Part 4 out of 6
the Duke of Burgundy.'
'Monseigneur is mistaken,' said Esclairmonde.
'Child, we will have no more folly. You have flown after this young
Scot in a manner fitted only for the foolish name your father culled
for you out of his books of chivalry. You have given a lesson to the
whole Court and city on the consequences of a damsel judging for
herself, and running a mad course over the world, instead of
submitting to her guardians.'
'The Court understands my purpose as well as you do, Monseigneur.'
'Silence, Mademoiselle. Your convent obstinacy is ended for ever
now, since to send you to one would be to appear to hide a scandal.'
'I do not wish to enter a convent,' said Esclairmonde. 'My desire is
to dedicate my labour and my substance to the foundation of a house
here at Paris, such as are the Beguinages of our Netherlands,'
The Bishop held up his hands. He had never heard of such lunacy and
it angered him, as such purposes are wont to anger worldly-hearted
men. That a lady of Luxemburg should have such vulgar tastes as to
wish to be a Beguine was bad enough; but that Netherlandish wealth
should be devoted to support the factious poor of Paris was
preposterous. Neither the Duke of Burgundy, nor her uncle of St.
Pol, would allow a sou to pass out of their grasp for so absurd a
purpose; the Pope would give no license--above all to a vain girl,
who had helped a wife to run away from her husband--for new religious
houses; and, unless Esclairmonde was prepared to be landless,
penniless, and the scorn of every one, for her wild behaviour, she
must submit, bon gre, mal gre, to become the wife of the Scottish
'Landless and penniless then will I be, Monseigneur,' said
Esclairmonde. 'Was not poverty the bride of St. Francis?'
The Bishop made a growl of contempt; but recollecting himself, and
his respect for the saint, began to argue that what was possible for
a man, a mere merchant's son, an inspired saint besides, was not
possible to a damsel of high degree, and that it was mere
presumption, vanity, and obstinacy in her to appeal to such a
There was something in this that struck Esclairmonde, for she was
conscious of a certain satisfaction in her plan of being the first to
introduce a Beguinage at Paris, and that she was to a certain degree
proud of her years of constancy to her high purpose; and she looked
just so far abashed that the uncle saw his advantage, and discoursed
on the danger of attempting to be better than other people, and of
trying to vapour in spiritual heights, to all of which she attempted
no reply; till at last he broke up the interview by saying, 'There,
then, child; all will be well. I see you are coming to a better
'I hope I am, Monseigneur,' she replied, with lofty meekness; 'but
scarcely such as you mean.'
Alice Montagu's indignation knew no bounds. What! was this noble
votaress to be forced, not only to resign the glory of being the
foundress of a new order of beneficence, but to be married, just like
everybody else, and to that wretched little coward? Boemond of
Burgundy was better than that, for he at least was a man!
'No, no, Alice,' said Esclairmonde, with a shudder; 'any one rather
than the Burgundian! It is shame even to compare the Scot!'
'He may not be so evil in himself,' said Alice; 'but with a brave man
you have only his own sins, while a coward has all those other people
may frighten him into.'
'He bore himself manfully in battle,' said the fair Fleming in
But Alice answered with the scorn that sits so quaintly on the gentle
daughter of a bold race: 'Ay, where he would have been more afraid
to run than to stand.'
'You are hard on the Scot,' said Esclairmonde. 'Maybe it is because
the Nevils of Raby are Borderers,' she added, smiling; and, as Alice
likewise smiled and blushed, 'Now, if it were not for this madness, I
could like the youth. I would fain have had him for a brother that I
could take care of.'
'But what will you do, Esclairmonde?'
'Trust,' said she, sighing. 'Maybe, my pride ought to be broken; and
I may have to lay aside all my hopes and plans, and become a mere
serving sister, to learn true humility. Anyhow, I verily trust to my
Heavenly Spouse to guard me for himself. If the Duke of Burgundy
still maintains Boemond's suit, then in the dissension I see an
'And my father will defend you; and so will Sir Richard,' said Alice,
with complacent certainty in their full efficiency. 'And King Harry
will interfere; and we WILL have your hospital; ay, we WILL. How can
you talk so lightly of abandoning it?'
'I only would know what is human pride, and what God's will,' sighed
The Duke arrived with his two sisters, his wife being left at home in
bad health, and took up his abode at the Hotel de Bourgogne, whence
he came at once to pay his respects to the King of England; the poor
King of France, at the Hotel de St. Pol, being quite neglected.
Esclairmonde and Alice stood at a window, and watched the arrival of
the magnificent cavalcade, attended by a multitude, ecstatically
shouting, 'Noel Noel! Long live Philippe le Bon! Blessings on the
mighty Duke!' While seated on a tall charger, whose great dappled
head, jewelled and beplumed, could alone be seen amid his sweeping
housings, bowing right and left, waving his embroidered gloved hand
in courtesy, was seen the stately Duke, in the prime of life,
handsome-faced, brilliantly coloured, dazzlingly arrayed in gemmed
robes, so that Alice drew a long breath of wonder and exclaimed,
'This Duke is a goodly man; he looks like the emperor of us all!'
But when he had entered the hall, conducted by John of Bedford and
Edmund of March, had made his obeisance to Henry, and had been
presented by him to King James, Alice, standing close behind her
queen, recollected that she had once heard Esclairmonde say, 'Till I
came to England I deemed chivalry a mere gaudy illusion.'
Duke Philippe would not bear close inspection; the striking features
and full red lips, that had made so effective an appearance in the
gay procession seen from a distance, seemed harsh, haughty, and
sensual near at hand, and when brought into close contact with the
strange bright stern purity, now refined into hectic transparency, of
King Henry's face, the grand and melancholy majesty of the royal
Stewart's, or even the spare, keen, irregular visage of John of
Bedford. And while his robes were infinitely more costly than--and
his ornaments tenfold outnumbered--all that the three island princes
wore, yet no critical eye could take him for their superior, even
though his tone in addressing an inferior was elaborately affable and
condescending, and theirs was always the frankness of an equal.
Where they gave the sense of pure gold, he seemed like some ruder
metal gilt and decorated; as if theirs were reality, his the
imitation; theirs the truth, his the display.
But in reality his birth was as princely as theirs; and no monarch in
Europe, not even Henry, equalled him in material resources; he was
idolized by the Parisians; and Henry was aware that France had been
made over to England more by his revenge for his father's murder at
Montereau than by the victory at Agincourt. Therefore the King
endured his grand talk about OUR arms and OUR intentions; and for
Malcolm's sake, James submitted to a sort of patronage, as if meant
to imply that if Philippe the Magnificent chose to espouse the cause
of a captive king, his ransom would be the merest trifle.
When Henry bade him to the Pentecostal banquet, 'when kings keep
state,' he graciously accepted the invitation for himself and his two
sisters, Marguerite, widow of the second short-lived Dauphin, and
Anne, still unmarried; but when Henry further explained his plan of
feasting merely with the orderly, and apportioning the food in real
alms, the Duke by no means approved.
'Feed those miserables!' he said. 'One gains nothing thereby! They
make no noise; whereas if you affront the others, who know how to cry
out, they will revile you like dogs!
'I will not be a slave to the rascaille,' said Henry.
'Ah, my fair lord, you, a victor, may dispense with these cares; but
for a poor little prince like me, it is better to reign in men's
hearts than on their necks.'
'In the hearts of honest men--on the necks of knaves,' said Henry.
Philippe shrugged his shoulders. He was wise in his own generation;
for he had all the audible voices in Paris on his side, while the
cavils at Henry's economy have descended to the present time.
'Do you see your rival, Sir?' said the voice of the Bishop of
Therouenne in Malcolm's ear, just as the Duke had begun to rise to
take leave; and he pointed out a knight of some thirty years,
glittering with gay devices from head to foot, and showing a bold
proud visage, exaggerating the harshness of the Burgundian
Malcolm shuddered, and murmured, 'Such a pearl to such a hog!'
And meanwhile, King James, stepping forward, intimated to the Duke
that he would be glad of an interview with him.
Philippe made some ostentation of his numerous engagements with men
of Church and State; but ended by inviting the King of Scotland to
sup with him that evening, if his Grace would forgive travellers'
fare and a simple reception.
Thither accordingly James repaired on foot, attended only by Sir
Nigel and Malcolm, with a few archers of the royal guard, in case
torches should be wanted on the way home.
How magnificent were the surroundings of the great Duke, it would be
wearisome to tell. The retainers in the court of the hotel looked,
as James said, as if honest steel and good cloth were reckoned as
churls, and as if this were the very land of Cockaigne, as Sir
Richard Whittington had dreamt it. Neither he nor St. Andrew himself
would know their own saltire made in cloth of silver, 'the very metal
Sir Nigel had to tell their rank, ere the porters admitted the small
company: but the seneschal marshalled them forward in full state.
And James never looked more the king than when, in simple crimson
robe, the pure white cross on his breast, his auburn hair parted back
from his noble brow, he stood towering above all heads, passively
receiving the Duke of Burgundy's elaborate courtesies and greetings,
nor seeming to note the lavish display of gold and silver, meant to
amaze the poorest king in Europe.
Exceeding was the politeness shown to him--even to the omission of
the seneschal's tasting each dish presented to the Duke, a
recognition of the presence of a sovereign that the two Scots
scarcely understood enough for gratitude.
Malcolm was the best off of the two at the supper; for James had of
course to be cavalier to the sickly fretful-looking Dauphiness, while
Malcolm fell to the lot of the Lady Anne, who, though not beautiful,
had a kindly hearty countenance and manner, and won his heart by
asking whether the Demoiselle de Luxemburg were still in the suite of
Madame of Hainault; and then it appeared that she had been her
convent mate and warmest friend and admirer in their girlish days at
Dijon, and was now longing to see her. Was she as much set as ever
on being a nun?
Meantime, the Duke was pompously making way for the King of Scots to
enter his cabinet, where--with a gold cup before each, a dish of
comfits and a stoup of wine between them--their interview was to take
'These dainties accord with a matter of ladies' love,' said James, as
the Duke handed him a sugar heart transfixed by an arrow.
'Good, good,' said Philippe. 'The alliance is noble and our crowns
and influence might be a good check in the north to your mighty
neighbour; nor would I be hard as to her dowry. Send me five score
yearly of such knaves as came with Buchan, and I could fight the
devil himself. A morning gift might be specified for the name of the
thing--but we understand one another.'
'I am not certain of that, Sir,' said James, smiling; 'though I see
you mean me kindly.'
'Nay, now,' continued Philippe, 'I know how to honour royalty, even
in durance; nor will I even press Madame la Dauphine on you instead
of Anne, though it were better for us all if she could have her wish
and become a queen, and you would have her jointure--if you or any
one else can get it.'
'Stay, my Lord Duke,' said James, with dignity, 'I spake not of
myself, deeming that it was well known that my troth is plighted.'
