"The Bullet Has Its Billet"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Count Robert of Paris offends the Emperor of Constantinople as the First Crusade passes through that city. The Count is secretly imprisoned and his murder attempted. His Amazonian wife, Brenhilda, is also captive and her seduction attempted by the Emperor's plotting son-in-law. Before the escaped Sir Robert can free her, there occurs a chapter in which an aged courtier who urges upon her a sinful life is strangled, fittingly, by an orangutan which is allowed to roam the grounds. Scott headed this extraordinary chapter with a motto, a quatrain, which he assigned to "Old Play," though he confessed that such mottoes "in the general case were pure invention." The quatrain reads:

Heaven knows its time; the bullet has its billet,
Arrow and javelin each its destined purpose;
The fated beasts of Nature's lower strain
Have each their separate task.