The Last of the
Ruthvens by Dinah Maria Craik
"DAVIE CALDERWOOD! worthy tutor and master!—Davie
Calderwood!"—The old man made no answer to the call, which he scarce
seemed even to hear. He sat not far from the shadow of his college
walls, watching the little silvery ripples of the Cam. His doctor's
robes hid a homely dress of gray; his large feet, dangling over the
river bank, were clumsily shod, and his white close-cropped hair gave
him a Puritanical look, when compared with the cavalier air of the two
youths who stood behind him.
"Davie Calderwood—wake up, man! News!—great news! And from
Scotland!" added the elder lad in a cautious whisper.
It pierced the torpor of the old man: he started up with trembling
"Eh, my dair bairn!—I mean, my lord—my Lord Gowrie!"
"Hush!" said the youth, bitterly; "let not the birds of the air
carry that sound. Was it not crushed out of the earth a year ago? Call
me William Ruthven, or else plain William, till with my good sword I
win back my title and my father's name."
"Willie—Willie!" murmured the younger brother, in anxious warning.
"He's feared—wee Patrick!" laughed William Ruthven. "He thinks
that walls have ears, and rivers tongues, and that every idle word I
say will go with speed to the vain, withered, old hag in London or to
daft King Jamie in Edinburgh! He thinks he shall yet see brother
Willie's love-locks floating from the top of the Tolbooth beside those
of winsome Aleck and noble John."
The elder youth spoke in that bitter jesting tone used to hide
keenest suffering; but the younger one, a slight delicate boy of
nineteen, clung to his brother's arm, and burst into tears.
"My Lord," said Master David Calderwood, "ye suld be mair tender o'
the lad—your ae brother—your mother's youngest bairn! Ye speak too
lightly o' things awfu' to tell of—awfu' to mind. Master Patrick," he
added, laying his hand gently on the boy's shoulder, "ye are thinking
of ilk puir bodie given to the fowls of the air and to the winds of
heaven at Stirling, Edinburgh, and Dundee; but ye forget that while
man dishonours the helpless dust, evermair God keeps the soul.
Therefore think ye thus o' your twa brothers—the bonnie Earl of
Gowrie, and noble Alexander Ruthven—that are baith now with God."
As he spoke, the doctor's voice faltered, for nature had put into
his huge, ill-formed frame a gentle spirit; and though he had fled
from his country, and never beheld it since the year when his beloved
lord, the first Earl of Gowrie, and father of these youths, perished
on the scaffold—still, amidst all the learning and honours gained in
his adopted home, David Calderwood carried in his bosom the same true
Scottish heart. Perhaps it yearned more over the boy Patrick, in that
he was, like his long-dead father, a quiet retiring student, given to
all abstruse philosophy; whereas William, the elder, was a youth of
bold spirit, who chafed under his forced retirement, and longed to
tread in the footsteps of his ancestors, even though they led to the
same bloody end.
"Well, good master," he said, "when you have wept enough with
Patrick, hear my news."
"Is it from your mother, the puir hunted dove, auld and worn,
flying hither and thither about the ruins of her nest?"
Lord Gowrie's—let us give him this title, borne for three months,
then attainted, but which yet fondly lingered on the lips of two
faithful friends, David Calderwood and Lettice his daughter—Lord
Gowrie's brow reddened, and instinctively he put his hand to where his
sword should have hung. Then he muttered angrily, "Ah, I forget I am
no earl, no Scottish knight, but only a poor Cambridge student. But,"
he added, his face kindling, "though the lightning has fallen on the
parent trunk and its two brave branches, and though the rest are
trodden under foot of men, still there is life—bold, fresh life in
the old tree. It shall grow up and shelter her yet—my noble,
long-enduring mother—the first, the best, the—No; she shall not
be the last Lady Gowrie."
While speaking, a flush deeper even than that of youth's enthusiasm
burned on the young earl's cheek, and he looked up to the window where
Lettice sat—sweet Lettice Calderwood, sweeter even than she was fair!
She at a distance dimly saw the look; she met it with a frank
smile—the smile a single-hearted, happy girl would cast willingly on
all the world.
"The news—the news!" murmured old David. "My bairns, ye talk and
ye rave, but ye dinna tell the news."
"My mother writes that the cloud seems passing from our house; for
the Queen Anne—she favours us still, despite her lord—the Queen
Anne has secretly sent for our sister Beatrice to court."
"Beatrice, whom brother Alexander loved more than all of us," said
Patrick. But the elder brother frowned, and rather harshly bade him
hold his peace.
"Patrick is a child, and knows nothing," said the young Earl; "but
I know all. What care I for this weak Queen's folly or remembered sin?
What care I whether my bold brother Alexander encouraged her erring
love or not, if through her means I creep back into my father's
honoured seat? Oh shame that I can only creep; that I must
enter Scotland like a thief, and steal in at the court holding on to a
woman's robe, when I would fain come with fire and sword, to crush
among the ashes of his own palace the murderer of my race!"
He spoke with a resolute fierceness, strange in such a youth; his
black brows contracted, and his stature seemed to swell and grow.
Simple Davie Calderwood looked and trembled.
"Ye're a Ruthven, true and bold; but ye're no' like the Earl o'
Gowrie. I see in your face your father's father—him that rose from
his dying bed to be a shedder of blood—him that slew Rizzio in
"And when I stand in Holyrood—whether I creep in there or force my
way with my sword—I will kneel down on that bloody spot, and pray
Heaven to make me too as faithful an avenger."
Then turning off his passion with a jest, as he often did, Lord
Gowrie said gaily to his brother, "Come, Patrick, look not so pale;
tell our good master the rest of the news—that to-night, this very
night, thou and I must start for bonnie Scotland!"
"Who is talking of bonnie Scotland?" said a girl's voice, young
indeed, but yet touched with that inexplicable tone which never comes
until life's first lessons have been learned—those lessons, whether
of joy or grief, which leave in the child's careless bosom a woman's
Lord Gowrie turned quickly and looked at Lettice—rapturously, yet
bashfully, as a youth looks at his first idol. Then he repeated his
intention of departure, though in a tone less joyous than before.
Lettice heard, without emotion, as it seemed, only that her two thin
hands—she was a little creature, pale and slight—were pressed
tightly together. There are some faces which, by instinct or by force
of will, can hide all feeling, and then it is often the hands which
tell the tale—the fluttering fingers, the tight clench, the palms
rigidly crushed together. But these tokens of suffering no one sees:
no one saw them in Lettice Calderwood.
"Do ye no grieve, my daughter, over these bairns that go from us?
Wae's me! but there's danger in ilka step to baith the lads."
"Are both going?" asked Lettice; and her eye wandered towards the
younger brother, who had moved a little apart, and stood by the little
river, plucking leaves, and throwing them down the stream. "It is a
long, severe journey, and Master Patrick has been so ill, and is not
yet strong," added the girl, speaking with that grave dignity which,
as mistress of the household, she sometimes assumed, and which made
her seem far older than her years.
"Patrick is a weakly fellow, to be sure," answered Lord Gowrie,
inwardly smiling over his own youthful strength and beauty; "but I
will take care of him—he will go with his brother."
"Yes," said Patrick, overhearing all, as it appeared. But he said
no more: he was a youth of few words. Very soon Calderwood and the
young Lord began to talk over the projected journey. But Patrick sat
down by the river-bank, and began idly plucking and examining the
meadow-flowers, just as if his favourite herbal and botanical science
were the only interests of life.
"Patrick!" whispered Lettice's kind, sisterly voice. She sometimes
forgot the difference of rank and blood in her tender compassion for
the young proscribed fugitives who had been sent, in such utter
destitution and misery, to her father's care—"Patrick!"
"Yes, Mistress Lettice."
"The evening closes cold; take this!" She had brought a cloak to
wrap round him.
"You are very kind, very thoughtful—like a sister." Saying
this, he turned quickly, and looked at her. Lettice smiled. Whether
gladsome or sorry, she could always bend her lips in that pale, grave
"Well, then, listen to me, as you always do; I being such a staid,
wise old woman—"
"Though a year younger than I."
"Still, listen to me. My Lord Gowrie, your brother, is rash and
bold; you must be prudent for the sake of both. When you go from us,
Patrick, cease dreaming, and use your wisdom. You have indeed the
strength and wisdom of a man; it will be needed. Let not William bring
you into peril; take care of him—and of yourself."
Here the lips that spoke so womanly, grave, and calm, began to
tremble; and Lettice, hearing her name called, went away.
Patrick seemed mechanically to repeat to himself her last words,
whether in pleasure, pain, or indifference, it was impossible to tell.
Then his features relapsed into their usual expression—thoughtful,
quiet, and passionless. An old-young face it was—a mingling of
the child with the man of eld, but with no trace of youth between—a
face such as we see sometimes, and fancy that wve read therein the
coming history as plainly written as in a book. So whiile, as the
evening passed, Lord Gowrie's fiery spirit busied itself about plots
and schemes, the fate of kingdoms and of kings—and David Calderwood,
stirred from his learned equipoise, troubled his simple mind with
anxiety concerning his two beloved pupils—Lettice hid all her
thoughts in her heart, brooding tremblingly over them there. But the
young herbalist sat patiently pulling his flowers to pieces, and
ruminating meanwhile, his eyes fixed on the little rippling stream. He
seemed born to be one of those meek philosophers who through life sit
still, and let the world roll by with all its tumults, passions, and
cares. They are above it; or, as some would deem, below it. But in
either case it touches not them.
It was the dawn of a September day, gloomy and cold. All things
seemed buried in a dull sleep, except the Cam that went murmuring over
its pebbles hour after hour, from night till morn. Lettice heard it
under her window, as she stood in the pale light, fastening her
head-tire with trembling hands. They were just starting—the two young
Scottish cavaliers. Both had cast off the dress of the student, and
appeared as befitted their birth. Bold, noble, and handsome looked the
young Earl William in his gay doublet, with his sword by his side. As
he walked with Lettice to the garden (he had half-entreated,
half-commanded to have a rose given by her hand), his manner seemed
less boyish—more courtly and tender withal. His last words, too, as
he rode away, were a gay compliment, and an outburst of youthful hope;
alluding to the time when he should come back endowed with the
forfeited honours of his race, and choose, not out of Scottish but of
English maidens, a "Lady Gowrie."
Patrick, stealing after, a little paler—a little more silent than
usual—affectionately bade his master adieu; and to the hearty
blessing and good-speed only whispered "Amen." Then he took Lettice's
hand; he did not kiss it, as his brother had gracefully and
courteously done; but he clasped it with a light cold clasp, saying
gently, "Farewell! Lettice, my kind sister."
She calmly echoed the farewell. But when the sound of the horses'
feet died away, she went slowly up to her little chamber, shut the
door, sat down, and wept. Once only, looking at her little
hand—holding it as if there still lingered on it a vanished
touch—the deep colour rose in her cheek, and over her face there
passed a quick, sharp pang.
"His sister—always his sister!" She said no more. After a
while she dried her tears, wrapped round her heart that veil of
ordinary outer life which a woman must always wear, and went down to
"Lettice, what are these torn papers that thou art fastening
together with thy needle? Are they writings or problems of mine?"
"Not this time, father," said Lettice, meekly; "they are fragments
left by your two pupils."
"That is, by Patrick; William did not love to study, except that
fantastic learning which all the Ruthvens loved—the occult sciences.
Whose papers are these?"
"Master Patrick's; he may want them when he returns."
"When! Ah, the dear bairn, his puir father's ain son; will I
ever see his face again?"
There was no answer save that of silence and paleness. Lettice's
fingers worked on. But a dull, cold shadow seemed to spread itself
over the room—over everywhere she turned her eyes; duller than the
gloomy evening—colder than the cold March rain which beat against the
narrow college-windows, that shadow crept over her heart. She looked
like one who for many days and weeks had borne on her spirit—not a
heavy load, that is easier to bear, but a restless struggle—sometimes
pain, sometimes joy—doubt, fear, expectation, faith—wild longing,
followed by blank endurance. It was now a long time since she had
learned the whole bitter meaning of those words, "The hope deferred
which maketh the heart sick."
"My dear lassie," said the old doctor, rousing himself from a
mathematical calculation which had degenerated into a mere every-day
reverie, "where hae ye keepit the puir young Earl's letter, that said
he and Patrick were baith coming back to Cambridge in a week? Can ye
no tell how lang it is sin syne?"
Lettice could have answered at once—could have told the weeks,
days, hours—each passing slowly like years—but she did not. She
paused as though to reckon, and then she said, "It is nigh two
months, if I count right."
"Twa months! Alas, alas!"
"Do you think, father," she said, slowly, striving to speak for the
first time what had been so long pent up that its utterance shook her
whole frame with tremblings—"do you think that any harm has come to
the poor young gentlemen?"
"I pray God, no! Lettice, do you mind what our puir Willie—I canna
say 'the Earl'—tauld us of their great good fortune through the
Queen; how that he would soon be living in Edinburgh as a grand lord,
and his brother should end his studies at St. Andrews; only Patrick
said he loved better to come back to Cambridge, and to his auld
master. The dear bairn! Do ye mind all this, Lettice?"
"Yes, father." Ah, truly poor Lettice did!
"Then, my child, we needna fear for them. They are twa young
gentlemen o' rank, and maybe they lead a merry life, and that whiles
gars them forget auld friends; but they'll come back safe in time."
So saying, the old doctor settled himself in his high-backed chair,
and contentedly went to sleep. His daughter continued her work until
the papers were all arranged, and it grew too dark to see, then she
closed her eyes and pondered.
Her thoughts were not what may be called love-thoughts, such as you,
young modern maidens, indulge in when you dream of some lover kneeling
at your feet, or walking by your side, know yourselves adored, and
exult in the adoration. No such light emotion ruled Lettice's fancy.
Her love—if it were love, and she scarce knew it as such—had
crept in unwittingly, under the guise of pity, reverence, affection;
it had struck its roots deep in her nature; and though it bore no
flowers, its life was one with the life of her heart. She never paused
to think, "Do I love?" or "Am I loved?" but her whole being flowed
into that thought, wave after wave, like a stream that insensibly
glides into one channel, leaving all the rest dry.
