenvarloch. "I would hear of the affairs of any one rather than of my own."
"You cannot have forgotten, my lord," said Heriot, "the transaction which took place some weeks since at Lord Huntinglen's—by which a large sum of money was advanced for the redemption of your lordship's estate?"
"I remember it perfectly," said Nigel; "and your present austerity cannot make me forget your kindness on the occasion."
Heriot bowed gravely, and went on.—"That money was advanced under the expectation and hope that it might be replaced by the contents of a grant to your lordship, under the royal sign-manual, in payment of certain monies due by the crown to your father.—I trust your lordship understood the transaction at the time—I trust you now understand my resumption of its import, and hold it to be correct?"
"Undeniably correct," answered Lord Glenvarloch. "If the sums contained in the warrant cannot be recovered, my lands become the property of those who paid off the original holders of the mortgage, and now stand in their right."
"Even so, my lord," said Heriot. "And your lordship's unhappy circumstances having, it would seem, alarmed these creditors, they are now, I am sorry to say, pressing for one or other of these alternatives—possession of the land, or payment of their debt."
"They have a right to one or other," answered Lord Glenvarloch; "and as I cannot do the last in my present condition, I suppose they must enter on possession."
"Stay, my lord," replied Heriot; "if you have ceased to call me a friend to your person, at least you shall see I am willing to be such to your father's house, were it but for the sake of your father's memory. If you will trust me with the warrant under the sign-manual, I believe circumstances do now so stand at Court, that I may be able to recover the money for you."
"I would do so gladly," said Lord Glenvarloch, "but the casket which contains it is not in my possession. It was seized when I was arrested at Greenwich."
"It will be no longer withheld from you," said Heriot; "for, I understand, my Master's natural good sense, and some information which he has procured, I know not how, has induced him to contradict the whole charge of the attempt on his person. It is entirely hushed up; and you will only be proceeded against for your violence on Lord Dalgarno, committed within the verge of the Palace—and that you will find heavy enough to answer."
"I will not shrink under the weight," said Lord Glenvarloch. "But that is not the present point.—If I had that casket—"
"Your baggage stood in the little ante-room, as I passed," said the citizen; "the casket caught my eye. I think you had it of me. It was my old friend Sir Faithful Frugal's. Ay; he, too, had a son—"
Here he stopped short.
"A son who, like Lord Glenvarloch's, did no credit to his father.—Was it not so you would have ended the sentence, Master Heriot?" asked the young nobleman.
"My lord, it was a word spoken rashly," answered Heriot. "God may mend all in his own good time. This, however, I will say, that I have sometimes envied my friends their fair and flourishing families; and yet have I seen such changes when death has removed the head, so many rich men's sons penniless, the heirs of so many knights and nobles acreless, that I think mine own estate and memory, as I shall order it, has a fair chance of outliving those of greater men, though God has given me no heir of my name. But this is from the purpose.—Ho! warder, bring in Lord Glenvarloch's baggage." The officer obeyed. Seals had been placed upon the trunk and casket, but were now removed, the warder said, in consequence of the subsequent orders from Court, and the whole was placed at the prisoner's free disposal.
Desirous to bring this painful visit to a conclusion, Lord Glenvarloch opened the casket, and looked through the papers which it contained, first hastily, and then more slowly and accurately; but it was all in vain. The Sovereign's signed warrant had disappeared.
"I thought and expected nothing better," said George Heriot, bitterly. "The beginning of evil is the letting out of water. Here is a fair heritage lost, I dare say, on a foul cast at dice, or a conjuring trick at cards!—My lord, your surprise is well played. I give you full joy of your accomplishments. I have seen many as young brawlers and spendthrifts, but never as young and accomplished a dissembler.— Nay, man, never bend your angry brows on me. I speak in bitterness of heart, from what I remember of your worthy father; and if his son hears of his degeneracy from no one else, he shall hear it from the old goldsmith."
