Part 2 out of 6
frank delight of youthful friendship. The younger lads were in more
favour with their father than was the elder. Thomas was sometimes
preferred to him in a mortifying manner, John's grave, quiet nature
prevented him from ever incurring displeasure, and Humfrey was the
spoilt pet of the family; but nothing could lessen Harry's large-
minded love of his brothers; and he was the idol and hero of the
whole young party, who implicitly believed in his mighty destinies as
a renovator of the world, the deliverer of Jerusalem, and restorer of
the unity and purity of the Church.
'Harry the Fifth was crowned,' and with the full intention of
carrying out his great dream. But his promise of releasing James
became matter of question. The House of Albany, who held the chief
power in Scotland, had bound Henry IV. over not to free their master;
and it was plain that to send him home before his welcome was ensured
would be but tossing him on their spears. In vain James pleaded that
he was no boy, and was able to protect himself; and vowed that when
the faithful should rally round his standard, he would be more than a
match for his enemies; or that if not, he would rather die free than
live in bondage. Henry would not listen, and insisted upon retaining
him until he should himself be at leisure to bring him home with a
high hand, utterly disregarding his assurance that this would only be
rendering him in the eyes of his subjects another despised and hated
Deeming himself a divinely-appointed redresser of wrongs, Henry was
already beginning on his great work of purifying Europe in
preparation for his mighty Crusade; and having won that splendid
victory which laid distracted France at his feet, he only waited to
complete the conquest as thoroughly and rapidly as might be; and,
lest his grand purpose should be obstructed, this great practical
visionary, though full of kindness and generosity, kept in thraldom a
whole troop of royal and noble captives.
He had, however, been so far moved by James's entreaties, as to
consent that when he himself offered his devotions at the shrine of
St. John of Beverley, the native saint who shared with the two
cordwainers his gratitude for the glories of 'Crispin Crispian's
day,' his prisoner should, unknown to any save the few who shared the
pilgrimage, push on to reconnoitre his own country, and judge for
himself, having first sworn to reveal himself to no one, and to avoid
all who could recognize him. James had visited Glenuskie within a
special view to profiting by the wisdom of Sir David Drummond, and
had then been at Stirling, Edinburgh, and Perth. On his way back,
falling in with Malcolm in his distress, he had conceived the project
of taking him to England; and finding himself already more than half
recognized by Sir David, had obtained his most grateful and joyous
consent. In truth, James's heart had yearned to his young cousin,
his own situation had become much more lonely of late; for Henry was
no longer the comrade he had once been, since he had become a keeper
instead of a fellow-sufferer. It was true that he did his best to
forget this by lavishing indulgences on his captive, and insisting on
being treated on terms of brotherly familiarity; but though his
transcendent qualities commanded love, the intimacy could be but a
semblance of the once equal friendship. Moreover, that conspiracy
which cost the life of the Earl of Cambridge had taught James that
cautious reserve was needed in dealing with even his old friends the
princes, so easily might he be accused of plotting either with
Henry's immediate heir or with the Mortimers; and, in this guarded
life, he had hailed with delight the opportunity of taking to himself
the young orphan cousin of kindred blood, of congenial tastes, and
home-like speech, whom he might treat at once as a younger brother
and friend, and mould by and by into a trusty counsellor and
assistant. That peculiar wistfulness and gentleness of Malcolm's
look and manner, together with the refinement and intellect apparent
to all who conversed with him without alarming him, had won the
King's heart, and made him long to keep the boy with him. As to
Malcolm's longing for the cloister, he deemed it the result of the
weakly health and refined nature which shrank from the barbarism of
the outer world, and he thought it would pass away under shelter from
the rude taunts of the fierce cousins, at a distance from the well-
meaning exhortations of the monks, and at the spectacle of brave and
active men who could also be pious, conscientious, and cultivated.
In the renewed sojourn at Windsor which James apprehended, the
training of such a youth as Malcolm of Glenuskie would be no small
By the time Malcolm had learnt as much of all this as Sir Nigel Baird
knew, or chose to communicate, the King entered the room. He flung
himself on his knees, exclaiming, with warm gratitude, as he kissed
the King's hand, 'My liege, I little kenned--'
'I meant thee to ken little,' said James, smiling. 'Well, laddie,
wilt thou share the prisoner's cell?--Ay, Bairdsbrae, you were a true
prophet. Harry will do all himself, and will not hear of losing me
to deal with my own people at my own gate. No, no, he'll have me
back with Southron bows and bills, so soon as this small trifle of
France lies quiet in his grasp! I had nearly flung back my parole in
his face, and told him that no English sword should set me on the
Bruce's throne; but there is something in Harry of Monmouth that one
MUST love, and there are moments when to see and hear him one would
as soon doubt the commission of an angel with a flaming sword.'
'A black angel!' growled Sir Nigel.
'Scoff and chafe, Baird, but look at his work. Look at Normandy,
freed from misrule and exaction, in peace and order. Look at this
land. Was ever king so loved? Or how durst he act as he did this
'Nay, an it were so at home,' said Baird, 'I had as lief stay here as
where a man is not free to fight out his own feud. Even this
sackless callant thought it shame to see two honest men baulked.'
'Poor Scotland!' sighed James. 'Woe is the land where such thoughts
come readiest to gray-haired men and innocent boys. I tell you,
cousin, this precious right is the very cause that our poor country
is so lawless and bloody, that yon poor silly sparrow would fain be
caged for fear of the kites and carrion-crows.'
'Alack, my Lord, let me but have my way. I cannot fight! Let
Patrick Drummond have my sister and my lands, and your service will
be far better done,' said Malcolm.
'I know all that,' said the King, kindly. 'There is time enough for
settling that question; and meantime you will not be spoilt for monk
or priest by cheering me awhile in my captivity. I need you,
laddie,' me added, laying his hand on the boy's shoulder, with all
the instinctive fascination of a Stewart. 'I lack a comrade of my
own blood, for I am all alone!'
'Oh, Sir!' and Malcolm, looking into his face, saw it full of
'Books and masters you shall have,' continued James, 'such as for
church or state, cathedral, cloister, or camp, shall render you the
meeter prince; and I pass you my royal word, that if at full age the
cowl be your choice, I will not gainsay you. Meantime, abide with
me, and be the young brother I have yearned for.'
The King threw his arms round Malcolm, who felt, and unconsciously
manifested, a strange bliss in that embrace, even while fixed in his
determination that nothing should make him swerve from his chosen
path, nor render him false to his promise to Patrick and Lilias. It
was a strange change, from being despised and down-trodden by fierce
cousins, or only fondled, pitied, and treated with consideration by
his own nearest and dearest friends, to be the chosen companion of a
king, and SUCH a king. Nor could it be a wile of Satan, thought
Malcolm, since James still promised him liberty of choice. He would
ask counsel of a priest next time he went to confession; and in the
meantime, in the full tide of gratitude, admiration, and affection,
he gave himself up to the enjoyment of his new situation, and of time
King's kindness and solicitude. This was indeed absolutely that of
an elder brother; for, observing that Malcolm's dress and equipments,
the work of Glenuskie looms, supplemented by a few Edinburgh
purchases, was uncouth enough to attract some scornful glances from
the crowd who came out to welcome the royal entrance into York the
next day, he instantly sent Brewster in search of the best tailor and
lorimer in the city, and provided so handsomely for the appearance of
young Glenuskie, his horse, and his attendants, that the whole floor
of their quarters was strewn with doublets, boots, chaperons, and
gloves, saddles, bridles, and spurs, when the Duke of Bedford
loitered into the room, and began to banter James for thus (as he
supposed) pranking himself out to meet the lady of his love; and then
bemoaned the fripperies that had become the rage in their once
bachelor court, vowing, between sport and earnest, that Hal was so
enamoured of his fair bride, that anon the conquest of France would
be left to himself and his brother, Tom of Clarence; while James
retorted by thrusts at Bedford's own rusticity of garb, and by
endeavouring to force on him a pair of shoes with points like ram's
horns, as a special passport to the favour of Dame Jac--a lady who
seemed to be the object of Duke John's great distaste.
Suddenly a voice was heard in the gallery of the great old mansion
where they were lodged. 'John! John! Here!--Where is the Duke, I
say?' It was thick and husky, as with some terrible emotion; and the
King and Duke had already started in dismay before the door was
thrown open, and King Henry stood among them, his face of a burning
'See here, John!' he said, holding out a letter; and then, with an
accent of wrathful anguish, and a terrible frown, he turned on James,
exclaiming, 'I would send you to the Tower, Sir, did I think you had
a hand in this!'
Malcolm trembled, and sidled nearer his prince; while James, with an
equally fierce look, replied, 'Hold, Sir! Send me where you will,
but dare not dishonour my name!' Then changing, as he saw the
exceeding grief on Henry's brow, and heard John's smothered cry of
dismay, 'For Heaven's sake, Harry, what is it?'
'This!' said Henry, less loudly, less hotly, but still with an agony
of indignation: 'Thomas is dead--and by the hand of two of your
'Murdered!' cried James, aghast.
'Murdered by all honest laws of war, but on the battlefield,' said
Henry. 'Your cousin of Buchan and old Douglas fell on my brave
fellows at Beauge, when they were spent with travel to stop the
robberies in Anjou. They closed in with their pikes on my brave
fellows, took Somerset prisoner, and for Thomas, while he was dealing
with a knight named Swinton in front, the villain Buchan comes behind
and cleaves his head in twain; and that is what you Scots call
'It was worthy of a son of Albany!' said James. 'Would that
vengeance were in my power!'
'Ay, you loved him!' said Henry, grasping James's hand, his passion
softened into a burst of tears, as he wrung his prisoner's hand.
'Nay, who did not love him, my brave, free-hearted brother? And that
I--I should have dallied here and left him to bear the brunt, and be
cut off by you felon Scots!' And he hid his face, struggling within
an agony of heart-rending grief, which seemed to sway his whole tall,
powerful frame as he leant against the high back of a chair; while
John, together with James, was imploring him not to accuse himself,
for his presence had been needful at home; and, to turn the tenor of
his thought, James inquired whether there were any further disaster.
'Not as yet,' said Henry; 'there is not a man left in that heaven-
abandoned crew who knows how to profit by what they have got! but I
must back again ere the devil stir them up a man of wit!--And you,
Sir, can you take order with these heady Scots?'
'From Windsor? no,' said James; 'but set me in the saddle, let me
learn war under such a captain as yourself, and maybe they will not
take the field against me; or if they do, the slayer of Clarence
shall rue it.'
'Be it so,' said Henry, wringing his hand. 'You shall with me to
France, Jamie, and see war. The Scots should flock to the Lion
rampant, and without them the French are mo better than deer, under
the fool and murderer they call Dauphin. Yet, alas! will any success
give me back my brother--my brother, the brave and true?' he added,
weeping again within the ABANDON of an open nature and simple age.
