Part 5 out of 6
after having caused another to be made at Paris, had found it in the
finger of his gauntlet. Very few knew of the existence of this
duplicate. Bedford himself was not aware of it till it had been
mentioned by James and Lord Fitzhugh the chamberlain; and then search
was made for it, without effect, so that it evidently had been left
with the Queen. These private signets were of the utmost importance,
far more so than even the autograph; for, though signatures were just
acquiring individuality enough to become the best authentication, yet
up to this very reign the seal was the only valid affirmation. Such
signets were always destroyed on a prince's death, and it was of the
utmost importance that the duplicate should not be left in Queen
Catherine's hands--above all, while she was with her mother and her
party, who were quite capable of affixing it to forgeries.
Bedford, James, and Fitzhugh were all required at Vincennes; the two
latter at the lying-in-state in the chapel. Most of the other trusty
nobles had repaired to the army; and, indeed, Bedford, aware of the
terrible jealousies that were sure to break out in the headless
realm, did not choose to place a charge that might hereafter prove
invidious in the hands of any Englishman, or to extend the secret any
further than could be helped; since who could tell what suspicion
might not be thus cast on any paper sealed by Henry?
In his perplexity, James had suggested young Malcolm, who had
assisted in the search for the lost ring, and been witness to its
discovery; and whom he could easily send as bearer of his condolences
to the widowed Queen; who had indeed the entree of the palace, but
had no political standing, was neither French nor English, and had
shown himself discreet enough with other secrets to deserve
Bedford caught at the proposal. And Malcolm now received orders to
take horse, with a sufficient escort, and hasten at once to Paris,
where he should try if possible to obtain the ring from the Queen
herself; but if he could not speak to her in private, he might apply
to Sir Lewis Robsart. No other person was to be informed of the real
object of the mission, and he was to get back to Vincennes as soon as
Neither prince could understand the scared, distressed looks with
which Malcolm listened to commands showing so much confidence in a
youth of his years. They encouraged him by assurances that Sir Lewis
Robsart, who had a curious kind of authority, half fatherly, half
nurselike, over the Queen, would manage all for him. And King James,
provoked by his reluctance, began, as they left Bedford's chamber, to
chide him for ungraciousness in the time of distress, and
insensibility to the honour conferred on him.
'Nay, nay,' disclaimed Malcolm, almost ready to weep, 'but I have a
whole world of penance!'
'Penance! Plague on the boy's perverseness! What penance is so good
as obedience?' said James, much displeased.
'Sir, Sir,' panted Malcolm, ''tis not only that. Could any one but
be sent in my stead? My returning alone is what Madame of Hainault
bade--for--for some scheme on--'
His voice was choked, and his face was burning.
'Is the lad gone daft?' cried James, in great anger. 'If Madame of
Hainault were so lost to decorum as to hatch such schemes at such a
moment, I trow you are neither puppet nor fool in her hands for her
to do what she will with. I'll have no more fooling!'
Malcolm could only obey.
In the brief space while the horses were preparing, and he had to
equip and take food, he sped in search of Dr. Bennet, hoping, he knew
not what, from his interference, or trusting, at any rate, to explain
his own sudden absence.
But, looking into the chapel, he recognized the chaplain as one of
the leading priests in one of the lengthiest of masses, which was
just commencing. It was impossible to wait for the conclusion. He
could but kneel down, find himself too much hurried and confused to
recollect any prayer, then dash back again to don his riding-gear,
before King James should miss him, and be angered again.
'Unabsolved--unvowed!' he thought. 'Sent off thither against my
will. Whatever may fall out, it is no fault of mine!'
CHAPTER XIV: THE TROTH FLIGHT
Trembling and awed, the ladies waited at Paris. It was well known
how the King's illness must end. No one, save the Queen, professed
to entertain any hope of his amendment; but Catherine appeared to be
too lethargic to allow herself to be roused to any understanding of
his danger; and as to the personal womanly tendance of wife to
suffering husband, she seemed to have no notion of it. Her mother
had never been supposed to take the slightest care of King Charles;
and Catherine, after her example, regarded the care either of husband
or child as no more required of a royal lady than of a queen bee.
The little Lady Montagu, as Alice was now to be called, who had been
scheming that her Richard should be wounded just enough to learn to
call her his good little nurse-tender, was dreadfully scandalized, as
indeed were wives of more experience, when they found all their
endeavours to make their mistress understand how ill the King really
was, and how much he wished for her, fall upon uncomprehending ears,
and at last were desired by her mother Isabeau not to torment the
poor Queen, or they would make her ill.
'Make her ill! I wish I could!' muttered Lady Warwick, as she left
the presence-chamber; 'but it is like my little Nan telling her
apple-stock baby that all her kin were burnt alive in one castle.
She heeds as much!'
But when at late evening Sir Lewis Robsart rode up to the hotel, and
a hush went along with him, for all knew that he would never have
left his King alive, Catherine's composure gave way. She had not
imagination enough for apprehension of what was out of sight; but
when she knew that she had lost her king, to whom she had owed the
brief splendour of an otherwise dreary and neglected life, she fell
into a passion of cries and tears, even at the mere sight of Sir
Lewis, and continued to bewail her king, her lord, her husband, her
light, her love, with the violence of an utterly unexpected
But while her shrieks and sobs were rending the air, a hoarse voice
gasped out, 'What say you? My son Henri dead!' and white and
ghastly, the gray hair hanging wildly from the temples, the eyes
roaming with the wistful gaze of the half insane, poor King Charles
stood among them, demanding, 'Tell me I am sick again! Tell me it is
but one of my delusions! So brave, so strong, so lively, so good to
the poor old man! My son Henri cannot die! That is for the old, the
And when Sir Lewis with gentle words had made him understand the
truth, he covered his face with his hands, and staggered away, led by
his attendant knight, still murmuring in a dazed way, 'Mon fils
Henri, mon bon fils Henri--most loving of all my children!'
In truth, neither of his own sons had been thus mourned; nor had any
person shown the poor crazed monarch the uniform deferential
consideration he had received from Henry. He crept back to his own
chamber, and for many days hardly spoke, save to moan for his bon
fils Henri, scarcely tasting food, and pining away day by day. Those
who had watched the likeness between the heroes of Monmouth and of
Macedon, saw the resemblance carried out; for as the aged Persian
queen perished away from grief for the courteous and gentle
Alexander, so now the king of the conquered realm was actually
wasting to death with mourning for his frank and kindly bon fils
As part of royal etiquette, Catherine betook herself to her bed, in a
chamber hung with black, the light of day excluded, and ranks of wax
tapers shedding a lugubrious light upon rows of gentlemen and ladies
who had to stand there on duty, watching her as the mourners watched
the King, though her lying-in-state was not always as silent; for
though, there was much time spent in slumber, Catherine sometimes
would indulge in a good deal of subdued prattle with her mother, or
her more confidential attendants. But at other times, chiefly when
first awaking, or else when anything had crossed her will, she would
fall into agonies of passionate grief--weeping, shrieking, and
rending her hair with almost a frenzy of misery, as she called
herself utterly desolate, and screamed aloud for her king to return
She was quite past the management of her English ladies on these
occasions; and her mother, declaring that she was becoming crazed
like her father, declined having anything to do with her. Even Sir
Lewis Robsart she used to spurn aside; and nothing ever seemed
effectual, but for the Demoiselle de Luxemburg, with her full sweet
voice, and force of will in all the tenderness of strength,
caressingly to hold her still, talk to her almost as to an infant,
and sing away her violence with some long low ditty--sometimes a mere
Flemish lullaby, sometimes a Church hymn. As Lady Warwick said, when
the ladies were all wearied out with the endeavour to control their
Queen's waywardness and violence, and it sighed away like a departing
tempest before Esclairmonde, 'It was as great a charity as ever
ministering as a St. Katherine's bedeswoman could be.'
To the young Lady Montagu, the blow was astounding. It was the first
realization that a great man could die, a great support be taken
away; and, child-like, she moved about, bewildered and stunned, in
the great household on which the dark cloud had descended--clinging
to Esclairmonde as if to protect her from she knew not what; anything
dreadful might happen, with the King dead, and her father and husband
Alas! poor Esclairmonde! She was in much more real danger herself,
as came to the bride's mind presently, when, in the midst of her
lamentations, she exclaimed, 'And, ah, Clairette! there ends his
goodly promise about the sisterhood of good works at Paris.'
Esclairmonde responded with a gesture of sorrow, and the murmur of
the 'In principibus non confide' that is so often the echo of
'And what will you do?' continued Alice, watching her anxiously, as
her face, turning very pale, was nevertheless uplifted towards
'Strive to trust more in God, less in princes,' she breathed forth,
clasping her hands, and compressing her lips.
'Nay, but does it grieve you so intensely?' asked Alice. 'Mayhap--'
'Alas! sweet one! I would that the fall of this device seemed like
to be the worst effect to me of your good king's death. Pray for me,
Alice, for now no earthly power stands between me and my kinsmen's
Alice cried aloud, 'Nay, nay, lady, we are English still. There are
my father; my lord, the Duke of Bedford; they will not suffer any
wrong to be done.'
'Hush, Alice. None of them hath any power to aid me. Even good King
Henry had no legal power to protect me; only he was so great, so
strong in word or deed, that no man durst do before him what he
declared a shame and a sin. Now it will be expedient more than ever
that nothing be done by the English to risk offending the Duke of
Burgundy. None will dare withhold me; none ought to dare, for they
act not for themselves, but for their infant charge; and my countess
is weary of me. There is nothing to prevent my uncles from taking me
away with them; or--'
'Nothing!' cried Alice. 'It cannot be! Oh, that my father were
'He could do nothing for me.'
'No convent here could keep me against the Bishop of Therouenne.'
Alice wrung her hands. 'Oh, it cannot--shall not be!'
'No, Alice, I do not believe it will be. I have that confidence in
Him to whom I have given myself, that I do not believe He will permit
me to be snatched from Him, so long as my will does not consent.'
Esclairmonde faltered a moment, as she remembered her wavering,
crossed her hands on her breast, and ejaculated, 'May He deal
mercifully with me! Yet it may be at an exceeding cost--at that of
all my cherished schemes, of all that was pride and self-seeking.
Alice, look not so terrified. Nothing can be done immediately, or
with violence, in this first mourning for the King; and I trust to
make use of the time to disguise me, and escape to England, where I
may keep my vow as anchoress, or as lay sister. Let me keep that,
and my self-exalting schemes shall be all put by!'
The question whether this should be to England, or to the southern
parts of France held by the Armagnacs, remained for decision, as
opportunity should direct: Alice constantly urging her own scheme of
carrying her friend with her as her tire-woman, if, as seemed likely,
she were sent home; and Esclairmonde refusing to consent to anything
that might bring the bride into troubles with her father and husband;
and the debates being only interrupted when the Lady Montagu was
required to take her turn among the weary ladies-in-waiting around
Catherine's state bed.