This new suspicion drove Nigel to the very extremity of his patience; yet the motives and zeal of the good old man, as well as the circumstances of suspicion which created his displeasure, were so excellent an excuse for it, that they formed an absolute curb on the resentment of Lord Glenvarloch, and constrained him, after two or three hasty exclamations, to observe a proud and sullen silence. At length, Master Heriot resumed his lecture.
"Hark you, my lord," he said, "it is scarce possible that this most important paper can be absolutely assigned away. Let me know in what obscure corner, and for what petty sum, it lies pledged—something may yet be done."
"Your efforts in my favour are the more generous," said Lord Glenvarloch, "as you offer them to one whom you believe you have cause to think hardly of—but they are altogether unavailing. Fortune has taken the field against me at every point. Even let her win the battle."
"Zouns!" exclaimed Heriot, impatiently,—"you would make a saint swear! Why, I tell you, if this paper, the loss of which seems to sit so light on you, be not found, farewell to the fair lordship of Glenvarloch—firth and forest—lea and furrow—lake and stream—all that has been in the house of Olifaunt since the days of William the Lion!"
"Farewell to them, then," said Nigel,—"and that moan is soon made."
"'Sdeath! my lord, you will make more moan for it ere you die," said Heriot, in the same tone of angry impatience.
"Not I, my old friend," said Nigel. "If I mourn, Master Heriot, it will be for having lost the good opinion of a worthy man, and lost it, as I must say, most undeservedly."
"Ay, ay, young man," said Heriot, shaking his head, "make me believe that if you can.—To sum the matter up," he said, rising from his seat, and walking towards that occupied by the disguised female, "for our matters are now drawn into small compass, you shall as soon make me believe that this masquerading mummer, on whom I now lay the hand of paternal authority, is a French page, who understands no English."
So saying, he took hold of the supposed page's cloak, and, not without some gentle degree of violence, led into the middle of the apartment the disguised fair one, who in vain attempted to cover her face, first with her mantle, and afterwards with her hands; both which impediments Master Heriot removed something unceremoniously, and gave to view the detected daughter of the old chronologist, his own fair god-daughter, Margaret Ramsay.
"Here is goodly gear!" he said; and, as he spoke, he could not prevent himself from giving her a slight shake, for we have elsewhere noticed that he was a severe disciplinarian.—"How comes it, minion, that I find you in so shameless a dress, and so unworthy a situation? Nay, your modesty is now mistimed—it should have come sooner. Speak, or I will—"
"Master Heriot," said Lord Glenvarloch, "whatever right you may have over this maiden elsewhere, while in my apartment she is under my protection."
"Your protection, my lord!—a proper protector!—and how long, mistress, have you been under my lord's protection? Speak out forsooth!"
"For the matter of two hours, godfather," answered the maiden, with a countenance bent to the ground, and covered with blushes, "but it was against my will."
"Two hours!" repeated Heriot,—"space enough for mischief.—My lord, this is, I suppose, another victim offered to your character of gallantry—another adventure to be boasted of at Beaujeu's ordinary? Methinks the roof under which you first met this silly maiden should have secured her, at least, from such a fate."
"On my honour, Master Heriot," said Lord Glenvarloch, "you remind me now, for the first time, that I saw this young lady in your family. Her features are not easily forgotten, and yet I was trying in vain to recollect where I had last looked on them. For your suspicions, they are as false as they are injurious both to her and me. I had but discovered her disguise as you entered. I am satisfied, from her whole behaviour, that her presence here in this dress was involuntary; and God forbid that I have been capable of taking advantage of it to her prejudice."
"It is well mouthed, my lord," said Master Heriot; "but a cunning clerk can read the Apocrypha as loud as the Scripture. Frankly, my lord, you are come to that pass, where your words will not be received without a warrant."