Lettice sat and thought mournfully over the many weeks of wearying
expectation for him who never came. How at first the hours flew,
winged with restless joy; how she lay down in hope, and rose in hope,
and said to herself, calmly smiling, "To-morrow—to-morrow!" How
afterwards she strove to make those words into a daily balm to still
fear and pain that would not sleep; how at last she breathed them
wildly, hour by hour of each blank day, less believing in them than
lifting them up like a cry of despair which must be answered.
But it never was answered; and the silence now had grown so black and
dull around her, that it pressed down all struggles—left her not even
strength for fears.
She had feared very much at first. The young Earl William, so
sanguine, so bold, might have been deceived. The king's seeming lenity
might be but assumed, until he could crush the poor remnant of the
Ruthven race. She pondered continually over the awful tale of the
Gowrie plot; often at night, in her dreams, she saw the ensanguined
axe, and the two heads, so beautiful and young, mouldering away on the
Tolbooth. Sometimes beside them she saw another—Horror! she knew it
well—the pale, boyish cheek—the thoughtful brow. Then she would
wake in shudderings and cries; and falling on her knees, pray that
wherever he was—whether or no he might gladden her eyes again—Heaven
would keep him safe, and have pity upon her.
Again she thought of him in prosperity, living honoured and secure
under the glory of the Ruthven line—forgetting old friends, as her
father had said. Well, and what right had she to murmur? She did
not—save that at times, even against her will, the selfish cry of
weak human tenderness would rise up—"Alas, thou hast all things, and
I—I perish for want!" But her conscience ever answered, "He neither
knows nor sees, so with him there is no wrong."
Night, heavy night, fell down once more. Lettice had learned to
long for the dull stupor it brought—a little peace, a little oblivion
mercifully closing each blank day. "Is it not time for rest, father?"
she often asked long ere the usual hour; and she was so glad to creep
to her little bower-chamber, and shut out the moonbeams and the
starlight, and lie in darkness and utter forgetfulness, until lulled
to sleep by the ripple of the stream close by. There had been a time
when she had either sat up with her farther, or else lain awake until
midnight, listening for steps in the garden—for voices beneath the
window—when every summons at the gate made her heart leap wildly. But
all this was passed now.
Lettice put down the lamp, took off her coif, and unbound her hair.
Before retiring she opened the window, and gazed out into the night,
which was cold, but very clear. She half-leaned forward, and stretched
out her hands to the north. No words can paint the look her
countenance wore. It was yearning, imploring, despairing, like that of
a soul longing to depart and follow another soul already gone. In her
eyes was an intensity that seemed mighty enough to pierce through all
intervening space, and fly, dove-winged, to its desire. Then the lids
drooped, the burning tears fell, and her whole frame sank collapsed,
an image of hopeless, motionless dejection.
She was roused by a noise—the dash of oars on the usually-deserted
river. She shut the window hastily, blushing lest the lamp should have
revealed her attitude and her emotion to any stranger without. The
sound of oars ceased—there were footsteps up the garden alleys—there
was her father's eager voice at the door, mingled with other
well-known voices. They were coming!—they were come!
In a moment all the days, weeks, months of weary waiting were swept
away like clouds. The night of her sorrow was forgotten as though it
had never been.
"And now that I am returned, thou wilt not give me another flower,
Mistress Lettice?" said the young Earl, as he followved her up the
garden-walks in the fair spring morning. She had risen early, for
sleep had been driven away by joy.
"There are no flowers now, at least none gay enough to be worth
your wearing. Daisies and violets would ill suit that courtly dress,"
said the maiden, speaking blithely out of her full-hearted content.
"Does it displease you, then? Shall I banish my silver-hilted
sword, and my rich doublet with three hundred points, and don the poor
student's hodden gray? I would do it, fair damsel, and willingly, for
thee!" And he smiled with a little conscious pride, as if he knew
well that six months passed in the precincts of a court had
transformed the bashful youth into an accomplished cavalier—brave,
handsome, winning, yet pure and noble at heart, as the young knights
were in the golden time of Sidney and of Raleigh.
Lettice regarded him in frank admiration. "Truly, my Lord Gowrie,
you are changed. Scarcely can I dare to give you the name you once
honoured me by permitting. How shall I call you and Master Patrick my
"I wish it not," said the young man, hastily. "As for
Patrick—never mind Patrick," as Lettice's eyes seemed wandering to
the river-side, where the younger Ruthven sat in his old seat. "You
see he is quite happy with his herbal and his books of philosophy. Let
him stay there; for I would fain have speech with you." He led her
into a shady path, and began to speak hurriedly: "Lettice, do you know
that I may soon be summoned back to Scotland—not as a captive, but as
the reinstated Earl of Gowrie? And, Lettice"—here his voice faltered,
and his cheek glowed, and he looked no more the bold cavalier, but a
timid youth in his first wooing—"dear Lettice, if I might win my
heart's desire, I would not depart alone."
"Not depart alone! Then thou wilt not leave Patrick with us, as was
planned?" said the girl, uttering the first thought that rose to her
mind, and then blushing for the same.
"I spoke not of Patrick—he may do as he wills. I spoke of some one
dearer than brother or sister; of her who—"
"What! is it come to that?" merrily laughed out the unconscious
girl. "Is our William, at once, without sign or token, about to bring
to Cambridge, and then carry away home, a bonnie Lady Gowrie?"
The Earl seemed startled by a sudden doubt. "It is strange you
should speak thus! Are you mocking me, or is it a womanly device to
make me woo in plainer terms? Hear, then, Lettice! Lettice that I
love! It is you I would win, you whom I would carry home in triumph,
my beautiful, my wife, my Lady Gowrie!" She stood transfixed, looking
at him, not with blushes, not with maiden shame, but in a sort of dull
"Do my words startle you, sweet one? Forgive me, then, for I scarce
know what I say. Only I love you—I love you! Come to my heart, my
Lettice, my bride that shall be;" and he stretched out his arms to
enfold her. But Lettice, uttering a faint cry, glided from his vain
clasp, and fled into the house.
In their deepest affections women rarely judge by outward show. The
young Earl, gifted with all qualities to charm a lady's eye, had been
loved as a brother—nothing more. The dreamy Patrick, in whose
apparently passionless nature lay the mystery wherein such as Lettice
ever delight—whose learning awed, while his weakness attracted tender
sympathy—he it was who had unconsciously won the treasure, which a
man, giving all his substance, could not gain—a woman's first, best
Her wooer evidently dreamed not of the truth. She saw him still
walking where she had left him, or passing under her window, looking
up rather anxiously, yet smiling. One thought only rose clearly out of
the chaos of Lettice's mind—that he must be answered; that she must
not let him deceive himself—no, not for an hour. What she should say
she mournfully knew—but how to say it? Some small speech she tried to
frame; but she had never been used to veil any thought of her innocent
heart before him she treated as a brother. It was so hard to feel that
all this must be changed now.
Lettice was little more than eighteen years old, but the troublous
life of a motherless girl had made her self-dependent and firm.
Therefore, after a while, courage came unto her again. Strengthened by
her one great desire to do right, she descended into the garden, and
walked slowly down the alley to meet the earl. His greeting was full
"Did I scare her from me, my bird? And has she flown back of her
own accord to her safe nest—her shelter now and evermore?" And he
extended his arms with a look of proud tenderness, such as a young
lover wears when he feels that in wooing his future wife he has cast
off the lightsome follies of boyhood, and entered on the duties and
dignities of man.
Lettice never looked up, or her heart would have smote her—that
heart which, already half-crushed, had now to crush another's. Would
that women felt more deeply how bitter it is to inflict this
suffering, and if wilfully incurred, how heavy is the sin! Even
Lettice, with her conscience all clear, felt as though she were half
guilty in having won his unvalued love. Pale and trembling she began
to say the words she had fixed on as best, humblest, kindest—"My Lord
"Nay, sweet Lettice, call me William, as you ever used to do in
the dear old times."
At this allusion her speech failed, and she burst into tears. "Oh,
William, why did you not always remain my brother? I should have been
"I am very—very miserable."
There was a pause, during which Lord Gowrie's face changed, and he
seemed to wrestle with a vague fear. At last he said, "Wherefore?" in
a brief, cold tone, which calmed Lettice at once.
"Because," she murmured, with a mournful earnestness there was no
doubting or gainsaying, "I am not worthy your love, since in my heart
there is no answer—none!"
For a moment Lord Gowrie drew himself up with all his ancestral
pride. "Mistress Lettice Calderwood, I regret that—that—" He
stammered, hesitated, then throwing himself on a wooden seat, and
bowing his head, he struggled with a young man's first agony—rejected
Lettice knelt beside him. She took his passive hands, and her tears
rained over them; but what hope, what comfort could she give? She
thought not of their position as maiden and suitor—Lord Gowrie and
humble Lettice Calderwood—she only saw her old playmate and friend
sitting there overwhelmed with anguish, and it was her hand which had
dealt the blow.
"William," she said, brokenly, "think not hardly of me. I would
make you happy if I could, but I cannot! I dare not be your wife, not
loving you as a wife ought."
"It is quite true, then, you do not love me?" the young Earl
muttered. But he won no other answer than a sad silence. After a while
he broke out again bitterly—"Either I have madly deceived myself, or
you have deceived me. Why did you blush and tremble when we met last
night? Why, before we met, did I see you gazing so longingly, so
passionately, on the way I should have come? Was that look false,
Lettice rose up from her knees, her face and neck incarnadine. "My
Lord of Gowrie, though you have honoured me, and I am grateful, you
have no right—"
"I have a right—that of one whose whole life you have
withered; whom you have first struck blind, and then driven mad for
love! Mistress Calderwood—Lettice—"
In speaking this beloved name, his anger seemed to disperse and
crumble away, even as the light touch shivers the molten glass. When
again he said "Lettice," it was in a tone so humble, so heartbroken,
that, hearing it, she, like a very woman, forgot and forgave all.
"I never did you wrong, William: I never dreamed you loved me. In
truth, I never dreamed of love at all until—"
"I cannot—I cannot!" Again silence, again bitter tears.
After a while Lord Gowrie came to her side, so changed, that he
might have lived years in that brief hour. "Lettice," he said, "let
there be peace and forgiveness between us. I will go away: you shall
not be pained by more wooing. Only, ere I depart, tell me, is there
any hope for me in patience, or long waiting, or constant,
She shook her head mournfully.
"Then what was not mine to win is surely already won? Though you
love not me, still you love: I read it in your eyes. If so, I
think—I think it would be best mercy to tell me. Then I shall indulge
in no vain hope: I shall learn to endure, perhaps to conquer at last.
Lettice, tell me: one word—only one?"
But her quivering lips refused to utter it.
"Give some signal—ay, the signal that used to be one of
death!—let your kerchief fall!"
For one moment her fingers instinctively clutched it tighter, then
they slowly unclasped. The kerchief fell!
Without one word or look Lord Gowrie turned away. He walked, with
something of his old proud step, to the alley's end, then threw
himself down on the cold, damp turf, as though he wished it had been
an open grave.
When the little circle next met, it was evident to Lettice that
Lord Gowrie had told the tale of his rejection to his faithful and
loving younger brother. Still Patrick betrayed not his knowledge, and
went on in his old dreamy and listless ways. Once, as pausing in his
reading, he saw Lettice glide from the room, pale and very sad, there
was a momentary change in his look. It might be pity, or grief, or
reproach,—none could tell. He contrived so as to exchange no private
word with her until the next morning; when, lounging in his old place,
idly throwing pebbles into the river, and watching the watery circles
grow, mix, and vanish, there came a low voice in his ear—
"Master Patrick Ruthven!"
He started to hear his full name formally uttered by lips once so
frank and sisterly.
"Well; what would you, Lettice?"
"It is early morning; there is no one risen but we two; come with
me to the house, for I must speak with you. And what I say
even the air must not carry. Come, Patrick; for the love of Heaven,
Her face was haggard, her words wild. She dragged rather than led
him into the room where the two boys had once used to study with her
father. There she began speaking hurriedly.
"Did you hear nothing last night?—no footsteps?—no sounds?
"No; yet I scarce slept."
"Nor I." And the two young faces drooped, unable to meet each
other. But soon Lettice went on: "At dawn, as I lay awoke, it seemed
as if there were voices beneath my window. I did not look: I thought
it might be—"
"William sometimes rises very early," said the brother gravely.
"It was not Lord Gowrie, for I heard these strange voices speak his
name. Your hopes from King James were false! Oh, Patrick, there is
danger—great danger! I have learned it all!"
"How?" And rousing himself, the young man watched eagerly Lettice's
"I opened the lattice softly, and listened. When they went away, I
followed stealthily to the water's edge. Patrick, they said that on
the night but one after this, they will return and seize you in the
King's name! Fly—fly! Do not let me lose for ever both my brothers!"
And she caught his hands as in her childhood she had used to do,
when beseeching him to do for her sake many things which, from dreamy
listlessness, he would never have done for his own.
"What must I do, Lettice—I, who know nothing of the world? Why did
you not tell all this to William?"
"I—tell William?" She blushed scarlet, and seemed struggling with
"Oh, true—true!" Patrick said, and there seemed a faint waking up
in his passionless features. "No matter; I will at once go and tell my
Lettice sat down to wait his return. All her murmur was—"Oh,
William—poor William!—so truly loving me whom others love not at
all! I turned from thee in thy prosperity, but now shall I save thee
and lose myself?—shall I sacrifice all to thee?" But instinct rather
than wisdom whispered to Lettice, that she who weds, knowing her heart
is not with her husband, wilfully sacrifices both. In the sight of
heaven and earth she takes a false vow, which, if requited not by man,
will assuredly be avenged by God.
Patrick Ruthven came back in much agitation. "He says he will not
fly; that he heeds neither the prison nor the block; that he has no
joy in life, and death is best! Lettice, go to him: save him—you only
"How can I save him?" mournfully Lettice cried.
"By urging him to fly. We can take horse, and cross the country to
Harwich, whence a ship sails for France to-night. I know this, for
yesterday I, too, was planning how to depart."
"No matter," said Patrick, hurriedly. "Only go to William; compel
him to save his life: he will do so at your bidding."
