« 前へ次へ »
younger son of a younger son. Despairing of success on his own merits, Andrew Beton at last wrote to his brother, the Archbishop, requesting him to engage their royal mistress's influence in furtherance of his suit. The Queen, with whom, as we know, match-making was an amiable weakness, accepted the part offered her, and the result of her negotiations is best explained by her own letter to the Archbishop :
According to the promise conveyed to you in my last letter, I have, on three several occasions, spoken to my maid. After raising several objections based on the respect due to the honour of her house--according to the custom of my country, but more particularly on the vow which she alleges, and which she maintains, can neither licitly nor honourably be broken, she has at last yielded to my remonstrances and earnest persuasions, and dutifully submitted to my commands, as being those of a good mistress and of one who stands to her in the place of a mother, trusting that I shall have due consideration both for her reputation and for the confidence which she has placed in me. Therefore, being anxious to gratify you in so good an object, I have taken it upon myself to obtain for her a dispensation from her alleged vow, which I hold to be null. If the opinion of theologians should prove to coincide with mine in this matter, it shall be my care to see to the rest. In doing so, however, I shall change characters, for, as she has confidently placed herself in my hands, I shall have to represent not your interests, but hers. Now, as regards the first point, our man, whom I called into our presence, volunteered a little rashly, considering the difficulties which will arise, to undertake the journey himself, to bring back the dispensation, after having consulted with you as to the proper steps to be taken, and to be with us again within three months, bringing you with him. I shall request a passport for him ; do you, on your part, use your best endeavours for him ; they will be needed, considering the circumstances under which I am placed. Further. more, it will be necessary to write to the damsel's brother, to know how far he thinks I may go without appearing to give too little weight to the difference of degree and title.
After having penned this interesting and well-meaning epistle, the Queen communicated it to Mary Seton, to whom, however, it did not appear a fair statement of the case, and for whose satisfaction a postscript was added :
I have shown the above to the maiden, and she accuses me of over-partiality in this, that for shortness' sake, I have omitted some of the circumstances of her dutisul submission to me, in making which she still entertained a hope that some regard should be had for her vow, even though it prove to be null, and that her inclination should also be consulted, which has long been, and more especially since our captivity, rather in favour of remaining in her present state than of entering that of marriage. I have promised her to set this before you, and to give it, myself, that consideration which is due to her confidence in me. Furthermore, * I have assured her that, should I be led to persuade her to enter into that state which is least agreeable to her, it would only be because my conscience told me
| The original is written in French,
that it was the better for her, and that there was no danger of the least blame being attached to her. She makes a great point of the disparity of rank and titles, and mentions in support of this that she heard fault found with the marriage of the sisters Livingston, merely for having wedded the younger sons of their peers, and she fears that, in a country where such formalities are observed, her own friends may have a similar opinion of her. But, as the Queen of both of them, I have undertaken to assume the whole responsibility, and to do all that my present circumstances will allow, to make matters smooth. You need, theresore, take no further trouble about this, beyond getting her brother to let us know his candid opinion.
With his mistress's good wishes, and with innumerable commissions from her ladies, Andrew Beton set out on his mission. Whether the dispensation was less easy to obtain than he at first fancied, or whether other circumstances, perhaps of a political nature, arose to delay him, twice the three months within which he had undertaken to return to Sheffield had elapsed before information of his homeward journey was received. He had been successful in obtaining a theological opinion favourable to his suit, but it appeared that Mary Seton's objections to matrimony were not to be removed with her vow. This seems to be the meaning of a letter written to Beton by Mary Stuart, in which, after telling him that she will postpone the discussion of his affairs till his return, she pointedly adds that Mary Seton's letters to him must have sufficiently informed him as to her decision, and that she herself, though willing to help him by showing her hearty approval of the match, could give no actual commands in the matter. A similar letter to the Archbishop seems to point to a belief on Mary's part that, in spite of the dispensation, the match would never be concluded, and that Beton would meet with a bitter disappointment on his return to Sheffield. It was destined, however, that he should never again behold either his royal lady or her for whom he had undertaken the journey. He died on his way homewards; but we have no knowledge where or under what circumstances. The first intimation of the event is contained, as are, indeed, most of the details belonging to this period, in the Queen's correspondence. In a letter bearing the date of the 5th of November she expresses to the Archbishop her regret at the failure of her project to unite the Betons and the Setons, as well as at the personal loss she has sustained by the death of a faithful subject and servant.
With this episode our knowledge of Mary Seton's history is nearly exhausted. There is no further reference to her in the correspondence of the next six years, during which she continued to share her Queen's captivity. About the year 1583, when her own health had
broken down under the hardships to which she was subjected in the various prisons to which she followed Mary Stuart, she begged and obtained permission to retire to France. The remainder of her life was spent in the seclusion of the abbey of St. Peter's, at Rheims, over which Renée de Lorraine, the Queen's maternal aunt, presided.