"I should not speak, perhaps," said Margaret, the natural vivacity of whose temper could never be long suppressed by any situation, however disadvantageous, "but I cannot be silent. Godfather, you do me wrong— and no less wrong to this young nobleman. You say his words want a warrant. I know where to find a warrant for some of them, and the rest I deeply and devoutly believe without one."
"And I thank you, maiden," replied Nigel, "for the good opinion you have expressed. I am at that point, it seems, though how I have been driven to it I know not, where every fair construction of my actions and motives is refused me. I am the more obliged to her who grants me that right which the world denies me. For you, lady, were I at liberty, I have a sword and arm should know how to guard your reputation."
"Upon my word, a perfect Amadis and Oriana!" said George Heriot. "I should soon get my throat cut betwixt the knight and the princess, I suppose, but that the beef-eaters are happily within halloo.—Come, come, Lady Light-o'-Love—if you mean to make your way with me, it must be by plain facts, not by speeches from romaunts and play-books. How, in Heaven's name, came you here?"
"Sir," answered Margaret, "since I must speak, I went to Greenwich this morning with Monna Paula, to present a petition to the king on the part of the Lady Hermione."
"Mercy-a-gad!" exclaimed Heriot, "is she in the dance, too? Could she not have waited my return to stir in her affairs? But I suppose the intelligence I sent her had rendered her restless. Ah! woman, woman— he that goes partner with you, had need of a double share of patience, for you will bring none into the common stock.—Well, but what on earth had this embassy of Monna Paula's to do with your absurd disguise? Speak out."
"Monna Paula was frightened," answered Margaret, "and did not know how to set about the errand, for you know she scarce ever goes out of doors—and so—and so—I agreed to go with her to give her courage; and, for the dress, I am sure you remember I wore it at a Christmas mumming, and you thought it not unbeseeming."
"Yes, for a Christmas parlour," said Heriot, "but not to go a-masking through the country in. I do remember it, minion, and I knew it even now; that and your little shoe there, linked with a hint I had in the morning from a friend, or one who called himself such, led to your detection."—Here Lord Glenvarloch could not help giving a glance at the pretty foot, which even the staid citizen thought worth recollection—it was but a glance, for he saw how much the least degree of observation added to Margaret's distress and confusion. "And tell me, maiden," continued Master Heriot, for what we have observed was by-play,—"did the Lady Hermione know of this fair work?" "I dared not have told her for the world," said Margaret—"she thought one of our apprentices went with Monna Paula."
It may be here noticed, that the words, "our apprentices," seemed to have in them something of a charm to break the fascination with which Lord Glenvarloch had hitherto listened to the broken, yet interesting details of Margaret's history.
"And wherefore went he not?—he had been a fitter companion for Monna Paula than you, I wot," said the citizen.
"He was otherwise employed," said Margaret, in a voice scarce audible.
Master George darted a hasty glance at Nigel, and when he saw his features betoken no consciousness, he muttered to himself,—"It must be better than I feared.—And so this cursed Spaniard, with her head full, as they all have, of disguises, trap-doors, rope-ladders, and masks, was jade and fool enough to take you with her on this wild goose errand?—And how sped you, I pray?"
"Just as we reached the gate of the Park," replied Margaret, "the cry of treason was raised. I know not what became of Monna, but I ran till I fell into the arms of a very decent serving-man, called Linklater; and I was fain to tell him I was your god-daughter, and so he kept the rest of them from me, and got me to speech of his Majesty, as I entreated him to do."
"It is the only sign you showed in the whole matter that common sense had not utterly deserted your little skull," said Heriot.
"His Majesty," continued the damsel, "was so gracious as to receive me alone, though the courtiers cried out against the danger to his person, and would have searched me for arms, God help me, but the king forbade it. I fancy he had a hint from Linklater how the truth stood with me."
"Well, maiden, I ask not what passed," said Heriot; "it becomes not me to pry into my Master's secrets. Had you been closeted with his grandfather the Red Tod of Saint Andrews, as Davie Lindsay used to call him, by my faith, I should have had my own thoughts of the matter; but our Master, God bless him, is douce and temperate, and Solomon in every thing, save in the chapter of wives and concubines."