He spoke commandingly, as if fraternal love had transformed the
gentle, timid youth into a resolute man. Lettice, wondering and
bewildered, mechanically obeyed. She came to Lord Gowrie, who, with
the disordered aspect of one who has wasted the night in misery, not
sleep, lay on the floor of what had been the boys' play-room. To all
her entreaties he only turned his face to the wall, and answered not.
At last his brother beckoned Lettice away.
Looking at Patrick, the girl marvelled. All his impassive coldness
seemed to have melted from him. His stature appeared to rise into
dignity, and there was a nobility in his face that made it beautiful
to see. Lettice beheld in him, for the first time, the likeness of
what she knew he would one day become—a grand, true man; the man
before whom a woman's heart would instinctively bow down in Eve-like
submission, murmuring—"I have found thee, my greater self—my head,
my sustainer, and guide."
Patrick stood silent awhile, sometimes reading her face, sometimes
casting his eyes downward, as it were struggling, with inward pain. At
last he said, solemnly, "Lettice, this is no time for idle scruple. I
know all that took place yesterday. I know, too, that there is one
only chance, or William is lost. Is your will so firm that it cannot
change? Must he die through loving you—my dear, my noble brother,
whom I would give my poor life to save? Lettice, in this great strait
I entreat you—even I;"—and he shuddered visibly—"Consider what you
do. It is an awful thing to have life and death in your hands. I
beseech you, let him love you, and be happy."
Lettice listened. As he spoke, slowly—slowly—the young rich blood
faded from her face; she became rigid, white, and cold; all the life
left was in her eyes, and they were fixed on Patrick, as it were the
last look of one dying.
"Answer me," she said, with a measured, toneless voice—"answer
truly, on your soul. Do you desire this of me? Is it your
wish that I should become your brother's wife?"
"My wish—my wish?" he muttered, and then his reply came clear and
distinct as one says the words which fix the sentence of a lifetime,
"In the sight of God, yes!"
Lettice gave him her hand, and he led her again to his brother.
"I need not stay," he whispered: "you, Lettice, will say
all—better say it at once."
She looked at Patrick with a bewildered, uncertain air, and then
began to speak.
"Lord Gowrie—that is, William, I—"
She said no more, but fell down at Patrick's feet in a deathlike
Lettice lay insensible for many hours. For her there were no
farewells—when she awoke, the two brothers were gone. She found on
her neck a golden chain, and on her finger a ring, the only tokens of
the last passionate embraces which William had lavished on her whom he
now considered his betrothed. But she herself remembered nothing. And
when they told her, she flung away the ring and chain, and prayed
Heaven that she might die before ever Lord Gowrie came to claim her
Of the younger Ruthven, she could learn nothing either from her
bewildered father or her old nurse, except that Patrick had forcibly
torn his brother away. He had not spoken, save leaving a kind farewell
to his sister.
In the twilight Lettice rose from her bed. She could not, for any
inward misery, neglect her good father. And all her senses had been so
stunned, that as yet she was scarce alive either to the present or the
furture. She sat almost as if nothing had happened, listening to the
old man's broken talk, or idly watching the graceful smoke-wreaths of
the Virginian weed that Sir Walter Raleigh had just introduced, and
with which rare luxury the young knight's friendship had provided
Oppressed by the sudden events which had greatly discomposed the
tenor of his placid existence, the worthy doctor smoked himself to
sleep. When with his slumbers Lettice's duties ceased, her bitter
grief rose up. It choked her—it seemed to make the air close and
fiery, so that she could not breathe. Dark and cold as the March night
was, she fled out. But she kept in the thick alleys of the garden—she
dared not go near the river, lest out of its cool, cool depths should
rise a demon, smilingly to tempt her there.
But at length, when the moon came out from under a black cloud,
Lettice thought she would approach and sit in Patrick's old seat by
the side of the Cam, where in summer nights they had spent hours—she,
with girlish romance, looking up at the stars, and he teaching her all
concerning them in his learned fashion, for the boy was a great
Was it a vision? that he sat there still, in his old attitude,
leaning against the willow-tree, the light slanting on his upturned
brow? Her first thought was, that he had met some fearful end, and
this was his apparition only. She whispered faintly, "Patrick;" but he
neither spoke nor moved. Then she was sure she beheld the spirit of
her beloved. Her highly-wrought feelings repelled all fear, and made
her take a strange joy in this communication from the unseen world.
Once more she called him by his name, adding thereto words tenderer
than his living self would ever hear. Then, seeing that the moon cast
his shadow on the water, the conviction that it was no spirit but his
own bodily form, made her start and glow with shame. Yet when she
approached, he lay quite still, his eyes were closed, and she could
almost have believed him dead. But he was only in a deep sleep,
overpowered by such heavy exhaustion that he hardly seemed to breathe.
Lettice crept beside him. Scarce knowing what she did, she took his
cold hand and pressed it to her breast. There, suddenly awaking, he
felt it closely clasped; and met a gaze pure and maidenly, yet full of
the wildest devotion—a look such as man rarely beholds, for the
deepest tenderness is ever the most secret. Scarce had Patrick seen
it, than it melted into Lettice's ordinary aspect; but he had
seen it, and it was enough.
"When did you come back?" faintly asked Lattice.
"At twilight: a day's hard riding exhausted me, and I suppose I
fell asleep here."
"And wherefore did you return?" Mechanical were the questions and
replies, as though both spoke at random.
"Why did I return?"
"Yes—to danger. Oh, Patrick, how shall we save you? Why did you
not sail with William, if he has sailed?"
"He has! There was a passage for one only—his life was the most
precious—he is my elder brother, so I persuaded him to go on board;
and then—I left him."
"Patrick—Patrick!" Unconsciously she looked up at him in her old
childish, loving way, and her eyes were full of tears.
"Are you glad, Lettice?"
"Glad, because you have done a noble thing. But if through this you
should be discovered and taken; if I—that is, we all—should lose
you—Hush!" That instant her quick ear, sharpened by terror, heard
down the river the sound of oars. "They are coming—those men I saw
last night; they will have brought the King's warrant that I heard
them speak of. It is too late. Oh, would that you at least had been
"I, and not William?" His words spoke grave reproach, but his
beaming looks belied his tone.
"I think not of William now. Why did he go and leave you to perish?
But I will not leave you; Patrick, I will die with you—I—"
"Lettice!" He began to tremble violently, took her hand and looked
questioningly into her eyes. There seemed a doubt suddenly furling off
from his mind, so that all was light and day—ay, even though nearer
every minute came the distant sounds which warned him of his danger.
"Hark! they are close upon us;" said Lettice, in an agonized
whisper. "They will search the house through: what must be done?"
"I know not," answered Patrick, dreamily.
"But I know: come—come!"
She drew him cautiously into a laurel thicket close by, which, lying
deep in shadow, furnished a safe hidingplace. Thinking a moment, she
took off her black mantle and wrapped it over him, that his
light-coloured doublet might not be seen through the boughs.
"We may escape them," she said: "we two have hidden here many a
time when we were children."
"Ah, Lettice!" he sighed, "we were happy then! Even now, if William
had not loved you"—
"Hush! they are landing; I hear their steps—keep close." She made
him kneel so that her dress might hide him, and, as fearing that his
fair floating curls might catch some stray moonbeam, she put her hands
upon his hair.
Footsteps came nearer and nearer; life or death was in each tread.
The terrified voice of David Calderwood was heard avouching that,
hours since, the Scottish brothers had fled; and still the only answer
In their agony, the two young creatures—they were both so
young!—drew closer to each other; and Patrick's arms were wrapped
round Lettice, as they used to be when she was a child. He whispered,
"If I die, Lettice, love me. Better than life—better than aught save
honour, I have loved thee!"
She pressed her cold lips upon his forehead, close and fond. This
was the only vow which passed between them. The officers began to
search the garden, David Calderwood following, wringing his feeble
hands. "Good friends, gin ye seek till dawn, ye'll no find ae thing
alive, save my puir bairn, if sae be she is living still.
Lettice—Lettice, whar are ye gane?" cried the old man, piteously.
"Go to your father—go!" murmured Patrick; but Lettice was deaf to
all love save his now.
"I'll help ye to seek in ilka bush and brake, if only to find my
puir lassie; and I pray our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth"—
"Our sovereign lord King James of England and Scotland; that's the
prayer now—so no treason, old man," said one of the officers, giving
him a buffet which made poor Davie stagger. At the sight, Patrick
Ruthven started in his hidingplace.
"An owl in the bushes—Hollo there!" shouted the men.
Patrick and Lettice scarcely breathed. In her frenzy, she clasped
her arms passionately round his neck; her eyes, stretched out into the
darkness, flashed fire; she felt that had she only a weapon at hand,
she would have committed murder to save him. Vain—vain—all vain!
A crash in the bushes, a rough hand on Patrick's breast—"Ho!
prisoners in the King's name!"
He was taken at last.
Whether she wept, or shrieked, or prayed, whether they took any
farewell of one another or no, Lettice never remembered. All that
remained in her memory after that awful moment was one sight—a boat
gliding down the river in the moonlight; and one sound, words which
Patrick had contrived to whisper, "The Tower—the Tower!"
ONE day, in mid-winter, when Tower Hill, so often reddened with
blood, lay white under many inches of snow, a woman might have been
seen taking her way over the portcullis into the Tower. She seemed to
belong to the middle class; her hood and kirtle were of humble
fashion, black and close. She was a small, insignificant-looking woman
too, and seemed to be admitted into the awful state prison, or rather
to creep in there, attracting from the warders no more notice than a
bird flying in at a captive's window, or a little bright-eyed mouse
peering at him in the dark.
Her errand, she said, was to the governor's lady. Thither she was
brought, through gloomy passages that seemed to make her shudder,
under narrow-barred silent windows, at which she looked up with a
terrified yet eager glance, as if she expected to see appear there the
wan face of some wretched prisoner. She reached the governor's
apartments. There air and light were not wanting, though it was in the
grim old Tower. From it might be seen the shining Thames, with ships
of all nations gliding by. There were plants, too, growing in the
heavy embrasures of one window, and in the other was a group of human
flowers—a young mother and her beautiful children.
The stranger briefly stated her errand. She had heard that the lady
desired an attendant for her daughters, and she came to offer her
services, bearing credentials from one whom the governor's wife knew.
"The name is Scottish: are you from our country?" said the graceful
mother, her fair face brightening with kindliness.
"My father was Scots, and so were all my nearest relatives,"
answered the woman in a low voice, as she pulled her hood closer over
"You say was and were: are all gone then?"
"Yes, madam: I am quite alone."
"Poor young thing!"
"Nay, I am not young; I am thirty-four years old."
"And you have never been married?
"Ah!" sighed the happy young wife of twenty-five, with a sort of
dignified compassion. But she was of a kindly nature, and she
discerned that the stranger wore a lock of great sweetness, and had
withal a gentle voice—that truest index of a womanly spirit. She
enrolled her in her household at once.
"And you are willing, my good— What did you say was your Christian
"You are willing to reside in the Tower? It is at best but a
dreary place for us, as well as for the poor prisoners: though, thanks
to our merciful King James, we have had but few executions here
Lettice faintly shuddered—perhaps it was to hear such gentle lips
speak so indifferently of these horrors—but she answered, "I am
quite satisfied, madam: even this prison seems a home to one who has
just lost the only home she ever knew, and who has now none in the
She spoke with great simplicity, and in the calm manner of a woman
who has been taught patience by long suffering. Nevertheless, when the
governor's lady bade her take off her mantle and hood, and the three
little maidens, summoned from the inner room, came gathering round
her, and, won by her sweet looks, offered childish kisses, Lettice's
self-control failed, and a few tears began to fall from her eyes.
"Nay, take heart, my countrywoman," said the young matron, kindly:
"we will make you very happy here; and perhaps find you for husband a
brave yeoman-warder with a good estate: King James takes care his
Scottish subjects shall thrive in merry England."
And quite satisfied that in a wealthy marriage she had thus promised
the chief good of life, the lady departed.
That night Lettice saw the stars rise and shine, not on the limpid
Cam, not on the quaint old garden where her childish feet had played,
and where afterwards—all earlier memories blotted out by those of one
terrible night—she had walked patiently, bearing the burden of her
sorrow for sixteen years.
Sixteen years! It was thus long since Patrick Ruthven had
disappeared, and yet no tidings had ever been heard of or from him.
She had exerted all energies, exhausted all schemes—so far as she
dared without endangering her father's safety, or leaving him in his
helpless age—but could gain no clue as to the after-fate of her
lover. Whether he still languished in prison, or had been freed by
escape or death, all was mystery: her only certainty was, that he had
not perished on the public scaffold, otherwise, she would have known.
And so praying for him day and night, and loving him continually,
this faithful woman had lived on. The days and years of her youth had
glided from her like the waves of a river, uncounted, for no light of
love rested on them. Their onward course she neither watched nor
She saw the young men and maidens of her own age pass away into the
whirl of life, marry, and gather round them a third generation, while
she remained the same. Wooers she had, for when sorrow comes in early
youth, and fails to crush, it sometimes leaves behind a tender charm
beyond all beauty, and this made Lettice not unsought. Some
women—good women, too—can love in their simple, easy-hearted
fashion, twice, thrice, many times. Others pour out their whole soul
in one love, and have no more left to give ever after. Lettice
Calderwood was one of these.
Her father lingered many years in great bodily weakness, and in an
almost fatuous old age. She tended him unweariedly until he died. Then
when she had no kindred tie left in the wide world, no duty to
perform, none to love, and none to obey, she formed a resolution over
which she had been long brooding with an intensity of persevering will
such as few women have, but which no human being ever has except
That resolution planned, maturely guided, carried through many
hindrances, formidable indeed, but which fell like straws before the
might of her great love, Lettice found herself at last an inmate of
the Tower. If detained there, as in all human probability he was,
unless no longer of this world, she should certainly discover Patrick
Ruthven. Farther plans she saw not clear, still doubtful as she was of
his very existence. But as she sat by herself in the silent midnight,
within a few yards, it might be, of the spot where, if living, he
still dragged on his mournful days; or where, if dead, his spirit had
parted from his body, there came upon her a conviction which often
clings to those whose portion is somewhat like to hers.