Whenever she was not required to control, console, or persuade the
Queen, Esclairmonde spent most of her time in a chamber apart from
the chatter of Jaqueline's little court, where she was weaving, in
the delicate point-lace work she had learnt in her Flemish convent,
an exquisite robe, such as were worn by priests at Mass. She seldom
worked, save for the poor; but she longed to do some honour to the
one man who would have promoted her nearly vanished scheme, and this
work she trusted to offer for a vestment to be used at his burial
Mass. Many a cherished plan was resigned, many an act of self-
negation uttered, as she bent over the dainty web; many an entreaty
breathed, that her moment's wandering of fancy might not be reckoned
against her, but that she might be aided to keep the promise of her
infancy, and devote herself undivided to the direct service of God
and of His poor, be it in ever so humble a station.
Here she sat alone, when steps approached, the door opened, and of
all people he stood before her whom she least wished to see, the
young Lord of Glenuskie.
Amazed as she was, she betrayed no confusion, and merely rose, saying
quietly, 'This is an error. I will show you Madame's apartment.'
But Malcolm, who had begun by looking far more confused than she,
cried earnestly, 'One moment, lady. I came not willingly; the
Countess sent for me to her. But since I am here--listen while
Heaven gives me strength to say it--I will trouble you never again.
I am come to a better mind. Oh, forgive me!'
'What are you here then for, Sir?' said Esclairmonde, with the same
'My king sent me, against my will, on a mission to the Queen,' panted
Malcolm. 'I am forced to wait here; or, lady, I should have been
this day doing penance for my pursuit of you. Verily I am a
penitent. Mayhap Heaven will forgive me, if you will.'
'If I understand you aright, it is well,' said Esclairmonde, still
gravely and doubtfully.
'It is so indeed,' protested Malcolm, with a terrible wrench to his
heart, yet a sensation of freeing his conscience. 'Fear me no longer
now. After that which I saw at Vincennes, I know what it is to be on
the straight path, and--oh! what it is to have fallen from it. How
could I dream of dragging you down to be with one so unworthy,
becoming more worthless each day? Lady, if I never see you more,
pardon me, pray for me, as a saint for a poor outcast on earth!'
'Hush,' said Esclairmonde; 'I am no saint--only a maiden pledged.
But, Sir, I thank you fervently. You have lightened my heart of one
of my fears.'
Malcolm could not but be cheered by being for once spoken to by her
in so friendly a tone; and he added, gravely and resolutely: 'My
suit, then, I yield up, lady--yield for ever. Am I permitted once to
kiss that fair and holy hand, as I resign my presumptuous hopes
'Mayhap it were wiser left undone,' said Esclairmonde. 'My mind
misgives me that this meeting is planned to bring us into trouble.
Farewell, my lord.'
As she had apprehended, the door was flung back, and Countess
Jaqueline rushed in, clasping her hands in an affectation of merry
surprise, as she cried, 'Here they are! See, Monseigneur! No
keeping doves apart!'
'Madame,' said Esclairmonde, turning on her with cold dignity, 'I
have been thanking Monsieur de Glenuskie for having resigned the suit
that I always declared to be in vain.'
'You misunderstood, Clairette,' said Jaqueline. 'No gentleman ever
so spoke! No, no; my young lord has kept his promise to me, and I
will not fail him.'
'Madame,' faltered Malcolm, 'I came by command of the King of Scots.'
'So much the better,' cried Jaqueline. 'So he can play into our
hands, for all his grandeur! It will lose him his wager, though!
Here is bride--there is priest--nay, bishop!' pointing to him of
Therouenne, who had accompanied her, but hitherto had stood silent.
'Madame,' said Malcolm, 'the time and state of the household forbid.'
'Ma foi! What is that to us? King Henry is neither our brother nor
our father; and Catherine will soon laugh at it as a good joke.'
'Nay,' said the Bishop, with more propriety, 'it is the contract and
troth-plight alone that could take place at present. That secure,
the full solemnities will await a fitting time; but it is necessary
that the troth be exchanged at once.'
'Monseigneur,' said Esclairmonde, 'mine is in other keeping.'
'And, Monseigneur,' added Malcolm, 'I have just told the lady that I
repent of having fallen from my vocation, and persecuted her.'
'How, Sir!' said the Bishop, turning on him; 'do you thus lightly
treat a lady of the house of Luxemburg? Beware! There are those who
know how to visit an insult on a malapert lad, who meddles with the
honour of the family.'
'Be not threatened, Lord Malcolm,' said Esclairmonde, with a gleam in
And Malcolm was Stewart enough to answer with spirit: 'My lord, I
will meet them if needed. This lady is so affianced, that it is
sacrilege to aspire to her.'
'Ah!' said the Bishop, in an audible aside to the giggling Countess:
'this comes of her having thrown herself at the youth's head. Now he
will no more of her.'
Crimson with wrath, and also with a wild sense of hope that the
obligation had become absolute, Malcolm made a vehement incoherent
exclamation; but Esclairmonde retained her composure.
'Monseigneur and Madame both know better,' she said. 'This is but
'Peace, minion,' said the Bishop of Therouenne, 'and listen to me.
If this young gentleman, after professing himself willing to wed you,
now draws back, so much the worse for him. But if you terrify him
out of it with your humours, then will my brother St. Pol and the
Duke of Burgundy soon be here, with no King of England to meddle; and
by St. Adrian, Sir Boemond will be daunted by no airs, like Monsieur
there. A bride shall you be, Esclairmonde de Luxemburg, ere the week
is out, if not to Monsieur de Glenuskie, to the Chevalier Boemond de
'Look not at me,' said Jaqueline. 'I am weary of your contumacy.
All I shall do is to watch you well. I've suspected for some days
that you were concocting mischief with the little Montagu; but you'll
not escape again, as when I was fool enough to help you.'
The two stood a few paces apart, where they had been discovered;
Esclairmonde's eyes were closed, her hands clasped, as if in silent
prayer for aid.
'Girl--your choice!' said the Bishop, peremptorily. 'Wedlock on the
spot to this gentleman, or to Sir Boemond a week hence.'
Esclairmonde was very white.
'My will shall not consent to a present breach of vow to save a
future one,' she said, in a scarce audible voice.
A sudden thought darted into Malcolm's mind. With colour flooding
his face to his very temples, he stepped nearer to her, and said, in
a tremulous under-tone, 'Lady, trust me.'
The Bishop withheld Jaqueline almost by force, so soon as he saw that
the pair were whispering together, and that there was something of
relaxation in Esclairmonde's face as she looked up at him in silent
He spoke low, but solemnly and imploringly. 'Trust me with your
plight, lady, and I will restore it when you are free.'
Hardly able to speak, she however murmured, 'You will indeed do
'So help me Heaven!' he said, and his eyes grew large and bright; he
held his head with the majesty of his race.
'Heaven has sent you,' said Esclairmonde, with a long sigh, and
holding out her hand to him, as though therewith she conferred a
high-souled woman's full trust.
And Malcolm took it with a strange pang of pain and exultation at the
heart. The trust was won, but the hope of earthly joy was gone for
The Countess broke out with a shout of triumph: 'There, there! they
have come to reason at last. There's an end of her folly.'
Malcolm felt himself a man, and Esclairmonde's protector, all at
once, as he stood forth, still holding her hand.
'Monseigneur,' he said, 'this lady consents to intrust her troth to
me, and be affianced to me'--his chest heaved, but he still spoke
firmly--'on condition that no word be spoken of the matter, nor any
completion of the rite take place until the mourning for King Henry
be at an end;' and, at a sort of shiver from Esclairmonde, he added:
'Not for a year, by which time I shall be of full age.'
'A strange bridegroom!' said Jaqueline; 'but maybe you do well to get
her on what terms you can. Do you agree, Monseigneur?'
In truth, Monseigneur may have been relieved that the trial of
strength between him and his ward had thus terminated. He was only
anxious to have the matter concluded.
The agreement, binding Malcolm to accept a stated number of crowns in
instalments, as the value of Esclairmonde's lands, under the
guarantee of the Duke of Burgundy and King James of Scotland, had all
been long ago signed, sealed, and secured; and there was nothing to
prevent the fiancailles, or espousals, from taking place at once.
It was a much more real ceremony than a mere betrothal, being, in
fact, in the eye of the civil law a marriage, though the full
blessing and the sacramental words of union were deferred for the
completion of the rite. It was the first part of the Marriage
Service, binding the pair so indissolubly to one another, that
neither could enter into wedlock with any one else as long as the
other lived--except, of course, by Papal dispensation; and in cases
of stolen weddings, it was all that was deemed needful.
All therefore that remained to be done was, that the Bishop summoned
his chaplain to serve as a witness and as scribe; and then the two
young people, in their deep mourning dresses, standing before the
Bishop, vowed to belong to none other than to one another, and the
betrothal rings being produced, were placed on their fingers, and
their hands were clasped. Malcolm's was steady, as he felt
Esclairmonde's rest in his untrembling, but with the quietness of one
who trusted all in all where she trusted at all.
'Poor children! they have all to learn,' hilariously shouted the
Countess. 'They have forgotten the kiss!'
'Will you suffer it, my sister?' said Malcolm, with burning cheeks.
'My brother and my guardian!' responded Esclairmonde, raising the
white brow to his lips.
At that moment back went the door, and in flew Alice Montagu, crying
aloud, 'Clairette! the Queen--oh, Madame, your pardon! but I am sent
for Esclairmonde. The Queen is in worse fits than ever. Sir Lewis
can't get the ring from her. They think she will rave like her
father presently! Come!'
Esclairmonde could only hurry away at this; while Alice, grasping her
'Oh, have they been persecuting you? I dreaded it when I saw yon
little wretch; but--oh, Esclairmonde, what is this?' in an utterly
'He holds my faith in trust. He will restore it,' said Esclairmonde,
But Lady Montagu spoke not another word; and, indeed, they were hard
upon the English queen's rooms, whence they already heard hysterical
screams of passion.
Jaqueline had immediately set forth in the same direction out of
curiosity; and Malcolm in much anxiety, since the mission that he had
been cautioned to guard so jealously seemed in danger of being known
everywhere. He had himself been allowed to stand by the Queen's
bedside, and rehearse James's message; but when he had further hinted
of his being sent by Bedford to bring the ring, the Queen, perhaps at
the mention of the brother-in-law, pouted, knew nothing of any ring,
and supposed M. le Duc meant to strip her, a poor desolate widow, of
all her jewels.
Then Malcolm had spoken in private with Sir Lewis Robsart, who knew
the ring was among her jewels, and promised to get it for him as soon
as was possible; and it was while waiting for this that Malcolm had
been summoned to the Countess of Hainault's apartments.