The last memorial which we have of Mary Seton is a touching proof of the affection which she still bore her hapless Queen, and of the interest with which, from her convent cell, she still followed the course of events. It is a letter, written in October, 1586, to Courcelles, the new French ambassador at Holyrood; it refers to her long absence from Scotland, and concludes with an expression of regret at the fresh troubles which had befallen the captive Queen, in consequence, it may be supposed, of Babington's conspiracy:
I cannot conclude without telling you the extreme pain and anxiety I feel at the distressing news which has been reported here, that some new trouble has befallen the Queen, my mistress. Time will not permit me to tell you more.
THERE is no country which for monotony can compare with the
Transvaal. Grass, nothing but grass, a never-ending plain of undulating green, and across it the waggon track you are following; a pair of crows by the wayside a welcome variety; a waggon, no matter whom it belongs to, the event of the day.
Very early one November morning, spring time in South Africa, I was riding over this uninviting land where the traveller's inclinations must give way to those of his oxen. They are a necessity, and seem to know it ; very stupid and self-willed, with an aptitude for going sick, when they lie down in the middle of the road and refuse to budge another inch.
So it is to suit their convenience that you have started a good hour before daybreak, when the grass is crystallised with hoar-frost and a white mist clings, thick and cold, shrouding everything in darkness. You watch for the dawn in the east, and long for the grey horizon to be tinged with light. Then as a cold wind freezes up all the little life you have left, the sun rising slowly tips the ground with colour, the mist floats away, lingering awhile in the hollows, wreathing round the stones, and a pleasant glow begins to creep through your frozen limbs.
My pony seemed to feel the change, and started off at a canter. The monotony of the scene touched by the magic of the morning sun had vanished; streams each in a tiny valley swirled against the stones; the hollows they were dancing in were carpeted with flowers of brilliant colour ; the hills of ragged boulders, grey just now, were tinged with pink, the cactus trees between them holding aloft blazing flowers; and in the distance were the dark-green gum-trees about a Boer farm, where eggs and milk and the company of mankind could be expected.
Ant-hills were everywhere-rounded, mud-coloured heaps, hard as rocks and several feet in height, the houses of the white ant. Inside, the ant-hill is honey-combed, the chambers filled with bits of dry
grass, the ants living below their granaries. The ant-bear, the great enemy of the race, digs a hole under the hill and gets pleasant feeding out of the ants as they fall upon his tongue. The human ant-bear picks out a heap for an oven, it burns well, and a hollow at the top holds the baking-pan. Wild bees have a fancy for these ant-hills, turning out the ants and filling their granaries with honey ; so the white ant has a bad time of it ; yet he prospers, and ant-hills are as plentiful as ever.
I was making for Lake Chrissie, the largest of the group of salt lakes in the far east ; broad, inland seas, the home of countless waterbirds, happy to find so much water in so waterless a land.
For several days I had been riding over a plateau 4,000 feet above the sea, the nights bitterly cold ; the wind never ceasing, boisterous, and loaded with dust during the days ; the scene a rolling grass plain backed up by quaintly shaped hills, the clumps of blue gums left behind, even a solitary waggon wanting ; a dreary country to ride through. But on this spring morning the ground was all down hilla pleasant change after a fortnight on the flat. I was on the edge of the great basin in which the Salt Lakes lay.
Monotonous as the ride had been, there was a feeling of freedom in riding across the veldt, quite charming ; there were no hedges or churlish labourers to stop me; go where I would it was God's earth, as free to me as to the antelope.
There is a thick white mist very like cotton-wool that clings about South African valleys in early morning, waiting for the sun to dissolve it; and this cotton-wool mist was wreathing itself round the antheaps on that November morning. Sometimes a juniper bush was in the way, and would ravel out its skirts in gauzy fringe ; or a rock sticking up for no particular purpose except to let the soft stuff frame it in fleecy fretwork; at odd intervals it would take a fancy to open out and disclose a herd of “spring-bok," or a “pauw” busy amongst the hyacinths ; the buck darting away into the nearest mist-land, the bird craning his neck, uncertain if I were friend or foe.
I had ridden through this mist for some miles, when, as if by magic, it rolled away. Below was a broad valley and two patches of silvery light in the hollow, nearly a mile apart, fringed with bright turf and waving rushes. It was my first glimpse of the Salt Lakes.
Riding on, the silver patches grew into lakes, on which were birds floating; mere dots of black, only the dots would rise, cutting across and splashing down between other dots which made way for them.
For three months I had seen nothing bigger than a village duck