"He is not dead," Lettice murmured, "else he would have come to me:
he knew I should not have feared. No; he is still living; and if
living, I will find and save him."
So, praying for her Patrick with the woman's pale, faded lips, as
the girl had prayed sixteen years before, Lettice fell asleep.
It was a dangerous thing for the free inhabitants of the Tower to
inquire too closely about the prisoners. The days of Guy Fawkes and
Sir Thomas Overbury were not so long past, but that all who had any
interest in the enemies of King James, knew it was wisest to keep a
silent tongue and close-shut eyes. Lettice Calderwood had dwelt for
weeks within the walls where perchance lay her never-forgotten lover,
and yet she had neither heard nor spoken the name of Patrick Ruthven.
Her whole time was spent with the governor's children. They, happy
creatures, played merrily outside the cells wherein was concealed
misery and despair. Sometimes they talked about "the prisoners" with a
light unconsciousness, as if speaking of cattle, or things inanimate.
Poor little ones! how could they understand the meaning of the word!
"Do you ever see the—the prisoners?" Lettice ventured to
ask of them one day.
"Oh, yes; a few are allowed to walk on the leads, and then we peep
at them from below. We are very good friends with one or two—our
father says we may."
"What are their names, my child?" If the little girl could have
known the strong convulsion that passed over Lettice's heart while she
put this simple question!
"We don't call them anything: they are only prisoners. They have
been here a great many years, I believe. One lives there, in the
Beauchamp Tower: he is always writing; and when we go in to see him,
for he likes us to come, he does nothing but puff, puff, puff!" and
the laughing child put her finger in her mouth, and began mimicking a
smoker to perfection.
"Mabel," said the elder sister, "you should not laugh at him, for
our father says he is a good man, and the king is not very angry with
him, any more than with the other man who is shut up in the Bell
Tower. You should see him, Mrs. Lettice; he is my favourite, because
he is so gentle. They say he walks on the leads between his room and
the Beauchamp Tower, night after night, watching the stars; and he
plays with us children, and gets us to bring him quantities of
flowers, out of which he makes such wonderful medicines. He cured
Mabel of the chincough, and father of the ague, and—"
"Hush, Grace; Mistress Lettice is quite tired with your chatter.
See how white she looks!"
"No; go on, my darlings; talk as much as you will," murmured
Lettice; and rousing herself, she contrived to learn from them what
this prisoner was like.
A little, bent man—very old the children thought, because his hair
was quite gray, except a few locks behind that were just the colour of
Grace's. Lettice, holding the child on her knee, had often secretly
kissed the soft fair curls; she did so now with passionate tenderness.
Yet could it indeed be Patrick—so changed! The thing seemed scarcely
Next time the children went to see this prisoner, she hid herself,
where, from below, she could watch the leads on which he was
accustomed to walk. There appeared the figure of a man, moving with
the heavy, stooping, lounging gait of long captivity. Could it be that
Patrick's youth had been crushed into such a pitiable semblance as
this? He came and leaned on the breastwork or boundary of his narrow
walk. In the distance the features were indistinct; but something in
the wavy falling of the hair reminded her of Patrick. She half uttered
a cry of recognition, suppressed it, sank back, and wept. His name—if
she could only learn the captive's name! But there was great mystery
kept about that. The children said, "he had none, he had been in the
Tower so many years." Grace added, that she had once asked him, and he
answered, "that he had almost forgotten it." Alas, poor soul!
One day Lettice, impelled by a wild hope, fastened in Grace's dress
a little childish ornament that she herself had used to wear: it had
been broken, and the boy Patrick's rude workmanship in the repairing
was on it still. If this man were indeed Patrick, it might catch his
eye, and bring back to his dulled memory the days of his youth.
The "prisoner" noticed and touched the brooch, Grace said; observed
that it was pretty; that he thought he had once seen one like it, he
could not tell where; and then his dull mood came over him, and he
would not talk any more.
Lettice's eager hope sank; but on it she lived yet longer; and day
by day she watched tearfully the poor captive, who, if not Patrick,
had suffered Patrick's doom.
The child Grace fell sick. Lettice grieved, for she loved the
little girl; but this trouble seemed helping to work out her one great
aim of life. Then, at least, she might hear more of the prisoner whose
skill in medicine had won the deep gratitude of both the governor and
his lady. But Grace improved, and still of the invisible physician
nothing was disclosed. At length one night, when the anxious mother
and Lettice were watching the child, together and alone, there arose
"The potion will be needed at dawn; 'tis near midnight, and I have
not sent to—to the Bell Tower," said the mother. "What must be done?
Who can I trust?" She looked at Lettice, whom she and all the
household had already learned to love—"I will trust you."
She explained briefly that the child's physician was a state
prisoner, who had acquired his skill during sixteen years' captivity;
that his durance was now greatly softened by the King's order; but
that still, except the Governor's family, he was allowed to see no
one, nor to hold any communication with the outer world. "And," said
the lady, "if I send you to him, you must keep silence on all
concerning him, for he and his have been greatly hated by King James
and no marvel. He is Patrick, the last of the Ruthvens."
What dizzy, tumultuous joy rushed to the heart of the faithful
woman, who, after long-silent years, again heard the music of that
name! But she stood still and mute, and gave no sign.
"Lettice, will you go?"
"I will:" and she went.
There was not a foot heard, not a breath stirring, in the grim old
Tower. As, bearing the ponderous keys, she unfastened door after door,
the sound of the opening locks was startling and awful. At the foot of
the Bell Tower Lettice paused. Sixteen years seemed all swept away;
her heart throbbed, and her pale brow of middle age flushed like a
young girl's. Would he know her? Would she not appal him, standing
suddenly, like a spectre, by his side? She pulled her hood over her
face, and resolved to feign her voice, lest the shock might overpower
his strength. Thinking of his emotion, she soon calmed her own, and
came with firm step to the outer door. There gleamed a faint ray
through some worm-eaten fissure; the governor's wife had told her that
he always studied until late in the night. Lettice pictured him as at
the old home at Cambridge, as in perpetual youth he dwelt ever in her
memory. She saw him, leaning over his books, with his pale boyish
features, his fair curls, his dreamy-lidded eyes. She opened the door,
and saw—a gray-headed man, withered and bent, quaint and careless in
dress, writing by lamp-light. He momentarily raised his head; the face
had a strange old world look, mingled with an aspect half vacancy,
half abstraction. Lettice shrank aghast. It seemed as if the former
Patrick were dead, and this a phantom risen up to mock her. But when
he spoke, it was his own true voice.
"Ah, you come for the child Grace's potion?" said he. "'Tis all
prepared; wait a moment—listen!"
He rose, put the medicine into her hand, and proceeded to give
various directions concerning it. Then he sat down again, and prepared
to resume his reading. Lettice stood silent; that he did not recognise
her she plainly saw, yet this was what she had desired. Why should she
She put back her hood, and approached him—"Master Patrick
He started, but it could only be to hear the long unused Christian
name; for looking up at her face, now turned fully on him, his
expressed blank unconsciousness. He did not know her!
"Madam, pardon me; I have not seen you before, but I suppose you
come from little Grace. If I have omitted anything, or forgotten— One
forgets everything here."
The poor captive looked disturbed, bewildered; restlessly he moved
his papers about, and she saw his hands, long, white, and woman-like,
whose delicacy William used to mock, and Lettice to admire; the same
hands she had clasped and kissed in her last frenzied agony of
parting. She did so now.
"Patrick, Patrick; have you forgotten me—even me?"
He looked at her again, and shook his head. "I have seen you
somewhere I think, perhaps in the old time before I came hither; but
my memory is poor, very poor. What is your name?"
A light came into his face for a moment, and faded. "It is a sweet
name. I used to love it once, I believe; some one I knew bore it; but,
as I said, I forget so many things now. Lettice, Lettice!" He repeated
the name, as if trying to call back images of a long-past life.
Lettice's first horror passed. She discerned all now—she saw what
he had become: how, shut up from youth to manhood in that fearful
prison, his life had withered there; how, as the slow vacant years
crawled by, passion, affection, feeling of every kind, had grown dull.
Wreck as he was—the wreck captivity had made him—her never-dying
love encompassed him still.
"Patrick," she said gently, though her tears were flowing fast,
"look at me, and try to think of the past—my father, who taught you
when you were a boy: and I, Lettice Calderwood, who used to be your
play-fellow; the old house at Cambridge—the river-bank where you
liked to sit—the garden and the laurel-trees."
His features began to quiver.
"It is dim, very dim; but I think I do remember all this, ay, and
you, Lettice! I am glad to see you once more."
He trembled a good deal, and looked at her many times, as though, in
comparing his old recollection of her with her present likeness, the
difference puzzled him.
Lettice said, faintly smiling, "You know I am old now—one changes
much in sixteen years." But the smile brought back somewhat of her
former self, and Patrick's mind seemed to grow clearer.
"I think," he said, with a mournful simplicity, "I think I must
have loved you once. I never forgot you even here, until"—and he
shuddered—"until they put me into that dark, damp cell, where I heard
no sound and saw no living face, for I know not how long; I forgot
Lettice's heart was bursting; she pressed his hands to her breast,
and sobbed aloud. At first he seemed troubled by her emotion, and
then, as if unable to resist, his own gray hair drooped on Lettice's
shoulder, and the poor prisoner also wept. By slow degrees Patrick's
memory wakened to the things of the past and of the living world; but
they seemed to touch him little. He heard of David Calderwood's death
with a quiet sigh—all keen sense of human pain being apparently
obliterated from his mind. After a pause he asked, though still
indifferently, "There was my brother, too—tell me something of
"William acted nobly, and so acting, ceased to be unhappy!" said
Lettice, in a confused voice.
"Unhappy!" repeated the captive, vacantly. "Ah, yes; I had
forgotten: we had much sorrow in our youth—he, and you, and I—"
"Hush, Patrick! we will not speak of that. I wrote to William, and
told him all: he freed me from my promises. Time brought him comfort:
he remained abroad, married, and last year—grieve not, Patrick, for
while living he had great happiness—last year he died."
"Poor William dead!—my last brother dead!" Patrick said,
thoughtfully; and sat a long time wistfully gazing in the air, now and
then uttering broken words, which showed his mind was recalling
incidents of their boyish days. At last he said, "And you,
Lettice—what of yourself?"
"I am as you left me—poor Lettice Calderwood; in nothing changed
but years." She murmured this with her eyes cast down, as if she had
need to be ashamed that she had felt a woman's one, pure love; that
for it she had given up all sweetness of wifehood and motherhood, and
stood there in her faded bloom, speaking no word, but letting her
whole life's story speak for her: "See how faithful I have been to
Perhaps, as Patrick looked on her, some sense of the greatness of
this love, so strong in its oneness, so patient in its endurance,
dawned upon his bewildered and long paralysed senses. He stretched out
his arms to her, crying, "I am unworthy—most unworthy! But, Lettice,
love me still: help me—take care of me: do not leave me again!"
He had forgotten, and she too, all worldly things. Waking from that
dream, they found that she was only humble Lettice Calderwood, and he
a prisoner in the Tower. No matter—one at least had ceased to fear.
When a woman once feels that all depends upon the strength of her
love—that the power to will and to act of necessity lies in her
hands—she gains a courage which nothing can daunt or quell. And as
Lettice bade Patrick Ruthven farewell, whispering hope and tenderness
which his long-dulled ears would scarcely receive, she felt certain
that she should set her beloved free; ay, as certain as though she
stood at the head of armies to hurl King James from his throne.
Little Grace recovered; and unto the mother's heart, still
trembling with its recent joy, another heart was led to open itself,
with all its burden of many years. One day, when both their spirits
were attuned to confidence, Lettice told the governor's wife her whole
story. It was a story that would have melted many a one to sympathy:
the young Scottish gentlewoman listened even with tears. Ruthven was
her countryman, and she had shown him kindness ever since her husband
was made governor; he was her child's preserver, and she deter- mined
to try all efforts to obtain his liberty. She exerted secret influence
at Court, at first with hope of success; but that year the bugbear
treason was loudly dinned into the pusillanimous monarch's ears, and
Tower Hill was again watered with its red rain.
One day the little Grace and Mabel loudly lamented that they were
forbidden any longer to visit their friend in the Beauchamp Tower. On
the next, Lettice and Patrick, walking on the leads (where she had
liberty to visit him now), saw the black procession winding past, and
heard distantly the heavy sound of the axe's fall. Patrick said,
"There dies a just man and a guiltless, and one that Davie Calderwood
would have deeply mourned. God receive the soul of Walter Raleigh!"
He spoke calmly, as if such sights had ceased to move him; but
Lettice crouched down, hiding her face in inexpressible horror. When
they re-entered his narrow prison, she clasped her arms wildly round
her betrothed—for they had plighted their troth to one another,
whether it were for life or death. She felt that to have him safe,
with freedom to see him, to love and comfert him, was blessedness even
And so, for a whole year, through fear lest the king's anger should
be roused, nothing more was done toward effecting Ruthven's release.
When once a generous purpose roots itself in a leal Scottish heart,
especially a woman's, it is not easy to uproot it thence. The
governor's wife came to Lettice one day, and told her that there was
hope since Queen Anne was dead, and the King could now fear no treason
from the Ruthven line. She applied to the Court, and answer came that
Patrick Ruthven should be set at liberty, if some near friend would
solicit his pardon.
"A form—a mere form—only desired to soothe King James's pride,"
said the plain-speaking Scottish lady; she came from the bold race of
Kirkaldy of Grange.
But, form as it was, when Lettice told her lover the tidings, he
shook his head in his listless way, and said it could never be.
"I have no friend in the wide world to plead for me, or to crave my
pardon; all my kith and kin have died; I am left the last of my race.