'How?' said Burgundy, amazed, but not offended. 'Methought the House
of Somerset was a mere bastard slip, with which even King Henry with
all his insolence could not expect you to wed in earnest. However,
we may keep our intentions secret awhile; and then, with your lances
and my resources, English displeasure need concern you little.'
James, who had learned self-control in captivity, began politely to
express himself highly honoured and obliged.
'Do not mention it. Royal blood, thus shamefully oppressed, must
command the aid of all that is chivalrous. Speak, and your ransom is
at your service.'
The hot blood rushed into James's cheek at this tone of
condescension; but he answered, with courteous haughtiness: 'Of
myself, Sir Duke, there is no question. My ransom waits England's
willingness to accept it; and my hand is not free, even for the prize
you have the goodness to offer. I came not to speak of myself.'
'Not to make suit for my sister, nor my intercession!' exclaimed
'I make suit to no man,' said James; then, recollecting himself, 'if
I did so, no readier friend than the Duke of Burgundy could be found.
I did in effect come to propose an alliance between one of my own
house and a fair vassal of yours.'
'Ha! the runaway jade of Luxemburg!' cried Burgundy; 'the most
headstrong girl who lives! She dared to plead her foolish vows
against my brother Boemond, fled with that other hoyden of Hainault,
and now defies me by coming here. I'll have her, and make her over
to Boemond to tame her pride, were she in the great Satan's camp
instead of King Henry's.'
And this is the mirror of chivalry! thought James. But he persevered
in his explanation of his arrangement for permitting the estates of
Esclairmonde de Luxemburg to be purchased from her and her husband,
should that husband be Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie; and he soon
found that these terms would be as acceptable to the Duke as they had
already proved to her guardian, Monseigneur de Therouenne. Money was
nothing to Philippe; but his policy was to absorb the little
seignoralties that lay so thick in these border lands of the Empire;
and what he desired above all, was to keep them from either passing
into the hands of the Church, or from consolidating into some
powerful principality, as would have been the case had Esclairmonde
either entered a convent or married young Waleran de Luxemburg, her
cousin. Therefore he had striven to force on her his half-brother,
who would certainly never unite any inheritance to hers; but he much
preferred the purchase of her Hainault lands; and had no compunction
in throwing over Boemond, except for a certain lurking desire that
the lady's contumacy should be chastised by a lord who would beat her
well into subjection. He would willingly have made a great show of
generosity, and have laid James under an obligation; and yet by the
King's dignified tone of courtesy he was always reduced to the air of
one soliciting rather than conferring a favour.
Finally, Malcolm was called in, and presented to the Duke, making his
own promise on his word of honour as a prince, and giving a written
bond, that so soon as he obtained the hand of the Demoiselle de
Luxemburg he would resign her Hainault estates to the Duke of
Burgundy for a sum of money, to be fixed by persons chosen for the
This was more like earnest than anything Malcolm had yet obtained;
and he went home exulting and exalted, his doubts as to
Esclairmonde's consent almost silenced, when he counted up the forces
that were about to bear upon her.
And they did descend upon her. Countess Jaqueline had been joined by
other and more congenial Flemish dames, and was weary of her grave
monitress; and she continually scolded at Esclairmonde for
perverseness and obstinacy in not accepting the only male thing she
had ever favoured. The Bishop of Therouenne threatened and argued;
and the Duke of Burgundy himself came to enforce his commands to his
refractory vassal, and on finding her still unsubmissive, flew into a
rage, and rated her as few COULD have done, save Philippe, called the
All she attempted to answer was, that they were welcome to her lands,
so they would leave her person free; her vows were not to man, but to
God, and God would protect her.
It was an answer that seemed specially to enrage her persecutors, who
retorted by telling her that such protection was only extended to
those who obeyed lawful authority; and hints were thrown out that, if
she did not submit willingly, she might find herself married
forcibly, for a bishop could afford to disregard the resistance of a
Would Malcolm--would his king--consent to her being thus treated?
As to Malcolm, he seemed to her too munch changed for her to reckon
on what remnant of good feeling there might be to appeal to in him.
And James, though he was certain not to permit palpable coercion in
his presence, or even if he were aware that it was contemplated,
seemed to have left the whole management of the affair to
Esclairmonde's own guardians; and they would probably avoid driving
matters to extremities that would revolt him, while he was near
enough for an appeal. And Esclairmonde was too uncertain whether her
guardians would resort to such lengths, or whether it were not a vain
threat of the giddy Countess, to compromise her dignity by crying out
before she was hurt; and she had no security, save that she was
certain that in the English household of King Henry such violence
would not be attempted; and out of reach of that protection she never
Once she said to Henry, 'My only hope is in God and in you, my lord.'
And Henry bent his head, saying, 'Noble lady, I cannot interfere; but
while you are in my house, nothing can be done with you against your
Yet even Henry was scarcely what he had been in all-pervading
vigilance and readiness. Like all real kings of men, he had been his
own prime minister, commander-in-chief, and private secretary,
transacting a marvellous amount of business with prompt completeness;
and when, in the midst of shattered health which he would not avow,
the cares of two kingdoms, and the generalship of an army, with all
its garrisons, rested on him, his work would hardly have been
accomplished but for his brother's aid. It was never acknowledged,
often angrily disdained. But when John of Bedford had watched the
terrible lassitude and lethargy that weighed on the King at times in
the midst of his cabinet work, he was constantly on the watch to
relieve him; and his hand and style so closely resembled Henry's that
the difference could scarce be detected, and he could do what none
other durst attempt. Many a time would Henry, whose temper had grown
most uncertain, fiercely rate him for intermeddling; but John knew
and loved him too well to heed; and his tact and unobtrusiveness made
Henry rely on him more and more.
If the illness had only been confessed, those who watched the King
anxiously would have had more hope; but he was hotly angered at any
hint of his needing care; and though he sometimes relieved oppression
by causing himself to be bled by a servant, he never allowed that
anything ailed him; it was always the hot weather, the anxious
tidings, the long pageant that wearied him--things that were wont to
be like gnats on a lion's mane.
Those solemn banquets and festivals--lasting from forenoon till
eventide, with their endless relays of allegorical subtleties, their
long-winded harangues, noisy music, interludes of giants, sylvan men,
distressed damsels, knights-errant on horseback, ships and forests
coming in upon wheels, and fulsome compliments that must be answered-
-had been always his aversion, and were now so heavy an oppression
that Bedford would have persuaded the Queen to curtail them. But to
the fair Catherine this appeared an unkind endeavour of her
disagreeable brother-in-law, to prevent her from shining in her
native city, and eclipsing the Burgundian pomp; and she opened her
soft brown eyes in dignified displeasure, answering that she saw
nothing amiss with the King; and she likewise complained to her
husband of his brother's jealousy of her welcome from her own people,
bringing on him one of Henry's most bitter sentences.
Henry would only have had her abate somewhat of the splendour that
gratified her, because he did not think it becoming to outshine her
parents; but Catherine scorned the notion. Her old father would know
nothing, or would smile in his foolish way to see her so brave; and
for her mother, she recked not so long as she had a larded capon
before her: nor was it possible to make the young queen understand
that this fatuity and feebleness were the very reasons for deferring
The ordering of the feast fell to Catherine and her train; and its
splendours on successive days had their full development, greatly to
the constraint and weariness, among others, of Esclairmonde, who was
always assigned to Malcolm Stewart, and throughout these long days
had to be constantly repressing him; not that he often durst make her
any direct compliment, for he was usually quelled into anxious
wistful silence, and merely eyed her earnestly, paying her every
attention in his power. And such a silent tedious meal was sure to
be remarked, either with laughing rudeness by Countess Jaqueline, or
with severe reproof by the Bishop of Therouenne, both of whom assured
her that she had better lay aside her airs, and resign herself in
good part, for there was no escape for her.
One day, however, when the feast was at the Hotel de Bourgogne, and
there were some slight differences in the order of the guests, the
Duke of Bedford put himself forward as the Lady Esclairmonde's
cavalier, so much to her relief, that her countenance, usually so
guarded, relaxed into the bright, sweet smile of cheerfulness that
was most natural to her. Isolated as the pairs at the table were,
and with music braying in a gallery just above, there was plenty of
scope for conversation; and once again Esclairmonde was talking
freely of the matters regarding the distress in Paris, that Bedford
had consulted her upon before he became so engrossed with his
brother's affairs, or she so beset by her persecutors.
Towards the evening, when the feast had still some mortal hours to
last, there fell a silence on the Duke; and at length, when the music
was at the loudest, he said 'Lady, I have watched for this moment.
You are persecuted. Look not on me as one of your persecutors; but
if no other refuge be open to you, here is one who might know better
how to esteem you than that malapert young Scot.'
'How, Sir?' exclaimed Esclairmonde, amazed at these words from the
'Make no sudden reply,' said John. 'I had never thought of you save
as one consecrate, till, when I see you like to be hunted down into
the hands of yon silly lad, I cannot but thrust between. My brother
would willingly consent; and, if I may but win your leave to love
you, lady, it will be with a heart that has yearned to no other
He spoke low and steadily, looking straight before him, with no
visible emotion, save a little quiver in the last sentence, a slight
dilating of the delicately cut nostril; and then he was silent,
until, having recovered the self-restraint that had been failing him,
he prevented the words she was trying to form by saying, 'Not in
haste, lady. There is time yet before you to bethink yourself
whether you can be free in will and conscience. If so, I will bear
you through all.'
How invitingly the words fell on the lonely heart, so long left to
fight its own battles! There came for the first time the full sense
of what life might be, the shielding tenderness, the sure reliance,
the pure affection, such as she saw Henry lavish on the shallow
Queen, but which she could meet and requite in John. The brutal
Boemond, the childish Malcolm, had aroused no feeling in her but
dislike or pity, and to them a convent was infinitely preferable; but
Bedford--the religious, manly, brave, unselfish Bedford--opened to
her the view of all that could content a high-souled woman's heart,
backed, moreover, by the wonder of having been the first to touch
such a spirit.
It would not have been a mesalliance. Her family was one of the
grandest of the Netherlands; the saintly Emperor, Henry of Luxemburg,
was her ancestor; and Bedford's proposal was not a condescension such
as to rouse her sense of dignity. His rank did not strike her as did
his lofty stainless character; the like of which she had never known
to exist in the world of active life till she saw the brothers of
England, who came more near to the armed saints and holy warriors of
Church legend than her fancy had thought mortal man could do, bred as
she had been in the sensual, violent, and glittering Burgundy of the
fifteenth century. In truth, as Malcolm had thought the cloister the
only refuge from the harshness and barbarism of Scotland, so
Esclairmonde had thought piety and purity to be found nowhere else;
and both had found the Court of Henry V. an infinitely better world
than they had supposed possible; but, until the present moment,
Esclairmonde had never felt the slightest call to take a permanent
place there. Now however the cloister, even if it were open to her,
presented a gloomy, cheerless life of austerity, in comparison with
human affection and matronly duty. And most vivid of all at the
moment was the desire to awaken the tender sweetness that slept in
those steady gray eyes, to see the grave, wise visage gleam with
smiling affection, and to rest in having one to take thought for her,
and finish this long term of tossing about and self-defence. Was not
the patience with which he kept his eyes away from her already a
proof of his consideration and delicate kindness?