But ere Sir Lewis could get the ear of the Queen, as he now told
Malcolm, her mother had been with her. Catherine was dull, jealous,
unwilling to part with anything, but always easily coaxed over. Her
mother Isabeau had, on the other hand, a good deal of low cunning and
selfishness, and understood how valuable an instrument might be a
duplicate seal of a deceased monarch. Therefore she instigated her
daughter to deny that she possessed it, and worked her up into a
state of impracticability, in which Sir Lewis Robsart was unable to
deal with her, and only produced so wild a tempest of passion as
perfectly to appal both him and her ladies.
That the Duke of Bedford had sent for a ring, which she would not
give up, was known over the whole palace; the only matter still not
perhaps known was, what was the value of that individual ring.
Robsart, however, promised to exonerate Malcolm from having shown any
indiscretion; he charged it all on himself for having left his Queen
for an instant to Isabeau.
Meanwhile, Malcolm and he, with other nobles and ladies, waited,
waited in the outer chamber, listening to the fearful storm of
shrieks and cries, till they began to spend themselves and die away;
and then they heard Esclairmonde's low voice singing her lullaby, and
every one breathed freer, as though relieved, and murmurs of
conversation rose again. Malcolm moved across to greet the Lady
Montagu; and though she looked at him with all the disdain her little
gentle face could accomplish, he had somehow a spring and strength in
him that could not now be brow-beaten.
He bent over her, and said, 'Lady, I see you know all. It is but a
'If you so treat it, Sir, you will do well,' responded the young
matron, with as much stern gravity as she could assume; the fact
being that she longed to break down and cry heartily, that
Esclairmonde should so far have failed, and become like other people.
Long, long they waited--Malcolm with a strange dreamy feeling at his
heart, neither triumph nor disappointment, but something between
both, and peace above all. Dinner was served in the hall; the
company returned to the outer apartment, yet still all was silent
within; till at last, late in the afternoon, there came a black
figure forth from under the black hangings, and Esclairmonde, turning
to Lady Warwick, said, 'The Queen is awake, and desires her ladies'
presence.' And then coming towards Malcolm, who was standing near
Sir Lewis Robsart, she placed in his hand the signet-ring.
Both, while the attendants of the Queen filed back into her chamber,
eagerly demanded how the ring had been obtained.
'Poor lady!' said Esclairmonde, 'she was too much spent to withhold
anything. She was weak and exhausted with cries and tears; and when
she had slept, she was as meek as a lamb; and there was no more ado
but to bid her remember that the blessed King her lord would have
bidden her let the ring be broken up at once, lest it should be used
so as to harm her son.'
That Esclairmonde had prevailed by that gentle force of character
which no one could easily resist, could not, however, be doubted for
a moment; and a fresh thrill of amazement, and almost of joy, came
over Malcolm at the sense that he had become the protector of such a
being, and that in a sort she belonged to him, and was in his power,
having trusted herself to him.
Robsart advised, and Esclairmonde concurred in the counsel, that Lord
Glenuskie should set forth for Vincennes immediately, before there
should be time for any more cabals, or for Queen Isabeau to have made
her daughter repent of having delivered up the signet-ring.
Malcolm therefore at once took leave of his affianced, venturing to
kiss her hand as he looked wistfully in her face, and said, 'Dear
lady, how shall I thank you for this trust?'
Esclairmonde gave her sweet grave smile, as she said, 'To God's
keeping I commend you, Sir.' She would not even bid him be true to
his trust; it would have seemed to her to insult him in whom her
confidence was placed, and she only added: 'I shall ever bless you
for having saved me. Farewell! Now am I bound for ever to pray for
you and your sister.'
And it would be impossible to tell how the sense of Esclairmonde's
trust, and of the resolute self-denial it would require of him,
elevated Malcolm's whole tone, and braced his mind. The taking away
of his original high purpose had rendered him as aimless and
pleasure-loving as any ordinary lad; but the situation in which he
now stood--guarding this saintly being for her chosen destiny, at the
expense of all possible earthly projects for his own happiness or
ambition--was such as to bring out that higher side of his nature
that had well-nigh collapsed. As he stood alone in the ante-room,
waiting until his horse and escort should be ready for his return, a
flood of happiness seemed to gush over him. Esclairmonde was no more
his own, indeed, than was King Henry's signet; but the trust was very
precious, and gave him at least the power of thinking of her as
joined by a closer link than even his sister Lilias. And towards her
his conscience was again clear, for this very betrothal put marriage
out of the question for him, and was a real seal of his dedication.
He only felt as if his heart ought not to be so light and peaceful,
while his penance was still unsaid, his absolution not yet
CHAPTER XV: THE TRUST
James of Scotland and John of Bedford sat together in the twilight of
a long and weary day, spent by the one in standing like a statue at
the head of his deceased friend as a part of the pageant of the
lying-in-state in the chapel, whither multitudes had crowded
throughout the day to see the 'mighty victor, mighty lord, lie low on
his funeral couch;' the nobles gazing with a certain silent and
bitter satisfaction at him who had not only broken the pride of their
country, but had with his iron hand repressed their own private
exactions, while the poor and the peasants openly bewailed him as the
father and the friend who had stood between them and their harsh
feudal lords. By the other, the hours had passed in the press of
toil and perplexity that had fallen on him as the yet unaccredited
representative of English power in France, and in writing letters to
those persons at home from whom he must derive his authority. The
hour of rest and relaxation was welcome to both, though they chiefly
spent it each leaning back in his chair in silence.
'Your messenger is not come back,' said Bedford, presently, rousing
'It may have been no easy task,' replied James, not however without
'I would,' said Bedford, presently, 'that I had writ the matter
straight to Robsart. The lad is weak, and may be tampered with.'
'He knows that I have pledged my honour for him,' said James.
Bedford's thin lips moved at the corners.
'Nay,' said James, not angrily, 'the youth hath in some measure
disappointed me. The evil in him shot forth faster than the good
under this camp life; but methinks there is in him a certain rare
quality of soul that I loved him for at the first, and though it hath
lain asleep all this time, yet what he hath now seen seemed to me
about to work the change in him.'
'It may be so,' said Bedford; 'and yet I would I had not consented to
his going where that woman of Hainault might work on him to fret the
James started somewhat as he remembered overruling this objection of
Malcolm's own making. 'She cannot have the insolence,' he said.
At that moment a hasty step approached; the door was opened with
scant ceremony, and Ralf Percy, covered from head to foot with blood,
hurried in breathless and panting.
'My lord Duke, your license! Here is Malcolm Stewart set upon in the
forest by robbers and stabbed!'
'Slain? Dead?' cried both princes, springing up in horror.
'Alive still--in the chapel--asking for you, my lord,' said Percy.
'He bade us lay him there at the King's feet; and as it was the
readiest way to a priest, we did his bidding.'
'My poor Malcolm!' sighed James; and he and Bedford hastened to obey
There was time on the way for Ralf Percy to give them the
particulars. 'We had gone forth--Trenton, Kitson, altogether some
half-dozen of us--for a mouthful of air in the forest after our guard
all day in the chapel, when about a mile from the Castle we heard a
scuffle, and clashing of arms. So breaking through the thicket, we
saw a score of fellows on horseback fully armed, and in the midst
poor Glenuskie dragged to the ground and struggling hard with two of
them. We drew our swords, hallooed, and leapt out; and the knaves
never stayed to see how many of us there were, but made off like the
dastards they were, but not till one had dealt poor Stewart this
parting stroke. He hath been bleeding like a sheep all the way home,
and hath scarce spoken but a thanksgiving for our having come in
time, as he called it, and to ask for Dr. Bennet and the Duke.'
The words brought them to the door of the chapel, where for a time
the chants around King Henry had paused in the agitation of the new
arrival. As the black and white crowd of priests and monks opened
and made way for the King and Duke, they saw, in the full light of
the wax tapers, laid on a pile of cushions not far from King Henry's
feet, the figure of Malcolm, his riding-gown open at the breast, and
kerchiefs dyed and soaked with blood upon it; the black of his
garments and hair enhancing the ghastly whiteness of his face, and
yet an air of peace and joy in the eyes and in the folded hands, as
Dr. Bennet and another priest stood over him, administering those
abbreviated rites of farewell blessing which the Church sanctioned in
cases of sudden and violent death. The princes both stood aside, and
presently Malcolm faintly said, 'Thank God! I trusted to His mercy
to pardon! Now all would be well could I but see the Duke.'
'I am here, dear youth,' said Bedford, kneeling on one side of him;
while James, coming to the other side, spoke to him affectionately;
but to him Malcolm only replied by a fond clasp of the hand, giving
his sole attention to Bedford, to whom he held the signet.
'It has cost too much,' said Bedford, sadly.
'Oh, Sir, this would be naught, save that I am all that lies between
her--the Lady Esclairmonde--and Boemond of Burgundy;' and as at that
moment Bedford saw the gold betrothal ring on the finger, his
countenance lost something of the pitying concern it had worn.
Malcolm detected the expression, and rallying his powers the more,
continued: 'Sir, there was no help--they vowed that she must choose
between Boemond and me. On the faith of a dying man, I hold her
troth but in trust; I pledged myself to her to restore it when her
way is clear to her purpose. She would never be mine but in name.
And now who will save her? My life alone is between her and yonder
wolf. Oh, Sir Duke, promise me to save her, and I die content.'
'This is mere waste of time!' broke in the Duke. 'Where are the
knave chirurgeons?--See, James, if the lad dies, 'twill be from mere
loss of blood; there is no inward bleeding; and if there be no more
loitering, he will do well.'
And seeing the surgeons at hand, he would have risen to make way, but
Malcolm held him fast, reiterating, 'Save her, Sir.'
'If your life guards her, throw it not away by thus dallying,' said
Bedford, disengaging himself; while Malcolm groaned heavily, and
turned his heavy eyes to his royal friend, who said kindly, 'Fear
not, dear cousin; either thou wilt live, or he will be better than
'God will guard her, I know,' said Malcolm; 'and oh! my own dear
lord, I need not ask you to be the brother to my poor sister you have
been to me. At least all will be clear for her and Patie!'
'I trust not yet,' said James, smiling in encouragement. 'Thou wilt
live, my faithful laddie.'
Malcolm was spent and nearly fainting by this time, and all his reply
was a few gasps of 'Only say you pardon me all, my lord, and will
speak for HER to the Duke! ask HER prayers for me!' and as James
sealed his few words of reply with a kiss, he closed his eyes, and
became unconscious; in which state he was conveyed to his bed.
'You might have set his mind at rest,' said James, somewhat hurt, to
'Who? I!' said Bedford. 'I cannot stir a finger that could set us
at enmity with Burgundy, for any lady in the land. Moreover, if she
have found means to secure herself once, she can do so again.'
'I would you could have been more kind to my poor boy,' said James.
