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List Of Contents | Contents of Mary Stuart, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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the recreation, which, surrounded with such conditions, became a
torture.  So she shut herself up in her apartments, finding a certain
bitter and haughty pleasure in the very excess of her misfortune.




CHAPTER VII

A week after the events we have related, as nine o'clock in the
evening had just sounded from the castle bell, and the queen and Mary
Seyton were sitting at a table where they were working at their
tapestry, a stone thrown from the courtyard passed through the window
bars, broke a pane of glass, and fell into the room.  The queen's
first idea was to believe it accidental or an insult; but Mary
Seyton, turning round, noticed that the stone was wrapped up in a
paper: she immediately picked it up.  The paper was a letter from
George Douglas, conceived in these terms:

"You have commanded me to live, madam: I have obeyed, and your
Majesty has been able to tell, from the Kinross light, that your
servants continue to watch over you.  However, not to raise
suspicion, the soldiers collected for that fatal night dispersed at
dawn, and will not gather again till a fresh attempt makes their
presence necessary.  But, alas! to renew this attempt now, when your
Majesty's gaolers are on their guard, would be your ruin.  Let them
take every precaution, then, madam; let them sleep in security, while
we, we, in our devotion, shall go on watching.

"Patience and courage!"

"Brave and loyal heart!" cried Mary, "more constantly devoted to
misfortune than others are to prosperity!  Yes, I shall have patience
and courage, and so long as that light shines I shall still believe
in liberty."

This letter restored to the queen all her former courage: she had
means of communication with George through Little Douglas; for no
doubt it was he who had thrown that stone.  She hastened, in her
turn, to write a letter to George, in which she both charged him to
express her gratitude to all the lords who had signed the
protestation; and begged them, in the name of the fidelity they had
sworn to her, not to cool in their devotion, promising them, for her
part, to await the result with that patience and courage they asked
of her.

The queen was not mistaken: next day, as she was at her window,
Little Douglas came to play at the foot of the tower, and, without
raising his head, stopped just beneath her to dig a trap to catch
birds.  The queen looked to see if she were observed, and assured
that that part of the courtyard was deserted.  she let fail the stone
wrapped in her letter: at first she feared to have made a serious
error; for Little Douglas did not even turn at the noise, and it was
only after a moment, during which the prisoner's heart was torn with
frightful anxiety, that indifferently, and as if he were looking for
something else, the child laid his hand on the stone, and without
hurrying, without raising his head, without indeed giving any sign of
intelligence to her who had thrown it, he put the letter in his
pocket, finishing the work he had begun with the greatest calm, and
showing the queen, by this coolness beyond his years, what reliance
she could place in him.

>From that moment the queen regained fresh hope; but days, weeks,
months passed without bringing any change in her situation: winter
came; the prisoner saw snow spread over the plains and mountains, and
the lake afforded her, if she had only been able to pass the door, a
firm road to gain the other bank; but no letter came during all this
time to bring her the consoling news that they were busy about her
deliverance; the faithful light alone announced to her every evening
that a friend was keeping watch.

Soon nature awoke from her death-sleep: some forward sun-rays broke
through the clouds of this sombre sky of Scotland; the snow melted,
the lake broke its ice-crust, the first buds opened, the green turf
reappeared; everything came out of its prison at the joyous approach
of spring, and it was a great grief to Mary to see that she alone was
condemned to an eternal winter.

At last; one evening, she thought she observed in the motions of the
light that something fresh was happening: she had so often questioned
this poor flickering star, and she had so often let it count her
heart-beats more than twenty times, that to spare herself the pain of
disappointment, for a long time she had no longer interrogated it;
however, she resolved to make one last attempt, and, almost hopeless,
she put her light near the window, and immediately took it away;
still, faithful to the signal, the other disappeared at the same
moment, and reappeared at the eleventh heart-beat of the queen.  At
the same time, by a strange coincidence, a stone passing through the
window fell at Mary Seyton's feet.  It was, like the first, wrapped
in a letter from George: the queen took it from her companion's
hands, opened it, and read:

"The moment draws near; your adherents are assembled; summon all your
courage."

"To-morrow, at eleven o'clock in the evening, drop a cord from your
window, and draw up the packet that will be fastened to it."

