Monday, May 2, 2011

Escape from Lochleven

"Help me, help me on board!" said the deserted Lady Fleming, and
that louder than prudence warranted.

"Put off--put off!" cried Henry Seyton; "leave all behind, so the
Queen is safe."

"Will you permit this, madam?" said Catherine, imploringly; "you
leave your deliverer to death."

"I will not," said the Queen.--"Seyton I command you to stay at every
risk."

"Pardon me, madam, if I disobey," said the intractable young man; and
with one hand lifting in Lady Fleming, he began himself to push off
the boat.

She was two fathoms' length from the shore, and the rowers were
getting her head round, when Roland Graeme, arriving, bounded from the
beach, and attained the boat, overturning Seyton, on whom he lighted.
The youth swore a deep but suppressed oath, and stopping Graeme as he
stepped towards the stern, said, "Your place is not with high-born
dames--keep at the head and trim the vessel--Now give way--give
way--Row, for God and the Queen!"

The rowers obeyed, and began to pull vigorously.

"Why did ye not muffle the oars?" said Roland Graeme; "the dash must
awaken the sentinel--Row, lads, and get out of reach of shot; for had
not old Hildebrand, the warder, supped upon poppy-porridge, this
whispering must have waked him."

"It was all thine own delay," said Seyton; "thou shalt reckon, with me
hereafter for that and other matters."

But Roland's apprehension was verified too instantly to permit him to
reply. The sentinel, whose slumbering had withstood the whispering,
was alarmed by the dash of the oars. His challenge was instantly
heard. "A boat---a boat!--bring to, or I shoot!" And, as they
continued to ply their oars, he called aloud, "Treason! treason!" rung
the bell of the castle, and discharged his harquebuss at the boat. The
ladies crowded on each other like startled wild foul, at the flash and
report of the piece, while the men urged the rowers to the utmost
speed. They heard more than one ball whiz along the surface of the
lake, at no great distance from their little bark; and from the
lights, which glanced like meteors from window to window, it was
evident the whole castle was alarmed, and their escape discovered.

"Pull!" again exclaimed Seyton; "stretch to your oars, or I will spur
you to the task with my dagger--they will launch a boat immediately."

"That is cared for," said Roland; "I locked gate and wicket on them
when I went back, and no boat will stir from the island this night, if
doors of good oak and bolts of iron can keep men within
stone-walls.--And now I resign my office of porter of Lochleven, and
give the keys to the Kelpie's keeping."

As the heavy keys plunged in the lake, the Abbot,--who till then had
been repeating his prayers, exclaimed, "Now, bless thee, my son! for
thy ready prudence puts shame on us all."

On May 2, 1568, Mary Queen of Scots escaped from her confinement at Lochleven Castle.  Sir Walter Scott had his own version of the escape, which he published in "The Abbot".

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