'It was for my sins, my forgetfulness of my great work, that this has
come on me.--Ho, Marmion! carry these tidings from me to the Dean;
pray him that the knell be tolled at the Minster, and a requiem sung
for my brother and all who fell with him. We will be there
ourselves, and the mayor must hold us excused from his banquet; these
men are too loyal not to grieve for their King.'
And, with his arm round the neck of his brother John, Henry left the
room; and before another word could be said, Sir Nigel was there,
having only retired on the King's entrance. The news was of course
all over the house, and with an old attendant's freedom he exclaimed,
'So, Sir, the English have found tough cummers at last!'
'Not too honourably,' said James, sadly.
'Hout, would not the puir loons be glad enow of any gate of coming by
a clout at the man's brother that keeps you captive!'
'They have taken away one of those I loved best!' said James.
'I'm no speaking ill of the lad Clarence himself,' said Nigel; 'he
was a braw youth, leal and bold, and he has died in his helm and
spurs, as a good knight should. I'd wish none of these princes a
waur ending. Moreover, could Swinton have had the wit to keep him
living, he'd have been a bonnie barter for you, my Lord; but ony way
the fight was a gallant one, and the very squire that brought the
tidings cannot deny that our Scots fought like lions.'
'Would Douglas but so fight in any good quarrel!' sighed the King.
'But what are you longing to ask, Malcolm? Is it for your kinsman
Patrick? I fear me that there is little chance of your hearing by
name of him.'
'I wot not,' said Sir Nigel; 'I did but ask for that hare-brained
young cousin of mine, Davie Baird, that must needs be off on this
journey to France; and the squire tells me he was no herald, to be
answerable for the rogues that fought on the other side.'
'We shall soon see for ourselves,' said James; 'I am to make this
'You! you, my liege! Against your own ally, and under the standard
of England! Woe's me, how could ye be so lost!'
James argued on his own conviction that the true France was with poor
Charles VI., and that it was doing the country no service to prolong
the resistance of the Armagnacs and the Dauphin, who then appeared
mere partisans instead of patriots. As to fighting under the English
banner, no subjection was involved in an adventurer king so doing:
had not the King of Bohemia thus fought at Crecy? and was not the
King of Sicily with the French army? Moreover, James himself felt
the necessity of gaining some experience in the art of war.
Theoretically he had studied it with all his might, from Caesar,
Quintus Curtius, and that favourite modern authority, the learned
ecclesiastic, Jean Pave, who was the Vauban of the fifteenth century;
and he had likewise obtained greedily all the information he could
from Henry himself and his warriors; but all this had convinced him
that if war was to be more than a mere raid, conducted by mere spirit
and instinct, some actual apprenticeship was necessary. Even for
such a dash, Henry himself had told him that he would find his book-
knowledge an absolute impediment without some practice, and would
probably fail for that very reason when opposed to tough old seasoned
warriors. And, prudence apart, James, at five-and-twenty, absolutely
glowed with shame at the thought that every one of his companions had
borne arms for at least ten years past, while his arrows had no mark
but the target, his lances had all been broken in the tilt-yard. It
was this argument that above all served to pacify old Bairdsbrae;
though he confessed himself very uneasy as to the prejudice it would
create in Scotland, and so evidently loathed the expedition, that
James urged on him to return to Scotland, instead of continuing his
attendance. There was no fear but that his ransom would be accepted,
and he had been absent twelve years from his home.
'No, no, my Lord; I sware to your father that I'd never quit you till
I brought you safe home again, and, God willing, I'll keep my oath.
But what's this puir callant to do, that you were set upon rearing
upon your books at Windsor?'
'He shall choose,' said James. 'Either he shall study at the learned
university at Oxford or at Paris, or he shall ride with me, and see
how cities and battles are won. Speak not yet, cousin; it takes many
months to shake out the royal banner, and you shall look about you
ere deciding. Now give me yonder black cloak; they are assembling
for the requiem.'
Malcolm, as he followed his king, was not a little amazed to see that
Henry, the magnificent victor, was wrapped in a plain black serge
garment, his short dark hair uncovered, his feet bare; and that on
arriving at the Minster he threw himself on his knees, almost on his
face, before the choir steps, there remaining while the De profundis
and the like solemn and mournful strains floated through the dark
vaultings above him, perhaps soothing while giving expression to the
agony of his affliction, and self-accusation, not for the devastation
of the turbulent country of an insane sovereign, but for his having
relaxed in the mighty work of renovation that he had imposed on
Even when the service was ended, the King would not leave the
Minster. He lifted himself up to bid Bedford and his companions
return; but for himself, he intended to remain and confess, in
preparation for being 'houselled' at the Mass for the dead early the
next morning, before hastening on the southern journey.
Was this, thought the bewildered Malcolm as he fell asleep, the
godless atmosphere he had been used to think all that was not
Glenuskie or Coldingham--England above all?
Indeed, in the frosty twilight of the spring morning, though Henry
was now clad in his usual garb, sleeplessness, sorrow, and fasting
made him as wan and haggard as any ascetic monk; his eyes were
sunken, and his closed lips bore a stern fixed expression, which
scarcely softened even when the sacrificial rite struck the notes of
praise; and though a light came into his eye, it was rather the
devotion of one who had offered himself, than the gleam of hopeful
exultation. The horses stood saddled at the west door, for Henry was
feverishly eager to reach Pontefract, where he had left his queen,
and wished to avoid the delay of breaking his fast at York, but only
to snatch a meal at some country hostel on his way.
Round the horses, however, a crowd of the citizens were collected to
gaze; and two or three women with children in their arms made piteous
entreaties for the King's healing touch for their little ones. The
kind Henry waited, ungloved his hand, asked his treasurer for the
gold pieces that were a much-esteemed part of the cure, and signed to
his attendant chaplain to say the Collect appointed for the rite.
Fervent blessings were meantime murmured through the crowd, which
broke out into loud shouts of 'God save King Harry!' as he at length
leapt into the saddle; but at that moment, a feeble, withered old
man, leaning on a staff, and wearing a bedesman's gown, peered up,
and muttered to a comrade -
'Fair-faced, quotha--fair, maybe, but not long for this world! One
is gone already, and the rest will not be long after; the holy man's
words will have their way--the death mark is on him.'
The words caught James's ear, and he angrily turned round: 'Foul-
mouthed raven, peace with thy traitor croak!' but Bedford caught his
arm, crying -
'Hush! 'tis a mere bedesman;' and bending forward to pour a handful
of silver into the beggar's cap, he said, 'Pray, Gaffer, pray--pray
for the dead and living, both.'
'So,' said James, as both mounted, 'there's a fee for a boding
'I knew his face,' said Bedford, with a shudder; 'he belonged to
'A traitor, too,' said James.
'Nay, there was too much cause for his words. Never shall I forget
the day when Scrope was put to death on this very moor on which we
are entering. There sat my father on his horse, with us four boys
around him, when the old man passed in front of us, and looked at him
with a face pitiful and terrible. "Harry of Bolingbroke," he said,
"because thou hast done these things, therefore shall thy foes be of
thine own household; the sword shall never depart therefrom, but all
the increase of thy house shall die in the flower of their age, and
in the fourth generation shall their name be clean cut off." The
commons will have it that at that moment my father was struck with
leprosy; and struck to the heart assuredly he was, nor was he ever
the same man again. I always believed that those words made him
harder upon every prank of poor Hal's, till any son save Hal would
have become his foe! And see now, the old bedesman may be in the
right; poor pretty Blanche has long been in her grave, Thomas is with
her now, and Jamie,'--he lowered his voice,--'when men say that Harry
hath more of Alexander in him than there is in other men, it strikes
to my heart to think of the ring lying on the empty throne.'
'Now,' said James, 'what strikes ME is, what doleful bodings can come
into a brave man's head on a chill morning before he has broken his
fast. A tankard of hot ale will chase away omens, whether of bishop
'It may chase them from the mind, but will not make away with them,'
said John. 'But I might have known better than to speak to you of
such things--you who are well-nigh a Lollard in disbelief of all
'No Lollard am I,' said James. 'What Holy Church tells me, I believe
devoutly; but not in that which she bids me loathe as either craft of
devils or of men.'
'Ay, of which? There lies the question,' said John.
'Of men,' said the Scottish king; 'of men who have wit enough to lay
hold of the weaker side even of a sober youth such as Lord John of
Lancaster! Your proneness to believe in sayings and prophecies, in
sorceries and magic, is the weakest point of all of you.'
'And it is the weakest point in you, James, that you will not credit
upon proof, such proof as was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the
place of my father's death.'
'One such saying as that, fulfilled to the ear, though not in truth,
is made the plea for all this heart-sinking--ay, and what is worse,
for the durance of your father's widow as a witch, and of her brave
young son, because forsooth his name is Arthur of Richemont, and some
old Welsh rhymester hath whispered to Harry that Richmond shall come
out of Brittany, and be king of England.'
'Arthur is no worse off than any other captive of Agincourt,' said
Bedford; 'and I tell you, James, the day may come when you will rue
your want of heed to timely warnings.'
'Better rue once than pine under them all my life, and far better
than let them betray me into deeming some grewsome crime an act of
justice, as you may yet let them do,' said James.
Such converse passed between the two princes, while King Henry rode
in advance, for the most part silent, and only desirous of reaching
Pontefract Castle, where he had left the young wife whose presence he
longed for the more in his trouble. The afternoon set in with heavy
rain, but he would not halt, although he gave free permission to any
of his suite to do so; and James recommended Malcolm to remain, and
come on the next day with Brewster. The boy, however, disclaimed all
weariness, partly because bashfulness made him unwilling to venture
from under his royal kinsman's wing, and partly because he could not
bear to let the English suppose that a Scotsman and a Stewart could
be afraid of weather. As the rain became harder with the evening
twilight, silence sank upon the whole troop, and they went splashing
on through the deep lanes, in mud and mire, until the lights of
Pontefract Castle shimmered on high from its hill. The gates were
opened, the horses clattered in, torches came forth, flickering and
hissing in the darkness. The travellers went through what seemed to
Malcolm an interminable number of courts and gateways, and at length
flung themselves off their horses, when Henry, striding on, mounted
the steps, entered the building, and, turning the corner of a great
carved screen, he and his brother, with James and Malcolm, found
themselves in the midst of a blaze of cressets and tapers, which
lighted up the wainscoted part of the hall.
The whole scene was dazzling to eyes coming in from the dark, and
only after a moment or two could Malcolm perceive that, close to the
great fire, sat a party of four, playing at what he supposed to be
that French game with painted cards of which Patrick Drummond had
told him, and that the rest seemed to be in attendance upon them.
Dark eyed and haired, with a creamy ivory skin, and faultless form
and feature, the fair Catherine would have been unmistakable, save
that as Henry hurried forward, the lights glancing on his jaded face,
matted hair, and soaked dress, the first to spring forward to meet
him was a handsome young man, who wrung his hand, crying, 'Ah, Harry,
Harry, then 'tis too true!' while the lady made scarcely a step
forwards: no shade of colour tinged her delicate cheek; and though
she did not resist his fervent embrace, it was with a sort of recoil,
and all she was heard to say was, 'Eh, Messire, vos bottes sont
'You know all, Kate?' he asked, still holding her hand, and looking
afraid of inflicting a blow.
