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To teach him reading and
writing as far as her skill went, to attend to his childish comforts,
to watch his boyish sports, became the Lady's favourite amusement. In
her circumstances, where the ear only heard the lowing of the cattle
from the distant hills, or the heavy step of the warder as he walked
upon his post, or the half-envied laugh of her maiden as she turned
her wheel, the appearance of the blooming and beautiful boy gave an
interest which can hardly be conceived by those who live amid gayer
and busier scenes. Young Roland was to the Lady of Avenel what the
flower, which occupies the window of some solitary captive, is to the
poor wight by whom it is nursed and cultivated,--something which at
once excited and repaid her care; and in giving the boy her affection,
she felt, as it were, grateful to him for releasing her from the state
of dull apathy in which she had usually found herself during the
absence of Sir Halbert Glendinning.
But even the charms of this blooming favourite were unable to chase
the recurring apprehensions which arose from her husband's
procrastinated return. Soon after Roland Graeme became a resident at
the castle, a groom, despatched by Sir Halbert, brought tidings that
business still delayed the Knight at the Court of Holyrood. The more
distant period which the messenger had assigned for his master's
arrival at length glided away, summer melted into autumn, and autumn
was about to give place to winter, and yet he came not.
Chapter the Third.
The waning harvest-moon shone broad and bright,
The warder's horn was heard at dead of night,
And while the portals-wide were flung,
With trampling hoofs the rocky pavement rung.
"And you, too, would be a soldier, Roland?" said the Lady of Avenel to
her young charge, while, seated on a stone chair at one end of the
battlements, she saw the boy attempt, with a long stick, to mimic the
motions of the warder, as he alternately shouldered, or ported, or
"Yes, Lady," said the boy,--for he was now familiar, and replied to
her questions with readiness and alacrity,-"a soldier will I be; for
there ne'er was gentleman but who belted him with the brand."
"Thou a gentleman!" said Lilias, who, as usual, was in attendance;
"such a gentleman as I would make of a bean-cod with a rusty knife."
"Nay, chide him not, Lilias," said the Lady of Avenel, "for, beshrew
me, but I think he comes of gentle blood--see how it musters in his
face at your injurious reproof."
"Had I my will, madam," answered Lilias, "a good birchen wand should
make his colour muster to better purpose still."
"On my word, Lilias," said the Lady, "one would think you had received
harm from the poor boy--or is he so far on the frosty side of your
favour because he enjoys the sunny side of mine?"
"Over heavens forbode, my Lady!" answered Lilias; "I have lived too
long with gentles, I praise my stars for it, to fight with either
follies or fantasies, whether they relate to beast, bird, or boy."
Lilias was a favourite in her own class, a spoiled domestic, and often
accustomed to take more licence than her mistress was at all times
willing to encourage. But what did not please the Lady of Avenel, she
did not choose to hear, and thus it was on the present occasion.