'Methought I was the most reasonably kind of you all! Had it not
been mere murder to keep him there prating and bleeding, I had asked
of him what indiscretion had blown the secret and perilled the
signet. No robbers were those between Paris and Vincennes in our
midst, but men who knew what he bore. I'll never--'
Bedford just restrained himself from saying, 'trust a Scot again;'
but his manner had vexed and pained James, who returned to Malcolm,
and left him no more till called by necessity to his post as King
Henry's chief mourner, when the care of him was left to Patrick
Drummond and old Bairdsbrae; and Malcolm was a very tranquil patient,
who seemed to need nothing but the pleasure of looking at the ring on
his finger. The weapon had evidently touched no vital part, and he
was decidedly on the way to recovery, when on the second evening
Bedford met James, saying: 'I have seen Robsart. It was no
indiscretion of young Glenuskie's. It was only what comes of dealing
with women. Can I see the boy without peril to him?'
Malcolm was so much better, that there was no reason against the
Duke's admission, and soon Bedford's falcon-face looked down on him
in all its melancholy.
'Thanks, my Lord Glenuskie,' he said; 'I thought not to be sending
you on a service of such risk.'
'It was a welcome service,' said Malcolm.
Bedford's brows knitted themselves for a moment as he said, 'I came
to ask whether you deem that this hurt was from a common robber or
'Assuredly not,' said Malcolm, but very low; and looking up into his
face, as he added, 'This should be for your ear alone, Sir.'
They were left alone, and the Duke said: 'I have heard from Robsart
how the ring was obtained. You may spare that part of the story.'
'Sir,' said Malcolm, 'when the Lady Esclairmonde' (for he was not to
be balked of dwelling on that name with prolonged delight) 'had
brought me the ring, Sir Lewis Robsart advised my setting forth
without loss of time.'
'So he told me,' said the Duke; 'and likewise that you took his words
so literally as to set out with only three followers.'
'Ay, Sir; but he knew not wherefore. My escort had gone forth into
the city, and while they were being collected, a message bade me to
the Lady Esclairmonde's presence. I went, suspecting naught, but I
found myself in presence of Madame of Hainault, and of a veiled lady-
-who, my Lord--' He paused. 'She was broad in form, and had a trick
of gasping as though over-fat.'
Bedford nodded. Every one knew Queen Isabeau by these tokens.
'She scarce spoke, my Lord; but the Countess Jaqueline pretended to
be in one of her merry moods. She told me one good turn deserved
another, and that, as in gratitude and courtesy bound, I must do her
the favour of either lending her the signet, or, if I would not let
it out of my hands, of setting it to a couple of parchments, which
she declared King Henry had promised to grant.'
'The false woman!'
'Sir, words told not on her. She laughed and clapped her hands at
whatever I said of honour, faith, or trust. She would have it that
it was a jest--nay, romping fashion, she seized my hand, which I let
her have, knowing it was only my own seal that was on it. Never was
I so glad that the signet being too small for my fingers, it was in
'Knew you what the parchments bore?' asked, Bedford, anxiously.
'One--so far as I could see--was of the Duke of Orleans' liberty,'
said Malcolm. 'The other--pardon me, Sir--it bore the names of Duke
Humfrey and Countess Jaqueline.'
'The shameless wanton!' broke forth Bedford. 'How did you escape her
at last, boy?'
'Sir,' said Malcolm, turning as red as loss of blood permitted, 'she
had not kept her hands off me; therefore when she stood between me
and the door, I told her that discourtesy was better than trust-
breaking, and while she jeered at my talking out of a book of
chivalry, I e'en took her by the hands, lifted her aside, opened the
door, ran down-stairs, and so to the stables, where I mounted with
the only three men I could get together.'
Bedford could not but laugh, as he added, 'Bravely done, Lord
Malcolm; but, I fear me, she will never forgive you. What next?'
'I left word for the other fellows to join us at the hostel by the
gate, and tarried for them till I feared being here after the gates
were fast; then set out without them, and rode till, just within the
forest, a band of men, how many I cannot tell, were on us, and before
my sword was well drawn they had surrounded me, and seized my bridle.
One of them bade me submit quietly, and they would not harm me, if I
would yield up that which I wist of. I said I would sooner yield my
life than my trust; whereupon they mastered me, and dragged me off my
horse, and were rifling me, when I--knowing the Flemish accent of
that drunken fellow of the Countess's--called out, "Shame on you,
Ghisbert!" Then it was that he stabbed me, even at the moment when
the holy Saints sent brave Percy and the rest to rush in upon them.'
'You are sure it was Ghisbert?' repeated Bedford, anxiously.
'As certain as a man's voice can make me,' said Malcolm. 'Methinks,
had I not named him, he would perhaps have bound me to a tree, and
left it to be thought that they were but common thieves.'
'Belike,' said Bedford, thoughtfully. 'We are beholden to you, my
Lord Glenuskie; the whole state of England is beholden to you for the
saving of the confusion and evils the loss of that ring would have
caused. You can keep counsel, I wot well. Then let all this matter
of the Queen and Countess rest a secret.'
Malcolm looked amazed; and Bedford added: 'I cannot quarrel with the
woman, nor banish her from Court. Did we accuse her, Holland would
become Armagnac; nor is she subject of ours, to have justice done on
her. It is for her interest to hush the matter up, and it must be
ours too. If that knave Ghisbert ever gives me the chance, he shall
hang like a dog; but for the rest--' he shrugged his shoulders.
'And,' said Malcolm, 'Ghisbert only meant to serve his lady. Any
vassal of mine would do the like for me or my sister.'
Bedford half smiled; then sighed and said: 'Once we were like to get
laws more obeyed than lords; but that is all over now! Yet you,
young Sir, have seen a great pattern; you will have great powers!'
'Sir,' interrupted Malcolm, 'I pray you believe me, great powers I
shall not have. As I told you last night, I do but hold this
precious troth in trust! It must be a secret, or it would not save
her; but you--oh, Sir! you will believe that!'
'If it be so,' said Bedford, gravely, 'it is too sacred a trust to be
spoken of. You will deserve greater honour if you keep your word,
than ever you will receive from the world. Farewell--and recover
Malcolm did not meet with much encouragement from the few to whom he
thought fit to confide the conditions of his espousal. The King
allowed that he could not have acted otherwise, but was concerned at
it, because of the hindrance that might for years be interposed in
the way of his welfare; and secretly hoped that Malcolm, in his new
capacity, would so gain on Esclairmonde's esteem and gratitude, as to
win her affection, and that by mutual consent they would lay aside
their loftier promises, and take up their espousal where they had
And what James secretly desired, Sir Patrick Drummond openly
recommended. In his eyes, Malcolm would be no better than a fool if
he let his ladye-love, with all her lands, slip through his fingers,
when she was lawfully his own. Patrick held that a monastery was a
good place to be nursed in if wounded, and a convenience for
disposing of dull or weakly younger sons; and he preferred that there
should be some holy men to pray for those who did the hard and bloody
work of the world; but he had no desire that any one belonging to
himself should plunge into extra sanctity; and the more he saw
Malcolm developing into a man among men, the more he opposed the
notion of his dedicating himself.
A man! Yes; Malcolm was rising from his bed notably advanced in
manliness. As the King's keen eye had seen from the first, and as
Esclairmonde had felt, there was an elevation, tenderness, and
refinement in his cast of character, which if left to his natural
destiny would have either worn out his life early in the world, or
carried him to the obscure shelter of a convent. In the novelty of
the secular life, and temptations of all kinds, dread of ridicule,
and the flood of excitements which came with reviving health, that
very sensitiveness led him astray; and the elevated aims fell with a
heavier fall when diverted from heavenly palaces to earthly ones.
Self-reproach and dejection drove him further from the right course,
and in proportion to the greater amount of conscience he had by
nature, his character was the more deteriorating. His deeds were far
less evil in themselves than those of many of his companions, but
inasmuch as they were not thoughtless in him, they were injuring him
more. But the sudden shock of Patrick's danger roused him to a new
sense of shame. King Henry's death had lifted his mind out of the
earthly atmosphere, and then the treasure of Esclairmonde's pure and
perfect trust seemed to be the one thing to be guarded worthily and
truly. It gave him weight, drew him out of himself, lifted him above
the boyish atmosphere of random self-indulgence and amusement. To be
the protector who should guard her vows for the heavenly Bridegroom
to whom her soul was devoted, was indeed a championship that in his
eyes could only have befitted Sir Galahad; and a Galahad would he
strive to be, so long as that championship held him to the secular
life. James and Bedford both told him he had won his spurs, and
should have them on the next fit occasion; but he had ceased to care
for knighthood, save in that half-consecrated aspect which he thought
would render his guardianship less unmeet for Esclairmonde.
She had not shunned to send him a kind greeting on hearing of his
wound, and by way of token a fresh leaf of vellum with a few more of
those meditations from Zwoll--meditations that he spelled over from
Latin into English, and dwelt upon in great tranquillity and soothing
of spirit during the days that he was confined to his bed.
These were not many. He was on his feet by the time the funeral
cavalcade was in readiness to move from Vincennes to convey Henry of
Monmouth to his last resting-place in Westminster Abbey. Bedford
could not be spared to return to England, and was only to go as far
as Calais; and James of Scotland was therefore to act as chief
mourner, attended by his own small personal suite.
Sir Patrick Drummond--though, shrugging his shoulders, he muttered
that he should as soon have thought of becoming mourner at the foul
fiend's funeral as at the King of England's--could not object to
swell the retinue of his sovereign by his knighthood; and though
neither he nor Malcolm were in condition for a campaign, both could
ride at the slow pace of the mournful procession.
The coffin was laid on a great car, drawn by four black horses, and
surmounted by Henry's effigy, made in boiled leather and coloured to
the life, robed in purple and ermine, crown on head, sceptre and orb
in either hand. The great knights and nobles rode on each side,
carrying the banners of the Saints; and close behind came James and
Bedford, each with his immediate attendants; then the household
officers of the King, Fitzhugh his chamberlain, Montagu his cup-
bearer, Ralf Percy and his other squires, and all the rest. Four
hundred men-at-arms in black armour, with lances pointed downwards,
formed the guard behind; and the vanguard was of clergy, robed in
white, bearing banners and wax lights, and chanting psalms. At the
border of every parish, all the ecclesiastics thereto appertaining,
parochial, chantry, and monastic, turned out to meet the procession
with their tapers; escorted it to the principal church; performed
Mass there, if it were in the forenoon; and then accompanied the
coffin to the other limit of their ground, and consigned it to the
clerks of the next parish. At night, the royal remains always rested
in a church, guarded by alternate watches of the English men-at-arms,
and sung over by the local clergy, while the escort were quartered in
the town, village, or abbey where the halt chanced to be made. Very
slow was this progress; almost like a continual dream was that long
column, moving, moving on--white in front, black behind--when seen
winding over a hill, or, sometimes, the banners peering over the
autumn foliage of some thicket, all composed to profound silence and
tardy measured tread; while the chants rose and fell with the breeze,
like unearthly music. Many moved on more than half asleep; and
others of the younger men felt like Ralf Percy, who, for all his real
sorrow for the King, declared that, were it not for rushing out,
morning and evening, for a bathe and a gallop, to fly a hawk or chase
a hare, he should some day run crazed, blow out all the wax lights,
or play some mad prank to break the intolerable oppression. Malcolm
smiled at this; but to him, still in the dreamy inertness of
recovery, this tranquil onward movement in the still autumn weather
had some thing in it of healing influence; and the sweet chants, the
continual offices of devotion, were accordant with his present tone
of mind, and deepened the purpose he had formed.