No, Lettice, it is best as it is! Perchance I would have liked to go
once more to the meadows by the Cam where the rare flowers grow; and
it would have been a sweet and thankful duty to exercise my skill in
healing on the poor and needy. But let be—let be! Do not talk of
worldly liberty; we will go and look at the free, free stars that
roam, night after night, over this prison, and never tire! Come, my
But Lettice groaned in spirit. He, long used to captivity, scarce
felt the chain; she, for his sake, writhed under it like a double
"Patrick," she said, leaning by him, and with him watching the few
dull lights that were scattered throughout the black city which lay
below, while a yellow mist rising from the river, gathered over
everything, palely and cold—"My Patrick, would it not be happy to go
far away from here into your own clear northern air? Look!"—and she
pointed to the barren osier-flats through which the Thames winds
seaward—"if instead of that dull line were the mountains you told me
of when we were children, rising, height after height, like a good
man's life, which grows year by year nearer to heaven, until it melts,
cloudlike, into heaven itself at last."
The prisoner sighed, and looked on the blank landscape with
glistening eyes that saw—not it, but some dim view beyond.
Lettice continued:—"Ay, and if we were free—both free if we could
hide ourselves in some sweet spot, and live our old childlike life!"
He answered restlessly—"Do not talk of this, or else I shall die
of longing; and I had grown so resigned, so content with my books and
my herbs. Why did you bring me back to the bitter world?"
"To save thee, my beloved!" she answered, soothingly. "To take thee
out of prison, and bring thee back the dew of thy youth. Shall it not
"How can it, when there is no one who has a right to intreat for my
pardon? I have no kindred, no tie in the wide world!"
"Ah, true!—forgive me, my faithful love! But what can you
Lettice hid her face on his shoulder. If she blushed it was not with
shame, for she knew her own pure heart, and Heaven knew it too. She
rose, and spoke in a quiet, womanly tone, though somewhat trembling
"Patrick, we are neither of us young; all love we bear each other
is stilled into the affection that must always exist between two who,
having wasted half a life-time in sorrow, hope to spend the poor
remainder together and in peace. You will not misjudge what I am going
"No—no," answered Ruthven in his absent manner.
"There is but one way to obtain your freedom. Dearest, long-lost
and bound, let your wife go and plead for you before the king!"
The young kinswoman of Kirkaldy of Grange had a rebellious
yearning, though she was a governor's lady. She liked to cheat King
James of his captives when it could be done with safety. Secretly, in
order to avoid all risk to her husband, she introduced a Scottish
minister to the dismal chambers of the Bell Tower. There, in that dull
prison-house, was celebrated a marriage. Brief it was, and grave;
without smiles, without tears. Yet not without love, for they did
indeed love one another, those two who, as girl and boy, had clung
together so wildly in the garden by the Cam. But their love was not
like that of youth: it was deep, solemn, still.
When the marriage was performed, Patrick said, in his dreamy way—
"Is it all done? Am I thy husband, Lettice?"
She answered, "Yes."
"A hard task for thee to fulfil; a weary life to lead! But art thou
She answered, "I am content." And taking his hand, held it fast in
that which would now guide him through life.
"Nay, have no fear, friends," cheeringly said the brave Scottish
lady who aided them so much. "King James is feeble-hearted, and he has
heard the people's outcry against Raleigh's twelve years'
imprisonment, sealed at last with blood. He dare not do the like
again. Lettice, take comfort: you will soon have your husband free."
Her husband! She heard the word—she who had never dreamed
of any other life than one of loneliness, over which hung the pale
shadow of that early-lost love. Her heart melted under the sense of
its great content, and she wept as softly and joyfully as though she
had been a young bride.
"Will his Majesty appear to-day, my Lord of Buckingham?" said one
of the Scottish attendants of the palace at Whitehall, meeting the
twin stars of James's court—"Steenie," and "Baby Charles."
"Wherefore, good Ferguson?"
"Because, my lord, there is a person here craving audience, who has
been recommended to me by a countrywoman of my own."
"A woman is it? My prince, let us see!"
The woman rose up and curtsied beneath the gaze of royalty and
nobility; but she had nothing in her to attract or retain either. She
was pale, low-statured, and of middle age. "Steenie" gave her a mock
salutation; Prince Charles, ever chivalrous to women, acknowledged her
lowly reverence with his dignified, half-melancholy, Stuart smile, and
the two youths passed out.
"The king is coming, Mistress Ruthven; now is your time!" whispered
young Allan Ferguson.
He entered—the poor feeble pedant, to whom had dwindled down the
ancient line of Scotland's kings. Surrounding him were the great and
noble of the day: Gondomar, the gay Spanish ambassador; the
Lord-Chancellor Bacon; all the choicest of the English nobility left
after the death-sweeping reigns of Mary and Elizabeth; and those of
the king's own country whom his conciliatory rule had detached from
various factions, to join in fidelity to the one branch of the Stuart
family now remaining.
"Hech, sirs, wha's here?" James cried in his sharp, quavering
voice, through which rang the good humour produced by a satisfactory
arrangement with Spain, completed that same hour. "Petitioning, my
bonnie woman? Aweel, then say your say!"
Lettice told her story in words so broken that they would scarce
have been understood save for the earnestness of her eyes. It was a
story touching and interesting even to James and his frivolous court.
To them it sounded new and curious to hear of a woman who had loved
and suffered, waited and hoped, and gone through all trial for one
man's sake, for seventeen years. And it so chanced that their
possible mockery of her long maiden life was prevented by Lettice
always unconsciously saying "my husband," as the governor's wife had
charged her to say, instead of mentioning at once the hated name of
James looked discomposed. "My lords, a king maun do as he wills; ye
a' ken the chapters in my 'Basilicon Doron' respecting free
monarchies, and the right or prerogative of rulers. But I wadna keep
an innocent man—mind ye, an innocent man—in prison for
saxteen-did she no say saxteen years? Woman, wha may ye be? and why
dinna ye tell your husband's name?"
"It is a name—the bearing of which was the only wrong he ever did
your majesty: I am the wife of Patrick Ruthven!"
James turned pale, as he ever did at the sound of that dreaded name.
He never forgot that it was a Ruthven who acted in that scene of blood
which impressed cowardice on the nature of the yet unborn babe: he
never forgot the actors in the Gowrie plot, who, for a brief space,
caused him, a king by birth and right, to be tied and bound like a
He frowned, and looked round on his courtiers, who kept a discreet
silence. Then he said with a pedantic air, "Woman, I will hear thee
again on this matter," and passed into the audience-chamber.
Lettice's heart grew cold. It was a horrible thing to reflect that
life or death lay on the fiat of that poor vain, fickle king. No! On
the fiat of a King far higher, whose government comprises not
kingdoms, but worlds. Kneeling where she had knelt to King James, she
knelt to Him, and prayed.
There came, crossing the empty chamber, one of the nobles who had
formed one of the monarch's train. He was an old man, tall and pale.
His demeanour savoured more of the courtly grace of Elizabeth's reign
than the foppish gallantry of James's. He announced his name at once.
"Mistress Ruthven, I am the Earl of Hertford."
She had heard it in the Tower. It had been long chronicled there as
a portion of that mournful story of the Lady Catherine Grey, sister to
Queen Jane, who, marrying Hertford without Elizabeth's consent, had
been imprisoned until her young life's close.
He was an old man now, but something in Lettice's story had touched
him with the days of his youth. He came to say that he would plead her
cause with the king, and that he thought she had good reason to hope.
"And you have been parted ever since your marriage—seventeen
"We are but newly married, my lord; our bridal was in the Tower,"
said Lettice, who never said aught but truth.
"Ah! no need to tell the king that: yet it makes a sadder tale
still. Where abides your husband in the Tower?"
"In the Bell Tower—a narrow, dreary spot."
"I know—I know!" He turned away, perhaps remembering the poor
young mother who had there, in that very Bell Tower, given birth to
his two brave sons. He, too, had felt the bitterness of captivity; and
as he departed from Lettice, having given her both council and cheer,
she heard the old nobleman muttering to himself, "Seventeen
Patrick Ruthven sat in his tower poring over his wealth of books.
An August sunbeam quivering in, rested on a bunch of dried flowers,
which the herbalist was examining with great earnestness. He scarce
lifted up his head when the light footstep warned him of his wife's
"Lettice," he said, "eureka!—('I have found it!') This
plant must be the veritable hemlock of the ancients—the potion which
gave Socrates death. Compare the description—see."
He looked at her; she was trembling all over with joy.
"My husband," she said, breathlessly, "leave these books; come and
gaze out in the clear morning air; how fresh it is; how
She repeated the words that the tidings might dawn upon him slowly,
not too bewilderingly. She drew him out upon the prison leads, and
bade him look northwards, where in the distant uplands beyond Holborn,
the ripening wheat-fields shone, wave upon wave, like yellow seas.
"Think, Patrick, to go thither; to sit down under the sheaves like
little children, as we used to do; to hear the trees rustling, and see
the swallows fly; and then to go home—to a quiet, safe cottage home.
Oh, Patrick, my husband, you are free!"
"I am free!" He, the prisoner for seventeen years, neither fell
down in a swoon of transport, nor wept, nor grew wild with ecstasy. He
only uttered the words in a monotonous, incredulous tone—"I am
free!" His wife embraced him with passionate joy; he kissed her,
stroked her yet fair cheek—fairer still since she had once more known
peace—and then went slowly back into his dark room.
There he sat motionless, while Lettice busied herself in putting
together the books and scientific matters which had gradually
accumulated round the captive. Then she brought him attire suitable
for a man of middle rank at that period.
"You must not wear this out in the world, my Patrick," said the
wife, touching his threadbare robe of a fashion many years back.
"Must I not?" and he contemplated the dress, which seemed to him
gaudy and strange. "Lettice," he murmured, "I am afraid—is the world
so changed? Must I give up my old ways?"
But she soothed him with cheerful words, and made ready for his
departure. Ere they quitted the Bell Tower, he went into the little
closet which had been his bedchamber, and, kneeling down, thanked God,
and prayed for all captives a deliverance like his own. As he rose,
there peeped at him a bright-eyed mouse.
"Poor fellow-prisoner, whom I have fed so many years, who will
feed thee now?" And breaking off some food, he called the little
creature to his hand, and gave it its last meal.
Then, leaning on his wife's arm, for he trembled, and seemed feeble
as a child, Patrick Ruthven left the Tower. He had entered it a youth
of nineteen; he quitted it a worn-out, prematurely old man of
thirty-six. The prime and glory of manhood had been wasted in that
gloomy prison. Thank God, there is no such doom for innocence
Far past what then was London's utmost verge, Lettice Ruthven led
her husband. He walked through the streets like one in a dream; all
sounds stunned—all sights bewildered him. If a chance eye noticed his
somewhat quaint aspect, he clung to Lettice with terror, lest he
should again be taken prisoner. She told him there was no fear, that
through Lord Hertford's solicitation and the mediation of Prince
Charles, the king had granted him a free pardon; nay, the young
prince, ever kind-hearted, had settled on him a pension for life. All
this he heard as if he heard it not. Nothing soothed him but Lettice's
They came to the place which she had chosen as their first abode. It
was a farm-house, planted on one of the hills to the north of London.
Above was a great wide heath; below numberless little undulating
valleys, with trees and meadows, harvest-fields and streams. There,
after sunset, they took their evening walk. He, long used to the close
air of the prison, shivered even at the warm summer wind; and his
feeble limbs, accustomed to pace their narrow round, could scarcely
endure fatigue. But Lettice wrapped him warm, and took him to a
soft-wooded bank with a stream running below. There he lay, his head
on her lap, listening to the ripple of the water.
He had never heard that sound since he was a boy sitting beside the
Cam, on the night his brother sailed from Harwich. Though his memory
was dull yet, and he rarely spoke of the past, perhaps he thought of
it now, for the tears crept through his shut eyes, and he
whispered—"Lettice, you are sure, quite sure, that afterwards William
She told him again and again that it was indeed so. She did not tell
him how—though William grew renowned abroad—he never sent for
tidings of his imprisoned brother. She would not pain the fraternal
love which had kept its faith through life so close and true.
"And Patrick, are you happy?"
He answered "Yes!" softly, like a drowsy child. His wife leaned
over him, and her hand fell on his hair, once so beautiful, now quite
gray. Something of protection was there in her love for him; the
mingling of reverence and tender care, due alike to his great mental
power and his almost infantile simplicity in worldly thinigs. All he
had, she honoured with her whole soul; all he had not, she,
possessing, made his own. She was a fit wife for him. And so, in this
deep content and peace, the sun set upon Patrick Ruthven's last day of
A HOUSE, simple, yet not mean, facing the river-side at
Chelsea; its upper storeys fanned by that line of majestic trees which
you, reader may still stroll under; and if you are of dreamy mood, I
know of no sweeter spot than Cheyne Walk in the moonlight; the river
lying silvery and calm; the tall trees rustling among their branches;
telling tales of the quaint old mansions they overshadow. But the
house of which we were speaking was far humbler than these. Its
occupants had chosen it more for the sake of the trees and the river
than for any interior show. They lived retired; and when, as now, the
master re-entered his own door, he was not met by a troop of
domestics, but by one little, old, gentle-looking woman—his wife.
Twenty more years had passed over the head of Lettice Ruthven, yet
something of its ancient airiness was in her footstep still; and in
her eyes shone the same loving light, for it was kindled at an altar
where the fire was never suffered to decay.
"You are late to-night, Patrick?" said she.
"Ay, I have been all through the meadows at Chiswick, in search of
herbs for a poor lad down there who is stricken with ague. I stayed
late gathering them, and there came by a couple of Roundheads, who
hooted at me for a wizard hunting for charmed plants in the moonlight.
Ah, me! do I look such a weird creature, Lettice?" asked the old man
in a piteous, humble tone.
He certainly had an out-of-the-world aspect, in his long white beard
and hair, and his black serge gown, which he wore to indicate his
character as physician. And there was a passive gentleness in his
voice, which showed how little able he was to assert his own dignity,
or to fight his own battles with the hard world. Well for him that
neither had been needed; that for twenty years his life had flowed in
a quiet stream, he growing continually more absorbed in his favourite
studies, and leaving all mundane matters to his faithful helpmate. She
did not usually trouble him with any of these latter, but on this day
she seemed longing to talk of something else besides the additions he
was making to the "Middlesex Flora," or the wonderful cures he had
wrought with simples until then unknown; or, what he carefully kept to
his wife's ears alone, his discoveries in those abstruse and occult
sciences, the love of which seemed inherent in the Ruthven blood.