There remained in the queen's apartments the rope over and above what
had served for the ladder taken away by the guards the evening of the
frustrated escape: next day, at the appointed hour, the two prisoners
shut up the lamp in the bedroom, so that no light should betray them,
and Mary Seyton, approaching the window, let down the cord.  After a
minute, she felt from its movements that something was being attached
to it.  Mary Seyton pulled, and a rather bulky parcel appeared at the
bars, which it could not pass on account of its size.  Then the queen
came to her companion's aid.  The parcel was untied, and its
contents, separately, got through easily.  The two prisoners carried
them into the bedroom, and, barricaded within, commenced an
inventory.  There were two complete suits of men's clothes in the
Douglas livery.  The queen was at a loss, when she saw a letter
fastened to the collar of one of the two coats.  Eager to know the
meaning of this enigma, she immediately opened it, and read as
follows:

"It is only by dint of audacity that her Majesty can recover her
liberty: let her Majesty read this letter, then, and punctually
follow, if she deign to adopt them, the instructions she will find
therein.

"In the daytime the keys of the castle do not leave the belt of the
old steward; when curfew is rung and he has made his rounds to make
sure that all the doors are fast shut, he gives them up to William
Douglas, who, if he stays up, fastens them to his sword-belt, or, if
he sleeps, puts them under his pillow.  For five months, Little
Douglas, whom everyone is accustomed to see working at the armourer's
forge of the castle, has been employed in making some keys like
enough to the others, once they are substituted for them, for William
to be deceived.  Yesterday Little Douglas finished the last.

"On the first favourable opportunity that her Majesty will know to be
about to present itself, by carefully questioning the light each day,
Little Douglas will exchange the false keys for the true, will enter
the queen's room, and will find her dressed, as well as Miss Mary
Seyton, in their men's clothing, and he will go before them to lead
them, by the way which offers the best chances for their escape; a
boat will be prepared and will await them.

"Till then, every evening, as much to accustom themselves to these
new costumes as to give them an appearance of having been worn, her
Majesty and Miss Mary Seyton will dress themselves in the suits,
which they must keep on from nine o'clock till midnight.  Besides, it
is possible that, without having had time to warn them, their young
guide may suddenly come to seek them: it is urgent, then, that he
find them ready.

"The garments ought to fit perfectly her Majesty and her companion,
the measure having been taken on Miss Mary Fleming and Miss Mary
Livingston, who are exactly their size.

"One cannot too strongly recommend her Majesty to summon to her aid
on the supreme occasion the coolness and courage of which she has
given such frequent proofs at other times."

The two prisoners were astounded at the boldness of this plan: at
first they looked at one another in consternation, for success seemed
impossible.  They none the less made trial of their disguise: as
George had said, it fitted each of them as if they had been measured
for it.

Every evening the queen questioned the light, as George had urged,
and that for a whole long month, during which each evening the queen
and Mary Seyton, although the light gave no fresh tidings, arrayed
themselves in their men's clothes, as had been arranged, so that they
both acquired such practice that they became as familiar to them as
those of their own sex.

At last, the 2nd May, 1568, the queen was awakened by the blowing of
a horn: uneasy as to what it announced, she slipped on a cloak and
ran to the window, where Mary Seyton joined her directly.  A rather
numerous band of horsemen had halted on the side of the lake,
displaying the Douglas pennon, and three boats were rowing together
and vying with each other to fetch the new arrivals.

This event caused the queen dismay: in her situation the least change
in the castle routine was to be feared, for it might upset all the
concerted plans.  This apprehension redoubled when, on the boats
drawing near, the queen recognised in the elder Lord Douglas, the
husband of Lady Lochleven, and the father of William and George.  The
venerable knight, who was Keeper of the Marches in the north, was
coming to visit his ancient manor, in which he had not set foot for
three years.

It was an event for Lochleven; and, some minutes after the arrival of
the boats, Mary Stuart heard the old steward's footsteps mounting the
stairs: he came to announce his master's arrival to the queen, and,
as it must needs be a time of rejoicing to all the castle inhabitants
when its master returned, he came to invite the queen to the dinner
in celebration of the event: whether instinctively or from distaste,
the queen declined.

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