But deep in Esclairmonde's soul lay the sense that her dedication was
sacred, and her power over herself gone. She had always felt a
wife's allegiance due to Him whom she received as her spiritual
Spouse; and though the sense at this moment only brought her
disappointment and self-reproach, her will was loyal. The bond was
cutting into her very flesh, but she never even thought of breaking
it; and all she waited for was the power of restraining her grateful
In this she was assisted by observing that Bedford's attention had
been attracted towards his brother, who was looking wan and weary,
scarcely tasting what was set before him; and, after fitfully trying
to converse with Marguerite of Burgundy, at last had taken advantage
of an endless harangue from all the Virtues, and had dropped asleep.
The Lady Anne was seen making a sign to her sister not to disturb
him; and Bedford murmured, with a sigh, 'There is, for once, a
discreet woman.' Then, as if recalled to a sense of what was
passing, he turned on Esclairmonde his full earnest look, saying,
'You will teach the Queen how HE should be cared for. You will help
'Sir,' said Esclairmonde, feeling it most difficult not to falter,
'this is a great grace, but it cannot be.'
'Cannot!' said Bedford, slowly. 'You have taken thought?'
'Sir, it is not the part of a betrothed spouse to take thought. My
vows were renewed of my own free will and it were sacrilege to try to
recall them for the first real temptation.'
She spoke steadily, but the effort ached through her whole frame,
especially when the last word illumined John Plantagenet's face with
strange sweet light, quenched as his lip trembled, his nostril
quivered, his eye even moistened, as he said, 'It is enough, lady; I
will no more vex one who is vexed enough already; and you will so far
trust me as to regard me as your protector, if you should be in
'Indeed I will,' said Esclairmonde, hardly restraining her tears.
'That is well,' said Bedford. And he neither looked at her nor spoke
to her again, till, as he led her away in the procession from the
hall, he held her hand fast, and murmured: 'There then it rests,
sweet lady unless, having taken counsel with your own heart, you
should change your decree, and consult some holy priest. If so, make
but a sign of the hand, and I am yours; for verily you are the only
maiden I could ever have loved.'
She was still in utter confusion, in the chamber where the ladies
were cloaking for their return, when her hands were grasped on either
side by the two Burgundian princesses.
'Sweet runaway, we have caught you at last! Here, into Anne's
chamber. See you we must! How is it with you? Like you the limping
Scot better than Boemond?' laughed the Dauphiness, her company
dignity laid aside for school-girl chatter.
'If you cannot hold out,' said Anne, 'the Scot seems a gentle youth;
and, at least, you are quit of Boemond.'
'Yes,' said Marguerite, 'his last prank was too strong for the Duke:
quartering a dozen men-at-arms on a sulky Cambrai weaver till he paid
him 2000 crowns. Besides, it would be well to get the Scottish king
for an ally. Do you know what we two are here for, Clairette? We
are both to be betrothed: one to the handsome captive with the gold
locks; the other to your hawk-nosed neighbour, who seemed to have not
a word to say.'
'But,' said Esclairmonde, replying to the easiest part of the
disclosure, 'the King of Scots is in love with the Demoiselle of
'What matters that, silly maid?' said Marguerite 'he does not
displease me; and Anne is welcome to that melancholy duke.'
'Oh, Lady Anne!' exclaimed Esclairmonde, 'if such be your lot, it
would be well indeed.'
'What, the surly brother, of whom Catherine tells such tales!'
'Credit them not,' said Esclairmonde. 'He never crosses her but when
he would open her eyes to his brother's failing health.'
'Yes,' interrupted Marguerite; 'my lord brother swears that this king
will not live a year; and if Catherine have no better luck with her
child than poor Michelle, then there will be another good Queen Anne
'If so,' said Esclairmonde, looking at her friend with swimming eyes,
'she will have the best of husbands--as good as even she deserves!'
Anne held her hand fast, and would have said many tender words on
Esclairmonde's own troubles; but the other ladies were arrayed, and
Esclairmonde would not for worlds have been left behind in the Hotel
Privacy was not an attainable luxury, and Esclairmonde could not
commune with her throbbing heart, or find peace for her aching head,
till night. This must be a matter unconfided to any, even Alice
Montagu. And while the maiden lay smiling in her quiet sleep, after
having fondly told her friend that Sir Richard Nevil had really
noticed her new silken kirtle, she knelt on beneath the crucifix,
mechanically reciting her prayers, and, as the beads dropped from her
fingers, fighting out the fight with her own heart.
Her mind was made up; but her sense of the loss, her craving for the
worthy affection which lay within her grasp--these dismayed her. The
life she had sighed for had become a blank; and she passionately
detested the obligation that held her back from affection,
usefulness, joy, and excellence--not ambition, for the greatest help
to her lay in Bedford's position, his exalted rank, and nearness to
the crown. Indeed, she really dreaded and loathed worldly pomp so
much that the temptation would have been greater had he not been a
It was this sense of renunciation that came to her aid. She had at
least a REAL sacrifice to offer; till now, as she became aware, she
had made none. She folded her hands, and laid her offering to be
hallowed by the One all-sufficient Sacrifice. She offered all those
capacities for love that had been newly revealed to her; she offered
up the bliss, whose golden dawn she had seen; she tried to tear out
the earthliness of her heart and affections by the roots, and lay
them on the altar, entreating that, come what might, her spirit might
never stray from the Heavenly Spouse of her betrothal.
Therewith came a sense of His perfect sufficiency--of rest, peace,
support, ineffable love, that kept her kneeling in a calm, almost
ecstatic state, in which common hopes, fears, and affections had
CHAPTER XI: THE TWO PROMISES
After all, Alice Montagu was married almost privately, and without
any preparation. Tidings came that the Duke of Alencon was besieging
Cosne, a city belonging to the Duke of Burgundy, and that instant
relief was needed. The Duke was urgent with Henry to save the place
for him, and set off at once to collect his brilliant chivalry; while
Henry, rousing at the trumpet-call, declared that nothing ailed him
but pageants, sent orders to all his troops to collect from different
quarters, and prepared to take the command in person; while reports
daily came in of the great muster the Armagnacs were making, as
though determined to offer battle.
Salisbury was determined not to abide the chances of the battle
without first giving a protector to his little daughter; and
therefore, as quietly as if she had been merely going to mass, the
Lady Alice was wedded to her Sir Richard Nevil, who treated the
affair as the simplest matter of course, and troubled himself with
very slight demonstrations of affection. The wedding took place at
Senlis, whither the female part of the Court had accompanied the
King, upon the very day of the parting. No one was present, except
one of Sir Richard's brothers (the whole family numbered twenty-two),
his esquire; and on Alice's side, her father, Esclairmonde, and a few
At the last moment, however, the King himself came up, leaning on
Warwick's arm, looking thin, ill, and flushed, but resolved to do
honour to his faithful Salisbury, at whose request he had permitted
the barony of Montagu to be at once transferred to Nevil, who would
thenceforth be called by that title.
After the ceremony, King Henry kissed the gentle bride, placed a
costly ring upon her finger, and gave his best and warmest wishes to
the newly-married pair. Little guessed any there present what the
sound of Warwick and Salisbury would be in forty years' time to the
babe cradled at Windsor.
As the King passed Esclairmonde, he paused, and said, in an
undertone, 'Dear lady, deem not that I have forgotten your holy
purpose; but you understand that there are some who are jealous of
any benefit conferred on Paris save from themselves, and whose
alliance I may not risk. But if God be pleased to grant me this
battle also, then, with His good pleasure, I shall not be forced to
have such respect to persons; and when I return, lady, whether the
endowment come from your bounty or no, God helping us, you shall
begin the holy work of St. Katharine's bedeswomen among the poor of
But while Henry V., with all his grave sweetness, spoke these words
to Esclairmonde de Luxemburg, this was the farewell of Countess
Jaqueline of Hainault to Malcolm Stewart:
'Look here, my languishing swain; never mind her scorn, but win your
spurs in the battle that is to be, and then make some excuse to get
back again to us before the two Kings, with all their scruples. Then
beshrew me but she shall be yours! If Monseigneur de Therouenne and
I cannot manage one proud girl, I am not Countess of Hainault!'
This promise sent him away, planning the enjoyment of conquering
Esclairmonde's long resistance, and teaching her where to find
happiness. Should he punish her, by being stern and tyrannical at
first? or should his kindness teach her to repent? When he was a
knight, he would be in a condition to assert his authority, he
thought; and of knighthood both he and Ralf Percy felt almost
certain, in that wholesale dubbing of knights that was wont to be the
preliminary of a battle. To be sure, they had indulged in a good
many unlicensed pleasures at Paris--Ralf from sheer reckless love of
sport, Malcolm in his endeavour to forget himself, and to be manly;
but they had escaped detection, and they knew plenty of young
Englishmen, and many more Burgundians and Gascons, who had plunged
far deeper into mischief, and thought it no disgrace, but rather held
that there was some special dispensation for the benefit of warriors.
Malcolm and Ralf were riding with a party of these young men. King
Henry had consented to make his first day's journey as far as Corbeil
in a litter, since only there he was to meet the larger number of his
troops, whom Bedford and Warwick were assembling. James was riding
close beside him, with his immediate attendants; and the two youths,
not being needed, had joined their comrades with the advanced guard
of the escort.
It was always a fiction maintained by Henry, that he was marching in
a friendly country; plunder was strictly forbidden, and everything
was to be paid for; but unfortunately, the peasantry on his way never
realized this, and the soldiery often took care they should not.
Therefore, when the advanced guard came to the village that had been
marked out for their halt, instead of finding provisions and forage
to be purchased, they met with only bare walls, and a few stray cats;
and while storming and raving between hunger and disappointment, a
report came from somewhere that the inhabitants had fled, and driven
off their cattle to another village some four miles off, in the
woods, on the heights above. Of course, they must be taught reason.
It was true that the men-at-arms, who were under the command of Sir
Christopher Kitson and Sir William Trenton, were obliged to abide
where they were, much as Kitson growled at being unable to procure a
draught of wine for Trenton, whom he had been nursing for weeks under
intermitting fever, caught at Meaux; but the young gentlemen were
well pleased to show themselves under no Yorkshireman's orders, and
galloped off en masse to procure refreshment for their horses and
themselves, further stimulated by the report that the Armagnacs had
left a sick man behind them there, who might be a valuable prisoner.