'The battle? Is it then so great a disaster?' and, seeing his amazed
glance, 'The poor Messire de Clarence! it was pity of him; he was a
'Ah, sweet, he held thee dear,' said Henry, catching at the crumb of
'But yes,' said Catherine, evidently perplexed by the strength of his
feeling, and repeating, 'He was a beau sieur courtois. But surely it
will not give the Armagnacs the advantage?'
'With Heaven's aid, no! But how fares it with poor Madge--his wife,
'She is away to her estates. She went this morn, and wished to have
taken with her the Demoiselle de Beaufort; but I forbade that--I
could not be left without one lady of the blood.'
'Alack, Joan--' and Henry was turning, but Catherine interrupted him.
'You have not spoken to Madame of Hainault, nor to the Duke of
Orleans. Nay, you are in no guise to speak to any one,' she added,
looking with repugnance at the splashes of mud that reached even to
'I will don a fresh doublet, sweetheart,' said Henry, more rebuked
than seemed fitting, 'and be ready to sup anon.'
'Supper! We supped long ago.'
'That may be; but we have ridden long since we snatched our meal,
that I might be with thee the sooner, my Kate.'
'That was not well in you, my Lord, to come in thus dishevelled,
steaming with wet--not like a king. You will be sick, my Lord.'
The little word of solicitude recalled his sweet tender smile of
gratitude. No fear, ma belle; sickness dares not touch me.'
'Then,' said the Queen, 'you will be served in your chamber, and we
will finish our game.'
Henry turned submissively away; but Bedford tarried an instant to
say, 'Fair sister, he is sore distressed. It would comfort him to
have you with him. He has longed for you.'
Catherine opened her beautiful brown eyes in a stare of surprise and
reproof at the infraction of the rules of ceremony which she had
brought with her. John of Bedford had never seemed to her either
beau or courtois, and she looked unutterable things, to which he
replied by an elevation of his marked eyebrows.
She sat down to her game, utterly ignoring the other princes in their
weather-beaten condition; and they were forced to follow the King,
and make their way to their several chambers, for Queen Catherine's
will was law in matters of etiquette.
'The proud peat! She is jealous of every word Harry speaks--even to
his cousin,' muttered James, as he reached his own room. 'You saw
her, though,--you saw her!' he added, smiling, as he laid his hand on
The boy coloured like a poppy, and answered awkwardly enough, 'The
Lady Joan, Sir?'
'Who but the Lady Joan, thou silly lad? How say'st thou? Will not
Scotland forget in the sight of that fair face all those fule
phantasies--the only folly I heard at Glenuskie?'
'Methinks,' said Malcolm, looking down in sheer awkwardness, 'it were
easier to bow to her than to King Harry's dame. She hath more of
'Humph!' said James, 'dost so serve thy courtly 'prenticeship? Nay,
but in a sort I see thy meaning. The royal blood of England shows
itself to one who hath an eye for princeliness of nature.'
'Nay,' said Malcolm, gratified, 'those dark eyes and swart locks--'
'Dark eyes--swart locks!' interrupted the King. 'His wits have gone
'Indeed, Sir!' exclaimed Malcolm, 'I thought you meant the lady who
stood by the Queen's table, with the grand turn of the neck and the
white wimple and veil.'
'Pshaw!' said James; 'the foolish callant! he hath taken that great
brown Luxemburg nun of Dame Jac's for the Rose of Somerset.'
However, James, seeing how confounded the boy was by this momentary
displeasure, explained to him who the other persons he had seen were-
-Jaqueline, the runaway Countess of Hainault in her own right, and
Duchess of Brabant by marriage; Humfrey, duke of Gloucester, the
King's young, brilliant brother; the grave, melancholy Duke of
Orleans, who had been taken captive at Agincourt, and was at present
quartered at Pontefract; the handsome, but stout and heavy-looking
Earl of March; brave Lord Warwick; Sir Lewis Robsart, the old knight
to whose charge the Queen had been specially committed from the
moment of her betrothal; and a young, bold, gay-looking lad, of
Malcolm's own age, but far taller and stouter, and with a merry,
half-defiant, half-insouciant air, who had greatly taken his fancy,
was, he was told, Ralf Percy, the second son of Sir Harry Percy.
'Of him they called Hotspur?--who was taken captive at Otterburn, who
died a rebel!' exclaimed Malcolm.
'Ay,' said James; 'but King Harry had learnt the art of war as a boy,
first under Hotspur, in Wales; nor doth he love that northern fashion
of ours of keeping up feud from generation to generation. So hath he
restored the eldest son to his barony, and set him to watch our
Borders; and the younger, Ralf, he is training in his own school of
More wonders for Malcolm Stewart, who had learnt to believe it mere
dishonour and tameness to forgive the son for his father's deeds. A
cloistered priest could hardly do so: pardon to a hostile family
came only with the last mortal throe; and here was this warlike king
forgiving as a mere matter of course!
'But,' added James, 'you had best not speak of your bent conventwards
in the Court here. I should not like to have you called the
Malcolm crimsoned, with the resolution never to betray himself.
CHAPTER V: WHITTINGTON S FEAST
The next day the royal train set forth from Pontefract, and ere
mounting, James presented his young kinsman to the true Joan
Beaufort--fair-haired, soft-featured, blue-eyed, and with a lovely
air of graciousness, as she greeted him with a sweet, blushing, sunny
smile, half that of the queen in anticipation, half that of the
kindly maiden wishing to set a stranger at ease. So beautiful was
she, that Malcolm felt annihilated at the thought of his blunder of
As they rode on, James was entirely occupied with the lady, and
Malcolm was a good deal left to himself; for, though the party was
numerous, he knew no one except the Duke of Bedford, who was riding
with the King and Lord Warwick, in deep consultation, while Sir Nigel
Baird, Lord Marmion, and the rest were in the rear. He fell into a
mood of depression such as had not come upon him since he passed the
border, thinking himself despised by all for being ill-favoured and
ill-dressed, and chafing, above all, at the gay contempt he fancied
in young Ralf Percy's eye. He became constantly more discontented
with this noisy turmoil, and more resolved to insist on returning to
the peaceful cloister where alone he could hide his head and be at
The troop halted for what they called their noon meat at the abode of
a hospitable Yorkshire knight; but King Henry, in order that the good
gentleman's means should not be overtasked, had given directions that
only the ladies and the princes should enter the house, while the
rest of the suite should take their meal at the village inn.
King James, in attending to Joan, had entirely forgotten his cousin;
and Malcolm, doubtful and diffident, was looking hesitatingly at the
gateway, when Ralf Percy called out, 'Ha! you there, this is our way.
That is only for the royal folk; but there's good sack and better
sport down here! I'll show you the way,' he added, good-naturedly,
softened, as most were, by the startled, wistful, timid look.
Malcolm, ashamed to say he was royal, but surprised at the patronage,
was gratefully following, when old Bairdsbrae indignantly laid his
hand on the rein. 'Not so, Sir; this is no place for you!'
'Let me alone!' entreated Malcolm, as he saw Percy's amazed look and
whistle of scorn. 'They don't want me.'
'You will never have your place if you do not take it,' said the old
gentleman; and leading the trembling, shrinking boy up to the door,
he continued, 'For the honour of Scotland, Sir!' and then announcing
Malcolm by his rank and title, he almost thrust him in.
Fancying he detected a laugh on Ralf Percy's face, and a sneer on
that of the stout English porter, Malcolm felt doubly wretched as he
was ushered into the hall and the buzz of talk and the confusion made
by the attendance of the worthy knight and his many sons, one of
whom, waiting with better will than skill, had nearly run down the
shy limping Scotsman, who looked wildly for refuge at some table. In
his height of distress, a kindly gesture of invitation beckoned to
him, and he found himself seated and addressed, first in French, and
then in careful foreign English, by the same lady whom he had
yesterday taken for Joan of Somerset, namely, Esclairmonde de
He was too much confused to look up till the piece of pasty and the
wine with which the lady had caused him to be supplied were almost
consumed, and it was not till she had made some observations on the
journey that he became at ease enough to hazard any sort of answer,
and then it was in his sweet low Scottish voice, with that
irresistibly attractive look of shy wistful gratitude in his great
soft brown eyes, while his un-English accent caused her to say, 'I am
a stranger here, like yourself, my Lord;' and at the same moment he
first raised his eyes to behold what seemed to him perfect beauty and
dignity, an oval face, richly-tinted olive complexion, dark pensive
eyes, a sweet grave mouth smiling with encouraging kindness, and a
lofty brow that gave the whole face a magnificent air, not so much
stately as above and beyond this world. It might have befitted St.
Barbara or St. Katherine, the great intellectual virgin visions of
purity and holiness of the middle ages; but the kindness of the smile
went to Malcolm's heart, and emboldened him to answer in his best
French, 'You are from Holland, lady?'
'Not from the fens,' she answered. 'My home lies in the borders of
the forest of Ardennes.'
And then they found that they understood each other best when she
spoke French, and Malcolm English, or rather Scotch; and their
acquaintance made so much progress, that when the signal was again
given to mount, the Lady Esclairmonde permitted Malcolm to assist her
to her saddle; and as he rode beside her he felt pleased with
himself, and as if Ralf Percy were welcome to look at him now.
On Esclairmonde's other hand there rode a small, slight girl, whom
Malcolm took for quite a child, and paid no attention to; but
presently old Sir Lewis Robsart rode back with a message that my Lady
of Westmoreland wished to know where the Lady Alice Montagu was. A
gentle, timid voice answered, 'O Sir, I am well here with Lady
Esclairmonde. Pray tell my good lady so.'
And therewith Sir Lewis smiled, and said, 'You could scarcely be in
better hands, fair damsel,' and rode back again; while Alice was
still entreating, 'May I stay with you, dear lady? It is all so
strange and new!'
Esclairmonde smiled, and said, 'You make me at home here,
Mademoiselle. It is I who am the stranger!'
'Ah! but you have been in Courts before. I never lived anywhere but
at Middleham Castle till they fetched me away to meet the Queen.'
For the gentle little maiden, a slender, fair-haired, childish-faced
creature, in her sixteenth year, was the motherless child and heiress
of the stout Earl of Salisbury, the last of the Montacutes, or
Montagues, who was at present fighting the King's battles in France,
but had sent his commands that she should be brought to Court, in
preparation for fulfilling the long-arranged contract between her and
Sir Richard Nevil, one of the twenty-two children of the Earl of
She was under the charge of the Countess--a stately dame, with all
the Beaufort pride; and much afraid of her she was, as everything
that was shy or forlorn seemed to turn towards the maiden whose
countenance not only promised kindness but protection.
Presently the cavalcade passed a gray building in the midst of green
fields and orchards, where, under the trees, some black-veiled
figures sat spinning.
