Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall
That night the Queen was kept a prisoner, and Darnley acted as if he were the King. But he could not act like a King for long. He was as weak as he was bad, and no sooner was Rizzio dead, than he began to be afraid of what he had done.
The Queen now feared her husband as much as she hated him. She knew that he had made the others murder Rizzio, and she wondered at times if he would not murder her too. But in order to get away from the fierce men who held her prisoner, she smiled on Darnley and hid her hatred, until at last he, who had led her enemies on, helped her to escape from them. One night in the darkness she fled away, accompanied only by Darnley and a few faithful friends. When morning dawned, her fierce jailers woke to find their prisoner gone.
Once more Mary was a Queen, and free. She gathered her army and drove the traitors out of the country. Then she rode in triumph through the streets of Edinburgh—the same streets through which, but a week before, she had fled in darkness and in fear, and almost alone.
Soon after this, Mary had a little baby whom she called James. But Mary hated Darnley so much, that she could not love her little boy. 'He is too much your son,' she said to her husband.
Although Mary hated her husband, she could not live without being loved. She always tried to make people love her. And many people, both men and women, loved her very much, and were ready to die for her. But the sad thing was, that of all the men who loved Mary, none were strong enough, or noble enough, to protect and help her. If Mary had found some strong, good, brave man to be her husband, her life might have been very different and much happier. But the King of France had been a sickly boy. Darnley was a weak and foolish, not to say wicked, boy, and all around her were men who plotted, and spied, and worked for their own ends, caring little for the happiness of Scotland or its Queen.
Now there came into Mary's life another man called James, Earl of Bothwell. He was a handsome, swaggering, brutal, brave man. He had lived a great deal in France, and had fine manners and a light-hearted jolly laugh. He was bad, but he was brave, and Mary, who loved brave men, and who was tired and sick to death of her foolish, cowardly husband, loved him. She heaped honours and favours upon this man, who, an old writer says, was 'as naughty a man as liveth, and much given to detestable vices.'
Mary's love for this swaggering Earl made Darnley very angry. He became sullen and sulky, would hardly speak to the Queen, and at last went home to Glasgow, to live with his father and mother. While there, he became ill of a dreadful disease called small-pox. When the Queen heard that he was ill, she went to visit him, and it seemed as if their quarrels were forgotten and that they were friends again.
Darnley was quite pleased to be friends with his beautiful wife, and when he was well enough he went with her to Edinburgh. But instead of taking him to the palace at Holyrood, Mary took Darnley to a little house called Kirk of Field, just outside the walls of the town. She said as he was ill, he would be more comfortable there. For the house stood high, and was surrounded by a garden, whereas Holyrood lies very low.
Every day, Mary came and sat some hours with Darnley, talking with him and amusing him. Once or twice she spent the whole night in the little house, sleeping in the room below Darnley's. It seemed as if the old days had come back, and they would be happy again. But alas! it was all a trap. While Mary talked and smiled with Darnley, Bothwell and his friends were laying their plans.
One night as the Queen sat with her husband, dark figures might have been seen passing and re-passing through the garden, carrying sacks upon their backs. The sacks were full of gunpowder; and it was Bothwell's men who carried them,—Bothwell who directed where they should be put. They were piled up in the Queen's room, right under Darnley's bed.
While this dark work went on, the Queen sat in the firelit room, in a high chair covered with purple velvet, which gleamed red in the flickering light. Never had she seemed so beautiful and gentle to the sick boy. She had said that she would stay all night, but she suddenly remembered that she could not, for it was the wedding night of one of her maids, and she had promised to dance at the feast. So she kissed Darnley, and said good night, telling him that she would come again next morning.
Did she know what would happen before morning, or did she not? That is a question which has puzzled many wise heads for hundreds of years. Perhaps it will never be settled. But we would like to believe that the beautiful Queen knew nothing about those black bags of gunpowder, and that the plot and the guilt were Bothwell's only.
The dance went merrily on, but Bothwell soon left it. He went to his room, and changed his fine dress of velvet and silver for a coarse, dark suit. Then he hurried away to Kirk of Field.
The dance was over, the lights were out, every one was quietly sleeping, when the noise of a terrible explosion startled the whole town. People leaped from their beds in terror. What had happened? Soon it became known, that Kirk of Field House had been blown to pieces. The King was dead.
The deed done, Bothwell had crept back to his room, thrown off his clothes, and tumbled into bed again. There he lay, pretending to be asleep, when he was aroused by the sound of hurrying feet, strange cries, and loud knocking at his door. 'The King's house is blown up, and I trow the King is slain,' cried the messenger, hardly able to speak for terror and excitement.
'Treason! treason!' shouted Bothwell, springing from his bed. Hurriedly he dressed, and was soon out in the streets, at the head of a company of soldiers, riding towards the Kirk of Field.