"I have found it out," he said; "the parchment charm worn by my
brother, the Earl John. All these years I have kept it, and never
deciphered it until now. It will bring to us and all our children
"All our children!" repeated Lettice, mournfully. She looked at a
corner of the room where hung, each in its never changed place, a
boy's plumed hat, and beside it a heap of well-worn childish books,
mementos of two little sons, who had been sent and taken away, leaving
the hearth desolate.
"Ah, I forgot!" said the other with a light sigh. "Bravely did
Aleck read his Greek Galen; and as for poor wee Willie, he knew every
plant in Battersea Fields. Well might the gossips mock at me, saying,
'Physician, save thyself!' or rather, thy two better selves. But I
could not. I am aye good for little, very little."
His wife took his hand affectionately, and said, smiling through her
tears—"Nay, there is many a one hereabouts who lifts his hat when
Dr. Ruthven passes by. If the vulgar mock, the learned honour thee, my
husband. And Patrick," she murmured, with her sweet voice of calm,
which hid all sorrow from him, "though our two boys are with
God, He has left us our Marie: I saw her to-day."
"Did she come hither?"
"No; she cannot easily leave the Queen's household, you know. But
she bade me meet her at a friend's," and a faint expression of pain
crossed the mother's face. "Perhaps she was right; I am scarce fit to
mingle with court ladies, as Marie does; and Marie is growing as
beautiful and as stately as any of them all."
"Is she?" said Dr. Ruthven, absently. He had never felt the same
affection for his daughter as he had done for his two lost sons. Marie
had in early youth been separated from her family, and taken under the
care of the wife of the lieutenant of the Tower—now become a
countess, and in high favour in the Queen's household. Through her
means the little girl was afterwards adopted by Henrietta Maria, to be
educated at court, and raised to the position due to the last daughter
of the direct Ruthven line.
"She had tidings for me, Patrick—tidings that may well make a
mothers heart both tremble and rejoice. The Queen wishes to dispose of
our daughter in marriage."
Ruthven lifted his eyes, dropped them, and then became intent upon a
handful of flowers which he had drawn from the great coarse bag he
always carried in his rambles. It was evident he took little interest
in the news which had so agitated the mother.
"Do you not wish to know who it is that will wed our Marie—ay, and
at once—for all is fixed?"
"I hope it may be some good man. Young women usually marry—I am
glad she should do so: but you know, Lettice, I am a quiet, dreamy, old
philosopher; I have forgotten all such things."
So spoke, after nearly forty years, the boyish lover who had once
sat mournfully by the side of the Cam. But this life is an eternal
progression. Young, passionate love must of necessity change its
forms. Yet what matters that, if its essence remains the same?
Lettice, a wife for many years, keeping in her heart still something
of its fresh, womanly romance, neither murmured not felt pain that
with her husband the noon-day of love had gradually dwindled into
evening-tide. And as with her, so should it be with all. Never should
a maiden promise her troth, never should a bride stand at the altar,
unless she can look calmly forward to the time when all romance melts
into reality; when youth and passion cease, and even long-assured
affection from its very certainty at times grow tame. Never ought a
woman to take the marriage-vow unless she can bear to think fearlessly
of the time when she will sit an old wife by her old husband's side,
while her only influence over him, her only comfort for herself, lies
in the strength of that devotion which, saying not alone in words but
in constant deeds—"I love thee!" desires and exacts no more.
This picture was Lettice Ruthven in her old age.
She might have sighed to hear Patrick speak so forgetfully of those
things which she with great tenderness remembered still—for women
cling longer than men to the love-days of their youth—but she never
thought of bringing the brightness of that olden dream to contrast
painfully with their calm life now. She passed over her husband's
words, and kept silence, musing on her daughter's future.
"He is a rich man, and one of great renowvn, this Sir Anthony
Vandyck," she said at last. "Being the king's painter, he saw our
Marie frequently at court: no wonder he thought her beautiful, or that
he should learn to adore her, as she says he does. I wonder if she
"Fret not thyself about that, goodwife, but come and tie up this
bundle of herbs for me. There, hang it on the wall, and then sit by
me with thy knitting-pins, which I like to watch until I go to sleep.
I am so weary, Lettice."
She arranged the cushion under his head: he looked quite old now,
far more so than she, though they were nearly equal in years. But he
had never recovered the long imprisonment which had dried up all the
springs of life. Lettice watched him as he slept—his pale, withered
face, his thin hands—and her undying tenderness enfolded him yet.
Dearly she had cherished her three children—the two dead boys, the
daughter now her sole pride—but this one great love was beyond them
Marie Ruthven was one of the beauties of that court, which,
whatever its political errors might have been, was then in its inner
circle as brilliant as any which England had known. A monarch
generous, accomplished, devoted to the arts—a queen, against whom the
greatest crime ever alleged was that she exercised undue influence
over her husband by means of the warm attachment which she had
inspired and returned—a royal circle whose domestic purity knew no
stain—these evidences show that, however his political conduct may
condemn Charles the king, his domestic life leaves no blot upon the
memory of the unfortunate Charles Stuart. Of this court, now gay as if
no tempest were near to overthrow it, the chief topic was the marriage
of Sir Anthony Vandyck and the Lady Marie Ruthven. The King honoured
the bridegroom—the Queen loved the bride. There were great
preparations, banquets, and balls. No one ever thought of the old
father and mother dwelling in the little house at Chelsea.
But one heart, though sorely stung, yearned over the forgetful
daughter. When the beautiful Marie was being attired for her bridal,
it was told her that some one wished to see the bride.
"A little old woman, dressed like a Puritan, forsooth!" said the
And creeping in, dazzled by the splendour of the court-dames, who
were grouped around the bridal toilet, the mother came to her only
The stately bride uttered no disrespectful disclaimer, for she was a
Ruthven; and in ceasing to honour her parents, she would have been
disowning her ancient race. But the red flush darkened her brow, and
the kiss she gave her mother was forced and cold.
"Marie, my child," murmured Lettice, "why did you not tell me your
bridal was to-day? I would not have intruded here—alas! not I. But I
would fain have come a little while beforehand to talk with thee, and
bless thee, my own, my only child!"
Marie looked round—the apartment was deserted; she fancied she
heard the retreating mockery of her companions and her maids. She said
"Mother, I meant you no wrong; but the life I lead is so different
to yours and my father's: when you gave me up at the Queen's request,
it changed all things between us. Therefore, since I knew it would not
suit either, I did not invite my parents to my marriage."
"No, no, of course," said the poor mother, humbly. She had long
looked upon her daughter as quite a different being from herself—a
creature in whom the noble Ruthven race, crushed throughout one
hapless generation, was again revived. She scarce could believe that
the beautiful, majestic woman she now beheld, was the pining babe whom
she had nursed in the hill-cottage, where Patrick after his long
captivity had slowly returned to his own right self, so as to be fit
for intercourse with the world. Yet something like a sense of pride
came over her when she thought that, but for the love of poor Lettice
Calderwood, the last of the Ruthvens might have perished in his
prison. It seemed enough glory to have been Patrick's deliverer—the
mother of Patrick's beautiful child.
"And is thy bridegroom worthy of thee, my sweet Marie?" asked
Lettice. "Above all, dost thou love him?"
"He is a gay and courteous gentleman," answered the bride, avoiding
the question. "People say he is the most renowned artist in Europe: I
think him the most graceful courtier, even though he be not very
young. He dwells in state at Blackfriars, and he has a country abode
at Eltham. Ah, I shall be a great lady as the wife of Sir Anthony
But the question which came from the mother's heart, "Lovest thou
thy husband?" was never answered. Something jarred upon Lettice, as if
the nameless division between parent and child were growing wider. How
unlike was this courtly bridal to the stolen marriage in the Tower!
Yet could she have seen in her daughter's heart some of the emotions
which had then touched her own, she would have been more content.
"But," she murmured, "I was a poor, simple maiden always. From my
youth up I never thought of anything but love. It may be different
with those reared at court."
She stayed a while longer, until Marie grew restless; and then, with
many tears, she embraced the bride, and gave her her blessing.
"Your father sends his too, my child," she continued. "Perhaps we
would have been less grieved could we have come, as other parents do,
to our daughter's wedding. But her Majesty's desire should ever guide
yours; and since the Queen does not will it—"
"The Queen does will it," said a voice behind.
There had entered, unobserved, a lady of dignified presence, but yet
on whose face was written woman in every line. It was Henrietta
"Marie Ruthven," she said, in gentle reproof, "I meant not to
overhear, but I am glad it has chanced so. You should have told me
this. Madam," and she turned to Lettice, "I believed it was of your
own will that you and your husband abstained from court. Let me now
say that I, a wife and mother, would never banish parents from the
nuptials of their child. In the King's name and my own, I command both
your presence at our solemnities."
Men can make queenships, but the sweetness of true womanhood none
can give. Years after, when misery had darkened over the hapless
Queen, Lettice remembered the words breathed by her now, in calm
content—"I, a wife, and a mother." Wretched
wife!—broken-hearted mother! humble Lettice Calderwood was happier
The marriage was to be celebrated in the chapel at Whitehall. There
were gathered all the court, gladly following where royalty delighted
to honour; as if any honours could add to those which the illustrious
bridegroom already wore—the nobility of genius! As Sir Anthony
Vandyck stepped forward in his dignified maturity of fame, it would be
hard to say which was most honoured in this friendship—for it was
indeed such—the great artist or the king.
"What wait we for, my Lord Strafford?" said Charles, as his
favourite Minister, Vandyck's chosen friend, advanced, by the Queen's
signal, to delay the ceremony a little. Soon after, the courtly circle
was joined by two strangers, the father and mother of the bride.
Patrick Ruthven had cast off the garb of the poor physician, and
appeared as became his noble descent. At his side hung his long-unused
sword, preserved by one faithful woman's care ever since the day when
the two young brothers had fled to Harwich. In his bearing there
seemed to have momentarily revived the ancient dignity of his race;
and when he had knelt to kiss the King's offered hand, he arose,
lifted his white head, and looked around with a mien well beseeming
the last of the Ruthvens.
His wife was little noticed and little seen, and she scarcely wished
otherwise. It was enough for her to behold her husband resuming his
birthright—her daughter wedded in happiness and honour. Her loving,
reverent eyes never turned from these two. Except once, when they
rested on the countenance of King Charles, already shadowed with the
cares of his troublous reign. She thought of the boyish prince who had
passed her by in the audience-chamber at Whitehall; and her memory
went back twenty years, dwelling thankfully at last in the
resting-place which, as she deemed, her life had now found.
The marriage was duly celebrated; Sir Anthony bent graciously for
the blessing of his wife's father; and the King, on his departure,
smiled so cordially upon Patrick Ruthven, that the courtiers gathered
round the poor physician, as though they would fain haste to press
under the shadow of another Earl of Gowrie. But the old man's
temporary firmness had passed from him; he looked wistfully round for
his wife, his only strength.
"Let us go home," he said, wearily; and, so they went home from
Whitehall to their peaceful abode at Chelsea.
Arrived there, Patrick laid aside his rich mantle and sword with an
air of relief. "Ah, Lettice!" he said, as the long, cool shadows of
the trees fell across the physician's garden, "dear wife, we are
She might have dreamed loving dreams of his restoration to the
honours of his house; but now she saw that that would never be. In him
ambition had either never sprung up, or it had been long crushed by
calamity. Besides the outward misfortunes of his lot, fate had
implanted in him that easy, gentle nature, which had not the power to
rise. Born an earl's son, he would die a poor physician.
Lettice was pondering over these things when a guest crossed the
threshold. It was a friend of many years—the young Scottish lady who
had contrived their marriage. She held high station now in the Queen's
household, where, through her, Marie Ruthven had at first been
brought. She yet visited occasionally the little house on Cheyne Walk.
Thither, too, came at times her daughters, both peeresses by marriage,
though often old Dr. Ruthven, forgetting himself, called them Grace
and Mabel still.
"I have a welcome mission to-day," said the Countess; "not a formal
one, it is true, but one that implies much. It is her Majesty's will
that I should ask whether the Master of Ruthven—she knows enough of
our Scottish usages to give him that title—whether the Master of
Ruthven was pleased with his reception at court, and whether he would
desire in future to be the King's good servant?"
"I am so now," answered Ruthven, simply; "God knows I never
plotted aught against his Majesty or his father, King James."
The lady smiled half-loftily upon the poor old man, who knew so
little of worldly, and especially of courtly ways. "You understand me
not, worthy doctor. This message implies that you have only to desire
it, and you will be graciously offered, not perhaps your confiscated
honours, but a rank equivalent. The King has already planned a peerage
wherein to revive your ancient name. What say you, Lettice, will you
be Lady Ruthven of Ettrick?"
"Lord Ruthven of Ettrick!" the wife repeated, unconsciously
altering a word. She went up to her husband, and her voice trembled as
she said, "Patrick, do you hear? The ancient glory may be restored, my
beloved! I may live to see thee in great honour yet: shall it be so?"
"What?" he said. He had been dreamily watching the swallows skim
over the river, and had not heard a syllable of what was passing.
Lettice repeated the tidings.
He shook his head restlessly: "Good wife, these dreams only weary
me. What should I do as Lord Ruthven? Then I could not go out in the
fields with my wallet, nor sleep at peace in the chimney-corner. No; I
am happier as now."
The Countess became rather indignant. "Mistress Ruthven, urge him
still; 'tis a mournful and a shameful thing that the last descendant
of one of the noblest families in Scotland should waste his life in
obscurity. Bid him think of his ancestors—of the honour of his name.
He may yet be Earl of Gowrie."
Patrick Ruthven rose, and something of that dignity which so rarely
appeared in him was visible now. "My Lady Countess, I am already by
right Earl of Gowrie, heir to all which that poor title has brought to
the Ruthven line—the heritage of blood. My father, the first Earl,
perished on the scaffold; my brother John, the second, was slaughtered
in his own house; my brother William, the third, died forgotten in
exile; I am the last. Tell his Majesty I thank him, but I desire no
title save that one which I still possess, though I never claim. What
matter, since it will cease with me?" As he spoke, his eye caught the
memorials of his two sons, and the old man's voice faltered. "Ten
years ago I might not have answered thus—now, I have nothing more to
He rose from his seat at the window, and walked feebly across the
room to the apartment set apart for his especial use. There in a few
minutes they saw him, his passing emotion having subsided, sitting in
his old dreamy way buried among his books.