Queen Catherine and her ladies joined the funeral march at Rouen, or
rather followed it at a mile's interval; but the two trains kept
apart, and only occasional messages were sent from one to the other.
Some of the gentlemen, who had a wife or sister in the Queen's suite,
would ride at nightfall to pay her a hasty visit; but Malcolm--though
he longed to be sent--durst not intrude upon Esclairmonde; and the
Duke of Bedford was not only forced to spend all the evening and half
the night in business, but was not loth to put off the day of the
meeting with his dear sister Catherine--to say nothing of the 'Woman
Therefore it was not until all had arrived at Calais, where a fleet
was waiting to meet them, that any visits were openly made by the one
party to the other.
Bedford and James went together to the apartments of the Queen, and
while they saw her in private, Malcolm came blushing towards
Esclairmonde, and was welcomed by her with a frank smile,
outstretched hand, and kind inquiry after his recovery.
She treated him indeed as a brother, as one on whom she depended, and
had really wished to see and arrange with. She told him that Alice
Montagu and her husband were returning to England, and that her
little friend had so earnestly prayed her to abide with her at
Middleham for the present, that she had consented--'until such time
as the way be open,' said Esclairmonde, with her steady patient
Malcolm bowed his head. 'I am glad you will not be forced to be with
your Countess,' he said.
'My poor lady! Maybe I have spoken too plainly. But I owe her much.
I must ever pray for her. And you, my lord?'
'I,' said Malcolm, 'shall go to study at Oxford. Dr. Bennet intends
returning thither to continue his course of teaching, and my king has
consented to my studying with him. It will not cut me off, lady,
from that which you permit me to be. King Henry and his brothers
have all been scholars there.'
'I understand,' said Esclairmonde, slightly colouring. 'It is well.
And truly I trust that matters may be so guided, that care for me may
not long detain you from more lasting vows--be they of heaven or
'Lady,' said Malcolm, earnestly, 'none who had been plighted to you
COULD pledge himself to aught else save One above!'
Then, feeling in himself, or seeing in Esclairmonde's face, that he
was treading on dangerous ground, he asked leave to present to her
his cousin, Patrick Drummond: and this was accordingly done; the
lady comporting herself with so much sweet graciousness, that the
good knight, as they left the hall, exclaimed: 'By St. Andrew,
Malcolm, if you let that maiden escape you now she is more than half-
wedded to you, you'll be the greatest fool in broad Scotland. Why,
she is a very queen for beauty, and would rule Glenuskie like a
princess--ay, and defend the Castle like Black Agnes of Dunbar
herself! If you give her up, ye'll be no better than a clod.'
Malcolm and Patrick had been borne off by James's quitting the
Castle; Bedford remained longer, having affairs to arrange with the
Queen. As he left her, he too turned aside to the window where
Esclairmonde sat as usual spinning, and Lady Montagu not far off, but
at present absorbed by her father, who was to remain in France.
One moment's hesitation, and then Bedford stepped towards the
Demoiselle de Luxemburg, and greeted her. She looked up in his face,
and saw its settled look of sad patient energy, which made it full
ten years older in appearance than when they had sat together at
Pentecost, and she marked the badge that he had assumed, a torn-up
root with the motto, 'The root is dead.'
'Ah! my lord, things are changed,' she could not help saying, as she
felt that he yearned for comfort.
'Changed indeed!' he said; 'God's will be done! Lady,' he added,
'you wot of that which once passed between us. I was grieved at
first that you chose a different protector in your need.'
'You COULD not, my lord,' faltered Esclairmonde, crimson as she never
had been when speaking to Malcolm.
'No, I COULD not,' said Bedford; 'and, lady, my purpose was to thank
you for the generous soul that perceived that so it is. You spared
me from a cruel case. I have no self any longer, Esclairmonde; all I
am, all I have, all I can, must be spent in guarding Harry's work for
his boy. To all else I am henceforth dead; and all I can do is to be
thankful, lady, that you have spared me the sorest trial of all, both
to heart and honour.'
Esclairmonde's eyes were downcast, as she said, 'Heaven is the
protector of those of true and kind purpose;' and then gathering
courage, as being perfectly aware to whom Bedford must give his hand
if he would conciliate Burgundy, she added, 'And, verily, Sir, the
way of policy is this time a happy one. Let me but tell you how I
have known and loved gentle Lady Anne.'
Bedford shook his head with a half smile and a heavy sigh. 'Time
fails me, dear lady,' he said; 'and I cannot brook any maiden's
praise, even from you. I only wait to ask whether there be any way
yet left wherein I can serve you. I will strive to deal with your
kinsmen to restore your lands.'
'Hold!' said Esclairmonde. 'Never for lands of mine will I have your
difficulties added to. No--let them go! It was a vain, proud dream
when I thought myself most humble, to become a foundress; and if I
know my kinsmen, they will be too much angered to bestow on me the
dower required by a convent. No, Sir; all I would dare to inquire
would be, whether you have any voice in choosing the bedeswomen of
St. Katharine's Hospital?'
'The bedeswomen! They come chiefly from the citizens, not from
princely houses like yours!' said John, in consternation.
'I have done with princely houses,' said Esclairmonde. 'A Flemish
maiden would be of no small service among the many whom trade brings
to your port from the Netherlands, and my longing has ever been to
serve my Lord through His poor and afflicted.'
'It is my father's widow who holds the appointments,' said John.
'Between her and me there hath been little good-will, but my dear
brother's last act towards her was of forgiveness. She may wish to
keep well with us of the Regency--and more like still, she will be
pleased that one of so great a house as yours should sue to her. I
will give you a letter to her, praying her to remember you at the
next vacancy; and mayhap, if the Lady Montagu could take you to visit
her, you could prevail with her! But, surely, some nunnery more
worthy of your rank--'
'There is none that I should love so well,' said Esclairmonde,
smiling. 'Mayhap I have learnt to be a vagabond, but I cannot but
desire to toil as well as pray.'
'And you are willing to wait for a vacancy?'
'When once safe from my kinsmen, in England, I will wait under my
kind Alice's wing till--till it becomes expedient that yonder
gentleman be set free.'
'You trust him?' said Bedford.
'Entirely,' responded Esclairmonde, heartily.
'Happy lad!' half sighed the Duke; but, even as he did so, he stood
up to bid the lady adieu--lingering for a moment more, to gaze at the
face he had longed for permission to love--and thus take leave of all
his youth and joy, addressing himself again to that burthen of care
which in thirteen years laid him in his grave at Rouen.
As he left the Castle and came out into the steep fortified street,
Ralf Percy came up to him, laughing. 'Here, my lord, are those two
honest Yorkshire knights running all over Calais to make a petition
'What--Trenton and Kitson! I thought their year of service was up,
and they were going home!'
'Ay, my lord,' said Kitson, who with his comrade had followed close
in Percy's wake, 'we were going home to bid Mistress Agnes take her
choice of us; but this morn we've met a pursuivant that is come with
Norroy King-at-arms, and what doth he but tell us that no sooner were
our backs turned, than what doth Mistress Agnes but wed--ay, wed
outright--one Tom of the Lee, a sneaking rogue that either of us
would have beat black and blue, had we ever seen him utter a word to
her? A knight's lady--not to say two--as she might have been! So,
my lord, we not being willing to go home and be a laughing-stock,
crave your license to be of your guard as we were of King Harry's,
and show how far we can go among the French.'
'And welcome; no good swords can be other than welcome!' said
Bedford, not diverted as his brother would have been, but with a
heartiness that never failed to win respectful affection.
Long did James and Bedford walk up and down the Castle court
together, while the embarkation was going on. The question weighed
on them both whether they should ever meet more, after eighteen years
of youth spent together.
'Youth is gone,' said Bedford. 'We have been under a mighty master,
and now God help us to do his work.'
'You!' said James; 'but for me--it is like to be the library and the
Round Tower again.'
'Scarcely,' said Bedford, 'the Beauforts will never rest till Joan is
on a throne.'
'Ay,' said Bedford, 'the Bishop of Winchester will be no small power,
you will find. Would that I could throw up this France and come
home, for he and Humfrey will clash for ever. James, an you love me,
see Humfrey alone, and remind him that all the welfare of Harry's
child may hang on his forbearance--on union with the Bishop. Tell
him, if he ever loved the noblest brother that ever lived, to rein
himself in, and live only for the child's good, not his own. Tell
him that Bedford and Gloucester must be nothing henceforth--only
heads and hands doing Harry's will for his babe. Oh, James, what can
you tell Humfrey that will make him put himself aside?'
'You have writ to him Harry's words as to Dame Jac?'
'The wanton! ay, I have; and if you can whisper in his ear that
matter of Malcolm and the signet, it might lessen his inclination.
But,' he sighed, 'I have little hope, James; I see nothing for
Lancaster but that which the old man at York invoked upon us!'
'Yet, when I look at you and Humfrey, and think of the contrast with
my own father's brethren, I see nothing but hope and promise for
England,' said James.
'We must do our best, however heavy-hearted,' said John of Bedford,
pausing in his walk, and standing steadfast. 'The rod becomes a palm
to those who do not freshly bring it on themselves. May this poor
child of Harry's be bred up so that he may be fit to meet evil or
'Poor child,' repeated James. 'Were he not there, and you--'
'Peace, James,' said Bedford; 'it is well that such a weight is not
added! While I act for my nephew, I know my duty; were it for
myself, methinks I should be crazed with doubts and questions.
Well,' as a messenger came up with tidings that all was ready, 'fare
thee well, Jamie. In you I lose the only man with whom I can speak
my mind, or take counsel. You'll not let me gain a foe, as well as
lose a friend, when you get home?'
'Never, in heart, John!' said the King. 'As to hand--Scotland must
be to England what she will have her. Would that I saw my way
thither! Windsor will have lost all that made captivity well-nigh
sweet. And so farewell, dear brother. I thank you for the granting
to me of this sacred charge.'
And so, with hands clasped and wrung together, with tears raining
from James's eyes, and a dry settled melancholy more sad than tears
on John's countenance, the two friends parted, never again to meet;
each to run a course true, brave, and short--extinguished the one in
bitter grief, the other in blood.