By and by, a woodland path brought the disorderly party, about forty
in number, including their servants and the ruffians who always
followed whenever plunder was to be scented, out upon a pretty French
village of the better class, built round a green shaded with
chestnuts, under which, sure enough, were hay-carts, cows, sheep, and
goats, and their owners, taking refuge in a place thought to be out
of the track of the invaders.
Here were the malicious defrauders of the hungry warriors. Down upon
them flew the angry foragers. Soon the pretty tranquil scene was
ringing with the oaths of the plundering and the cries of the
plundered; the cattle were being driven off, the houses and farm-
yards rifled, blood was flowing, and what could not be carried off
was burning. The search for the Armagnac prisoner had, however,
relaxed after the first inquiry, and Malcolm, surprised that this had
been forgotten, suddenly bethought him of the distinction he should
secure by sending a valuable prize to Esclairmonde's feet. He seized
on an old man who had not been able to fly, and stood trembling and
panting in a corner, and demanded where the sick man was. The old
man pointed to a farm-house, round which clouds of smoke were
rolling, and Malcolm hurried into it, shouting, 'Dog of an Armagnac,
come out! Yield, ere thou be burnt!'
No answer; and he dashed forward. In the lower room was a sight that
opened his eyes with horror--no other than the shield of Drummond,
with the three wavy lines; ay, and with it the helmet and suit of
armour, whereof he knew each buckle and brace!
'Patie! Patrick! Patrick Drummond!' he wildly shouted, 'are you
No answer; and seeing through the smoke a stair, he rushed up.
There, in an upper room, on a bed, lay a senseless form, suffocated
perhaps by the smoke, but unmistakably his cousin! He called to him,
seized him, shook him, dragged him out of bed, all in vain; there was
no sign of animation. The fire was gaining on the house; Malcolm's
own breath was failing, and his frenzied efforts to carry Patrick's
almost giant form to the stairs were quite unavailing. Wild with
horror, he flew shouting down-stairs to call Halbert, whom he had
left with his horse, but neither Halbert nor horse was in sight, nor
indeed any of the party. Not a man was in sight, except a few
hurrying far out of reach, as if something had alarmed them. He
wrung his hands in anguish, and was about to make another attempt to
drag Patrick down from the already burning house, when suddenly a
troop of horse was among the scene of desolation, and at their head
King James himself. Malcolm flew to the King, cutting short his
angry exclamation with the cry, 'Help! help! he will burn! Patrick!
Patie Drummond! There!'
James had scarce gathered the sense of the words, ere, leaping from
his horse, he bounded up the stairs, through the smoke, amid flakes
of burning thatch falling from the roof, groped in the dense clouds
of smoke for the senseless weight, and holding the shoulders while
Malcolm held the feet, they sped down the stair, and rested not till
they had laid him under a chestnut tree, out of reach of the crash of
the house, which fell in almost instantly.
'Does he live?' gasped Malcolm.
'He will not,' said the King, 'if his nation be known here. Keep out
of his sight! He must hear only French!'
Remembering how inexorably Henry hung every Scotch prisoner,
Malcolm's heart sank. This was why no one had sought the prisoner.
A Scot was not available for ransom! Should he be the murderer of
his cousin, Lily's love?
Meantime James hurriedly explained to Kitson that here was the sick
man left by the enemy, summoned Sir Nigel to his side, closed his own
visor, and called for water; then hung over the prisoner, anxious to
prevent the first word from being broad Scotch. In the free air,
some long sobs showed that Patrick was struggling back to life; and
James at once said, 'Rendez vous, Messire;' but he neither answered,
nor was there meaning in his eyes. And James perceived that he was
bandaged as though for broken ribs, and that his right shoulder was
dislocated, and no doubt had been a second time pulled out when
Malcolm had grasped him by the arms. He swooned again at the first
attempt to lift him, and a hay-cart having been left in the flight of
the marauders, he was laid in it, and covered with the King's cloak,
to be conveyed to Corbeil, where James trusted to secure his life by
personal intercession with Henry. He groaned heavily several times,
but never opened his eyes or spoke articulately the whole way; and
James and Sir Nigel kept on either side of the cart, ready to address
him in French the first moment, having told the English that he was a
prisoner of quality, who must be carefully conveyed to King James's
tent at Corbeil. Malcolm was not allowed to approach, lest he should
be recognized; and he rode along in an agony of shame and suspense,
with very different feelings towards Patrick than those with which he
had of late thought of him, or of his own promises. If Patrick died
through this plundering raid, how should he ever face Lily?
It was nearly night ere they reached Corbeil, where the tents were
pitched outside the little town. James committed his captive to the
prudent care of old Baird, bidding him send for a French or
Burgundian surgeon, unable to detect the Scottish tongue; and then,
taking Malcolm with him, he crossed the square in the centre of the
camp to the royal pavilion, opposite to which his own was pitched.
It was a sultry night, and Henry had insisted on sleeping in his
tent, declaring himself sick of stone walls; and as they approached
his voice could be heard in brief excited sentences, giving orders,
and asking for the King of Scots.
'Here, Sir,' said James, stopping in where the curtain was looped up,
and showed King Henry half sitting, half lying, on a couch of
cushions and deer-skins, his eyes full of fire, his thin face flushed
with deep colour; Bedford, March, Warwick, and Salisbury in
'Ho! you are late!' said Henry. 'Did you come up with the caitiff
'They made off as we rode up. The village was already burnt.'
'Who were they? I hope you hung them on the spot, as I bade,'
continued Henry, coughing between his sentences, and almost in spite
of himself, putting his hand to his side.
'I was delayed. There was a life to save: a gentleman who lay sick
and stifled in a burning house.'
'And what was it to you,' cried Henry, angrily, 'if a dozen rebel
Armagnacs were fried alive, when I sent you to hinder my men from
growing mere thieves? Gentleman, forsooth! One would think it the
Dauphin himself; or mayhap Buchan. Ha! it is a Scot, then!'
'Yes, Sir,' said James; 'Sir Patrick Drummond, a good knight, hurt
and helpless, for whom I entreat your grace.'
'You disobeyed me to spare a Scot!' burst forth Henry. 'You, who
call yourself a captain of mine, and who know my will! He hangs
'Harry, bethink yourself. This is no captive taken in battle. He is
a sick man, left behind, sorely hurt.'
'Then wherefore must you be meddling, instead of letting him burn as
he deserved, and heeding what you undertook for me? I WILL have none
of your traitor ruffians here. Since you have brought him in, the
halter for him!--Here, Ralf Percy, tell the Provost-marshal--'
He was interrupted, for James unbuckled his sword, and tendered it to
'King Harry,' he said gravely, 'this morning I was your friend and
brother-in-arms; now I am your captive. Hang Patrick Drummond, who
aided me at Meaux in saving my honour and such freedom as I have, and
I return to any prison you please, and never strike blow for you
'Take back your sword,' said Henry. 'What folly is this? You knew
that I count not your rebel subjects as prisoners of war.'
'I did not know that I was saving a defenceless man from the flames
to be used like a dog. I never offered my arm to serve a savage
'Take your sword!' reiterated Henry, his passion giving way before
James's steady calmness. 'We will look into it to-morrow: but it
was no soldierly act to take advantage of my weariness, to let my
commands be broken the first day of taking the field, and bring the
caitiff here. We will leave him for the night, I say. Take up your
'Not till I am sure of my liegeman's life,' said James.
'No threats, Sir. I will make no promise,' said Henry, haughtily;
but the words died away in a racking cough.
And Bedford, laying his hand on James's arm, said, 'He is fevered and
weary. Fret him no longer, but take your sword, and get your fellow
out of the camp.'
James was too much hurt to make a compromise. 'No,' he said; 'unless
your brother freely spares the life of a man thus taken, I must be
his prisoner--but his soldier never!'
He left the tent, followed by Malcolm in an agony of despair and
Henry's morning decisions were not apt to vary from his evening ones.
There was a terrible implacability about him at times, and he had
never ceased to visit his brother of Clarence's death upon the Scots,
on the plea that they were in arms against their king. Even Bedford
obviously thought that the prisoner would be safest out of his reach;
and this could hardly be accomplished, since Patrick had been placed
in James's tent, in the very centre of the camp, near the King's own.
And though Bedford and March might have connived at his being taken
away, yet the mass of the soldiery would, if they detected a Scot
being smuggled away into the town, have been persuaded that King
James was acting treacherously.
Besides, the captive himself proved to be so exhausted, that to
transport him any further in his present state would have been almost
certainly fatal. A barber surgeon from Corbeil had been fetched, and
was dealing with the injuries, which had apparently been the effect
of a fall some days previously, probably when on his way to join the
French army at Cosne; and the first fever of these hurts had no doubt
been aggravated by the adventures of the day. At any rate Patrick
lay unconscious, or only from time to time groaning or murmuring a
few words, sometimes French, sometimes Scotch.
Malcolm would have fallen on his knees by his side, and striven to
win a word or a look, but James forcibly withheld him. 'If you
roused him into loud ravings in our own tongue, all hope of saving
him would be gone,' he said.
'Shall we? Oh, can we?' cried Malcolm, catching at the mere word
'I only know,' said the King, 'that unless we do so by Harry's good-
will, I will never serve under him again.'
'And if he persists in his cruelty?'
'Then must some means be found of carrying Drummond into Corbeil. It
will go hard with me but he shall be saved, Malcolm. But this whole
army is against a Scot; and Harry's eye is everywhere, and his
fierceness unrelenting. Malcolm, this IS bondage! May God and St.
Andrew aid us!'
When the King came to saying that, it was plain he deemed the case
past all other aid.
Malcolm's misery was great. The very sight of Patrick had made a
mighty revulsion in his feelings. The almost forgotten associations
of Glenuskie were revived; the forms of his guardian and of Lily came
before him, as he heard familiar names and phrases in the dear home
accent fall from the fevered lips. Coldingham rose up before him,
and St. Abbs, with Lily watching on the rocks for tidings of her
knight--her knight, to whom her brother had once promised to resign
all his lands and honours, but who now lay captured by plunderers,
among whom that brother made one, and in peril of a shameful death.
Oh, far better die in his stead, than return to Lily with tidings
such as these!
Was this retribution for his broken purpose, and for having fallen
away, not merely into secular life, but into sins that stood between
him and religious rites? The King had called St. Andrew to aid!
Must a proof of repentance and change be given, ere that aid would
come? Should he vow himself again to the cloister, yield up the hope
of Esclairmonde, and devote himself for Patrick's sake? Could he
ever be happy with Patrick dead, and Esclairmonde driven and harassed
into being his wife? Were it not better to vow at once, that so his
cousin were spared he would return to his old purposes?
Almost had he uttered the vow, when, tugging hard at his heart, came
the vision of Esclairmonde's loveliness, and he felt it beyond his
strength to resign her voluntarily; besides, how Madame of Hainault
and Monseigneur de Therouenne would deride his uncertainties; and how
intolerable it would be to leave Esclairmonde to fall into the hands
of Boemond of Burgundy.