"I know not what you mean, sir," answered Margaret. "His Majesty was most kind and compassionate, but said I must be sent hither, and that the Lieutenant's lady, the Lady Mansel, would have a charge of me, and see that I sustained no wrong; and the king promised to send me in a tilted barge, and under conduct of a person well known to you; and thus I come to be in the Tower."
"But how, or why, in this apartment, nymph?" said George Heriot— "Expound that to me, for I think the riddle needs reading."
"I cannot explain it, sir, further, than that the Lady Mansel sent me here, in spite of my earnest prayers, tears, and entreaties. I was not afraid of any thing, for I knew I should be protected. But I could have died then—could die now—for very shame and confusion!"
"Well, well, if your tears are genuine," said Heriot, "they may the sooner wash out the memory of your fault—Knows your father aught of this escape of yours?"
"I would not for the world he did," replied she; "he believes me with the Lady Hermione."
"Ay, honest Davy can regulate his horologes better than his family.— Come, damsel, now I will escort you back to the Lady Mansel, and pray her, of her kindness, that when she is again trusted with a goose, she will not give it to the fox to keep.—The warders will let us pass to my lady's lodgings, I trust."
"Stay but one moment," said Lord Glenvarloch. "Whatever hard opinion you may have formed of me, I forgive you, for time will show that you do me wrong; and you yourself, I think, will be the first to regret the injustice you have done me. But involve not in your suspicions this young person, for whose purity of thought angels themselves should be vouchers. I have marked every look, every gesture; and whilst I can draw breath, I shall ever think of her with—"
"Think not at all of her, my lord," answered George Heriot, interrupting him; "it is, I have a notion, the best favour you can do her;—or think of her as the daughter of Davy Ramsay, the clockmaker, no proper subject for fine speeches, romantic adventures, or high- flown Arcadian compliments. I give you god-den, my lord. I think not altogether so harshly as my speech may have spoken. If I can help— that is, if I saw my way clearly through this labyrinth—but it avails not talking now. I give your lordship god-den.—Here, warder! Permit us to pass to the Lady Hansel's apartment." The warder said he must have orders from the Lieutenant; and as he retired to procure them, the parties remained standing near each other, but without speaking, and scarce looking at each other save by stealth, a situation which, in two of the party at least, was sufficiently embarrassing. The difference of rank, though in that age a consideration so serious, could not prevent Lord Glenvarloch from seeing that Margaret Ramsay was one of the prettiest young women he had ever beheld—from suspecting, he could scarce tell why, that he himself was not indifferent to her—from feeling assured that he had been the cause of much of her present distress—admiration, self-love, and generosity, acting in favour of the same object; and when the yeoman returned with permission to his guests to withdraw, Nigel's obeisance to the beautiful daughter of the mechanic was marked with an expression, which called up in her cheeks as much colour as any incident of the eventful day had hitherto excited. She returned the courtesy timidly and irresolutely—clung to her godfather's arm, and left the apartment, which, dark as it was, had never yet appeared so obscure to Nigel, as when the door closed behind her.
Yet though thou shouldst be dragg'd in scorn To yonder ignominious tree, Thou shall not want one faithful friend To share the cruel fates' decree. Ballad of Jemmy Dawson.
Master George Heriot and his ward, as she might justly be termed, for his affection to Margaret imposed on him all the cares of a guardian, were ushered by the yeoman of the guard to the lodging of the Lieutenant, where they found him seated with his lady. They were received by both with that decorous civility which Master Heriot's character and supposed influence demanded, even at the hand of a punctilious old soldier and courtier like Sir Edward Mansel. Lady Mansel received Margaret with like courtesy, and informed Master George that she was now only her guest, and no longer her prisoner.
"She is at liberty," she said, "to return to her friends under your charge—such is his Majesty's pleasure."