'A nunnery!' quoth Esclairmonde, looking eagerly after it as she rode
'A nunnery!' said Malcolm, encouraged into the simple confidingness
of a young boy. 'How unlike the one where my sister is! Not a tree
is near it; it is perched upon a wild crag overhanging the angry sea,
and the winds roar, and the gulls and eagles scream, and the waves
thunder round it!'
'Yet it is not the less a haven of peace,' replied Esclairmonde.
'Verily,' said Malcolm, 'one knows what peace is under that cloister,
where all is calm while the winds rave without.'
'You know how to love a cloister,' said the lady, as she heard his
soft, sad tones.
'I had promised myself to make my home in one,' said Malcolm; 'but my
King will have me make trial of the world first. And so please you,'
he added, recollecting himself, 'he forbade me to make my purpose
known; so pray, lady, be so good as to forget what I have said.'
'I will be silent,' said Esclairmonde; 'but I will not forget, for I
look on you as one like myself, my young lord. I too am dedicated,
and only longing to reach my cloistered haven.'
She spoke it out with the ease of those days when the monastic was as
recognized a profession as any other calling, and yet with something
of the desire to make it evident on what ground she stood.
Lady Alice uttered an exclamation of surprise.
'Yes,' said Esclairmonde, 'I was dedicated his my infancy, and
promised myself in the nunnery at Dijon when I was seven years old.'
Then, as if to turn the conversation from herself, she asked of
Malcolm if he too had made any vow.
'Only to myself,' said Malcolm. 'Neither my Tutor nor the Prior of
Coldingham would hear my vows.' And he was soon drawn into telling
his whole story, to which the ladies both listened with great
interest and kindness, Esclairmonde commending his resolution to
leave the care of his lands and vassals to one whom he represented as
so much better fitted to bear them as Patrick Drummond, and only
regretting the silence King James had enjoined, saying she felt that
there was safety and protection in being avowed as a destined
'And you are one,' said Lady Alice, looking at her in wonder. 'And
yet you are with THAT lady--' And the girl's innocent face expressed
a certain wonder and disgust that no one could marvel at who had
heard the Flemish Countess talk in the loudest, broadest, most
'She has been my very good lady,' said Esclairmonde; 'she has, under
the saints, saved me from much.'
'Oh, I entreat you, tell us, dear lady!' entreated Alice. It was not
a reticent age. Malcolm Stewart had already avowed himself in his
own estimation pledged to a monastic life, and Esclairmonde of
Luxemburg had reasons for wishing her position and intentions to be
distinctly understood by all with whom she came in contact; moreover,
there was a certain congeniality in both her companions, their
innocence and simplicity, that drew out confidence, and impelled her
to defend her lady.
'My poor Countess,' she said, 'she has been sorely used, and has
suffered much. It is a piteous thing when our little imperial fiefs
go to the spindle side!'
'What are her lands?' asked Malcolm.
'Hainault, Holland, and Zealand,' replied the lady. 'Her father was
Count of Hainault, her mother the sister of the last Duke of
Burgundy--him that was slain on the bridge of Montereau. She was
married as a mere babe to the Duke of Touraine, who was for a brief
time Dauphin, but he died ere she was sixteen, and her father died at
the same time. Some say they both were poisoned. The saints forfend
it should be true; but thus it was my poor Countess was left
desolate, and her uncle, the Bishop of Liege--Jean Sans Pitie, as
they call him--claimed her inheritance. You should have seen how
undaunted she was!'
'Were you with her then?' asked Alice Montagu.
'Yes. I had been taken from our convent at Dijon, when my dear
brothers, to whom Heaven be merciful! died at Azincourt. My oncles a
la mode de Bretagne--how call you it in English?'
'Welsh uncles,' said Alice.
'They are the Count de St. Pol and the Bishop of Therouenne. They
came to Dijon. In another month I should have been seventeen, and
been admitted as a novice; but, alack! there were all the lands that
came through my grandmother, in Holland and in Flanders, all falling
to me, and Monseigneur of Therouenne, like almost all secular clergy,
cannot endure the religious orders, and would not hear of my becoming
a Sister. They took me away, and the Bishop declared my dedication
null, and they would have bestowed me in marriage at once, I believe,
if Heaven had not aided me, and they could not agree on the person.
And then my dear Countess promised me that she would never let me be
given without my free will.'
'Then,' said Alice, 'the Bishop did cancel your dedication?'
'Yes,' said Esclairmonde; 'but none can cancel the dedication of my
heart. So said the holy man at Zwoll.'
'How, lady?' anxiously inquired Malcolm; 'has not a bishop power to
bind and unloose?'
'Yea,' said Esclairmonde, 'such power that if my childish promise had
been made without purpose or conscience thereof, or indeed if my will
were not with it, it would bind me no more, there were no sin in
wedlock for me, no broken vow. But my own conscience of my vow, and
my sense that I belong to my Heavenly Spouse, proved, he said, that
it was not my duty to give myself to another, and that whereas none
have a parent's right over me, if I have indeed chosen the better
part, He to whom I have promised myself will not let it be taken from
me, though I might have to bear much for His sake. And when I said
in presumption that such would lie light on me, he bade me speak less
and pray more, for I knew not the cost.'
'He must have been a very holy man,' said Alice, 'and strict withal.
Who was he?'
'One Father Thomas, a Canon Regular of the chapter of St. Agnes, a
very saint, who spends his life in copying and illuminating the Holy
Scripture, and in writing holy thoughts that verily seem to have been
breathed into him by special inspiration of God. It was a sermon of
his in Lent, upon chastening and perplexity, that I heard when first
I was snatched from Dijon, that made me never rest till I had
obtained his ghostly counsel. If I never meet him again, I shall
thank Heaven for those months at Zwoll all my life--ere the Duke of
Burgundy made my Countess resign Holland for twelve years to her
uncle, and we left the place. Then, well-nigh against her will, they
forced her into a marriage with the Duke of Brabant, though he be her
first cousin, her godson, and a mere rude boy. I cannot tell you how
evil were the days we often had then. If he had been left to
himself, Madame might have guided him; but ill men came about him;
they maddened him with wine and beer; they excited him to show that
he feared her not; he struck her, and more than once almost put her
in danger of her life. Then, too, his mother married the Bishop of
Liege, her enemy -
'He had never been consecrated, and had a dispensation. That
marriage deprived my poor lady of even her mother's help. All were
against her then; and for me too it went ill, for the Duke of
Burgundy insisted on my being given to a half-brother of his, one
they call Sir Boemond of Burgundy--a hard man of blood and revelry.
The Duke of Brabant was all for him, and so was the Duchess-mother;
and though my uncles would not have chosen him, yet they durst not
withstand the Duke of Burgundy. I tried to appeal to the Emperor
Sigismund, the head of our house, but I know not if he ever heard of
my petition. I was in an exceeding strait, and had only one trust,
namely, that Father Thomas had told me that the more I threw myself
upon God, the more He would save me from man. But oh! they seemed
all closing in on me, and I knew that Sir Boemond had sworn that I
should pay heavily for my resistance. Then one night my Countess
came to me. She showed me the bruises her lord had left on her arms,
and told me that he was about to banish all of us, her ladies, into
Holland, and to keep her alone to bear his fury, and she was resolved
to escape, and would I come with her? It seemed to me the message of
deliverance. Her nurse brought us peasant dresses, high stiff caps,
black boddices, petticoats of many colours, and therein we dressed
ourselves, and stole out, ere dawn, to a church, where we knelt till
the Sieur d'Escaillon--the gentleman who attends Madame still--drove
up in a farmer's garb, with a market cart, and so forth from Bruges
we drove. We cause to Valenciennes, to her mother; but we found that
she, by persuasion of the Duke, would give us both up; so the Sieur
d'Escaillon got together sixty lances, and therewith we rode to
Calais, where never were weary travellers more courteously received
than we by Lord Northumberland, the captain of Calais.'
'Oh, I am glad you came to us English!' cried Alice. 'Only I would
it had been my father who welcomed you. And now?'
'Now I remain with my lady, as the only demoiselle she has from her
country; and, moreover, I am waiting in the trust that my kinsmen
will give up their purpose of bestowing me in marriage, now that I am
beyond their reach; and in time I hope to obtain sufficient of my own
goods for a dowry for whatever convent I may enter.'
'Oh, let it be an English one!' cried Alice.
'I have learnt to breathe freer since I have been on English soil,'
said Esclairmonde, smiling; 'but where I may rest at last, Heaven
'This is a strange country,' said Malcolm. 'No one seems afraid of
violence and wrong here.'
'Is that so strange?' asked Alice, amazed. 'Why, men would be hanged
if they did violence!'
'I would we were as sure of justice at my home,' sighed Esclairmonde.
'King Henry will bring about a better rule.'
'Never doubt,' cried Salisbury's daughter. 'When France is once
subdued, there will be no more trouble, he will make your kinsmen do
you right, dear demoiselle, and oh! will you not found a beauteous
'King Henry has not conquered France yet,' was all Esclairmonde said.
'Ha!' cried the buxom Countess Jaqueline, as the ladies dismounted,
'never speak to me more, our solemn sister. When have I done worse
than lure a young cavalier, and chain him all day with my tongue?'
'He is a gentle boy!' said Esclairmonde, smiling.
'Truly he looked like a calf turned loose among strange cattle! How
gat he into the hall?'
'He is of royal Scottish blood,' said Esclairmonde 'cousin-german to
'And our grave nun has a fancy to tame the wild Scots, like a second
St. Margaret! A king's grandson! fie, fie! what, become ambitious,
Clairette? Eh? you were so occupied, that I should have been left to
no one but Monseigneur of Gloucester, but that I was discreet, and
rode with my Lord Bishop of Winchester. How he chafed! but I know
better than to have tete-a-tetes with young sprigs of the blood
Esclairmonde laughed good-humouredly, partly in courtesy to her
hoyden mistress, but partly at the burning, blushing indignation she
beheld in the artless face of Alice Montagu.
The girl was as shy as a fawn, frightened at every word from knight
or lady, and much in awe of her future mother-in-law, a stiff and
stately dame, with all the Beaufort haughtiness; so that Lady
Westmoreland gladly and graciously consented to the offer of the
Demoiselle de Luxemburg to attend to the little maiden, and let her
share her chamber and her bed. And indeed Alice Montagu, bred up in
strictness and in both piety and learning, as was sometimes the case
with the daughters of the nobility, had in all her simplicity and
bashfulness a purity and depth that made her a congenial spirit with
the grave votaress, whom she regarded on her side with a young girl's
enthusiastic admiration for a grown woman, although in point of fact
the years between them were few.
The other ladies of the Court were a little in awe of the Demoiselle
de Luxemburg, and did not seek her when they wished to indulge in the
gossip whose malice and coarseness she kept in check; but if they
were anxious, or in trouble, they always came to her as their natural
consoler; and the Countess Jaqueline, bold and hoydenish as she was,
kept the license of her tongue and manners under some shadow of
restraint before her, and though sometimes bantering her, often
neglecting her counsel, evidently felt her attendance a sort of
safeguard and protection.