On All Saints' Day, while James stood with Humfrey of Gloucester at
the head of the grave at Westminster, where Henry's earthly form was
laid to rest amid the kings his fathers, amid the wail of a people as
sorrowful as if they knew all the woes that were to ensue, Bedford
was in like manner standing over a grave at the Royal Abbey of St.
Denis. He, the victor's brother, represented all the princely
kindred of Charles VI. of France, and, with his heart at Westminster,
filled the chief mourner's place over the king who had pined to death
for his conqueror.
The same infant was proclaimed king over each grave--heir to France
and England, to Valois and Lancaster. Poor child, his real heirloom
was the insanity of the one and the doom of the other! Well for him
that there was within him that holy innocence that made his life a
CHAPTER XVI: THE CAGE OPEN
More than a year had passed, and it was March when Malcolm was
descending the stone stair that leads so picturesquely beneath the
archway of its tower up to the hall of the college of St. Mary
Winton, then REALLY New College. He had been residing there with Dr.
Bennet, associating with the young members of the foundation educated
at Winchester, and studying with all the freshness of a recent
institution. It had been a very happy time for him, within the gray
stone walls that pleasantly recalled Coldingham, though without
Coldingham's defensive aspect, and with ample food for the mind,
which had again returned to its natural state of inquiring reflection
and ardour for knowledge.
Daily Malcolm woke early, attended Matins and Mass in the chapel,
studied grammar and logic, mastered difficult passages in the
Fathers, or copied out portions for himself in the chamber which he
as a gentleman commoner, as we should call him, possessed, instead of
living in a common dormitory with the other scholars. Or in the open
cloister he listened and took notes of the lectures of the fellows
and tutors of the college, and seated on a bench or walking up and
down received special instructions. Then ensued the meal, spread in
the hall; the period of recreation, in the meadows, or in the
licensed sports, or on the river; fresh studies, chapel, and a social
but quiet evening over the supper in the hall. All this was varied
by Latin sermons at St. Mary's, or disputations and lectures by
notable doctors, and public arguments between scholars, by which they
absolutely fought out their degrees. There were few colleges as yet,
and those resident in them were the elite; beyond, there was a great
mob of scholars living in rooms as they could, generally very poor,
and often very disorderly; but they did not mar the quiet semi-
monastic stillness within the foundations, and to Malcolm it seemed
as if the truly congenial home was opened.
The curriculum of science began to reveal itself to him with all the
stages so inviting to a mind conscious of power and longing for
cultivation. The books, the learned atmosphere, the infinite
possibilities, were delightful to him, and opened a more delightful
future. His metaphysical Scottish mind delighted in the scholastic
arguments that were now first set before him, and his readiness,
appreciation, and eager power of acquiring surprised his teachers,
and made him the pride of New College.
When he looked back at his year of court and camp, he could only
marvel at having ever preferred them. In war his want of bodily
strength would make real distinction impossible; here he felt himself
excelling; here was absolute enjoyment, and of a kind without
drawback. Scholarship must be his true element and study: the deep
universal study of the sisterhood of science that the University
offered was his veritable vocation. Surely it was not without
significance that the ring that shone on his finger betrothed him to
Esclairmonde, the Light of the World; for though in person the maiden
was never to be his own, she was the emblem to him of the pure virgin
light of truth and wisdom that he would be for ever wooing, and
winning only to see further lights beyond. Human nature felt a pang
at the knowledge that he was bound to deliver up the ring and resign
his connection with that fair and stately maiden; but the pain that
had been sore at first had diminished under the sense that he stood
in a post of generous trust, and that his sacrifice was the passport
to her grateful esteem. He knew her to be with Lady Montagu,
awaiting a vacancy at St. Katharine's, and this would be the signal
for dissolving the contract of marriage, after which his present
vision was to bestow Lilias upon Patrick, make over his estates to
them, take minor orders, and set forth for Italy, there to pursue
those deeper studies in theology and language for which Padua and
Bologna were famous. It was many months since he had heard of
Lilias; but this did not give him any great uneasiness, for
messengers were few, and letter-writing far from being a common
practice. He had himself written at every turning-point of his life,
and sent his letters when the King communicated with Scotland; but
from his sister he had heard nothing.
He had lately won his first degree as Bachelor of Arts, and was
descending the stair from the Hall after a Lenten meal on salt fish,
when he saw below him the well-known figure of King James's English
servant, who doffing his cap held out to him a small strip of folded
paper, fastened by a piece of crimson silk and the royal seal. It
only bore the words:-
TO OUR RIGHT TRUSTY AND WELL-BELOVED COUSIN THE LORD MALCOLM STEWART
OF GLENUSKIE THIS LETTER BE TAKEN.
'We greet you well, and pray you to come to us without loss of time,
having need of you, we being a free man and no captive.
'Written at the Castle of Windsor this St. David's Day, 1424.'
'A free man:' the words kept ringing in Malcolm's ears while he
hastened to obtain license from Warden John Bonke, and to take leave
of Dr. Bennet. He had not left Oxford since the beginning of his
residence there. Vacations were not general dispersions when ways
and means of transit were so scarce and tardy, and Malcolm had been
long without seeing his king. Joy on his sovereign's account, and
his country's, seemed to swallow up all other thoughts; as to
himself, when he bade his friends and masters farewell, he declared
it was merely for a time, and when they shook their heads and augured
otherwise, he replied: 'Nay, think you I could live in the Cimmerian
darkness yonder, dear sirs? Our poor country hath nothing better
than mere monastery schools, and light of science having once shone
on me, I cannot but dwell in her courts for ever! Soon shall I be
altogether her son and slave!'
Nevertheless, Malcolm was full of eagerness, and pressed on rapidly
through the lanes between Oxford and Windsor, rejoicing to find
himself amid the noble trees of the forest, over which arose in all
its grandeur the Castle and Round Tower, as beautiful though less
unique than now, and bearing on it the royal standard, for the little
King was still nursed there.
Under the vaulted gateway James--with Patrick and Bairdsbrae behind
him--met Malcolm, and threw his arms round him, crying: 'Ay, kiss
me, boy; 'tis a king and no caitiff you kiss now! Another six weeks,
and then for the mountain and the moor and the bonnie north
'And why not for a month?' was Malcolm's question, as hand and eye
and face responded heartily.
'Why? Why, because moneys must be told down, and treaties signed;
ay, and Lent is no time for weddings, nor March for southland roses
to travel to our cold winds. Ay, Malcolm, you see a bridegroom that
is to be! Did you think I was going home without her?'
'I did not think you would be in such glee even at being free, my
lord, if you were.'
'And now, Malcolm, ken ye of ony fair Scottish lassie--a cousin of
mine ain, who could be had to countenance my bride at our wedding,
and ride with us thereafter to Scotland?'
'I know whom your Grace means,' said Malcolm, smiling.
'An if you do, maybe, Malcolm, sin she bides not far frae the border,
ye'd do me the favour of riding with Sir Patrick here, and bringing
her to the bridal,' said the King, making his accent more home-like
and Scottish than Malcolm had ever heard it before.
The happiness of that spring afternoon was surpassing. The King
linked his arm into Malcolm's, and walked up and down with him on the
slopes, telling him all that had led to this consummation; how Walter
Stewart and his brothers had become so insolent and violent as to
pass the endurance of their father the Regent, as well as of all
honest Scots; and how, after secret negotiations and vain endeavours
to obtain from him a pledge of indemnity for all that had happened,
the matter had been at length opened with Gloucester, Beaufort, and
the Council. The Scottish nation, with Albany at the head, was
really recalling the King. This was the condition on which Henry V.
had always declared that he should be liberated; these were the terms
on which he had always hoped to return; and his patience was at last
rewarded. Bedford had sent his joyful consent, and all was now
concluded. James was really free, and waited only for his marriage.
'I would not tell you, Malcolm, while there might yet be a slip
between cup and lip,' said the King; 'it might have hindered the
humanities; and yet I needed you as much when I was glad as when all
seemed like to fail!'
'You had Patrick,' said Malcolm.
'Patrick's a tall and trusty fellow,' said the King, 'with a shrewd
wit, and like to be a right-hand man; but there's something in you,
Malcolm, that makes a man turn to you for fellow-feeling, even as to
Nevertheless, the King and Patrick had grown much attached to each
other, though the latter, being no lover of books, had wearied sorely
of the sojourn at Windsor, which the King himself only found
endurable by much study and reflection. Their only variety had been
keeping Christmas at Hertford with Queen Catherine; 'sorry pastime,'
as Drummond reported it to him, though gladdened to the King by Joan
Beaufort's presence, in all her charms.
'The Demoiselle of Luxemburg was there too, statelier than ever,'
said James. 'She is now at Middleham Castle, with the Lady Montagu,
and you might make it your way northward, and lodge a night there.
If you can win her consent, it were well to be wedded when we are.'
'Never shall I, my lord. I should not dare even to speak of it.'
'It is well; but, Malcolm, you merit something from the damsel. You
are ten times the man you were when she flouted you. If women were
not mostly witless, you would be much to be preferred to any mere
Ajax or Fierabras; and if this damsel should have come to the wiser
mind that it were pity to be buried to the world--'
'Sir, I pray you say no more. I were forsworn to ask such a thing.'
'I bid you not, only I would I were there to see that all be not lost
for want of a word in season; and it is high time that something be
done. Here be letters from my Lord of Therouenne, demanding the
performance of the contract ere our return home.'
'He cannot reach her here,' said Malcolm.
'No; but his outcry can reach your honour; and it were ill to have
such a house as that of Luxemburg crying out upon you for breach of
faith to their daughter.'
Malcolm smiled. 'That I should heed little, Sir. I would fain bear
something for her.'
'Why, this is mere sublimated devoir, too fine for our gross
understandings,' said James, ironically. 'Mayhap the sight of the
soft roseate cheek may bring it somewhat down to poor human flesh and
blood once more.'
'Once I was tempted, Sir,' said Malcolm, blushing deeply; 'but did I
not know that her holiness is the guardian of her earthly beauty, I
would not see her again.'
'Nay, there I command you,' said the King; 'soon I shall have
subjects enough; but while I have but half a dozen, I cannot be
disobeyed by them! I bid you go to Middleham, and there I leave all
to the sight.'
The King spoke gaily, and with such kind good-humour that Malcolm,
humiliated by the thought of the past, durst not make fresh
asseverations. James, in the supreme moment of the pure and innocent
romance of which he was the hero, looked on love like his own as the
highest crown of human life, and distrusted the efforts after the
superhuman which too often were mere simulation or imitation; but a
certain recollection of Henry's warnings withheld him from pressing
the matter, and he returned to his own joys and hopes, looking on the
struggles he expected with a strong man's exulting joy, and not even
counting the years of his captivity wasted, though they had taken
away his first youth.
'What should I have been,' he said, 'bred up in the tumults at home?
What could I have known better than Perth? Nay, had I been sent home
when I came to age, as a raw lad, how would one or other by fraud or
force have got the upper hand, so as I might never have won it back.