Such a renunciation could not be made; he did not even know that
Patrick's safety depended on it; and instead of that, he promised,
with great fervency of devotion, that if St. Andrew would save
Patrick Drummond, and bring about the two marriages, a most splendid
monastery for educational purposes, such as the King so much wished
to found, should be his reward. It should be in honour of St.
Andrew, and should be endowed with Esclairmonde's wealth, which would
be quite ample enough, both for this and for a noble portion for
Lily. Surely St. Andrew must accept such a vow, and spare Patrick!
So Malcolm tried to pacify an anguish of suspense that would not be
CHAPTER XII: THE LAST PILGRIMAGE
The summer morning came; the reveille sounded, Mass was sung in the
chapel tent, without which Henry never moved; and Malcolm tried to
reassure his sinking heart by there pledging his vow to St. Andrew.
The English king was not present; but the troops were drawing up in
complete array, that he might inspect them before the march. And a
glorious array they were, of steel-clad men-at-arms on horseback, in
bands around their leader's banner, and of ranks of sturdy archers,
with their long-bows in leathern cases; the orderly multitude,
stretching as far as the eye could reach, glittering in the early
sun, and waiting with bold and glad hearts to greet the much-loved
king, who had always led them to victory.
The only unarmed knight was James of Scotland. He stood in the space
beside the standard of England, in his plain suit of chamois leather,
his crimson cloak over his shoulder, but with no weapon about him,
waiting with crossed arms for the morning's decision.
Close outside the royal tent waited Henry's horse, and those of his
brother and other immediate attendants; and after a short interval
the King came forth in his brightest armour, with the coronal on his
helmet, and the beaver up; and as he mounted, not without
considerable aid, enthusiastic shouts of 'Long live King Harry!'
broke forth, and came echoing back and back from troop to troop,
gathering fervour as they rose.
The King rode forward towards the standard; but while yet the shouts
were pealing from the army, be suddenly caught at his saddle-bow,
reeled visibly, and would have fallen before Bedford could bring his
horse to his side, had not James sprung forward, and laid one arm
round him, and a hand on his rein.
'It is nothing,' said Henry. 'Let me alone.'
Ere the words were finished, he put his hand to his side, dropped his
bridle, and gasped, while a look of intense suffering passed over his
features; and he was passive while his horse was led back to the
tent, and he was lifted down and placed on the couch he had just
'Loose my belt,' he gasped; then trying to smile, 'Percy has strained
it three holes tighter.'
Alas! though it was indeed thus drawn in, his armour was hanging on
him like the shell of a last year's nut. They released him from it,
and he lay against the cushions with short painful respiration, and
'You must go on with the men at once, John,' he said. 'I will but be
blooded, and follow in the litter.'
'Warwick and Salisbury--' began Bedford.
'No, no!' peremptorily gasped Henry. 'It must be you or I, I would,
but this stitch in the side catches me, so that I can neither ride
nor speak. Go, instantly. You know what I have ordered. I'll be up
with you ere the battle.'
He brooked no resistance. His impatience, and with it the oppression
and pain, only grew by remonstrance; and Bedford was forced to obey
the command to go himself, and leave no one he could help behind him.
'You will stay, at least,' said John, in his distress, turning to the
'I must,' said James.
'You hold not your wrath?' said Bedford. 'It will madden me to leave
him to any save you in this stress. Some are dull; some he will not
'I will tend him like yourself, John,' said the Scot, taking his
hand. 'Do what he may, Harry is Harry still. Hasten to your
command, John; he will be calmer when you are gone.'
Bedford groaned. It was hard to leave his brother at a moment when
he must be more than himself--become general of an army, with a
battle imminent; but he was under dire necessity, and forced himself
to listen to and gather the import of the few terse orders and
directions that Henry, breathless as he was, rendered clear and
trenchant as ever.
The King almost drove his brother away at last, while a barber was
taking a copious stream of blood from him; and as the army had
already been set in motion, a great stillness soon prevailed, no one
being left save a small escort, and part of the King's own immediate
household, for Henry had himself ordered away Montagu, his
chamberlain, Percy, and almost all on whom his eyes fell. The
bleeding relieved him; he breathed less tightly, but became deadly
pale, and sank into a doze of extreme exhaustion.
'Who is here?' he said, awakening. 'Some drink! What you, Jamie!
You that were on fire to see a stricken field!'
'Not so much as to see you better at ease,' said James.
'I am better,' said Henry. 'I could move now; and I must. This tent
will stifle me by noon.'
'You will not go forward?'
'No; I'll go back. A sick man is best with his wife. And I can
battle it no further, nor grudge the glory of the day to John. He
The irascible sharpness had passed from his voice and manner, and
given place to a certain languid cheerfulness, as arrangements were
made for his return to Vincennes.
There proved to be a large and commodious barge, in which the transit
could be effected on the river, with less of discomfort than in the
springless horse litter by which he had travelled the day before; and
this was at once prepared.
Malcolm had meanwhile remained, as in duty bound, in attendance on
his king. James had found time to enjoin him to stay, being, to say
the truth, unwilling to trust one so inexperienced and fragile in the
melee without himself; nor indeed would this have been a becoming
moment for him to put himself forward to win his spurs in the English
Nothing had passed about Patrick Drummond, nor the high words of last
night. Henry seemed to have forgotten them, between his bodily
suffering and the anxiety of being forced to relinquish the command
just before a battle; and James would have felt it ungenerous to
harass him at such a moment, when absolutely committed to his charge.
For the present, there was no fear of the prisoner being summarily
executed by any lawful authority, since the King had promised to take
cognizance of the case; and the chief danger was from his chance
discovery by some lawless man-at-arms, who would think himself doing
good service by killing a concealed Scot under any circumstances.
Drummond himself, after his delirious night, had sunk into a heavy
sleep; and the King thought the best hope for him would be to remain
under the care of Sir Nigel Baird for the present, until he could
obtain favour for him from Henry, and could send back orders from
Vincennes. He would not leave Malcolm to share the care of him,
declaring that the canny Sir Nigel would have quite enough to do in
averting suspicion without him; and, besides, he needed Malcolm
himself, in the scarcity of attendants who had any tenderness or
dexterity of hand to wait upon the suffering King.
Henry had rallied enough to walk down to the river, leaning upon
James; and he smiled thanks when he was assisted by Trenton and
Kitson to lie along on cushions. 'So, my Yorkshire knights,' he
said, ''tis you that have had to stop from the battle to watch a sick
'Ay, Sir,' said Sir Christopher; 'I did it with the better will, that
Trenton here has not been his own man since the fever; and 'twere no
fair play in the matter your Grace wets of, did I go into battle
whole and sound, and he sick and sorry.'
Henry's look of amusement brightened him into his old self, as he
said, 'Honester guards could I scarce have, good friend.'
At that moment, after a nudge or two from Trenton, Kitson and he came
suddenly down on their knees, with an impetus that must have tried
the boards of the bottom of the barge. 'Sir,' said Kitson, always
the spokesman, 'we have a grace to ask of you.'
'Say on,' said Henry. 'Any boon, save the letting you cut one
'No, Sir. Will Trenton's scarce my match now, more's the pity; and,
moreover, we've lost the good will to it we once had. No, Sir; 'twas
license to go a pilgrimage.'
'Ay, Sir; to yon shrine at Breuil--St. Fiacre's, as they call him.
Some of our rogues pillaged his shrine, as you know, Sir; and those
that know these parts best, say he was a Scottish hermit, and bears
malice like a Scot, saint though he be; and that your sickness, my
lord, is all along of that. So we two have vowed to go barefoot
there for your healing, my liege, if so be we have your license.'
'And welcome, with my best thanks, good friends,' said Henry,
exerting himself to lean forward and give his hand to their kiss.
Then, as they fell back into their places, with a few inarticulate
blessings and assurances that they only wished they could go to Rome,
or to Jerusalem, if it would restore their king, Henry said, smiling,
as he looked at James, 'Scotsmen here, there, and everywhere--in
Heaven as well as earth! What was it last night about a Scot that
moved thine ire, Jamie? Didst not tender me thy sword? By my faith,
thou hast it not! What was the rub?'
James now told the story in its fulness. How he had met Sir Patrick
Drummond at Glenuskie; how, afterwards, the knight had stood by him
in the encounter at Meaux; and how it had been impossible to leave
him senseless to the flames; and how he had trusted that a capture
made thus, accidentally, of a helpless man, would not fall under
Henry's strict rules against accepting Scottish prisoners.
'Hm!' said Henry; 'it must be as you will; only I trust to you not to
let him loose on us, either here or on the Border. Take back your
sword, Jamie. If I spoke over hotly last night--a man hardly knows
what he says when he has a goad in the side--you forgive it, Jamie.'
And as the Scots king, with the dew in his eyes, wrung his hand, he
added anxiously, 'Your sword! What, not here! Here's mine. Which
is it?' Then, as James handed it to him: 'Ay, I would fain you wore
it! 'Tis the sword of my knighthood, when poor King Richard dubbed
me in Ireland; and many a brave scheme came with it!'
The soft movement of the barge upon the water had a soothing
influence; and he was certainly in a less suffering state, though
silent and dreamy, as he lay half raised on cushions under an awning,
James anxiously watching over him, and Malcolm with a few other
attendants near at hand; stout bargemen propelling the craft, and the
guard keeping along the bank of the river.
His thoughts were perhaps with the battle, for presently he looked
up, and murmured the verse:
'"I had a dream, a weary dream,
Ayont the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I.'
That stave keeps ringing in my brain; nor can I tell where or when I
have heard it.'
''Tis from the Scottish ballad that sings of the fight of Otterburn,'
said James; 'I brought it with me from Scotland.'
'And got little thanks for your pains,' said Henry, smiling. 'But,
methinks, since no Percy is in the way, I would hear it again; there
was true knighthood in the Douglas that died there.'
James's harp was never far off; and again his mellow voice went
through that gallant and plaintive strain, though in a far more
subdued manner than the first time he had sung it; and Henry,
weakened and softened, actually dropped a brave man's tear at the
'bracken bush upon the lily lea,' and the hero who lay there.
'That I should weep for a Douglas!' he said, half laughing; 'but the
hearts of all honest men lie near together, on whatever side they
draw their swords. God have mercy on whosoever may fall to-morrow!
I trow, Jamie, thou couldst not sing that rough rhyme of Agincourt.
I was bashful and ungracious enough to loathe the very sound of it
when I came home in my pride of youth; but I would lief hear it once
more. Or, stay--Yorkshiremen always have voices;' and raising his
tone, he unspeakably gratified Trenton and Kitson by the request; and
their voices, deep and powerful, and not uncultivated, poured forth
the Lay of Agincourt to the waves of the French river, and to its
'Our King went forth to Normandye.'