"Are all arguments lost upon him?" said the surprised Countess.
"Even you, Lettice, have you for yourself no ambition—no pride?"
"None," she answered. "All I ever had was only for him—and for
She looked first at her husband, and then at the mementos of her
lost children. Though she spoke sadly, there was great composure in
her demeanour; insomuch that the court lady, already somewhat shaken
by the first rude breath of the political storm then just beginning to
rise, regarded her half-enviously and sighed. Ere departing, however,
she tried once more to urge her friend to come to court.
"No," answered Lettice; "Patrick said right—he is happier here;
for me, I stay with him always."
So saying, she went back to her husband.
Lettice Ruthven sat anxiously in her house at Chelsea. She looked
considerably older, and, alas! her face wore not the placid content
which best becomes old age. It is very sad to see cares creeping on
when life's declining energy requires all cherishing. Youth can
endure—sometimes can grow stronger—while tossed about on life's
billows; but old age needs a quiet haven, where the chiefest happiness
Many cares had come upon the ancient couple at Cheyne Walk. The
awful civil commotions which now shook England to its base had touched
even them. Their pension had failed, and that they were in great
necessity was plain from the changed appearance of the household. Its
little luxuries of furniture were absent, and its bare chambers were
swept and ordered by the feeble hand of the mistress alone.
When Dr. Ruthven entered, Lettice's own hands were preparing the
evening meal. "Nay, wife," he said, restlessly, "come and sit by me
and talk. Leave all else to Marjory."
"Marjory is gone," answered Mistress Ruthven, smiling. "Lettice
will be henceforth your serving-woman."
She never wearied him with any domestic troubles; and he, so that he
had his simple fare at the customary hour, and the house kept quiet
for his evening study, rarely questioned more. He did not now.
But after a while Lettice began with a seemingly careless air, yet
with evident anxiety—
"Patrick, you have not told me about your day's adventures. Have
you found any patients in your wanderings?"—For the poor physician
had been obliged to wander, as a peripatetic herbalist, through London
streets, in order to win his daily bread.
"Patients? Oh, yes! There was a poor lad at Charing trodden on by
one of the Guard's horses—it took me two hours to make fomentations
for him; and there was a beggar-woman, with a child in convulsions;
and a sick old gipsy near Battersea. I have expended all my herbs, and
must spend two whole days in collecting more."
"But the money, dear husband," said Lettice, hesitatingly. "Did any
patients give money? You know, alas! we must needs ask for payment
"I never asked—I forgot; and I could not sell my herbs to those
"No—no," answered Lettice Ruthven's kind heart.
But she thought sorrowfully of the empty coffers, of the
fast-coming poverty; not only poverty, but positive want. Against it
there was no resource, for Patrick's unworldly ways made him helpless
as a child. With a great pang, Lettice had induced him to try this
life of a wandering physician; but day by day, when he came in, weary
and dispirited, longing for his ancient country rambles, every
unconscious complaint of his stung his wife to the heart. Gladly would
she even have begged for him, but it was impossible; he would not have
suffered it. And besides, humble as she herself was, Lettice never
forgot that she was the wife of the Last of the Ruthvens.
"Husband," she said, compelling herself to speak to him on a
subject she dreaded—"dear husband, you know we are very poor."
"Are we, Lettice?" he answered absently.
"I am afraid, if the pension is not paid, our money will not last
for many days. Suppose I were—just to ask about the pension, you
know—to go again to Marie?"
"To Lady Vandyck?" And anger gave a momentary life to the
old man's dull eyes. "I thought I told you our Marie was to be
henceforth dead. Call her Lady Vandyck only."
"I cannot, Patrick—I cannot! Though she has been ungrateful, and
though she does, as it were, shut the door on her poor old mother,
still she is our Marie; and she will be kind to us. I pray you,
Patrick, let me go!"
"No!" he said. He, otherwise so feeble, was resolute on this one
subject only. Therein was compressed his last lingering remnant of
pride—the pride of a man and a father.
But in Lettice the strong yearnings of a mother's heart overcame
all pride. She tried still to win her husband to consent.
"It is not that I may entreat of our daughter that bounty which we
might well claim. No, Patrick; if you desire, I will ask of her
nothing. But I long to see her. She is a widow now, and trouble may
have changed her heart. She has a child—and not till then does one
truly feel what it is to have had a mother. Do you remember how, when
little Marie was born, I wept, thinking of my own mother, whom I never
saw? Be sure that same Marie will now welcome me."
Ruthven made no answer to these gentle entreaties, but, after a
while, relapsed into his usual quiet mood.
"I will try again to-morrow," thought Lettice, as she obeyed his
signal, and came to sit beside him while he took his twilight doze. He
often did so, holding one of her hands like a child.
But on the morrow he left early; and she, spending the day alone in
the dull house, could not suppress her yearning to see her daughter.
Some hope, too, she had that that daughter's tenderness might be
reawakened. And if Lady Vandyck did offer shelter and help to her
parents in their old age, from whom might they so well receive it?
Lettice arranged her household affairs, examined her remaining
store; alas, it was brief work to count the coins! She had thought to
walk to Blackfriars—where, in Vandyck's former house, still abode his
young widow, left widowed in less than two years from the bridal—but
her strength failed; so she took a boat, and was rowed up the Thames
to her destination.
Strange was the aspect of London in those times: Westminster without
a parliament; Whitehall without a king; the whole city divided against
itself. Lettice took little heed of what was passing in the world
outside; and as she glided along the half-deserted river, she was
bewildered to see, along the streets diverging from the Thames, crowds
of excited Roundheads.
"Down with the King!" shouted the boatman from his place. "Hurrah
for the victory of Marston Moor!"
And Lettice trembled; for she knew that with the King's fall must
sink all her hopes of Patrick's spending his old age in peace and
undisturbed by poverty. Landing at Blackfriars she took out her purse.
It was one which, some time ago, had come filled with the bounty of
the good Queen Henrietta Maria, and on it was worked a royal crown.
"Ho, ho—here are Cavaliers!" cried the man, snatching at it. "Fair
madam, I take this in the name of the State." With a satirical grimace
he poured the few coins left into his pouch, and threw the empty purse
to the bottom of the river.
Lettice entered her daughter's house, knowing herself to be utterly
It was a wealthy, luxurious abode, for apparently the political
convulsions of the time had not touched the peaceful follower of the
arts. In its halls still hung many of Sir Anthony's works—even some
royal portraits. But the one which most charmed Lettice was that of
her own beautiful Marie—which picture remains to this day—a token of
Vandyck's admiration for his young wife, and a memorial of the
wondrous beauty possessed by the last daughter of the Ruthven line.
Looking on its sweet features, the mother forgot the cruel neglect
which now kept her waiting a full hour in the ante-room of her own
There passed by a nurse carrying a babe of some twelve months old.
At the sight of it, the love which nature causes to revive so strongly
towards the third generation, awoke in the aged mother's heart. As yet
she had never thought much of her grandchild; but now there came a
great longing for this new tie, which might bind up all those that
were lost or broken. The nurse was surprised to be stopped by a little
old woman, trembling and in tears, who begged to see the child.
"Give it to me—into my own arms: the mother would not forbid," she
said, imploringly. And close to her breast Lettice pressed her
daughter's child. "What is its name?" was her question, half ashamed,
poor soul! that she had to ask it.
"Justina. It was given to her the day her father died," said the
Dutch nurse, somewhat pettishly. "If poor Sir Anthony could see how
things are now—"
Further revelations were stopped by a message that Lady Vandyck was
now visible. Lettice once more embraced her grandchild, and was
ushered into her daughter's presence.
Marie was not alone: there lounged about the apartment a young man,
who seemed a Puritan proselyte. His sombre dress was jauntily worn,
and his demurely-worded speech ran "trippingly on the tongue." His
close-cropped hair was daintily perfumed, and his embroidered frills
bespoke the Roundhead far less than the Cavalier. But Lettice Ruthven
saw nought of this: she only saw her daughter. She ran eagerly to meet
the gracefully-extended hand of Lady Vandyck, who looked fair and
stately in her youthful matronhood.
"Wilt thou not embrace me, Marie?" said the mother,
"'Honour thy father and mother, that thy days,'" &c., &c., droned
out the Puritan gentleman.
Marie stooped, and gave her mother one cold, brief kiss. A few
formal inquiries she made, ever looking with a sort of timid doubt to
her sanctimonious companion, whose approbation seemed to be the rule
of all her actions.
The mother also regarded him with more than curiosity. "My child,"
she murmured, "I thought to see thee alone; but this young cavalier—"
"Nay, good madam, give me not that unholy title," answered the
stranger. "I have disowned the pomps and vanities of the world,
together with a baronetage two hundred years old. You now behold in me
plain John Pryse, the servant of the Lord and of the Parliament: and
so, ladies, I will retire. Fairest Marie, a brief adieu."
He kissed the hand of the young widow with an air anything but
Puritanical, and vanished.
The mother and daughter passed an hour alone. Marie talked gaily of
herself and her household; and then, as the time wore on, she seemed
to grow wearied and restless. Still Lettice sat and listened, and had
not strength to tell what was in her heart. Had it been but to whisper
in a loving ear—"Child, thy mother has need!"—but to this woman, so
stately, so wrapped up in herself, it would be like asking charity.
Yet it must be done. Tremblingly she began by telling the story of her
"Ah, then, you will need some few coins for your journey homeward,"
said Lady Vandyck. She summoned an attendant, and, with an air of
careless ease, desired him to find and present to "that lady" a small
purse of silver pieces.
For a moment Lettice's fingers drew back, the coins seemed to burn
under her touch; but her motherly heart, finding excuses to the last,
whispered that Marie meant kindly, and in manner only erred. So she
took the purse. How could her daughter guess that it was the last
resource of the aged parents against positive want?
Still—still the bitter truth remained untold. Marie seemed
struggling between discomfort and a sense of duty, when there was
heard without Sir John Pryse's heavy footstep and his loud whistle,
subdued into a psalm-tune. Lady Vandyck rose.
"Marie, dearest, let us have one instant more alone; I have
somewhat to say to thee," cried the poor mother.
"Say on then quickly: Sir John might come."
"A word will explain all. It grieves me bitterly, my child, to
speak of this; but these troubled times have brought care even upon
your father and me. Our pension from the King has ceased."
"Well, mother, I regret it; but what of that? I can offer neither
counsel nor influence. Since Sir Anthony's death, I have kept entirely
aloof from the court, which will soon have ceased to be a court at
all. And if I might advise, speak as little as you can about King
Charles; and let the pension rest."
"You know not all, Marie." And even the careless daughter was
startled to see the bitter expression on Lettice Ruthven's face. "You
consider not that when the pension ceases your father and I must
"Starve, my mother? What a disagreeable word! Pray do not use it."
"It is the truth."
Some conviction of this seemed forced upon Marie. She rose from her
seat, and came beside her mother.
"You do not mean this: it cannot be that you and my father are in
want. You know I would never suffer that."
The words were kind, though there was pride in the tone; but Lettice
clung to the sweet, and perceived not the bitter. She clasped her
daughter's hands and wept.
"I knew she would not forsake us—my only daughter—my darling! I
said so when my husband forbade my coming."
"Did he, indeed? Well, he was always strange, and cared little
about me," answered Lady Vandyck, indifferently. "But come, mother, we
must plan for the future. Of course you both will trust to me for
subsistence. The world shall never say that Marie Vandyck left her
parents to starve," she continued, and her beautiful face had in it
more of haughtiness than filial sympathy. "Perhaps you might both come
and live with me; but" (here she faintly coloured) "I will consult Sir
"Do not, I pray you. Why should a stranger come between parent and
child? And—forgive me, Marie—but I cannot like that man."
Marie smiled half-contemptuously.
"I grieve to differ with you; but 'that man' has, by his influence
with the Parliament, preserved to me my whole possessions, where the
widow of King Charles's favourite might well have lost all. Still more
I grieve, seeing that in nine days Sir John Pryse will be my husband."
"Thy husband!" echoed Lettice, incredulously.
"It seems to have startled you, mother; yet, nevertheless, it is
the fact. My first marriage was of her Majesty's will, my second is of
my own. Nay, while you recover from this somewhat unflattering
astonishment, I will go seek my betrothed." And with a proud step,
Lady Vandyck quitted the room.
She re-entered ere long, leaning on her bridegroom's arm. The
mother sat as she had left her, having neither looked up nor stirred.
Lettice rose now, however, and scanned with thirsty eagerness the mien
and countenance of the man who was to be her second son-in-law, and on
wvhom her daughter's future peace must rest. Her glance fell, and she
"Sir John, I have explained all. Greet my mother Mistress Ruthven,"
said Lady Vandyck, in a tone as if she desired to throw the veil of
her own dignity round the humble obscurity of her parent. And Sir John
Pryse with a valorous condescension, kissed the little withered hand.
But Lettice felt that she stood there a stranger on her daughter's
hearth—a pensioner on the charity of her daughter's lord. Yet still,
though colder and colder sank her heart, she murmured, "It must and
shall be borne, since, husband, it is for thee."
"My fair Marie has told me," began the young Roundhead, "that you,
excellent madam, are in want of the good things of this world. Now, by
my halidome—I mean by the ordination of Providence—for children to
succour their parents is a virtuous and godly deed. Therefore, count
on us, madam—count on us! Have I satisfied my charming bride?"
Marie smiled, and he smiled too, with marvellous self-content. And
Lettice, her wan cheeks crimsoning, thought how bitter was an old age
"Our plan, Mistress Ruthven, is this. Shall I explain it, Marie?"
She acquiesced. "That you should abide with your daughter, or at least
in her household. Such an easy life may best suit your years, and you
can take care of your grandchild. Do you consent?"
"I know not. My husband loves quiet and freedom: he might not
choose to dwell in this great house."
"Which he will never be required to enter. Madam, the offer was
meant for yourself alone. John Pryse, the servant of the Parliament,
could not venture to endanger his safety by harbouring a Royalist, a
pensioner and follower of Charles Stuart."