The gentlemen were mostly of the opinion of the Duke of Gloucester,
who said that the Lady Esclairmonde was so like Deborah, come out of
a Mystery, that it seemed to be always Passion-tide where she was;
and she, moreover, was always guarded in her manner towards them,
keeping her vocation in the recollection of all by her gravely and
coldly courteous demeanour, and the sober hues and fashion of her
dress; but being aware of Malcolm's destination, perceiving his
loneliness, and really attracted by his pensive gentleness, she
admitted him to far more friendly intercourse than any other young
noble, while he revered and clung to her much as Lady Alice did, as
protector and friend.
King James was indeed so much absorbed in his own lady-love as to
have little attention to bestow on his young cousin, and he knew,
moreover, that to be left to such womanly training as ladies were
bound to bestow on young squires and pages was the best treatment for
the youth, who was really thriving and growing happier every day, as
he lost his awkwardness and acquired a freedom and self-confidence
such as he could never have imagined possible in his original brow-
beaten state, though without losing the gentle modesty and refinement
that gave him such a charm.
A great sorrow awaited him, however, at Leicester, where Easter was
to be spent. A messenger came from Durham, bringing letters from
Coldingham to announce the death of good Sir David Drummond, which
had taken place two days after Malcolm had left him, all but the
youth himself having well known that his state was hopeless.
In his grief, Malcolm found his chief comforter in Esclairmonde, who
kindly listened when he talked of the happy old times at Glenuskie,
and of the kindness and piety of his guardian; while she lifted his
mind to dwell on the company of the saints; and when he knew that her
thoughts went, like his, to his fatherly friend in the solemn
services connected with the departed, he was no longer desolate, and
there was almost a sweetness in the grief of which his fair saint had
taken up a part. She showed him likewise some vellum pages on which
her ghostly father, the Canon of St. Agnes, had written certain
dialogues between the Divine Master and His disciple, which seemed
indeed to have been whispered by heavenly inspiration, and which
soothed and hallowed his mourning for the guide and protector of his
youth. He loved to dwell on her very name, Esclairmonde--'light of
the world.' The taste of the day hung many a pun and conceit upon
names, and to Malcolm this--which had, in fact, been culled out of
romance--seemed meetly to express the pure radiance of consolation
and encouragement that seemed to him to shine from her, and brighten
the life that had hitherto been dull and gloomy--nay, even to give
him light and joy in the midst of his grief.
At that period Courts were not much burdened with etiquette. No
feudal monarch was more than the first gentleman, and there was no
rigid line of separation of ranks, especially where, as among the
kings of the Red Rose, the boundaries were so faint between the
princes and the nobility; and as Catherine of Valois was fond of
company, and indolently heedless of all that did not affect her own
dignity or ease, the whole Court, including some of the princely
captives, lived as one large family, meeting at morning Mass in
church or chapel, taking their meals in common, riding, hunting,
hawking, playing at bowls, tennis, or stool-ball, or any other
pastime, in such parties as suited their inclinations; and spending
the evening in the great hall, in conversation varied by chess, dice,
and cards, recitals of romance, and music, sometimes performed by the
choristers of the Royal chapel, or sometimes by the company
themselves, and often by one or other of the two kings, who were both
proficients as well with the voice as with the lute and organ.
Thus Malcolm had many opportunities of being with the Demoiselle of
Luxemburg: and almost a right was established, that when she sat in
the deep embrasure of a window with her spinning, he should be on the
cushioned step beneath; when she mounted, he held the stirrup; and
when the church bells were ringing, he led her by her fair fingers to
her place in the nave, and back again to the hall; and when the
manchet and rere supper were brought into the hall, he mixed her wine
and water, and held the silver basin and napkin to her on bended
knee, and had become her recognized cavalier. He was really
thriving. Even the high-spirited son of Hotspur could not help
loving and protecting him.
'Have a care,' said Ralf to a lad of ruder mould; 'I'll no more see
that lame young Scot maltreated than a girl.'
'He is no better than a girl,' growled his comrade; 'my little
brother Dick would be more than a match for him!'
'I wot not that,' said Percy; 'there's a drop of life and spirit at
the bottom; and for the rest, when he looks up with those eyes of
his, and smiles his smile, it is somehow as if it were beneath a man
to vex him wilfully. And he sees so much meaning in everything, too,
that it is a dozen times better sport to hear him talk than one of
you fellows, who have only wit enough to know a hawk from a heron-
After a grave Easter-tide spent at Leicester, the Court moved to
Westminster, where Henry had to meet his parliament, and obtain
supplies for the campaign which was to revenge the death of Clarence.
There was no great increase of gaiety even here, for Henry was
extremely occupied, both with regulating matters for government
during his absence, and in training the troops who began to flock to
his standard; so that the Queen complained that his presence in
England was of little service to her, since he never had any leisure,
and there were no pastimes.
'Well, Dame,' said Henry, gaily, 'there is one revel for you. I have
promised to knight the Lord Mayor, honest Whittington, and I hear he
is preparing a notable banquet in the Guild Hall.'
'A city mayor!' exclaimed Queen Catherine, with ineffable disgust.
'My brothers would sooner cut off his roturier head than dub him
'Belike,' said Henry, dryly; 'but what kind of friends have thy
brothers found at Paris? Moreover, this Whittington may content thee
as to blood. Rougedragon hath been unfolding to me his lineage of a
good house in Gloucestershire.'
'More shame that he should soil his hands with trade!' said the
'See what you say when he has cased those fair hands in Spanish
gloves. You ladies should know better than to fall out with a
'Ah!' said Duke Humfrey, 'they never saw the silks and samites
wherewith he fitted out my sister Philippa for the Swedes! Lucky the
bride whose wardrobe is purveyed by honest Dick!'
'Is it not honour enough for the mechanical hinds that we wear their
stuffs,' said Countess Jaqueline, 'without demeaning ourselves to eat
at their boards? The outrecuidance of the rogues in the Netherlands
would be surpassing, did we feed it in that sort.'
''Tis you that will be fed, Dame Jac,' laughed Henry. 'I can tell
you, their sack and their pasties, their march-pane and blanc-manger,
far exceed aught that a poor soldier can set before you.'
'Moreover,' observed Humfrey, 'the ladies ought to see the romaunt of
the Cat complete.'
'How!' cried Jaqueline, 'is it, then, true that this Vittentone is
the miller's son whose cat wore boots and made his fortune?'
'I have heard my aunt of Orleans divert my father with that story,'
murmured Catherine. 'How went the tale? I thought it folly, and
marked it not. What became of the cat?'
'The cat desired to test his master's gratitude, so tells
Straparola,' said the Duke of Orleans, in his dry satirical tone;
'and whereas he had been wont to promise his benefactor a golden
coffin and state funeral, Puss feigned death, and thereby heard the
lady inform her husband that the old cat was dead. "A la bonne
heure!" said the Marquis. "Take him by the tail, and fling him on
the muck-heap beneath the window!"'
'Thereof I acquit Whittington, who never was thankless to man or
brute,' said King Henry. 'Moreover, his cat, or her grandchildren,
must be now in high preferment at the King of Barbary's Court.'
'A marvellous beast is that cat,' said James. 'When I was a child in
Scotland, we used to tell the story of her exchange for a freight of
gold and spices, only the ship sailed from Denmark,'
'Maybe,' said Henry; 'but I would maintain the truth of Whittington's
cat with my lance, and would gladly have no worse cause! You'll see
his cat painted beside him in the Guild Hall, and may hear the tale
from him, as I loved to hear him when I was a lad.
"Turn again, Whittington,
Thrice Lord Mayor of London town!"
I told my good old friend I must have come over from France on
purpose to keep his third mayoralty. So I am for the City on
Thursday; and whoever loves good wine, good sturgeon, good gold, or
good men, had best come with me.'
Such inducements were not to be neglected, and though Queen Catherine
minced and bridled, and apologized to Duchess Jaqueline for her
husband's taste for low company, neither princess wished to forego
the chance of amusement; and a brilliant cavalcade set forth in full
order of precedence. The King and Queen were first; then, to his
great disgust, the King of Scots, with Duchess Jaqueline; Bedford,
with Lady Somerset; Gloucester, with the Countess of March; the Duke
of Orleans, with the Countess of Exeter; and Malcolm of Glenuskie
found himself paired off with his sovereign's lady-love, Joan
Beaufort, and a good deal overawed by the tall horned tower that
crowned her flaxen locks, as well as by knowing that her uncle, the
Bishop of Winchester, the stateliest, stiffest, and most
unapproachable person in all the Court, was riding just behind him,
beside the Demoiselle de Luxemburg.
Temple Bar was closed, and there was a flourish of trumpets and a
parley ere the gate was flung open to admit the royal guests; but
Malcolm, in his place, could not see the aldermen on horseback, in
their robes of scarlet and white, drawn up to receive the King. All
that way up Holborn, every house was hung with tapestry, and the
citizens formed a gorgeously-apparelled lane, shouting in unison,
their greetings attuned to bursts of music from trumpets and nakers.
Beautiful old St. Paul's, with the exquisite cross for open-air
preaching in front, rose on their view; and before the lofty west
door the princely guests dismounted, each gentleman leading his lady
up the nave to the seat prepared in such manner that he might be
opposite to her. The clergy lined the stalls, and a magnificent mass
was sung, and was concluded by the advance of the King to the altar
step, followed by a fine old man in scarlet robes bordered with white
fur, the collar of SS. round his neck, and his silvery hair and lofty
brow crowning a face as sagacious as it was dignified and benevolent.
It seemed a reversal of the ordinary ceremonial when the slender
agile young man took in hand the sword, and laid the honour of
knighthood on the gray-headed substantial senior, whom he bade to
arise Sir Richard Whittington. Jaqueline of Hainault had the bad
taste to glance across to Humfrey and titter, but the Duke valued
popularity among the citizens, and would not catch her eye; and in
the line behind the royal ladies there was a sweet elderly face,
beautiful, though time-worn, with blue eyes misty with proud glad
tears, and a mouth trembling with tender exultation.
After the ceremony was concluded, King Henry offered his hand to the
Lady Mayoress, Dame Alice Whittington, making her bright tears drop
in glad confusion at his frank, hearty congratulation and warm praise
of her husband; and though the fair Catherine could have shuddered
when Sir Richard advanced to lead her, she was too royal to
compromise her dignity by visible scorn, and she soon found that the
merchant could speak much better French than most of the nobles.
Malcolm felt as averse as did the French princesses to burgher wealth
and splendour, and his mind had not opened to understand burgher
worth and weight; and when he saw the princes John and Humfrey, and
even his own king, seeking out city dames and accosting them with
friendly looks, it seemed to him a degrading truckling to riches,
from which he was anxious to save his future queen; but when he would
have offered his arm to Lady Joan, he saw her already being led away
by an alderman measuring at least a yard across the shoulders; and
the good-natured Earl of March, seeing him at a loss, presented him
to a round merry wife in a scarlet petticoat and black boddice, its
plump curves wreathed with geld chains, who began pitying him for
having been sent to the wars so young, being, as usual, charmed into
pity by his soft appealing eyes and unconscious grace; would not
believe his assertions that he was neither a captive nor a
Frenchman;--'don't tell her, when he spoke like a stranger, and
halted from a wound.'