Long and lengthily chanted was the triumphant song, with the Latin
choruses, which were echoed back by the escort on the bank; while
Henry lay, listening and musing; and Malcolm had time for many a
thought and impulse.
Patrick's life was granted; although it had been promised too late to
send the intelligence back to the tent at Corbeil. So far, the
purpose of his vow to St. Andrew had been accomplished; but with the
probability that he should soon again be associated with Patrick,
came the sense of the failure in purpose and in promise. Patrick
would not reproach him, he well knew--nay, would rejoice in the
change; but even this certainty galled him, and made him dread his
cousin's presence as likely to bring him a sense of shame. What
would Patrick think of his letting a lady be absolutely compelled to
marry him? Might he not say it was the part of Walter Stewart over
again? Indeed, Malcolm remembered how carefully King James was
prevented from hearing the means by which the Countess intended to
make the lady his own; and a sensation came over him, that it was
profanation to call on St. Andrew to bless what was to be brought
about by such means. Why was it that, as his eyes fell on the face
of King Henry, the whole world and all his projects acquired so
different a colouring? and a sentence he had once heard Esclairmonde
quote would come to him constantly: 'My son, think not to buy off
God. It is thyself that He requires, not thy gifts.'
But the long lay of victory was over; and King Henry had roused
himself to thank the singers, then sighed, and said, 'How long ago
'Six years,' said James.
'The whole space from the hope and pride of youth to the care and
toil of eld,' said Henry. 'Your Scots made an old man of me the day
they slew Thomas.'
'Yet that has been your sole mishap,' said James.
'Yea, truly! But thenceforth I have learnt that the road to
Jerusalem is not so straight and plain as I deemed it when I stood
victorious at Agincourt. The Church one again--the Holy Sepulchre
redeemed! It seemed then before my eyes, and that I was the man
called to do it.'
'So it may be yet,' said James. 'Sickness alters everything, and
raises mountains before us.'
'It may be so,' said Henry; 'and yet--Jerusalem! Jerusalem! It was
my father's cry; it was King Edward's cry; it was St. Louis' cry; and
yet they never got there.'
'St. Louis was far on his way,' said James.
'Ay! he never turned aside!' said Henry, sighing, and moving
restlessly and wearily with something of returning fever.
"'O bona patria, lumina sobria te speculantur--"
Boy, are you there?' as, in turning, his eye fell on Malcolm. 'Take
warning: the straight road is the best. You see, I have never come
to Jerusalem.' Then again he murmured:
"'Hic breve vivitur, hic breve plangitur, hic breve fletur;
Non breve vivere, non breve plangere, retribuetur."
And James, seeing that nothing lulled him like song, offered to sing
that mysteriously beautiful rhythm of Bernard of Morlaix.
'Ay, prithee do so,' said Henry. 'There's a rest there, when the
Agincourt lay rings hollow. Well, there is a Jerusalem where our
shortcomings are made up; only the straight way--the straight way.'
Malcolm took his part with James in singing the rhythm, which he had
learnt long ago at Coldingham, and which thus in every note brought
back the vanished aspirations and self-dedication to 'the straight
For such, an original purpose of self-devotion must ever be--not of
course exclusively to the monastic life; but whoever lowers his aims
of serving God under any worldly inducement, is deviating from the
straight way: and, thought Malcolm, if King Harry feels Agincourt an
empty word beside the song of Sion, must not all I have sought for be
a very vanity?
Sometimes dozing, but sometimes restless, and with the pain of
breathing constantly increasing on him, Henry wore through the
greater part of the day, upon the river, until it was necessary to
land, and be taken through the forest in his litter. He was now
obliged to be lifted from the barge; and his weariness rendered the
conveyance very distressing, save that his patient smile never faded;
and still he said, 'All will be well when I come to my Kate!'
Alas! when the gates were reached, James hardly knew how to tell him
that the Queen had gone that morning to Paris with her mother. Yet
still he was cheerful. 'If the physicians deal hard with me,' he
said, 'it will be well that she should not be here till the worst is
The physicians were there. A messenger had gone direct from Corbeil
to summon them; and Henry delivered himself up into their hands, to
fight out the battle with disease, as he had set himself to fight out
many another battle in his time.
A sharp conflict it was--between a keen and aggravated disease,
apparently pleurisy coming upon pulmonary affection of long standing,
and a strong and resolute nature, unquenched by suffering, and backed
by the violent remedies of a half-instructed period. Those who
watched him, and strove to fulfil the directions of the physicians,
hardly marked the lapse of hours; even though more than one day and
night had passed ere in the early twilight of a long summer's morn he
sank into a sleep, his face still distressed, but less acutely, and
his breath heavy and labouring, though without the severe pain.
The watchers felt that here might be the turning point, and stood or
sat around, not daring to change their postures, or utter the
slightest word. Suddenly, James, who stood nearest, leaning against
the wall, with his eyes fixed on the face of the sleeper, was aware
of a hand on his shoulder, and looking round, saw in the now full
light Bedford's face--so pale, haggard, and replete with anxiety, so
dusty and travel-stained, that Henry, awakening at that moment,
exclaimed, 'Ha, John!' And as his brother was slow to reply--'Has
the day gone against thee? How was it? Never fear to speak,
brother; thou art safe; and I know thou hast done valiantly. Valour
is never lost, whether in defeat or success. Speak, John. Take it
not so much to heart.'
'There has been no battle, Harry,' said Bedford, gathering voice with
difficulty. 'The Dauphin would not abide our coming, but broke up
'Beshrew thee, man!' said Henry; 'but I thought thou wast just off a
'Dost think one can ride fast only for a flight?' said Bedford. 'Ah,
would that it had been the loss of ten battles rather than this!'
And he fell on his knees, grasping Henry's hand, and hiding his face
against the bed, with the same instinct of turning to him for comfort
with which the young motherless children of Henry of Bolingbroke,
when turned adrift among the rude Beaufort progeny of John of Gaunt,
had clung to their eldest brother, and found tenderness in his love
and protection in his fearlessness; so that few royal brethren ever
loved better than Henry and John of Lancaster.
'It was well and kindly done, John,' said Henry; 'and thou hast come
at a good time; for, thanks be to God, the pain hath left me; and if
it were not for this burthen of heaviness and weariness, I should be
more at ease than I have been for many weeks.'
But as he spoke, there was that both in his face and voice that
chilled with a dread certainty the hearts of those who hung over him.
'Is my wife come? I could see her now,' he wistfully asked.
Alas! no. Sir Lewis Robsart, the knight attached to her service,
faltered, with a certain shame and difficulty, that the Queen would
come when her orisons at Notre Dame were performed.
It was his last disappointment; but still he bore it cheerily.
'Best,' he said. 'My fair one was not made for sights like this; and
were she here'--his lip trembled--'I might bear me less as a
Christian man should. My sweet Catherine! Take care of her, John;
she will be the most desolate being in the world.'
John promised with all his heart; though pity for cold-hearted
Catherine was not the predominant feeling there.
'I would I had seen my child's face, and blessed him,' continued
Henry. 'Poor boy! I would have him Warwick's charge.'
'Warwick is waiting admission,' said Bedford. 'He and Salisbury and
Exeter rode with me.'
The King's face lighted up with joy as he heard this. 'It is good
for a man to have his friends about him,' he said; and as they
entered he held out his hand to them and thanked them.
Then took place the well-known scene, when, looking back on his
career, he pronounced it to have been his endeavour to serve God and
his people, and declared himself ready to face death fearlessly,
since such was the will of his Maker: grieving only for the infancy
of his son, but placing his hope and comfort in his brother John, and
commending the babe to the fatherly charge of Warwick. 'You cannot
love him for his own sake as yet; but if you think you owe me aught,
repay it to him.' And as he thought over the fate of other infant
kings, he spoke of some having hated the father and loved the child,
others who had loved the father and hated the child.
To Humfrey of Gloucester he sent stringent warnings against giving
way to his hot and fiery nature, offending Burgundy, or rushing into
a doubtful wedlock with Jaqueline of Hainault; speaking of him with
an elder brother's fatherly affection, but turning ever to John of
Bedford with full trust and reliance, as one like-minded, and able to
carry out all his intentions. For the French prisoners, they might
not be released, 'lest more fire be kindled in one day than can be
quenched in three.'
'And for you, Jamie,' he said, affectionately holding out his hand,
'my friend, my brother-in-arms, I must say the same as ever. Pardon
me, Jamie; but I have not kept you out of malice, such as man must
needs renounce on his death-bed. I trust to John, and to the rest,
for giving you freedom at such time as you can safely return to be
such a king indeed as we have ever hoped to be. Do you pardon me,
James, for this, as for any harshness or rudeness you may have
suffered from me?'
James, with full heart, murmured out his ardent love, his sense that
no captive had ever been so generously treated as he.
'And you, my young lord,' said Henry, looking towards Malcolm, whose
light touch and tender hands had made him a welcome attendant in the
illness, 'I have many a kind service to thank you for. And I believe
I mightily angered you once; but, boy, remember--ay, and you too,
Ralf Percy--that he is your friend who turns you back from things
sore to remember in a case like mine!'
After these, and other calm collected farewells, Henry required to
know from his physicians how long his time might yet be. There was
hesitation in answering, plainly as they saw that mortification had
'What,' he said, 'do ye think I have faced death so many times to
fear it now?'
Then came the reply given by the weeping, kneeling physician: 'Sir,
think of your soul, for, without a miracle, you cannot live two
The King beckoned his confessor, and his friends retired, to return
again to take their part in the last rites, the Viaticum and Unction.
Henry was collected, and alive to all that was passing, responding
duly, and evidently entering deeply into the devotions that were to
aid his spirit in that awful passage; his face gravely set, but firm
and fearless as ever. The ceremonial ended, he was still sensible,
though with little power of voice or motion left; but the tone,
though low, was steady as ever, when he asked for the Penitential
Psalms. Still they doubted whether he were following them, for his
eyes closed, and his lips ceased to move, until, as they chanted the
revival note of David's mournful penance--'O be favourable and
gracious unto Sion; build Thou the walls of Jerusalem;'--at that
much-loved word, the light of the blue eyes once more beamed out, and
he spoke again. 'Jerusalem! On the faith of a dying king, it was my
earnest purpose to have composed matters here into peace and union,
and so to have delivered Jerusalem. But the will of God be done,
since He saw me unworthy.'
Then his eyes closed again; he slept, or seemed to sleep; and then a
strange quivering came over the face, the lips moved again, and the
words broke from them, 'Thou liest, foul spirit! thou liest!' but, as
though the parting soul had gained the victory in that conflict,
peace came down on the wasted features; and with the very words of
his Redeemer Himself, 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit,' he did
indeed fall asleep; the mighty soul passed from the worn-out frame.
CHAPTER XIII: THE RING AND THE EMPTY THRONE
No one knows how great a tree has been till it has fallen; nor how
large a space a mighty man has occupied till he is removed.
