Since I play no mean part in the events of this chronicle, a few words concerning my own history previous to the opening of the story I am about to tell you will surely not be amiss, and they may help you to a better understanding of my narrative. To begin with an unimportant fact—unimportant, that is, to you—my name is Malcolm François de Lorraine Vernon. My father was cousin-german to Sir George Vernon, at and near whose home, Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, occurred the events which will furnish my theme. Of the ancient lineage of the house of Vernon I need not speak. You already know that the family is one of the oldest in England, and while it is not of the highest nobility, it is quite gentle and noble enough to please those who bear its honored name. My mother boasted nobler blood than that of the Vernons. She was of the princely French house of Guise—a niece and ward to the Great Duke, for whose sake I was named. My father, being a younger brother, sought adventure in the land of France, where his handsome person and engaging manner won the smiles of Dame Fortune and my mother at one and the same cast. In due time I was born, and upon the day following that great event my father died. On the day of his burial my poor mother, unable to find in me either compensation or consolation for the loss of her child's father, also died, of a broken heart, it was said. But God was right, as usual, in taking my parents; for I should have brought them no happiness, unless perchance they could have moulded my life to a better form than it has had—a doubtful chance, since our great virtues and our chief faults are born and die with us. My faults, alas! have been many and great. In my youth I knew but one virtue: to love my friend; and that was strong within me. How fortunate for us it would be if we could begin our life in wisdom and end it in simplicity, instead of the reverse which now obtains! I remained with my granduncle, the Great Duke, and was brought up amid the fighting, vice, and piety of his sumptuous court. I was trained to arms, and at an early age became Esquire in Waiting to his Grace of Guise. Most of my days between my fifteenth and twenty-fifth years were spent in the wars. At the age of twenty-five I returned to the château, there to reside as my uncle's representative, and to endure the ennui of peace. At the château I found a fair, tall girl, fifteen years of age: Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, soon afterward Queen of France and rightful heiress to the English throne. The ennui of peace, did I say? Soon I had no fear of its depressing effect, for Mary Stuart was one of those women near whose fascinations peace does not thrive. When I found her at the château, my martial ardor lost its warmth. Another sort of flame took up its home in my heart, and no power could have turned me to the wars again.