Colouring to the ears, he explained that he had never walked
otherwise; whereupon her pity redoubled, and she by turns advised him
to consult Master Doctor Caius, and to obtain a recipe from Mistress-
-she meant Dame--Alice Whittington, the kindest soul living, and,
Lady Mayoress as she was, with no more pride than the meanest
scullion. Pity she had no child--yet scarce pity either, since she
and the good Lord Mayor were father and mother to all orphans and
destitute--nay, to all who had any care on their minds.
Malcolm was in extreme alarm lest he should be walked up to the Lady
Mayoress for inspection before all the world when they entered the
Guild Hall, a building of grand proportions, which, as good Mistress
Bolt informed him, had lately been paved and glazed at Sir Richard
Whittington's own expense. The bright new red and yellow tiles, and
the stained glass of the tall windows high up, as well as the panels
of the wainscot, were embellished with trade-marks and the armorial
bearings of the guilds; and the long tables, hung with snowy napery,
groaned with gold and silver plate, such as, the Duke of Orleans
observed to Catherine, no citizens would dare exhibit in France to
any prince or noble, at peril of being mulcted of all, with or
On an open hearth beneath the louvre, or opening for smoke, burnt a
fire diffusing all around an incense-like fragrance, from the logs,
composed of cinnamon and other choice woods and spices, that fed the
flame. The odour and the warmth on a bleak day of May were alike
delicious; and King Henry, after heading Dame Alice up to it, stood
warming his hands and extolling the choice scent, adding: 'You spoil
us, Sir Richard. How are we to go back to the smoke of wood and
peat, and fires puffed with our own mouths, after such pampering as
this--the costliest fire I have seen in the two realms?'
'It shall be choicer yet, Sir,' said Sir Richard Whittington, who had
just handed the Queen to her seat.
'Scarce possible,' replied Henry, 'unless I threw in my crown, and
that I cannot afford. I shall be pawning it ere long.'
Instead of answering, the Lord Mayor quietly put his hand into his
furred pouch, and drawing out a bundle of parchments tied with a
ribbon, held them towards the King, with a grave smile.
'Lo you now, Sir Richard,' said Henry, with a playful face of
disgust; 'this is to save your dainty meats, by spoiling my appetite
by that unwelcome sight. What, man! have you bought up all the bonds
I gave in my need to a whole synagogue of Jews and bench of Loin-
bards? I shall have to send for my crown before you let me go;
though verily,' he added, with frank, open face, 'I'm better off with
a good friend like you for my creditor--only I'm sorry for you, Sir
Richard. I fear it will be long ere you see your good gold in the
stead of your dirty paper, even though I gave you an order on the
tolls. How now! What, man, Dick Whittington! Art raving? Here,
For Sir Richard, gently smiling, had placed the bundle of bonds on
the glowing bed of embers.
Henry, even while calling for the tongs, was raking them out with his
sword, and would have grasped them in his hand in a moment, but the
Lord Mayor caught his arm.
'Pardon, my lord, and grant your new knight's boon.'
'When he is not moon-struck!' said Henry, still guarding the
documents. 'Why, my Lady Mayoress, know you what is here?'
'Sixty thousand, my liege,' composedly answered Dame Alice. 'My
husband hath his whims, and I pray your Grace not to hinder what he
hath so long been preparing.'
'Yea, Sir,' added Whittington, earnestly. 'You wot that God hath
prospered us richly. We have no child, and our nephews are well
endowed. How, then, can our goods belong to any save God, our king,
and the poor?'
Henry drew one hand over his eyes, and with the other wrung that of
Whittington. 'Had ever king such a subject?' he murmured.
'Had ever subject such a king?' was Whittington's return.
'Thou hast conquered, Whittington,' said the King, presently looking
up with a sunny smile. 'To send me over the seas a free man,
beholden to you in heart though not by purse, is, as I well believe,
worth all that sum to thy loyal heart. Thou art setting me far on my
way to Jerusalem, my dear friend! Thank him, Kate--he hath done much
for thine husband!'
Catherine looked amiable, and held out a white hand to be kissed,
aware that the King was pleased, though hardly understanding why he
should be glad that an odour of singed parchment should overpower the
gums and cinnamon. This was soon remedied by the fresh handful of
spices that were cast into the flame, and the banquet began,
magnificent with peacocks, cranes, and swans in full plumage; the
tusky bear crunched his apple, deer's antlers adorned the haunch, the
royal sturgeon floated in wine, fountains of perfumed waters sprang
up from shells, towers of pastry and of jelly presented the endless
allegorical devices of mediaeval fancy, and, pre-eminent over all, a
figure of the cat, with emerald eyes, fulfilled, as Henry said, the
proverb, 'A cat might look at a king;' and truly the cat and her
master had earned the right; therefore his first toast was, 'To the
Each guest found at his or her place a beautiful fragrant pair of
gloves, in Spanish leather, on the back of which was once more
embroidered, in all her tabby charms, the cat's face. Therewith
began a lengthy meal; and Malcolm Stewart rejoiced at finding himself
seated next to the Lady Esclairmonde, but he grudged her attention to
her companion, a slender, dark, thoughtful representative of the
Goldsmiths' Company, to whom she talked with courtesy such as Malcolm
had scorned to show his city dame.
'Who,' said Esclairmonde, presently, 'was a dame in a religious garb
whom I marked near the door here? She hooked like one of the
Beguines of my own country.'
'We have no such order here, lady,' said the goldsmiths, puzzled.
'Hey, Master Price,' cried Mistress Bolt, speaking across Malcolm, 'I
can tell the lady who it was. 'Twas good Sister Avice Rodney, to
whom the Lady Mayoress promised some of these curious cooling drinks
for the poor shipwright who hath well-nigh cloven off his own foot
with his axe.'
'Yea, truly,' returned the goldsmith; 'it must have been one of the
bedeswomen of St. Katharine's whom the lady has seen.'
'What order may that be?' asked Esclairmonde. 'I have seen nothing
so like my own country since I came hither.'
'That may well be, madam,' said Mistress Belt, 'seeing that these
bedeswomen were first instituted by a countrywoman of your own--Queen
Philippa, of blessed memory.'
'By your leave, Mistress Bolt,' interposed Master Price, 'the
hospital of St. Katharine by the Tower is of far older foundation.'
'By YOUR leave, sir, I know what I say. The hospital was founded I
know not when, but these bedeswomen were especially added by the good
Queen, by the same token that mine aunt Cis, who was tirewoman to the
blessed Lady Joan, was one of the first.'
'How was it? What is their office?' eagerly inquired Esclairmonde.
And Mistress Bolt arranged herself for a long discourse.
'Well, fair sirs and sweet lady, though you be younger than I, you
have surely heard of the Black Death. Well named was it, for never
was pestilence more dire; and the venom was so strong, that the very
lips and eyelids grew livid black, and then there was no hope.
Little thought of such disease was there, I trow, in kings' houses,
and all the fair young lords and ladies, the children of King Edward,
as then was, were full of sport and gamesomeness as you see these
dukes be now. And never a one was blither than the Lady Joan--she
they called Joan of the Tower, being a true Londoner born--bless her!
My aunt Cis would talk by the hour of her pretty ways and kindly
mirth. But 'twas even as the children have the game in the streets -
"There come three knights all out of Spain,
Are come to fetch your daughter Jane."
'Twas for the King of Castille, that same Peter for whom the Black
Prince of Wales fought, and of whom such grewsome tales were told.
The pretty princess might almost have had a boding what sort of
husband they had for her, for she begged and prayed, even on her
knees, that her father would leave her; but her sisters were all
espoused, and there was no help for it. But, as one comfort to her,
my aunt Cis, who had been about her from her cradle, was to go with
her; and oft she would tell of the long journey in litters through
France, and how welcome were the English tongues they heard again at
Bordeaux, and how when poor Lady Joan saw her brother, the Prince,
she clung about his neck and sobbed, and how he soothed her, and said
she would soon laugh at her own unwillingness to go to her husband.
But even then the Black Death was in Bordeaux, and being low and
mournful at heart, the sweet maid contracted it, and lay down to die
ere she had made two days' journey, and her last words were, "My God
hath shown me more pity than father or brother;" and so she died like
a lamb, and mine aunt was sent by the Prince to bear home the tidings
to the good Queen, who was a woeful woman. And therewith, here was
the pestilence in London, raging among the poor creatures that lived
in the wharves and on the river bank, in damp and filth, so that
whole households lay dead at once, and the contagion, gathering
force, spread into the city, and even to the nobles and their ladies.
Then my good aunt, having some knowledge of the sickness already, and
being without fear, went among the sick, and by her care, and the
food, wine, and clothing she brought, saved a many lives. And from
whom should the bounties come, save from the good Queen, who ever had
a great pity for those touched like her own fair child? Moreover,
when she heard from my aunt how the poor things lived in uncleanness
and filth, and how, what with many being strangers coming by sea, and
others being serfs fled from home, they were a nameless, masterless
sort, who knew not where to seek a parish priest, and whom the friars
shunned for their poverty, she devised a fresh foundation to be added
to the hospital of St. Katharine's in the Docks, providing for a
chapter of ten bedeswomen, gentle and well-nurtured, who should both
sing in choir, and likewise go forth constantly among the poor, to
seek out the children, see that they learn their Credo, Ave, and
Pater Noster, bring the more toward to be further taught in St.
Katharine's school, and likewise to stir poor folk up to go to mass
and lead a godly life; to visit the sick, feed and tend them, and so
instruct them, that they may desire the Sacraments of the Church.'
'Ah! good Flemish Queen!' cried Esclairmonde. 'She learnt that of
'If your ladyship will have it so,' said Mrs. Bolt; 'but my aunt
'Who nominates these bedeswomen?' asked Esclairmonde.
'That does the Queen,' said Mistress Bolt. 'Not this young Queen, as
yet, for Queen Joan, the late King's widow, holds the hospital till
her death, unless it should be taken from her for her sorceries, from
which Heaven defend us!'
'Can it be visited?' said Esclairmonde. 'I feel much drawn thither,
as I ever did to the Beguines.'
'Ay, marry may it!' cried delighted Mrs. Bolt. 'I have more than one
gossip there, foreby Sister Avice, who was godchild to Aunt Cis; and
if the good lady would wish to see the hospital, I would bear her
company with all my heart.'
To Malcolm's disgust, Esclairmonde caught at the proposal, which the
Scottish haughtiness that lay under all his gentleness held somewhat
degrading to the cousin of the Emperor. He fell into a state of
gloom, which lasted till the loving-cup had gone round and been
partaken of in pairs.
After hands had been washed in rose-water, the royal party took their
seats in barges to return to Westminster by the broad and beautiful
highway of the Thames.