King Henry V. left his friends and foes alike almost dizzy, as in
place of his grand figure they found a blank; instead of the hand
whose force they had constantly felt, mere emptiness.
Malcolm of Glenuskie, who had been asserting constantly that King
Henry was no master of his, and had no rights over him, had
nevertheless, for the last year or more, been among those to whom the
King's will was the moving spring, fixing the disposal of almost
every hour, and making everything dependent thereon.
When the death-hush was broken by the 'Depart, O Christian soul,' and
Bedford, with a face white and set like a statue, stood up from his
knees, and crossed and kissed the still white brow, it was to Malcolm
as if the whole universe had become as nothing. To him there
remained only the great God, the heavenly Jerusalem into which the
King had entered, and himself far off from the straight way,
wandering from his promise and his purpose into what seemed to him a
mere hollow painted scene, such as came and went in the midst of a
banquet. Or, again, it was the grisly Dance of Death that was the
only reality; Death had clutched the mightiest in the ring. Whom
would he clutch next?
He stood motionless, as one in a dream, or rather as if not knowing
which was reality, and which phantom; gazing, gazing on at the bed
where the King lay, round which the ecclesiastics were busying
themselves, unperceiving that James, Bedford, and the nobles had
quitted the apartment, till Percy first spoke to him in a whisper,
then almost shook him, and led him out of the room. 'I am sent for
you,' he said, in a much shaken voice; 'your king says you can be of
use.' Then tightening his grasp with the force of intense grief,
'Oh, what a day! what a day! My father! my father! I never knew
mine own father! But he has been all to Harry and to me! Oh, woe
worth the day!' And dropping into a window-seat, he covered his face
with his hands, and gave way to his grief: pointing, however, to the
council-room, where Malcolm found Bedford writing at the table, King
James, and a few others, engaged in the same manner.
A few words from James informed him (or would have done so if he
could have understood) that the Duke of Bedford, on whom at that
terrible moment the weight of two kingdoms and of the war had
descended, could not pause to rest, or to grieve, till letters and
orders had been sent to the council in England, and to every
garrison, every ally in France, to guard against any sudden panic, or
faltering in friendship to England and her infant heir. Warwick and
Salisbury were already riding post haste to take charge of the army;
Robsart was gone to the Queen, Exeter to the Duke of Burgundy; and as
the clergy were all engaged with the tendance of the royal corpse,
there was scarcely any one to lessen the Duke's toil. James, knowing
Malcolm's pen to be ready, had sent for him to assist in copying the
brief scrolls, addressed to each captain of a fortress or town,
announcing the father's death, and commanding him to do his duty to
the son--King Harry VI. Each was then to be signed by the Duke, and
despatched by men-at-arms, who waited for the purpose.
Like men stunned, the half-dozen who sat at the council-table worked
on, never daring to glance at the empty chair at the upper end. The
only words that passed were occasional inquiries of, and orders from,
Bedford; and these he spoke with a strange alertness and metallic
ring in his voice, as though the words were uttered by mechanism; yet
in themselves they were as clear and judicious as possible, as if
coming from a mind wound up exclusively to the one necessary object;
and the face--though flushed at first, and gradually growing paler,
with knitted brows and compressed lips--betrayed no sign of emotion.
Hours passed: he wrote, he ordered, he signed, he sealed; he
mentioned name after name, of place and officer, never moving or
looking up. And James, who knew from Salisbury that he had neither
slept nor eaten since sixty miles off he had met a worse report of
his brother, watched him anxiously till, when evening began to fall,
he murmured, 'There is the captain of--of--at--but--'--the pen
slipped from his fingers, and he said, 'I can no more!'
The overtaxed powers, strained so long--mind, memory, and all--were
giving way under the mere force of excessive fatigue. He rose from
his seat, but stumbled, like one blind, as James upheld him, and led
him away to the nearest bed-chamber, where, almost while the
attendants divested him of the heavy boots and cuirass he had never
paused all these hours to remove, he dropped into a sleep of sheer
James, who was likewise wearied out with watching, turned towards his
own quarters; but, in so doing, he could not but turn aside to the
chapel, where before the altar had been laid all that was left of
King Henry. There he lay, his hands clasped over a crucifix, clad in
the same rich green and crimson robes in which he had ridden to meet
his Queen at Vincennes but three short months before; the golden
circlet from his helmet was on his head, but it could not give
additional majesty to the still and severe sweetness of his grand and
pure countenance, so youthful in the lofty power that high
aspirations had imprinted on it, yet so intensely calm in its marble
rest, more than ever with the look of the avenging unpitying angel.
To James, it was chiefly the face of the man whom he had best loved
and admired, in spite of their strange connection; but to Malcolm,
who had as usual followed him closely, it was verily a look from the
invisible world--a look of awful warning and reproof, almost as if
the pale set lips were unclosing to demand of him where he was in the
valley of shadows, through which the way lay to Jerusalem. If Henry
had turned back, and warned him at the gate of the heavenly Sion,
surely such would have been his countenance; and Malcolm, when, like
James, he had sprinkled the holy water on the white brow, and crossed
himself while the low chant of Psalms from kneeling priests went up
around him--clasped his two hands close together, and breathed forth
the words, 'Oh, I have wandered far! O great King, I will never
leave the straight way again! I will cast aside all worldly aims! O
God, and the Saints, help me not to lose my way again!'
He would have tarried on still, in the fascination of that wonderful
unearthly countenance, and in the inertness of faculties stunned by
fatigue and excitement, but James summoned him by a touch, and he
again followed him.
'O Sir!' he began, when they had turned away, 'I repent me of my
falling away to the world! I give all up. Let me back to my vows of
'We will talk of that another time,' said James, gravely. 'Neither
you nor I, Malcolm, can think reasonably under such a blow as this;
and I forbid you rashly to bind yourself.'
'Sir, Sir!' cried Malcolm, petulantly. 'You took me from the
straight way. You shall not hinder my return!'
'I hinder no true purpose,' said King James. 'I only hinder another
rash and hasty pledge, to be felt as a fetter, or left broken on your
conscience. Silence now. When men are sad and spent they cannot
speak as befits them, and had best hold their peace.'
These words were spoken on the way up the stair that led to the
apartments of the King of Scots. On opening the door of the larger
room, the first thing they saw was the tall figure of a
distinguished-looking knight, who, as they entered, flung himself at
King James's feet, fervently exclaiming, 'O my liege! accept my
homage! Never was vassal so bound to his lord by thankfulness for
his life, and for far more than his life!'
'Sir Patrick Drummond, I am glad to see you better at ease,' said
James. 'Nay, suffer me,' he added, giving his hand to raise the
knight, but finding it grasped and kissed with passionate devotion,
almost overpowering the only half-recovered knight, so that James was
forced to use strength to support him, and would at once have lifted
him up, but the warm-hearted Patrick resisted, almost sobbing out--
'Nay, Sir! king of my heart indeed! let me first thank you. I knew
not how much more I owed you than the poor life you saved--my
father's rescue, and that of all that was most dear.'
'Speak of such things seated, my good friend,' said James, trying to
raise him; but Drummond still did not second his efforts.
'I have not given my parole of honour as the captive whose life is
again due to you.'
'You must give that to the Duke of Bedford, Sir Patrick,' said James.
'I know not if I am to be put into ward myself. In any case you are
safe, by the good King's grace, so you pledge yourself to draw no
sword against England in Scotland or France till ransom be accepted
'Alack!' said Patrick, 'I have neither sword nor ransom. I would I
knew what was to be done with the life you have given me, my lord.'
'I will find a use for it, never fear,' said James, sadly, but
kindly. 'Be my knight for the present, till better days come for us
'With my whole heart!' said Patrick, fervently. 'Yours am I for
ever, my liege.'
'Then my first command is that you should rise, and rest,' said
James, assisting the knight to regain his feet, and placing him in
the only chair in the room. 'You must become a whole man as soon as
For Patrick's arm was in a sling, and evidently still painful and
useless, and he sank back, breathless and unresisting, like one who
had by no means regained perfect health, while his handsome features
looked worn and pale. 'I fear me,' said James, as the two cousins
silently shook hands, 'that you have moved over soon.--You surely had
my message, Bairdsbrae?'
'Oh yes, my lord,' replied Baird; 'but the lad was the harder to
hold; and after the fever was gone, we deemed he could well brook the
journey by water. 'Twas time I was here to guide ye too, my lord;
you and the callant baith look sair forfaughten.'
'We have had a sad time of it, Nigel,' said James, with trembling
'And if Brewster tells me right, ye've not tasted food the whole
day?' said Nigel, laying an authoritative hand on his royal pupil.
'Nay, sit ye down; here come the varlets with the meal I bade them
James passively yielded, courteously signing to the others to share
the food that was spread on a table; and with the same scarcely
conscious grace, making inquiries, which elicited that Patrick
Drummond's hurts had been caused by his horse falling and rolling
over with him, whilst with Sir John Swinton and other Scottish
knights he was reconnoitring the line of the English march. He was
too much injured to be taken back to the far distant camp, and had
accordingly been intrusted to the French farmer, with no attendant
but a young French horse-boy, since he was too poor to keep a squire.
He knew nothing more, for fever had run high; and he had not even
been sensible of his desertion by his French hosts on the approach of
the English, far less of the fire, and of his rescue by the King and
Malcolm; but for this he seemed inclined to compensate to the utmost,
by the intense eagerness of devotion with which he regarded James,
who sat meanwhile crushed down by the weight of his own grief.
'I can eat no more, Baird,' said he, swallowing down a draught of
wine, and pushing aside his trencher. 'Your license, gentlemen. I
must be alone. Take care of the lads, Nigel. Malcolm is spent too.
His deft service was welcome to--to my dearest brother.'
And though he hastily shut himself into his own inner chamber, it was
not till they had seen that his grief was becoming uncontrollable.
Patrick could not but murmur, 'Dearest brother!'
'Ay, like brothers they loved!' said Baird, gravely.
'A strange brotherhood,' began Drummond.
But Malcolm cried, with much agitation, 'Not a word, Patie! You know
not what you say. Take heed of profaning the name of one who is gone
to the Sion above.'
'You turned English, our wee Malcolm!' exclaimed Drummond, in amaze.
'There is no English, French, or Scot where he is gone!' cried
Malcolm. 'No Babel! O Patie, I have been far fallen! I have done
you in heart a grievous wrong! but if I have turned back in time, it
is his doing that lies there.'
'His! what, Harry of Lancaster's?' demanded the bewildered Patrick.
'What had he to do with you?'
'He has been my only true friend here!' cried Malcolm. 'Oh, if my
hand be free from actual spoil and bloodshed, it was his doing! Oh,
that he could hear me bless him for the chastisement I took so
'Chastisement!' demanded Patrick. 'The English King dared chastise
YOU! of Scots blood royal! 'Tis well he is dead!'