Lettice was dumb with amazement.
"It is said," continued the bridegroom elect, "that Dr. Ruthven has
long dealt in unholy charms and spells, which are blasphemous, and not
to be allowed. Therefore, ere farther harm come to him, let him retire
to some country village, where I will see that he shall not need."
Having delivered himself of all this generosity, Sir John Pryse
lounged to the window, and gazed out listlessly on the Thames.
Lettice paused, breathed hard, and then rushed up to her daughter.
"Marie, say this is not true, or that you have not desired it!"
"What! Is there anything so marvellously wicked in this plan? I
thought it for your good. You must have trouble enough with my old
father, if what I have heard be true. Well, mother, why do you look so
"I have little else to say," answered the lady, carelessly. "Sir
John knows best; I abide by his decision. As to the danger he would
run, he is cer- tainly right in that; and you know I could not give up
a husband for the sake of a father."
"Yet you would have me give up my husband—and for whom? Not
for my daughter. Alas! I have no daughter," moaned the aged mother,
struck with a grief worse than that of the childless. Suddenly she
roused herself, and came up to Marie. With a fixed sorrow, far deeper
than when she looked on her two dead sons, she gazed into the
beautiful face of the living lost.
"Marie, you have been a wife, you are a mother; hear now a tale you
never wholly heard before. There was once a girl who learned to love
with her whole soul one who was brought up with her from a child. They
were parted. For sixteen years, she never saw or heard of him, yet she
loved on. She sought him out through all his miseries; Heaven helped
her, and gave her power to save him. They were wedded—'twas not like
your gay bridal, for it was in a prison. He was somewhat
changed—grown old before his time, perhaps a little feeble and
wayward. But she kept the troth of her youth and her marriage vow. She
has 'loved, honoured, and cherished him' for nearly thirty years. She
will do so until the end."
As Lettice spoke, the dignity of this great love, which had been the
soul and centre of her life, seemed to encompass her round, so that
even the haughty daughter quailed before it.
"I said nought to pain you, mother; I know you have been a good
wife to my father. But for any other plan than this of Sir John's, it
cannot be. Let us talk no more on the matter," she added, coldly,
playing with her jewelled rings, and glancing less with affection than
with the coquettish jealousy of wooing days to where her future lord
was idly amusing himself.
Lettice pressed her hand upon her heart, where the last pulses of a
mother's love—so long crushed, so keenly wounded—were ebbing into
eternal silence. Then she said, speaking slowly and very calm, "Years
ago, when I was past my youth, when I had thought to go childless to
my grave, God sent me a daughter. We were poor then. I often toiled
all day, and lay awake at night nursing my sickly babe. But I smiled,
and said she would repay it all to my old age—"
"Mother, I cannot endure romance, but I wish to do all that I
believe is my duty to do. As for affection—you know, parted as I was
from you in my very childhood—"
"Ay, there is the grief again! I said to myself, 'What am I, simple
Lettice Calderwood, to rear a daughter of the noble Ruthven line?' So
I crushed my heart down, and gave up my darling. I wish now that I had
then given her unto God, that she might be lying at peace in the
grave, with her two brothers, rather than I should live to look on her
as I look this day, and say—'I have no child.'"
Sir John approached. "Your mother seems excited, sweet Marie.
Surely her mind wanders?" And he smiled. Marie exchanged glances with
him, and smiled too. There was neither anger nor pain on her brow;
smooth and polished it was as marble, an emblem of her own nature.
Lettice regarded her beautiful daughter once more with that long,
long gaze which one gives, knowing it to be the last; and then she
turned to the door. Lady Vandyck followed her with graceful courtesy.
"You will depart thus, mother? At least let me aid you in some
There was no answer.
"Do not let the world, or even Sir John, suppose there is
bitterness between parent and child. Give me your hand, mother."
Lettice gave it. There was a light, cold pressure, and it fell. The
lady went back to her lover; the mother passed out, walking slowly,
like one whose eyes are bound. Once, twice, she paused and looked
back, as if she heard herself called. But it was only the light echo
of a laugh, the same as the little Marie had once laughed beside her
mother's knee. Lettice closed her ears, and, half-staggering as she
moved, passed out of the house to the river side.
Gliding, gliding down the quiet Thames, it seemed as if her whole
life passed by her like a vision: the merry childhood; the long years
of melancholy maidenhood, sad vigil to a brief day of joy; the time of
full content, when the house rang with children's voices, and the
future almost blotted out the dreary past; last of all, the still, but
not sorrowful old age, when they two were left alone, husband and
wife, waiting calmly for the next great change—the only one that, as
it seemed, could come. It was a life which contained much sorrow, as
all human lives must; but it had been full of love. No woman would
look back upon it and grieve.
Lettice Ruthven entered her own house, and sat long in meditation.
Then she rose up as usual, and made ready for her husband's return. He
came up wearied out; but he poured into her lap, with an almost
childish pride, a handful of silver, his fees as a wandering
physician. When he was not observing her, Lettice took one of the
coins, replaced it in lieu of that she had taken from her daughter's
gift, and put Marie's purse aside, to be touched no more. Then she
came to her husband, and her aged arms embraced his neck as she
murmured, "Now I have no one but thee, no one but thee!"
"I have been young, and now am old, yet never saw I the righteous
forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread."
This is the experience of good men, and of wise observers of life
throughout all time.
Patrick Ruthven and his wife were not "forsaken." True, they were
very poor—sometimes even positive need stood at their cottage-door,
but it never entered. Some invisible hand always came between, and the
spectre passed. They lived in great peace; for Patrick, growing
feebler and more dreamy year by year, had few wants, few desires. To
sit in the sun, or stroll about the meadows at Battersea, where their
cottage was, now and then wandering on towards London—thus passed his
quiet existence. Sometimes he gained a little money as a physician; at
other times their dependence was on gifts brought by the Scottish lady
who had contrived their marriage in the Tower, and whose husband had
readily changed sides, and gone over to the Commonwealth. She, with
her daughters, Grace and Mabel, sometimnes visited them. But the old
man and his wife were as it were childless: Marie, lady of Sir John
Pryse, never crossed their threshold.
One day, when the January twilight was fast closing in, Lettice sat
waiting for her husband. He had been absent since morning, having
journeyed to London with a young boy whose life he had once saved in a
fever, and who oftentimes faithfully guarded the old physician's
failing steps. Lettice waited and waited, until it grew dark. The slow
pulse of age is not easily stirred with the quick fears of youth. Yet
she was growing alarmed, when she heard a well-known step, and Patrick
Ruthven tottered in.
"My husband, what is this?" cried Lettice, for his aspect was wild
and disordered. He trembled violently, and kept continually his hand
before his eyes. At last he slowly removed it, and looked fearfully
"I think I shall not see it here; I have seen it all the way
home—the axe, the block—even the snow on the hedge-side seemed dyed
with blood! Oh, Lettice, Lettice, it was horrible!"
She, in her seclusion, knew nothing of what had happened on that
fatal day, which she had spent calmly sitting in her quiet
cottage—the 30th of January 1649. She thought her husband's mind was
wandering, as it well might, to the horrors of his youth and middle
age. She tried to soothe him, but in vain. Some great shock had
evidently overwhelmed the old man's feeble powers. As he sat in his
arm-chair, shudder after shudder came over him. Often he clutched his
wife's hand convulsively, or muttered broken exclamations. At last he
said, speaking somewhat more connectedly, "I will tell thee all,
Lettice. This day I went to London; the streets were crowded with
people, thronging, as it seemed, to some great sight. I asked a
soldier if it were so. He laughed, and said there was indeed at
Whitehall a rare show—a royal show. I thought it was the King
restored, so I said with gladness, 'God bless King Charles!' Then the
soldier smote me down. Look, Lettice!"
He held up his bruised arm, and his wife turned pale. "Nay, it is
nothing; for the people rescued me soon, and one man cried, 'We shall
have blood enough on our heads this day.' So the crowd bore me on
with them till we came to Whitehall."
Lettice ever changed countenance at that word, which brought back
the great crisis in her life, when she came to the palace to plead for
her husband's freedom. She said anxiously, "And what didst thou see
"A black scaffold, an axe, a block—sights I knew well!" he
His wife came closer to him, but could not calm his rising
"Yes," he cried, "it was indeed a royal show—it was the murder of
Lettice cried out, "Have they done it then? Alas! for the good
king—the gentle king! He it was who gave me back my husband—the
noble Prince Charles."
Patrick continued, unheeding:
"He came forth, stepping from his own palace-window to the
scaffold. When he appeared women shrieked, even men wept. For me, the
strength of my youth seemed restored; I lifted my voice in the
crowd—'I am Patrick Ruthven! The King's father sent my father to the
block, slew my two brothers, imprisoned me for seventeen years; yet
would I not take life for life. God defend King Charles!' But the
people crushed round, and silenced me. There was an awful hush; then I
saw the axe shining—saw it fall."
The old man gasped, shivered, and was seized with a convulsion. All
night he raved of things long past, of the scenes of blood which had
marked his childhood, of those he had witnessed in the Tower. Towards
morning these paroxysms ceased, and with ebbing strength there came
over him a great calm. He tried to rise, and walked, with Lettice's
help, to their fireside. But he staggered as he moved, and sinking in
his arm-chair, said piteously, "I am so weary—so weary!" then fell
into a quiet slumber.
While he slept, there entered the Scottish countess. She was attired
in black, her countenance full of grief and horror. She came hastily
to say she was going abroad, to join her unhappy mistress. Her heart
seemed bursting with its load of indignant sorrow.
"Look you," cried she, "I never loved the Stuart line: I believe
that, as a king, the King erred; but I would have given my
right hand to save the life of Charles Stuart. And I wish that I may
yet see this vile England flow with blood, to atone for his which rests
upon it this day! But, Lettice, you are calm—these horrors touch not
And then mournfully Lettice told of what had befallen her husband.
The lady stepped quickly and noiselessly to look at Dr. Ruthven. He
still slept, but over his face had come a great change. The temples
had fallen in, there were dark lines round the eyes; yet over all was
a sweetness and peace like that of childhood. Lettice almost thought
she saw in him the image of the boy Patrick, her playfellow by the
Cam. She said so to her friend, who answered nothing, but stood
steadfastly gazing a long time. Then she took Lettice's hand, and
looked at her solemnly, even with tears.
"I shall come back here to-morrow, Lettice; my journey can be
deferred a day," she muttered, and departed.
Lettice Ruthven went to her husband's side, and watched him until
he awoke. It was with a quiet smile. "What think you, dear wife? I
have been dreaming of the old time at Cambridge. How long is that
ago?" She counted, and told him, more than fifty years. "It seems
like a day. How happy we were, Lettice—you, and William, and I! How
we used to sit by the river-side on summer nights, and play by
moonlight among the laurels! I think, when I gain strength enough, we
will go and see the old place once more."
So he tallked at intervals, all day referring to incidents which had
vanished even from Lettice's memory. For thirty years he had not
spoken of these things; and Lettice, while she listened, felt a vague
awe stealing over her. Something she remembered to have heard, that at
life's close the mind often recurs vividly to childhood, while all the
intermediate time grows dim. Could it be so now?
At night Patrick did not seem inclined for rest. He said he would
rather stay in his arm-chair by the fireside. There, sometimes
talking, sometimes falling into slumber, the old man lay, his wife
watching over him continually. Gradually the truth dawned upon
her—that on the path they had long trodden together his step
would be the soonest to fail. To the eternal land, now so near unto
both, he would be the first to depart.
"It is well!" she murmured, thinking not of herself, but only of
his helplessness—as a mother thinks of a child whom she would fain
place in a safe home rather than leave in the bitter world alone. "All
is best thus. It is but for a little while." And she ceased not to
comfort herself with these words—"A little while—A little while!"
When Patrick woke his mind had begun to wander. He fancied himself
in the old house at Cambridge; he talked to his aged wife as if she
were the girl Lettice, whom he had loved. More especially, he seemed
to live over again the night when he was taken prisoner.
"I will hide here, but I will not see Lettice—William's Lettice! I
could not take away Lettice and break poor William's heart. If I
suffer, no one shall know. Hark, how the laurels are shaking! We must
keep close. I clasp thee, love—I clasp thee! Why should I fear?"
Thus he continued to talk, but gradually more incoherently, until,
just before dawn, he again slept. It was a winter's morning, pale but
clear. There was something heavenly in the whiteness of the snow;
Lettice, looking at it, thought of the shining robes—white "such as
no fuller on earth can whiten them"—with which those who have gone
through much tribulation shall be clothed upon, one day. That day
seemed near—very near, now.
She heard her husband call her. He had awakened once more, and in
his right mind.
"Is it morning?" he asked, faintly. "I feel so strangely weak
to-day. Lettice, take care of me."
She came to him, and laid his head on her breast.
Patrick looked up, and smiled. "Dear wife, my comforter and
sustainer! I have been happy all my life—I am happy now."
He closed his eyes, and his features sank into an expression of
perfect rest. Once or twice he murmured his wife's name, those of his
two boys, and another—unuttered for years—the name of Marie.
Then, and not till then, the cruelly-forsaken mother wept.
The old man's breathing grew fainter—the solemn hour was nigh. He
said, softly, "Lettice, pray!" She knelt beside him, still holding his
hands, and prayed. When she arose, his soul was just departing. He
whispered, smiling, "Come soon!" And Lettice answered, "Yes,
love—yes!" It was all the farewell needed for a parting so peaceful
and so brief.
Thus Patrick Ruthven died.
"You will come abroad with me, my poor Lettice," said the Scottish
lady, affectionately. But Lettice refused, saying it was not worth
while changing her way of life for such a little time.
"Alas, a mournful life has yours been! It is always the good who
suffer!" bitterly said the lady. "How strange appear the inequalities
of this world!"
Lettice Ruthven lifted her aged face, solemn yet serene. "Not so! I
loved, I have spent my whole life for him I loved; I have been very
happy, and I thank God for all." These were the only words that she
Patrick Ruthven and his wife have long been forgotten; even their
very burial-place is unknown. But I think there lives not one true
heart that, in pondering over their history, would not say, "These two
were not unhappy, for they feared God, and loved one another."