"I am glad of it, madam," answered Heriot, "but only I could have wished her freedom had taken place before her foolish interview with that singular young man; and I marvel your ladyship permitted it."
"My good Master Heriot," said Sir Edward, "we act according to the commands of one better and wiser than ourselves—our orders from his Majesty must be strictly and literally obeyed; and I need not say that the wisdom of his Majesty doth more than ensure—"
"I know his Majesty's wisdom well," said Heriot; "yet there is an old proverb about fire and flax—well, let it pass."
"I see Sir Mungo Malagrowther stalking towards the door of the lodging," said the Lady Mansel, "with the gait of a lame crane—it is his second visit this morning."
"He brought the warrant for discharging Lord Glenvarloch of the charge of treason," said Sir Edward.
"And from him," said Heriot, "I heard much of what had befallen; for I came from France only late last evening, and somewhat unexpectedly."
As they spoke, Sir Mungo entered the apartment—saluted the Lieutenant of the Tower and his lady with ceremonious civility—honoured George Heriot with a patronising nod of acknowledgment, and accosted Margaret with—"Hey! my young charge, you have not doffed your masculine attire yet?"
"She does not mean to lay it aside, Sir Mungo," said Heriot, speaking loud, "until she has had satisfaction from you, for betraying her disguise to me, like a false knight—and in very deed, Sir Mungo, I think when you told me she was rambling about in so strange a dress, you might have said also that she was under Lady Mansel's protection."
"That was the king's secret, Master Heriot," said Sir Mungo, throwing himself into a chair with an air of atrabilarious importance; "the other was a well-meaning hint to yourself, as the girl's friend."
"Yes," replied Heriot, "it was done like yourself—enough told to make me unhappy about her—not a word which could relieve my uneasiness."
"Sir Mungo will not hear that remark," said the lady; "we must change the subject.—Is there any news from Court, Sir Mungo? you have been to Greenwich?"
"You might as well ask me, madam," answered the Knight, "whether there is any news from hell."
"How, Sir Mungo, how!" said Sir Edward, "measure your words something better—You speak of the Court of King James."
"Sir Edward, if I spoke of the court of the twelve Kaisers, I would say it is as confused for the present as the infernal regions. Courtiers of forty years' standing, and such I may write myself, are as far to seek in the matter as a minnow in the Maelstrom. Some folk say the king has frowned on the Prince—some that the Prince has looked grave on the duke—some that Lord Glenvarloch will be hanged for high treason—and some that there is matter against Lord Dalgarno that may cost him as much as his head's worth."
"And what do you, that are a courtier of forty years' standing, think of it all?" said Sir Edward Mansel.
"Nay, nay, do not ask him, Sir Edward," said the lady, with an expressive look to her husband.
"Sir Mungo is too witty," added Master Heriot, "to remember that he who says aught that may be repeated to his own prejudice, does but load a piece for any of the company to shoot him dead with, at their pleasure and convenience."
"What!" said the bold Knight, "you think I am afraid of the trepan? Why now, what if I should say that Dalgarno has more wit than honesty,—the duke more sail than ballast,—the Prince more pride than prudence,—and that the king—" The Lady Mansel held up her finger in a warning manner—"that the king is my very good master, who has given me, for forty years and more, dog's wages, videlicit, bones and beating.—Why now, all this is said, and Archie Armstrong [Footnote: The celebrated Court jester.] says worse than this of the best of them every day."
"The more fool he," said George Heriot; "yet he is not so utterly wrong, for folly is his best wisdom. But do not you, Sir Mungo, set your wit against a fool's, though he be a court fool."