No, I would not have foregone one year of study--far less that
campaign in France, and the sight of Harry in war and in policy.'
James also took Malcolm to see the child king, his little master.
This, the third king of James's captivity, was now a fair creature of
two years old. He trotted to meet his visitor, calling him by a baby
name for brother, and stretching out his arms to be lifted up and
fondled; for, as Dame Alice Boteller, his gouvernante, muttered, he
knew the King of Scots better than he did his own mother.
A retinue had been already collected, and equipments prepared, so
that there was no delay in sending forth Malcolm and Patrick upon
their northward journey. At the nearest town they halted, sending
forward a messenger to announce their neighbourhood to the old
Countess of Salisbury and her grand-daughter Lady Montagu, and to
request permission to halt for 'Mothering Sunday' at the Castle.
In return a whole band of squires and retainers came forth, headed by
the knightly seneschal, to invite Lord Malcolm Stewart and his
companion to the Castle; whereupon Sir Patrick proceeded to don his
gayest gown and chaperon, and was greatly scandalized that Malcolm's
preparation consisted in putting on his black serge bachelor's gown
and hood of rabbit's fur such as he wore at Oxford, looking, as
Patrick declared, no better than a begging scholar. But Malcolm had
made up his mind that if he appeared before Esclairmonde at all it
should be in no other guise; and thus it was that he rode like a
black spot in the midst of the cavalcade, bright with the colours of
Nevil and of Montagu, and was marshalled up the broad stairs by the
silver wand of the seneschal.
Lord Montagu had gone back to the wars; so the family at home
consisted of the grand, stately, and distant old Countess of
Salisbury, and her young grand-daughter, the Lady Montagu, with her
three months' old son. Each had an almost royal suite of well-born
dames and damsels in attendance, among whom the Demoiselle de
Luxemburg alone was on an equality with the mistresses of the house.
Even Queen Catherine's presence-chamber had hardly equalled the grand
baronial ceremony of the hall, where sat the three ladies in the
midst of their circle of attendants, male and female ranged on
opposite sides; and old Lady Salisbury knew the exact number of paces
that it befitted her and Lady Montagu to advance to receive the royal
infusion of blood that flowed in the veins of my Lord of Glenuskie.
And yet it was the cheek, and not the hand, that were offered in
salutation by both ladies, as well as by Esclairmonde. Malcolm,
however, only durst kneel on one knee and salute her hand, and felt
himself burning with crimson as the touch and voice brought back
those longings that, as James had said, proved him human still. He
was almost glad that etiquette required him to hand the aged Countess
to her seat and to devote his chief attention to her.
Punctilio reigned supreme in such a house as this. Nowhere had
Malcolm seen such observance of ceremony, save in the court of the
Duke of Burgundy, and there it was modified by the presence of rough
and ready warriors; but an ancient dame like Lady Salisbury thought
it both the due and the safeguard of her son's honour, and exacted it
rigorously of all who approached her.
Alice of Montagu had the sweet fragile look of a young mother about
her, but her frightened fawn air was gone; she was in her home, had
found her place, and held it with a simple dignity of her own, quite
ready to ripen into all the matronly authority, without the severe
formality, of her grand-dame.
She treated Malcolm with a gentle smiling courtesy such as she had
never vouchsafed to him before, and all the shyness that had once
made her silent was gone, when at the supper-table, and afterwards
seated around the fire, the tidings of the camp and court were talked
over with all the zest of those to whom King Harry's last campaign
was becoming 'old times'; and what with her husband's letters and
opinions, little Alice was really the best-informed as to the present
state of things. Esclairmonde took her part in the conversation, but
there was no opportunity of exchanging a private or personal word
between her and Malcolm in a party of five, where one was as vigilant
and grave-eyed as my Lady Salisbury.
However, the next was a peculiar day, the Fourth Sunday in Lent,
called 'Mothering Sunday' because on that day it was originally the
custom for offerings to be carried from all the country round to the
cathedral or mother church on that day. This custom had been
modified, but it was still the rule that all the persons, who at
other times worshipped at the nearest monastery chapel or at a
private chapel in their own houses, should on that day repair to
their parish church, and there make a special offering at the Mass--
that offering which has since become the Easter dues. It was a
festival Sunday too--'Refreshing Sunday'--then, as now, marked by the
Gospel on the feeding of the multitude; and from this, as well as
from the name, the pretty custom had begun of offering the mother of
each house her rich simnal cake, with some other gift from each of
Hearing a pattering of feet in the early morning, Malcolm looked out
and beheld a whole troop of small children popping in and out of a
low archway. If he could have peeped in, he would have known how
many simnals Ladies Esclairmonde and Alice were sending down--with
something more substantial--to be given to mothers by the children
who as yet had nothing to bring of their own.
But when the household assembled in the castle hall, they did see
fair young Lady Montagu kneel at the chair of the grave old Countess,
and hold up a silver dish, wherein lay the simnal, mixed, kneaded,
and moulded by her own hands, and bearing on it a rich ruby clasp,
sent by her father, the Earl, as his special gift to his mother on
And then, when the old lady, with glistening eyes, had spoken her
blessing on the fair young head bent down before her, and the
grandchild rose up, there was the pretty surprise for her of her
little swaddled son, lying in Esclairmonde's arms, and between the
small fingers, that as yet knew not how to grasp, the tiny simnal;
and moreover a fair pearl devised in like manner by the absent Sir
Richard as a gift for his wife's first 'Mothering Sunday.' There was
no etiquette here to hinder sweet Alice from passionately clasping
her child, and covering him with kisses, as many for his father as
for himself, as she laughed at the baby smiles and helpless gestures
of the future king-maker, whose ambition and turbulence were to be
the ruin of that fair and prosperous household, and bring the gentle
Alice to a widowed, bereaved, and attainted old age.
Well that none there present saw the future, as she proudly claimed
the admiration of Malcolm for her babe!
She was equipped for the expedition to the parish church, as likewise
were Esclairmonde and almost all the rest; but the aged Countess
could not encounter the cold March winds, and had a dispensation; and
thus Alice, being the lady of the procession, contrived at the same
time to call Sir Patrick to her side, and bid Lord Malcolm lead the
For as the weather was dry and cold, Lady Montagu had chosen to go on
foot; and a grand procession it was that she led, of gentlemen and
ladies, two and two, in their bright dresses and adornments that
delighted the eyes of the homely yeomen and their wives, flocking in
from their homesteads with baskets of offerings, often in kind.
Meantime, Malcolm, holding the tips of Esclairmonde's fingers, durst
not speak till she began: 'This is a devout and pious household--
full of peace and good government.'
'And your time goes happily here?' asked Malcolm.
'Yes, it has been a peaceful harbour wherein to wait,' said
Esclairmonde. 'And even if Alice were called to her husband in
France, my Lady Countess will keep me with her till there be a
vacancy for me at St. Katharine's.'
'Have you the promise from Queen Joan?'
'Yes,' replied Esclairmonde. 'The Countess had been a lady of hers,
and wrought with her, so that whenever the post of bedeswoman is in
her gift I shall be preferred to it.'
'You, the heiress, accept the charity!' Malcolm could not help
'The better for all remnants of pride,' returned the lady. 'And you,
my lord, has it fared well with you?'
Malcolm, happy in her interest, poured forth all that he had to tell,
and she listened as Esclairmonde alone could listen. There was
something in her very expression of attention that seemed to make the
speaker take out the alloy and leave only his purest gold to meet her
ears. Malcolm forgot those throbs of foolish wild hope that had shot
across him like demon temptations to hermit saints, and only felt
that the creature of his love and reverence was listening benignly as
he told her of the exceeding delight that he was unravelling in
learned lore; how each step showed him further heights, and how he
had come to view the Light of the World as the light of wisdom, to
the research of which he meant to devote his entire life, among
universities and manuscripts.
'The Light of Wisdom,' repeated Esclairmonde--'so it may be, for
Christ is Heavenly Wisdom; but I doubt me if the Light of the World
lies solely in books and universities.'
'Nay,' said Malcolm. 'Once I was fool enough to fancy it was the
light of glory, calling knights to deeds of fame and chivalry. I
have seen mine error now, and--oh, lady, what mean you? where should
that light be, save in the writings of wise and holy men?'
'Methinks,' said Esclairmonde, 'that the light is there, even as the
light is also before the eyes of the true knight; but it is not only
'Where is it then?' said Malcolm. 'In helmet or in cowl, I am the
sworn champion of the Light of the World.'
'The Light,' said Esclairmonde, looking upwards, 'the true Light of
the World is the Blessed Saviour, the Heavenly Wisdom of God; and His
champions find Him and serve Him in camp, cloister, or school, or
wherever He has marked their path, so as they seek not their own
profit or glory, and lay not up their treasure for themselves on
'Then surely,' said Malcolm, 'the hoards of deep study within the
mind are treasures beyond the earth.'
'Your schoolmen speak of spirit, mind, and body,' said Esclairmonde--
'at least so I, an ignorant woman, have been told. Should not the
true Light for eternity lighten the spirit rather than the mind?'
Malcolm pondered and said: 'I thought I had found the right path at
'Nay--never, never did I say otherwise,' cried Esclairmonde. 'To
seek God's Light in good men's words, and pursue it, must be a
blessed task. Every task must be blessed to which He leads. And
when you are enlightened with that light, you will hold it up to
others. When you have found the treasure, you will scatter it here,
and so lay it up above.'
Esclairmonde's words were almost a riddle to Malcolm, but his
reverence for her made him lay them up deeply, as he watched her
kneeling at the Mass, her upturned face beaming with an angelic
His mind was much calmed by this meeting. It had had an absolutely
contrary effect to what King James had expected, by spiritualizing
his love, and increasing that reverence which cast out its
earthliness. That first throb which had been so keen at meeting, and
knowing her not for him, had passed away in the refining of that
distant worship he had paid her in those days of innocence.
Lady Montagu was quite satisfied with him now. He was the Malcolm of
her first acquaintance, only without his foolish diffidence, and with
a weight and earnestness that made him a man and not a boy; and she
cordially invited him to bring his sister with him, and rest, on the
way southward. He agreed most thankfully, since this would be the
only opportunity of showing Esclairmonde and Lilias one to the other,
as well as one of his own few chances of seeing Esclairmonde.
Once they must meet, that their promises might be restored the one to
the other; but as the betrothal remained the lady's security, this
could not be done till she became pledged at St. Katharine's. When
the opportunity came, she was to send Malcolm a messenger, and he
would come to her at once. Until then he promised that he would not
leave Great Britain.
On Monday the cousins proceeded, coming after a time to the route by
which Malcolm had ridden three years before, and where he was now at
home in comparison with Patrick. How redolent it was with
recollections of King Harry, in all his gaiety and grace, ere the
shock of his brother's death had fallen on him! At Thirsk, Malcolm
told of the prowess and the knighthood of honest Trenton and Kitson,
to somewhat incredulous ears. The two squires had been held as
clownish fellows, and the sentiment of the country was that Mistress
Agnes was well quit of them, and the rough guardianship by which they
had kept off all other suitors. As mine host concluded, ''Tis a fine
thing to go to the wars.'