Here at once Alice Montagu nestled to Esclairmonde's side, delighted
with her cat gloves, and further delighted with an old captain of
trained bands, to whose lot she had fallen, and who, on finding that
she was the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, under whom he had
served, had launched forth by the hour into the praises of that brave
nobleman, both for his courage and his kindness to his troops.
'No wonder King Henry loves his citizens so well!' cried
Esclairmonde. 'Would that our Netherlandish princes and burghers
could take pride and pleasure in one another's wealth and prowess,
instead of grudging and fearing thereat!'
'To my mind,' said Malcolm, 'they were a forward generation. That
city dame will burst with pride, if you, lady, go with her to see
'I trust not,' laughed Esclairmonde, 'for I mean to try.'
'Nay, but,' said Malcolm, 'what should a mere matter of old rockers
and worn-out tirewomen concern a demoiselle of birth?'
'I honour them for doing their Master's work,' said Esclairmonde,
'and would fain be worthy to follow in their steps.'
'Surely,' said Malcolm, 'there are houses fit for persons of high and
princely birth to live apart from gross contact with the world.'
'There are,' said Esclairmonde; 'but I trust I may be pardoned for
saying that such often seem to me to play at humility when they
stickle for birth and dower with the haughtiest. I never honoured
any nuns so much as the humble Sisters of St. Begga, who never ask
for sixteen quarterings, but only for a tender hand, soft step, pure
life, and pious heart.'
'I deemed,' said Malcolm, 'that heavenly contemplation was the
purpose of convents.'
'Even so, for such as can contemplate like the holy man I have told
you of,' said Esclairmonde; 'but labour hath been greatly laid aside
in convents of late, and I doubt me if it be well, or if their
prayers be the better for it.'
'And so,' said Alice, 'I heard my Lord of Winchester saying how it
were well to suppress the alien priories, and give their wealth to
found colleges like that founded by Bishop Wykeham.'
For in truths the spirit of the age was beginning to set against
monasticism. It was the period when perhaps there was more of
license and less of saintliness than at any other, and when the long
continuance of the Great Schism had so injured Church discipline that
the clergy and ecclesiastics were in the worst state of all,
especially the monastic orders, who owned no superior but the Pope,
and between the two rivals could avoid supervision altogether. Such
men as Thomas a Kempis, or the great Jean Gerson, were rare indeed;
and the monasteries had let themselves lose their missionary
character, and become mere large farms, inhabited by celibate
gentlemen and their attendants, or by the superfluous daughters of
the nobles and gentry. Such devotion as led Esclairmonde to the pure
atmosphere of prayer and self-sacrifice had well-nigh died out, and
almost every other lady of the time would have regarded her release
from the vows made for her its her babyhood a happy escape.
Still less, at a time when no active order of Sisters, save that of
the Beguines in Holland, had been invented, and when no nun ever
dreamt of carrying her charity beyond the quadrangle of her own
convent, could any one be expected to enter into Esclairmonde's
admiration and longing for out-of-door works; but the person whom she
had chiefly made her friend was the King's almoner and chaplain,
sometimes called Sir Martin Bennet, at others Dr. Bennet, a great
Oxford scholar, bred up among William of Wykeham's original seventy
at Winchester and New College, and now much trusted and favoured by
the King, whom he everywhere accompanied. That Sir Martin was a
pluralist must be confessed, but he was most conscientious in
providing substitutes, and was a man of much thought and of great
piety, in whom the fair pupil of the Canon of St. Agnes found a
CHAPTER VI: MALCOLM'S SUIT
'That is a gentle and gracious slip of the Stewart. What shall you
do with him?' asked King Henry of James, as they stood together at
one end of the tilt-yard at Westminster, watching Malcolm Stewart and
Ralf Percy, who were playing at closhey, the early form of nine-pins.
'I know what I should like to do,' said James.
'What may that be?'
'To marry him to the Lady Esclairmonde de Luxemburg.'
Henry gave a long whistle.
'Have you other views for her?'
'Not I! Am I to have designs on every poor dove who flies into my
tent from the hawk? Besides, are not they both of them vowed to a
'Neither vow is valid,' replied James.
'To meddle with such things is what I should not DARE,' said Henry.
'Monks and friars are no such holy beings, that I should greatly
concern me about keeping an innocent had out of their company,' said
'Nor do I say they are,' said Henry; 'but it is ill to cross a vow of
devotion, and to bring a man back to the world is apt to render him
not worth the having. You may perchance get him down lower than you
'This boy never had any real vocation at all,' said James; 'it was
only the timidity born of ill-health, and the longing for food for
'Maybe so,' replied the English king, 'and you may be in the right;
but why fix on that grand Luxemburg wench, who ought to be a Lady
Abbess of Fontainebleau at least, or a very St. Hilda, to rule monks
and nuns alike?'
'Because they have fixed on each other. Malcolm needs a woman like
her to make a man of him; and with her spirit and fervent charity, we
should have them working a mighty change in Scotland.'
'If you get her there!'
'Have I your consent, Harry?'
'Mine? It's no affair of mine! You must settle it with Madame of
Hainault; but you had best take care. You are more like to make your
tame lambkin into a ravening wolf, than to get that Deborah the
prophetess to herd him.'
James in sooth viewed this warning as another touch of Lancastrian
superstition, and only considered how to broach the question.
Malcolm, meantime, was balancing between the now approaching decision
between Oxford and France. He certainly felt something of his old
horror of warlike scenes; but even this was lessening; he was aware
that battles were not every-day occurrences, and that often there was
no danger at all. He would not willingly be separated from his king;
and if the female part of the Court were to accompany the campaign,
it would be losing sight of all he cared for, if he were left among a
set of stranger shavelings at Oxford. Yet he was reluctant to break
with the old habits that had hitherto been part of his nature; he
felt, after every word of Esclairmonde--nay, after every glance
towards her--as though it were a blessed thing to have, like her,
chosen the better part; he knew she would approve his resort to the
home of piety and learning; he was aware that when with Ralf Percy
and the other youths of the Court he was ashamed of his own
scrupulousness, and tempted to neglect observances that they might
call monkish and unmanly; and he was not at all sure that in face of
the enemy a panic might not seize him and disgrace him for ever! In
effect he did not know what he wished, even when he found that the
Queen had decided against going across the sea, and that therefore
all the ladies would remain with her at Shene or Windsor.
He should probably never again see Esclairmonde, the guiding star of
his recent life, the embodiment of all that he had imagined when
conning the quaint old English poems that told the Legend of Seynct
Katharine; and as he leant musingly against a lattice, feeling as if
the brightness of his life was going out, King James merrily
'Eh! the fit is on you too, boy!'
'What fit, Sir?' Malcolm opened his eyes.
'The pleasing madness.'
Malcolm uttered a cry like horror, and reddened crimson. 'Sir! Sir!
Sir!' he stammered.
'A well-known token of the disease is raving.'
'Sir, Sir! I implore you to speak of nothing so profane.'
'I am not given to profanity,' said James, endeavouring to look
severe, but with laughter in his voice. 'Methought you were not yet
so sacred a personage.'
'Myself! No; but that I--I should dare to have such thoughts of--oh,
Sir!' and Malcolm covered his face with his hands. 'Oh, that you
should have so mistaken me!'
'I have NOT mistaken you,' said James, fixing his keen eyes on him.
'Oh, Sir!' cried Malcolm, like one freshly stung, 'you have! Never,
never dreamt I of aught but worshipping as a living saint, as I would
entreat St. Margaret or--'
There was still the King's steady look and the suppressed smile.
Malcolm broke off, and with a sudden agony wrung his hands together.
The King still smiled. 'Ay, Malcolm, it will not do; you are man,
'But why be so cruel as to make me vile in my own eyes?' almost
'Because,' said the King, 'she is not a saint in heaven, nor a nun in
a convent, but a free woman, to be won by the youth she has marked
'Marked! Oh, Sir, she only condescended because she knew my
'That is well,' said King James. 'Thus sparks kindle at unawares.'
Malcolm's groan and murmur of 'Never!' made James almost laugh at the
evidence that on one side at least the touch-wood was ready.
'Oh, Sir,' he sighed, 'why put the thought before me, to make me
wretched! Even were she for the world, she would never be for me.
'Peace, silly lad; all that is past and gone. You are quite another
now, and a year or two of Harry's school of chivalry will send you
home a gallant knight and minstrel, such as no maiden will despise.'
The King went, and Malcolm fell into a silent state of musing. He
was entirely overpowered, both by the consciousness awakened within
himself, by the doubt whether it were not a great sin, and by the
strangeness that the King, hitherto his oracle, should infuse such a
hope. What King James deemed possible could never be so incredible,
or even sacrilegious, as he deemed it. Restless, ashamed, rent by a
thousand conflicting feelings, Malcolm roamed up and down his
chamber, writhed, tried to sit and think, then, finding his thoughts
in a whirl, renewed his frantic pacings. And when dire necessity
brought him again into the ladies' chamber, he was silent, blushing,
ungainly, abstracted, and retreated into the farthest possible corner
from the unconscious Esclairmonde.
Then, when again alone with the King, he began with the assertion,
'It is utterly impossible, Sir;' and James smiled to see his poison
working. Not that he viewed it as poison. Monasticism was at a
discount, and the ranks of the religious orders were chiefly filled,
the old Benedictine and Augustinian foundations by gentlemen of good
family who wanted the easy life of a sort of bachelor squire, and the
friaries were recruited by the sort of men who would in modern times
be dissenting teachers of the lower stamp. James was persuaded that
Malcolm was fit for better things than were usually to be seen in a
convent, and that it was a real kindness not to let him merely retire
thither out of faintness of heart, mistaken for devotion; and he also
felt as if he should be doing good service, not only to Malcolm, but
to Scotland, if he could obtain for him a wife of the grand character
of Esclairmonde de Luxemburg.
He even risked the mention of the project to the Countess of
Hainault, without whose consent nothing could be effected. Jaqueline
laughed long and loud at the notion of her stately Esclairmonde being
the lady-love of King James's little white-visaged cousin; but if he
could bring it about she had no objection, she should be very glad
that the demoiselle should come down from the height and be like
other people; but she would wager the King of Scots her emerald
carcanet against his heron's plume, that Esclairmonde would never
marry unless her hands were held for her. Was she not at that very
moment visiting some foundation of bedeswomen--that was all she heard
of at yonder feast of cats!
