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List Of Contents | Contents of Mary Stuart, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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for her, sat down; and after a moment, herself breaking this silence
more gloomy than any word could have been

"My lords," said she, "you see that I wait: can it be that this
message which you have to communicate to me is so terrible that two
soldiers as renowned as Lord Lindsay and Lord Ruthven hesitate at the
moment of transmitting it?"

"Madam," answered Ruthven, "I am not of a family, as you know, which
ever hesitates to perform a duty, painful as it may be; besides, we
hope that your captivity has prepared you to hear what we have to
tell you on the part of the Secret Council."

"The Secret Council!" said the queen.  "Instituted by me, by what
right does it act without me?  No matter, I am waiting for this
message: I suppose it is a petition to implore my mercy for the men
who have dared to reach to a power that I hold only from God."

"Madam," replied Ruthven, who appeared to have undertaken the painful
role of spokesman, while Lindsay, mute and impatient, fidgeted with
the hilt of his long sword, "it is distressing to me to have to
undeceive you on this point: it is not your mercy that I come to ask;
it is, on the contrary, the pardon of the Secret Council that I come
to offer you."

"To me, my lord, to me!" cried Mary: "subjects offer pardon to their
queen! Oh! it is such a new and wonderful thing, that my amazement
outweighs my indignation, and that I beg you to continue, instead of
stopping you there, as perhaps I ought to do."

"And I obey you so much the more willingly, madam," went on Ruthven
imperturbably, "that this pardon is only granted on certain
conditions, stated in these documents, destined to re-establish the
tranquillity of the State, so cruelly compromised by the errors that
they are going to repair."

"And shall I be permitted, my lord, to read these documents, or must
I, allured by my confidence in those who present them to me, sign
them with my eyes shut?"

"No, madam," Ruthven returned; "the Secret Council desire, on the
contrary, that you acquaint yourself with them, for you must sign
them freely."

"Read me these documents, my lord; for such a reading is, I think,
included in the strange duties you have accepted."

Lord Ruthven took one of the two papers that he had in his hand, and
read with the impassiveness of his usual voice the following:

"Summoned from my tenderest youth to the government of the kingdom
and to the crown of Scotland, I have carefully attended to the
administration; but I have experienced so much fatigue and trouble
that I no longer find my mind free enough nor my strength great
enough to support the burden of affairs of State: accordingly, and as
Divine favour has granted us a son whom we desire to see during our
lifetime bear the crown which he has acquired by right of birth, we
have resolved to abdicate, and we abdicate in his favour, by these
presents, freely and voluntarily, all our rights to the crown and to
the government of Scotland, desiring that he may immediately ascend
the throne, as if he were called to it by our natural death, and not
as the effect of our own will; and that our present abdication may
have a more complete and solemn effect, and that no one should put
forward the claim of ignorance, we give full powers to our trusty and
faithful cousins, the lords Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven, to
appear in our name before the nobility, the clergy, and the burgesses
of Scotland, of whom they will convoke an assembly at Stirling, and
to there renounce, publicly and solemnly, on our part, all our claims
to the crown and to the government of Scotland.

"Signed freely and as the testimony of one of our last royal wishes,
in our castle of Lochleven, the ___ June 1567".  (The date was left
blank.)

There was a moment's silence after this reading, then

"Did you hear, madam?" asked Ruthven.

"Yes," replied Mary Stuart,--" yes, I have heard rebellious words
that I have not understood, and I thought that my ears, that one has
tried to accustom for some time to a strange language, still deceived
me, and that I have thought for your honour, my lord William Ruthven,
and my lord Lindsay of Byres."

"Madam," answered Lindsay, out of patience at having kept silence so
long, "our honour has nothing to do with the opinion of a woman who
has so ill known how to watch over her own."

"My lord!" said Melville, risking a word.

"Let him speak, Robert," returned the queen.  "We have in our
conscience armour as well tempered as that with which Lord Lindsay is
so prudently covered, although, to the shame of justice, we no longer
have a sword.  Continue, my lord," the queen went on, turning to Lord
Ruthven: "is this all that my subjects require of me?  A date and a
signature?  Ah! doubtless it is too little; and this second paper,
which you have kept in order to proceed by degrees, probably contains
some demand more difficult to grant than that of yielding to a child
scarcely a year old a crown which belongs to me by birthright, and to
abandon my sceptre to take a distaff."