'The laddie's well-nigh beside himself!' said Baird. 'But he speaks
true. This king whom Heaven assolizie, kept a tight hand over the
youngsters; and falling on Lord Malcolm and some other callants
making free with a house at Meaux, dealt some blows, of which my
young lord found it hard to stomach his share; though I am glad to
see he is come to a better mind. Ay, 'tis pity of this King Harry!
Brave and leal was he; never spake an untrue word; never turned eye
for fear, nor foot for weariness, nor hand for toil, nor nose for ill
savour. A man, look you, to be trusted; never failing his word for
good or ill! Right little love has there been between him and me;
but I could weep like my own lad in there, to think I shall never see
that knightly presence more, nor hear those frank gladsome voices of
the boys, as they used to shout up and down Windsor Forest.'
'You too, Sir Nigel! and with a king like ours!'
'Ay, Sir Patrick! and if he be such a king as Scotland never had
since St. David, and maybe not then, I'm free to own as much of it is
due to King Harry as to his own noble self.--Did ye say they had
streekit him in the chapel, Lord Malcolm? I'd fain look on the
bonnie face of him; I'll ne'er look on his like again.'
No sooner had old Bairdsbrae gone, than Malcolm flung himself down
before his cousin, crying, 'Oh, Patrick, you will hear me! I cannot
rest till you know how changed I have been.'
'Changed!' said Patrick; 'ay, and for the better! Why, Malcolm, I
never durst hope to see you so sturdy and so heartsome. My father
would have been blithe to see you such a gallant young squire. Even
the halt is gone!'
'Nearly,' said Malcolm. 'But I would fain be puny and puling, to
have the clear heart that once I had. Oh, hear me! hear me! and
pardon me, Patie!'
And Malcolm, in his agitation, poured forth the whole story of his
having shifted from his old cherished purpose of devoting himself to
the service of Heaven, and leaving lands and vassals to the stronger
hands of Patrick and Lilias; how, having thus given himself to the
world, he had fallen into temptation; how he had let himself be led
to persecute with his suit a noble lady, vowed like himself; how he
had almost agreed to marry her by force: and how he had been running
into the ordinary dissipations of the camp, abstaining from
confession, avoiding mass; disobeying orders, plunging into scenes of
plunder, till he had almost been the death of Patrick, whom he had
already so cruelly wronged.
So felt the boy. Fresh from that death-bed, the evils his conscience
had protested against from the first appeared to him frightfully
heinous, and his anguish of self-reproach was such, that Patrick
listened in the greatest anxiety lest he should hear of some deadly
stain on his young kinsman's scutcheon; but when the tale was told,
and he had demanded 'Is that all?' and found that no further overt
act was alleged against Malcolm, he breathed a long sigh, and
muttered, 'You daft laddie! you had fairly startled me! So this is
the coil, is it? Who ever told you to put on a cowl, I should like
to know? Why, 'twas what my poor father ever declared against. I
take your lands! By my troth! 'twould be enough to make me break
faith with your sister, if I COULD!'
'The vow was in my heart,' faltered Malcolm.
'In a fule's head!' said Patrick. 'What right have babes to be
talking of vows? 'Twould be the best tidings I've heard for many a
long day, that you were wedded to a lass with a good tocher, and fit
to guide your silly pate. What's that? Her vows! If they are no
better than yours, the sooner they are forgot the better. If she had
another love, 'twould be another matter, but with a bishop on your
side, you've naught to fear.'
Malcolm turned away, sick at heart. To him his present position had
become absolute terror. His own words had worked him up to an
alarming sense of having lapsed from high aims to mere selfishness;
of having profaned vows, consented to violence, and fallen away from
grace; and he was in an almost feverish passion to utter something
that would irrevocably bind him to his former intentions; but here
were the King and Patrick both conspiring to silence him, and hold
him back to his fallen and perilous state. Nay, Patrick even derided
his penitence. Patrick was an honourable knight, a religious man, as
times went, but he had been brought up in a much rougher and more
unscrupulous school than Malcolm, and had been hardened by years of
service as a soldier of fortune. The Armagnac camp was not like that
of England. Warriors of such piety and strictness as Henry and
Bedford had never come within his ken; and that any man, professing
to be a soldier, should hesitate at the license of war, was
incomprehensible to him. The discipline of Henry's army had been
scoffed at in the French camp, and every infraction of it hailed as a
token of hypocrisy; and to the stout Scot Malcolm's grief for the
rapine at Meaux, which after all he had not committed, seemed a
simple absurdity. Even his own danger, on the second occasion, did
not make him alter his opinion; it was all the fortune of war. And
he was not sure that he had not best have been stifled at once, since
his hands were tied from warfare. And as for Lily--how was he to win
her now? Then, as Malcolm opened his mouth, Patrick sharply charged
him to hold his tongue as to that folly, unless he wanted to drive
him to make a vow on his side, that he would turn Knight of Rhodes,
and never wed.
Malcolm, wearied out with excitement, came at last to weeping that no
one would hear or understand him; but the scene was ended by
Bairdsbrae, who, returning, brought a leech with him, who at once
took the command of Patrick, and ordered him to his bed.
Malcolm could not rest. He was feverish with the shock of grief and
awe, and absorbed in the thought which had mastered him, and which
was much dwelt on in the middle ages: --the monastic path, going
towards heaven straight as a sunbeam; the secular, twining its way
through a tortuous difficult course--the 'broad way,' tending
downward to the abyss. To his terrified apprehension, he had
abandoned the direct and narrow path for the fatal road, and there
might at any moment be captured, and whirled away by the grisly
phantom Death, who had just snatched the mightiest in his inevitable
clutch; and with something of the timidity of his nature, he was in
absolute terror, until he should be able to set himself back on the
shining road from which he had swerved, and be rid of the load of
transgression which seemed ready to sink him into the gulf.
Those few and perfunctory confessions to a courtly priest who knew
nothing about him, and was sure not to be hard on a king's cousin,
now seemed to add to his guilt: and, wandering down-stairs towards
the chapel, he met a train of ecclesiastics slowly leaving it, having
just been relieved by a bevy of monks from a neighbouring convent,
who took up the chants where they had left them.
Looking up at them, he recognized Dr. Bennet's bent head, and
throwing himself before him on his knee, he gasped, 'O father,
father! hear me! Take me back! Give me hope!'
'What means this, my young lord?' said Dr. Bennet, pausing, while his
brethren passed on. 'Are you sick?' he added, kindly, seeing the
whiteness of Malcolm's face, and his startled eye.
'Oh, no, no! only sick at heart at my own madness, and the doom on
it! O Sir, hear me! Take my vow again! give me absolution once more
to a true shrift. Oh, if you will hear me, it shall be honest this
time! Only put me in the way again.'
The chaplain was sorely sad and weary. He it was whose ministrations
had chiefly comforted the dying King. To him it had been the loss of
a deeply-loved son and pupil, as well as of almost unbounded hopes
for the welfare of the Church; and he had had likewise, in the
freshness of his sorrow, to take the lead in the ecclesiastical
ceremonies that ensued, so that both in body and mind he was well-
nigh worn out, and longed for peace in which to face his own private
sorrow; but the wild words and anguished looks of the young Scot
showed him that his case was one for immediate hearing, and he drew
the lad into the confessional, authoritatively calmed his agitation,
and prepared to hear the outpouring of the boy's self-reproach.
He heard it all--sifting facts from fancies, and learning the early
purpose, the terror at the cruel world, the longing for peace and
shelter; the desire to smooth his sister's way, which had led him to
devote himself in heart to the cloister, though never permitted
openly to pledge himself. Then the discovery that the world was less
thorny than he had expected; the allurement of royal favour and
greatness; the charm of amusement, and activity in recovered health;
the cowardly dread of scorn, leading him not merely into the secular
life, but into the gradual dropping of piety and devotion; the actual
share he had taken in forbidden diversions; his attempts at plunder;
his ill-will to King Henry; and, above all, his persecution of
Esclairmonde, which he now regarded as sacrilegious; and he even told
how he lay under a half engagement to Countess Jaqueline to return
alone to the Court, and bear his part in the forcible marriage she
He told all, with no extenuation; nay, rather with such outbursts of
opprobrium on himself, that Dr. Bennet could hardly understand of
what positive evils he had been guilty; and he ended by entreating
that the almoner would at once hear his vow to become a Benedictine
monk, ere -
But Dr. Bennet would not listen. He silenced the boy by saying he
had no more right to hear it than Malcolm as yet to make it. Nay,
that inner dedication, for which Malcolm yearned as a sacred bond to
his own will, the priest forbade. It was no moment to make such a
promise in his present mood, when he did not know himself. If
broken, he would only be adding sin to sin; nor was Malcolm, with all
his errors fresh upon him, in any state to dedicate himself worthily.
The errors--which in Ralf Percy, or in most other youths, might have
seemed slight--were heavy stains on one who, like Malcolm, had erred,
not thoughtlessly, but with a conscience of them all, in wilful
abandonment of his higher principles. On these the chaplain mostly
dwelt; on these he tried to direct Malcolm's repentance; and, finding
that the youth was in perpetual extremes of remorse, and that his
abject submission was a sort of fresh form of wilfulness, almost
passion at being forbidden to bind himself by the vow, he told him
that the true token of repentance was steadiness and constancy; and
that therefore his absolution must be deferred until he had thus
shown that his penitence was true and sincere--by perseverance,
firstly, in the devotions that the chaplain appointed for him, and,
secondly, in meeting whatever temptations might be in store for him.
Nay, the cruel chaplain absolutely forbade the white, excited, eager
boy to spend half the night in chapel over the first division of
these penitential psalms and prayers, but on his obedience sent him
at once to his bed.
Malcolm could have torn his hair. Unabsolved! Still under the
weight of sin; still unpledged; still on dangerous ground; still left
to a secular life--and that without Esclairmonde! Why had he not
gone to a French Benedictine, who would have caught at his vow, and
crowned his penitence with some magnificent satisfying asceticism?
Yet something in his heart, something in the father's own authority,
made him submit; and in a tumult of feeling, more wretched even than
before his confession, he threw himself on his bed, expecting to
charge the tossings of a miserable night on Dr. Bennet, and to creep
down barefoot to the chapel in the early morning to begin his
Instead of which, his first wakening was in broad daylight, by King
James standing over him. 'Malcolm,' he said, 'I have answered for
you that you are discreet and trusty. A message of weight is to be
placed in your hands. Come with me to the Duke of Bedford.'
Malcolm could only dress himself, and obediently follow to the
chamber, where sat the Duke, his whole countenance looking as if the
light of his life had gone out, but still steadfastly set to bear the
heavy burden that had been placed on his shoulders.
He called Malcolm to him, and showed him a ring, asking whether he
'The King's signet--King Harry's,' said Malcolm.
He was then reminded how, in the winter, Henry had lost the ring, and