In fact, under Dr. Bennet's escort, Esclairmonde and Alice were in a
barge dropping down the Thames to the neighbourhood of the frowning
fortress of the Tower--as yet unstained; and at the steps leading to
the Hospitium of St. Katharine the ladies were met, not only by their
friend Mrs. Bolt, but by Sir Richard Whittington, his kindly dame,
and by 'Master William Kedbesby,' a grave and gentle-looking old man,
who had been Master of St. Katharine's ever since the first year of
King Richard II., and delighted to tell of the visits 'Good Queen
Anne' of Bohemia had made to her hospital, and the kind words she had
said to the old alms-folk and the children of the schools; and when
he heard that the Lady Esclairmonde was of the same princely house of
Luxemburg, he seemed to think no honour sufficient for her. They
visited the two houses, one for old men, the other for old women,
each with a common apartment, with a fire, and a dining-table in the
midst, and sleeping cells screened off round it, and with a paved
terrace walk overhanging the river, where the old people could sit
and sun themselves, and be amused by the gay barges and the swans
that expatiated there. The bedeswomen, ten in number, had a house
arranged like an ordinary nunnery, except that they were not in
seclusion, had no grating, and shared the quadrangle with the alms-
folk and children. They were gentle and well-nurtured women, chiefly
belonging to the city and country families that furnished servants to
the queens; and they applied themselves to various offices of
charity, going forth into the city to tend the poor, and to teach the
women and children. The appointments of alms-folk and admissions to
the school were chiefly made at their recommendation; and though a
master taught all the book-learning in the busy hive of scholars--
eighty in number--one or more of them instructed the little girls in
spinning and in stitchery, to say nothing of gentle and modest
demeanour. There was a great look of happiness and good order about
all; and the church, fair and graceful, seemed well to complete and
rule the institution. Esclairmonde could but sigh with a sort of
regret as she left it, and let herself be conducted by Sir Richard
Whittington to a refection at his beautiful house in Crutched Friars,
built round a square, combining warehouse and manor-house; richly-
carved shields, with the arms of the companies of London, supporting
the tier of first-floor windows, and another row of brackets above
supporting another overhanging story. A fountain was in the centre
of a beautiful greensward, with beds of roses, pansies, pinks, stars
of Bethlehem, and other good old flowers, among which a monkey was
chained to a tree, while a cat roamed about at a safe distance from
Alice Montagu raised a laugh by asking if it were THE cat; to which
her city namesake replied that 'her master' never could abide to be
without a cat in memory of his first friend, and marshalled them into
the beautiful hall, with wainscot lining below, surmounted by an
arcade containing statues, and above a beautiful carved ceiling.
Here a meal was served to them, and the Lady talked with Whittington
of the grand town-halls and other buildings of the merchants of the
Low Countries, with whom he was a trader for their rich stuffs; and
the visit passed off with no small satisfaction to both parties.
Esclairmonde sat in the barge on her return, looking out on the gray
clear water, and on the bright gardens that sloped down to it, gay
with roses and fruitful with mulberries, apples, and strawberries,
and the mansions and churches that were never quite out of sight,
though there were some open fields and wild country ere coming to
Westminster, all as if she did not see them, but was wrapped in deep
Alice at last, weary of silence, stole her arm round her waist, and
peeped up into her face. 'May I guess thy thoughts, sweet Clairette?
Thou wilt found such a hospice thyself?'
'Say not I WILL, child,' said Esclairmonde, with a crystal drop
starting in each dark eye. 'I would strive and hope, but--'
'Ah! thou wilt, thou wilt,' cried Alice; 'and since there are
Beguines enough for their own Netherlands, thou wilt come to England
and be our foundress here.'
'Nay, little one; here are the bedeswomen of St. Katharine's in
'Ah! but we have other cities. Good Father, have we not? Hull--
Southampton--oh! so many, where poor strangers come that need ghostly
tendance as well as bodily. Esclairmonde--Light of the World--oh! it
was not for nothing that they gave thee that goodly name. The
hospice shall bear it!'
'Hush, hush! sweet pyet; mine own name is what they must not bear.'
'Ah! but the people will give it; and our Holy Father the Pope, he
will put thee into the canon of saints. Only pity that I cannot live
to hear of Ste. Esclairmonde--nay, but then I must overlive thee,
mind I should not love that.'
'Oh, silence, silence, child; these are no thoughts to begin a work
with. Little flatterer, it may be well for me that our lives must
needs lie so far apart that I shall not oft hear that fond silly
'Nay,' said Alice, in the luxury, not of castle-building but of
convent-building; 'it may be that when that knight over there sees me
so small and ill-favoured he will none of me, and then I'll thank him
so, and pray my father to let him have all my lands and houses except
just enough to dower me to follow thee with, dear Lady Prioress.'
But here Alice was summarily silenced. Such talk, both priest and
votaress told her, was not meet for dutiful daughter or betrothed
maiden. Her lot was fixed, and she must do her duty therein as the
good wife and lady of the castle, the noble English matron; and as
she looked half disposed to pout, Esclairmonde drew such a picture of
the beneficent influence of the good baronial dame, ruling her
castle, bringing up her children and the daughters of her vassals in
good and pious nurture, making 'the heart of her husband safely trust
in her,' benefiting the poor, and fostering holy men, wayfarers, and
pilgrims, that the girl's eyes filled within tears as she looked up
and said, 'Ah! lady, this is the life fitted for thee, who can paint
it so well. Why have I not a brother, that you might be Countess of
Salisbury, and I a poor little sister in a nunnery?'
Esclairmonde shook her head. 'Silly child, petite niaise, our lots
were fixed by other hands than ours. We will strive each to serve
our God, in the coif or in the veil, in samite or in serge, and He
will only ask which of us has been most faithful, not whether we have
lived in castle or in cloister.'
Little had Esclairmonde expected to hear the greeting with which the
Countess received her, breaking out into peals of merriment as she
told her of the choice destiny in store for her, to be wedded to the
little lame Scot, pretending to read her a grave lecture on the
consequences of the advances she had made to him.
Esclairmonde was not put out of countenance; in fact, she did not
think the Countess in earnest, and merely replied with a smile that
at least there was less harm in Lord Malcolm than in the suitors at
Jaqueline clapped her hands and cried, 'Good tidings, Clairette.
I'll never forgive you if you make me lose my emerald carcanet! So
the arrow was winged, after all. She prefers him--her heart is
touched by the dainty step.'
'Madame!' entreated Esclairmonde, with agitation; 'at least,
infirmity should be spared.'
'It touches her deeply!' exclaimed the Duchess. 'Ah! to see her in
the mountains teaching the wild men to say their Aye, and to wear
culottes, the little prince interpreting for her, as King James told
us in his story of the saint his ancestor.'
Raillery about Malcolm had been attempted before, but never so
pertinaciously; and Esclairmonde heeded it not at all, till James
himself sought her out, and, within all his own persuasive grace,
told her that he was rejoiced to hear from Madame of Hainault that
she had spoken kindly of his youthful kinsman, for whose improvement
he was sure he had in great measure to thank her.
Esclairmonde replied composedly, but as one on her guard, that the
Sieur de Glenuskie was a gentle and a holy youth, of a good and
'As I saw from the first,' said James, 'when I brought him away from
being crushed among our rude cousins; but, lady, I knew not how the
task of training the boy would be taken out of my hands by your
kindness; and now, pardon me, lady, only one thing is wanting to
complete your work, and that is hope.'
'Hope is always before a holy man, Sir.'
'O, madame! but we peer earthly beings require an earthly hope,
nearer home, to brace our hearts, and nerve our arms.'
'I thought the Sieur de Glenuskie was destined to a religious life.'
'Never by any save his enemies, lady. The Regent Albany and his
fierce sons have striven to scare Malcolm into a cloister, that his
sister and his lands may be their prey; and they would have succeeded
had not I come to Scotland in time. The lad never had any true
'That may be,' said Esclairmonde, somewhat sorrowfully.
'Still,' added James, 'he is of a thoughtful and somewhat tender
mould, and the rudeness of life will try him sorely unless he have
some cheering star, some light of love, to bear him up and guide him
on his way.'
'If so, may he find a worthy one.'
'Lady, it is too late to talk of what he may find. The brightness
that has done so much for him already will hinder him from turning
his eyes elsewhere.'
'You are a minstrel, Sir King, and therefore these words of light
romance fall from your lips.'
'Nay, lady, hitherto my romance has been earnest. It rests with you
to make Malcolm's the same.'
'Not so, Sir. That has long been out of my hands.'
'Madame, you might well shrink from what it was as insult to you to
propose; but have you never thought of the blessings you might confer
in the secular life, with one who would be no hindrance, but a help?'
'No, Sir, for no blessings, but curses, would follow a breach of
'Lady, I will not press you with what divines have decided respecting
such dedication. Any scruples could be removed by the Holy Father at
Rome, and, though I will speak no further, I will trust to your
considering the matter. You have never viewed it in any light save
that of a refuge from wedlock with one to whom I trust you would
prefer my gentle cousin.'
'It were a poor compliment to Lord Malcolm to name him in the same
day with Sir Boemond of Burgundy,' said Esclairmonde; 'but, as I
said, it is not the person that withholds me, but the fact that I am
'I do not ask you to love or accept the poor boy as yet,' said James;
'I leave that for the time when I shall bring him back to you, with
the qualities grown which you have awakened. At least, I can bear
him the tidings that it is not your feelings, but your scruples that
are against him.'
'Sir King,' said Esclairmonde, gravely, 'I question not your judgment
in turning your kinsman and subject to the secular life; but if you
lead him by false hopes, of which I am the object, I tell you plainly
that you are deluding him; and if any evil come thereof, be it on
your own head.'
She moved away, with a bend of her graceful neck, and James stood
with a slight smile curving his lip. 'By my troth,' he said to
himself, 'a lordly lady! She knows her own vocation. She is one to
command scores of holy maids, and have all the abbots and priors
round at her beck, instead of one poor man. Rather Malcolm than I!
But he is the very stuff that loves to have such a woman to rule him;
and if she wed at all, he is the very man for her! I'll not give it
up! Love is the way to make a man of him, whether successful or not,
and she may change her mind, since she is not yet on the roll of
saints. If I could get a word with her father confessor, and show
him how much it would be for the interest of the Church in Scotland
to get such a woman there, it would be the surest way of coming at
her. Were she once in Scotland, my pretty one would have a stay and
helper! But all must rest till after the campaign.'
James therefore told Malcolm so much as that he had spoken to his
lady-love for him, and that she had avowed that it was not himself,
but her own vows, that was the obstacle.
Malcolm crimsoned with joy as well as confusion; and the King
proceeded: 'For the vows'--he shrugged his shoulders--'we knew there
is a remedy! Meantime, Malcolm, be you a man, win your spurs, and
show yourself worth overcoming something for!'
Malcolm smiled and brightened, holding his head high and joyously,
and handling his sword. Then came the misgiving--'But Lilias, Sir,
and Patrick Drummond.'
'We will provide for them, boy. You know Drummond is bent on carving
his own fortune rather than taking yours, and that your sister only
longs to see you a gallant knight.'
It was true, but Malcolm sighed.
'You have not spoken to the lady yourself?' asked the King.
'No, Sir. Oh, how can I?' faltered Malcolm, shamefaced and
James laughed. 'Let that be as the mood takes you, or occasion
serves,' he said, wondering whether the lad's almost abject
awkwardness and shame would be likely to create the pity akin to love
or to contempt, and deciding that it must be left to chance.
Nor did Malcolm find boldness enough to do more than haunt
Esclairmonde's steps, trembling if she glanced towards him, and
almost shrinking from her gaze. He had now no doubts about going on
the campaign, and was in full course of being prepared with
equipments, horses, armour, and attendants, as became a young prince