Hearing that Kitson's mother lived not a mile out of his way, Malcolm
rode to the fine old moated grange, where he found her sitting at her
spinning, presiding over a great plentiful household, while her
second son, a much shrewder-looking man than Sir Christopher, managed
The travellers were welcomed with eager hospitality so soon as it was
understood that they brought tidings of 'our Kit'; and Malcolm's
story was listened to with tears of joy by the old lady, while the
brother could not get over his amazement at hearing that Trenton and
Kitson had become a proverb in the camp for oneness in friendship.
'Made it up with Will Trenton! And never fought it out! I'd never
know our Kit again after that!'
His steady bravery, his knighthood, and the King's praise, his having
assisted in saving Lord Glenuskie's life against such odds, did not
seem to strike Wilfred Kitson half as much as the friendship with
Trenton, and Malcolm did not think the regret was very great at the
two knights having given up their intention of returning. 'Our
Kit's' place seemed to have closed up behind him; Wilfred seemed to
be too much master to be ready to give up to the elder brother; and
even the mother had learnt to do without him. 'I'll warrant,' quoth
she, 'that now he is a knight and got used to fine French ways, he'll
think nothing good enow for him. And if he brought Will Trenton with
him, I'd not sit at the board with the fellow.--But ye'll ride over,
Wilfred, and take care the minx Agnes knows what she's lost. Ay, and
if you knew of a safe hand, Sir, when the shearing is over I'd send
the lad a purse of nobles to keep up his knighthood in the camp,
'Certes,' said Malcolm, as after a salt-fish dinner he mounted again,
'if honest Kitson knew, he would scarce turn back from the camp,
where he is somebody. Shall we find ourselves as little wanted when
we get home, Patie?'
Patrick drew himself up with a happy face of secret assurance.
Nothing could make Lilias forsake him, he well knew.
At Durham they found their good friend Father Akefield, erst Prior of
Coldingham, but who had been violently dispossessed by the House of
Albany in favour of their candidate, Drax, about a year before, and
was thankful to have been allowed with a few English monks to retire
across the Border to the mother Abbey at Durham.
The good father could hardly believe his eyes when he beheld Malcolm,
now a comely and personable young gentleman, less handsome and
graceful indeed than many, but with all his painful personal
peculiarities gone, with none of the scared, imploring look, but with
a grave thoughtful earnestness about his face, as though all that
once was timid and wandering was now fixed and steadfast.
Father Akefield could tell nothing of Lilias since his own expulsion,
but as the Prioress of St. Abbs was herself a Drummond, and no one
durst interfere with her, he had no alarms for her safety. But he
advised the two gentlemen to go straight to St. Abbs, without showing
themselves at Coldingham, lest Prior Drax, being in the Albany
interest, should make any demur at giving her up to the care of the
brother, who still wanted some months of his twenty-first year.
Accordingly they pushed on, and in due time slept at Berwick,
receiving civilities from the English governor that chafed Patrick's
blood, which became inflammable as soon as he neared the Border; and
rising early the next morning, they passed the gates, and were on
Scottish ground once more, their hearts bounding at the sense that it
was their own land, and would soon be no more a land of misrule.
With their knowledge of King James and his intentions, well might
they have unlimited hopes for the country over which he was about to
They turned aside from Coldingham, and made for the sea, and at
length the promontory of St. Abbs Head rose before them; they passed
through the outer buildings intended as shelter for the attendants of
ladies coming to the nunnery, and knocked at the gateway.
A wicket in the door was opened, and the portress looked out through
'Benedicite, good Sister,' said Malcolm. 'Prithee tell the Mother
Abbess that Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie is here from the King, and
craves to speak with her and the Lady Lilias.'
'Lord Malcolm! Lady Lilias! St. Ebba's good mercy!' shrieked the
affrighted portress. They heard her rushing headlong across the
court, and looked on one another in consternation.
Patrick betook himself to knocking as if he would beat down the door,
and Malcolm leant against it with a foreboding that took away his
breath--dreading the moment when it should be opened.
The portress and her keys returned again, and parleyed a moment.
'You are the Lord Malcolm in very deed--in the flesh?'
'Wherefore not?' demanded Malcolm.
'Nay, but we heard ye were slain, my lord,' explained the portress--
letting him in, however, and leading them across the court, to where
the Mother Abbess, Annabel Drummond, awaited them in the parlour.
'Alas, Sirs, what grievous error has this been?' was her exclamation;
while Malcolm, scarcely waiting for salutation, demanded, 'Where is
'How? In St. Hilda's keeping at Whitby, whither the King sent for
her,' said the Abbess.
'The King!' cried Malcolm, 'we come from the King! Oh, what
treachery has been here?'
'And you, Lord Malcolm--and you, my kinsman, Sir Patrick of the
Braes, how do I see you here? We had heard you both were dead.'
'You heard a lying tale then, good Mother,' said Patrick, gruffly,
'no doubt devised for the misery of the--of my--' He could not
finish the sentence, and Malcolm entreated the Abbess to tell the
It appeared that about a year previously the chaplain of the
monastery had learnt at Coldingham that Sir John Swinton of Swinton
had sent home tidings that Patrick Drummond had been thrown from his
horse and left behind in a village which the English had harried, and
as he could not move, he was sure to have been either burnt or hung.
This conclusion was natural, and argued no malice in the reporter;
and while poor Lilias was still in her first agony of grief, Prior
Drax sent over intelligence derived from the Duke of Albany himself
that Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie had been stabbed in the forest of
Vincennes. This report Malcolm himself accounted for. He had heard
a Scots tongue among his foes, though national feeling had made him
utterly silent on that head to the Duke of Bedford, and he guessed it
to belong to a certain M'Kay, whose clan regarded themselves as at
feud with the Stewarts, and of whom he had heard as living a wild
routier life. He had probably been hired by Ghisbert for the attack,
and had returned home and spread the report of its success.
Some few weeks later, the Abbess Annabel continued, there had arrived
two monks from Coldingham, with an escort, declaring themselves to
have received orders from King James to transport the Lady Lilias to
the nunnery at Whitby, where the Abbess had promised to receive her,
till he could determine her fate.
The forlorn and desolate Lilias, believing herself to stand alone in
the world, was very loth to quit her shelter and her friends at St.
Abbs; but the Abbess, doubting her own ability to protect her from
the rapacious grasp of Walter Stewart, now that she had, as she
believed, become an heiress, and glad to avert from her house the
persecution that such protection would bring upon it, had gratefully
heard of this act of consideration on the King's part, and expedited
her departure. The two monks, Simon Bell and Ringan Johnstone, had
not returned to the monastery, but had been thought to be in the
parent house at Durham; but Malcolm, who knew Brother Simon by sight,
was clear that he had not seen him there.
All this had taken place a year ago, and there could be no doubt that
some treachery had been exercised. Nothing had since been heard of
Lilias; none of Malcolm's letters had reached St. Abbs, having
doubtless been suppressed by the Prior of Coldingham; and all that
was certain was that Walter Stewart, to whom their first suspicions
directed themselves, had not publicly avouched any marriage with
Lilias or claimed the Glenuskie estates, or the King, who had of late
been in close correspondence with Scotland, must have heard of it.
And it was also hardly possible that the Regent Murdoch and his sons,
though they might for a few weeks have been misled by M'Kay's report,
should not have soon become aware of Malcolm's existence.
Unless, then, Walter had married her 'on the first brash,' as Patrick
called it, he might not have thought her a prize worth the winning;
but the whole aspect of affairs had become most alarming, and Malcolm
turned pale as death at the thought that his sister might be
suffering retribution for the sin he had contemplated.
The danger was terrible! He could not imagine Lilias to have the
moral grandeur and force of Esclairmonde. Moreover, she supposed her
lover dead, and had not the same motive for guarding her troth.
Forlorn and despairing, she might have yielded, and Walter Stewart
was, Malcolm verily believed, worse to deal with than even Boemond.
As the whole danger and uncertainty came over him, his senses seemed
to reel; he leant back in his seat, and heard as in the midst of a
dream his sister's sobs and groans, Patrick's fierce and furious
exclamations, and the Abbess's attempts at consoling him. Dizzy with
horror at the scene he realized, Lilias's cries and shrieks of
entreaty were ringing in his ear, when suddenly a sweet full low
voice seemed to come through them, 'I am bound ever to pray for you
and your sister.' Mingled with the cry came ever the sweet soft
Litany cadences--'For all that are desolate and oppressed: we
beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.' Gradually the cries seemed to be
swallowed up, both voices blended in Kyrie eleison and then in the
Gloria, and at that moment he became aware of Patrick crying, 'I will
seek her in every castle in Scotland.'
'Stay, Patrick,' he said, rising, though forced to hold by his chair;
'that must be my part.'
'You--why, the laddie is white as a sheet! He well-nigh swooned at
the tidings. You seek her, forsooth!' and Patrick laughed bitterly.
'Yes, Patie,' said Malcolm, 'for this I am strong. It is my duty and
not yours, and God will strengthen me for it.'
Patrick burst out at this: 'Neither man nor devil shall tell me it
is not mine!'
'You are the King's prisoner still,' said Malcolm, rising to energy;
'you are bound to return to him. The tidings must be taken to him at
'A groom could do that.'
'Neither so swiftly nor surely as you. Moreover, your word of honour
binds you not to wander at your own pleasure.'
'My honour binds me not to trust you--wee Malcolm--to wander into the
wolf's cage alone.'
'I am not the silly feckless callant I once was, Patie,' answered
Malcolm. 'There are many places where my student's serge gown will
take me safely, where your corslet and lance would never find
entrance. No one will know me again as I am now: will they, holy
'Assuredly not,' said the Abbess.
'A student is too mean a prey to be meddled with,' proceeded Malcolm,
'and is sure of hospitality in castle or convent. I can try at
Coldingham to find out whither the two monks are gone, and then
follow up the track.'
Patrick stormed at the plan, and was most unwilling it should be
adopted. He at least must follow, and keep watch over his young
cousin, or it would be a mere throwing the helve after the hatchet--a
betrayal of his trust.
But a little reflection convinced him that thus to follow would only
bring suspicion on Malcolm and defeat his plans; and that it were
better to obtain some certain information ere the King should come
home, and have to interfere with a high hand; and Malcolm's arguments
about his obligations as a captive, too, had their effect. He
perceived his own incapacity to act; and in his despair at nothing
being done consented to risk Malcolm in the search, while he himself
should proceed to the King, only ascertaining on the way that Lilias
was not at Whitby. And so, in grief and anxiety, the cousins parted,
and Malcolm alone durst speak a word of hope.