But pretend how he would, Bothwell could not deceive the people. Every one pointed to him as the murderer, and as Queen Mary still continued to be kind to him, and let it be seen, even more plainly than before, that she loved him, the people grew angry with her too, and called her murderess. All Europe rang with the horror of the deed. Queens and princes wrote to Mary, urging her to punish the murderers. So Mary at last yielded. Bothwell was brought to trial. But the trial was a mere farce. Riding upon the dead Darnley's favourite horse, Bothwell appeared with five thousand soldiers at his back. So the judges, afraid perhaps to do anything else, said that he was innocent.
But the people still believed him guilty. Pictures and writings, accusing Bothwell and his friends, were pasted upon the walls and doors of the public buildings of Edinburgh. Voices in the night cried out the names of the guilty ones. Yet Mary would neither listen nor see.
One day the Queen rode to Stirling to visit her little boy. On her way back, when she was very near Edinburgh, Bothwell suddenly came towards her at the head of eight hundred horsemen. The cold April sunshine gleamed on steel armour, sword and spear, as Bothwell and his men dashed recklessly along. They surrounded Mary's small company. Right up to the Queen's horse rode the Earl, and laid his hand upon her bridle rein. Without a struggle, without one cry for help, without one blow being struck, the Queen was taken prisoner by her bold and swaggering earl, for he had sworn to marry her, 'Yea, whether she would herself or not.' Right about wheeled the horses, and with clatter and jangle they started off again, not towards Edinburgh, but towards Bothwell's strong castle of Dunbar.
It was like a fairy tale. The ogre had carried off the beautiful princess. But there was no knight in shining armour to rescue her, and soon Mary married the ogre,—just three months after he had murdered Darnley.
Bothwell was already married to another beautiful lady, who had done him no harm, but he was so eager to be great, to have the power of a king, that he made the priests and clergymen say that he might put her away. Then he married the Queen.
For a few short weeks Mary seemed happy. Then dark days came again. Her new husband was brutal and coarse, and the people were angry that she had married the man who had killed her last husband.
But neither Bothwell nor Mary knew how angry the people were, and when at last an army gathered against them, they were surprised and unprepared. They had left Dunbar, and the castle in which they were was not strong. It was surrounded by the enemy, and Bothwell, rather than be taken prisoner by the nobles, fled away, leaving Mary alone.
But next night, when all was dark and still, a tall, slim page slipped out of the castle gates. A pony stood ready saddled. The page mounted, and rode out into the darkness. Over wild moorland, by lonely ways, the page galloped on, until he met with Bothwell and a few followers. Then it was seen that the tall, slim boy was no boy, but Scotland's beautiful Queen. At three o'clock in the morning she rode once more into Bothwell's strong castle of Dunbar.
Mary had come quite alone. At Bothwell castle there was no lady, so the Queen had to borrow a dress from a servant. A short red skirt, a white sleeved bodice, and a black velvet hat, was all that could be found for her. Dressed in this, she rode out at the head of the little army which had now gathered to her.
Early in the morning, Mary took up her position on Carberry Hill, almost on the same place where the battle of Pinkie had been fought twenty years before. Opposite, lay the army of the lords. All day long they lay there, neither side advancing or striking a blow; for the lords did not wish to fight until the afternoon, when the sun would be behind them, and the Queen's captains would not strike the first blow.
Hour after hour went past. The day was hot. Many in Mary's army were not soldiers, but simple peasants. They grew thirsty, and weary of waiting under the burning sun. Some of them went off to drink at the stream which flowed near. They never came back again. For one reason or another, others left, and little by little, Mary's army grew smaller and smaller.
With tears, and threats, and smiles, and promises, the Queen rode up and down before the soldiers. It was in vain. They would not fight. At last, sick and sad at heart, she gave it up. All was lost. There was nothing left for Bothwell but to fly.
So there, on this bloodless battlefield, they kissed each other, and said good-bye. For the last time Bothwell bent over the Queen's hand; then he galloped off. Just one month after her marriage day, Mary was thus once more left alone. They never saw each other again. After a wild and wandering life of fierce adventure, Bothwell died, mad, in a foreign prison.
Meantime, with tear-stained face and bitter words, Queen Mary turned to the rebel lords. She was their prisoner. 'I render myself,' she said, and one of them gravely and sternly took her horse by the bridle, and led her down the hill to the rebel camp.
So, riding among her captors, the Queen returned to Edinburgh. Before her was carried a horrid banner, with a picture of the little Prince James kneeling beside the body of his murdered father. Underneath was the motto, 'Judge and avenge my cause, O God.' Through the streets she rode, the mob yelling and cursing, her fair face all soiled and wet with tears and dust, till at last she reached the kindly shelter of the provost's house.