"A fool, said you?" replied Sir Mungo, not having fully heard what Master Heriot said, or not choosing to have it thought so,—"I have been a fool indeed, to hang on at a close-fisted Court here, when men of understanding and men of action have been making fortunes in every other place of Europe. But here a man comes indifferently off unless he gets a great key to turn," (looking at Sir Edward,) "or can beat tattoo with a hammer on a pewter plate.—Well, sirs, I must make as much haste back on mine errand as if I were a fee'd messenger.—Sir Edward and my lady, I leave my commendations with you—and my good- will with you, Master Heriot—and for this breaker of bounds, if you will act by my counsel, some maceration by fasting, and a gentle use of the rod, is the best cure for her giddy fits."
"If you propose for Greenwich, Sir Mungo," said the Lieutenant, "I can spare you the labour—the king comes immediately to Whitehall."
"And that must be the reason the council are summoned to meet in such hurry," said Sir Mungo. "Well—I will, with your permission, go to the poor lad Glenvarloch, and bestow some comfort on him."
The Lieutenant seemed to look up, and pause for a moment as if in doubt.
"The lad will want a pleasant companion, who can tell him the nature of the punishment which he is to suffer, and other matters of concernment. I will not leave him until I show him how absolutely he hath ruined himself from feather to spur, how deplorable is his present state, and how small his chance of mending it."
"Well, Sir Mungo," replied the Lieutenant, "if you really think all this likely to be very consolatory to the party concerned, I will send a warder to conduct you."
"And I," said George Heriot, "will humbly pray of Lady Mansel, that she will lend some of her handmaiden's apparel to this giddy-brained girl; for I shall forfeit my reputation if I walk up Tower Hill with her in that mad guise—and yet the silly lassie looks not so ill in it neither."
"I will send my coach with you instantly," said the obliging lady.
"Faith, madam, and if you will honour us by such courtesy, I will gladly accept it at your hands," said the citizen, "for business presses hard on me, and the forenoon is already lost, to little purpose."
The coach being ordered accordingly, transported the worthy citizen and his charge to his mansion in Lombard Street. There he found his presence was anxiously expected by the Lady Hermione, who had just received an order to be in readiness to attend upon the Royal Privy Council in the course of an hour; and upon whom, in her inexperience of business, and long retirement from society and the world, the intimation had made as deep an impression as if it had not been the necessary consequence of the petition which she had presented to the king by Monna Paula. George Heriot gently blamed her for taking any steps in an affair so important until his return from France, especially as he had requested her to remain quiet, in a letter which accompanied the evidence he had transmitted to her from Paris. She could only plead in answer the influence which her immediately stirring in the matter was likely to have on the affair of her kinsman Lord Glenvarloch, for she was ashamed to acknowledge how much she had been gained on by the eager importunity of her youthful companion. The motive of Margaret's eagerness was, of course, the safety of Nigel; but we must leave it to time to show in what particulars that came to be connected with the petition of the Lady Hermione. Meanwhile, we return to the visit with which Sir Mungo Malagrowther favoured the afflicted young nobleman in his place of captivity.
The Knight, after the usual salutations, and having prefaced his discourse with a great deal of professed regret for Nigel's situation, sat down beside him, and composing his grotesque features into the most lugubrious despondence, began his raven song as follows:—
"I bless God, my lord, that I was the person who had the pleasure to bring his Majesty's mild message to the Lieutenant, discharging the higher prosecution against ye, for any thing meditated against his Majesty's sacred person; for, admit you be prosecuted on the lesser offence, or breach of privilege of the Palace and its precincts, usque ad mutilationem, even to dismemberation, as it is most likely you will, yet the loss of a member is nothing to being hanged and drawn quick, after the fashion of a traitor."
"I should feel the shame of having deserved such a punishment," answered Nigel, "more than the pain of undergoing it."
"Doubtless, my lord, the having, as you say, deserved it, must be an excruciation to your own mind," replied his tormentor; "a kind of mental and metaphysical hanging, drawing, and quartering, which may be in some measure equipollent with the external application of hemp, iron, fire, and the like, to the outer man."
"I say, Sir Mungo," repeated Nigel, "and beg you to understand my words, that I am unconscious of any error, save that of having arms on my person when I chanced to approach that of my Sovereign."