"This other paper," replied Ruthven, without letting himself be
intimidated by the tone of bitter irony adopted by the queen, "is the
deed by which your Grace confirms the decision of the Secret Council
which has named your beloved brother, the Earl of Murray, regent of
the kingdom."

"Indeed!" said Mary.  "The Secret Council thinks it needs my
confirmation to an act of such slight importance?  And my beloved
brother, to bear it without remorse, needs that it should be I who
add a fresh title to those of Earl of Mar and of Murray that I have
already bestowed upon him?  But one cannot desire anything more
respectful and touching than all this, and I should be very wrong to
complain.  My lords," continued the queen, rising and changing her
tone, "return to those who have sent you, and tell them that to such
demands Mary Stuart has no answer to give."

"Take care, madam," responded Ruthven; "for I have told you it is
only on these conditions that your pardon can be granted you."

"And if I refuse this generous pardon," asked Mary, "what will
happen?"

"I cannot pronounce beforehand, madam; but your Grace has enough
knowledge of the laws, and above all of the history of Scotland and
England, to know that murder and adultery are crimes for which more
than one queen has been punished with death."

"And upon what proofs could such a charge be founded, my lord?
Pardon my persistence, which takes up your precious time; but I am
sufficiently interested in the matter to be permitted such a
question."

"The proof, madam?" returned Ruthven.  "There is but one, I know; but
that one is unexceptionable: it is the precipitate marriage of the
widow of the assassinated with the chief assassin, and the letters
which have been handed over to us by James Balfour, which prove that
the guilty persons had united their adulterous hearts before it was
permitted them to unite their bloody hands."

"My lord," cried the queen, "do you forget a certain repast given in
an Edinburgh tavern, by this same Bothwell, to those same noblemen
who treat him to-day as an adulterer and a murderer; do you forget
that at the end of that meal, and on the same table at which it had
been given, a paper was signed to invite that same woman, to whom to-
day you make the haste of her new wedding a crime, to leave off a
widow's mourning to reassume a marriage robe? for if you have
forgotten it, my lords, which would do no more honour to your
sobriety than to your memory, I undertake to show it to you, I who
have preserved it; and perhaps if we search well we shall find among
the signatures the names of Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven.
O noble Lord Herries," cried Mary, "loyal James Melville, you alone
were right then, when you threw yourselves at my feet, entreating me
not to conclude this marriage, which, I see it clearly to-day, was
only a trap set for an ignorant woman by perfidious advisers or
disloyal lords."

"Madam," cried Ruthven, in spite of his cold impassivity beginning to
lose command of himself, while Lindsay was giving still more noisy
and less equivocal signs of impatience, "madam, all these discussions
are beside our aim: I beg you to return to it, then, and inform us
if, your life and honour guaranteed, you consent to abdicate the
crown of Scotland."

"And what safeguard should I have that the promises you here make me
will be kept?"

"Our word, madam," proudly replied Ruthven.

"Your word, my lord, is a very feeble pledge to offer, when one so
quickly forgets one's signature: have you not some trifle to add to
it, to make me a little easier than I should be with it alone?"

"Enough, Ruthven, enough," cried Lindsay.  "Do you not see that for
an hour this woman answers our proposals only by insults?"

"Yes, let us go," said Ruthven; "and thank yourself only, madam, for
the day when the thread breaks which holds the sword suspended over
your head."

"My lords," cried Melville, "my lords, in Heaven's name, a little
patience, and forgive something to her who, accustomed to command, is
today forced to obey."

"Very well," said Lindsay, turning round, "stay with her, then, and
try to obtain by your smooth words what is refused to our frank and
loyal demand.  In a quarter of an hour we shall return: let the
answer be ready in a quarter of an hour!"

With these words, the two noblemen went out, leaving Melville with
the queen; and one could count their footsteps, from the noise that
Lindsay's great sword made, in resounding on each step of the
staircase.

Scarcely were they alone than Melville threw himself at the queen's
feet.

"Madam," said he," you remarked just now that Lord Herries and my
brother had given your Majesty advice that you repented not having
followed; well, madam, reflect on that I in my turn give you; for it
is more important than the other, for you will regret with still more
bitterness not having listened to it.  Ah! you do not know what may
happen, you are ignorant of what your brother is capable."

"It seems to me, however," returned the queen, "that he has just

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