Part 4 out of 5
cry, and from a thicket there burst out a band of men in steel
headpieces and buff jerkins, led by two or three horsemen.
There was a confused outcry of 'St. Denys! St. Andrew!' on one
side, 'Yield!' on the other. Madame's rein was seized, and
though she drew her dagger, her hand was caught before she
could strike, by a fellow who cried, 'None of that, you old
hag, or it shall be the worse for thee!'
'St. Andrew! St. Andrew!' screamed Eleanor. 'Scots, to the
rescue of your King's sisters!'
'Douglas--Douglas, help!' cried Jean. But each was surrounded
by a swarm of the ruffians; and as George Douglas hastily
pushed down some with his horse, and struck down one or two
with his sword, he was felled by a mighty blow on the head, and
the ecorcheurs thronged over him, dragging him off his horse,
any resistance on the part of the Scottish archers, their
escort, they could not tell; they only heard a tumult of shouts
and cries, and found rude hands holding them on their horses
and dragging them among the trees. Their screams for help were
answered by a gruff voice from a horseman, evidently the leader
of the troop. 'Hold that noise, Lady! No ill is meant to you,
but you must come with us. No; screams are useless! There's
none to come to you. Stop them, or I must!'
'There is none!' said Madame de Ste. Petronelle's voice in her
own tongue; 'best cease to cry, and not fash the loons more.'
The sisters heard, and in her natural tone Eleanor said in
French, 'Sir, know you who you are thus treating? The King's daughter--sisters of the Dauphiness!'
He laughed. 'Full well,' he answered, in very German-sounding
'Such usage will bring the vengeance of the King and Dauphin on
He laughed yet more loudly. His face was concealed by his
visor, but the ill-fitting armour and great roan horse made
Jean recognise the knight whose eyes had dwelt on her so boldly
at the tournament, and she added her voice.
'Your Duke of the Tirol will punish this.'
'He has enough to do to mind his own business,' was the answer.
'Come, fair one, hold your tongue! There's no help for it, and
the less trouble you give us the better it will be for you.'
'But our squire!' Jean exclaimed, looking about her. 'Where is
Again there was a rude laugh.
'Showed fight. Disposed of. See there!' and Jean could not
but recognise the great gray horse from the Mearns that George
Douglas had always ridden. Had she brought the gallant youth
to this, and without word or look to reward his devotion? She
gave one low cry, and bowed her head, grieved and sick at
heart. While Eleanor, on her side, exclaimed,
'Felon, thou hast slain a nobleman's brave heir! Disgrace to
'Peace, maid, or we will find means to silence thy tongue,'
growled the leader; and Madame de Ste. Petronelle interposed,
'Whisht--whisht, my bairn; dinna anger them.' For she saw that
there was more disposition to harshness towards Eleanor than
towards Jean, whose beauty seemed to command a sort of regard.
Eleanor took the hint. Her eyes filled with tears, and her
bosom heaved at the thought of the requital of the devotion of
the brave young man, lying in his blood, so far from his father
and his home; but she would not have these ruffians see her
weep and think it was for herself, and she proudly straightened
herself in her saddle and choked down the rising sob.
On, on they went, at first through the wood by a tangled path,
then over a wide moor covered with heather, those mountains,
which had at first excited the old lady's alarm, growing more
distinct in front of them; going faster, too, so that the men
who held the reins were half running, till the ground began to
rise and grow rougher, when, at an order in German from the
knight, a man leapt on in front of each lady to guide her
Where were they going? No one deigned to ask except Madame de
Ste. Petronelle, and her guard only grunted, 'Nicht verstand,'
or something equivalent.
A thick mass of wood rose before them, a stream coming down
from it, and here there was a halt, the ladies were lifted
down, and the party, who numbered about twelve men, refreshed
themselves with the provisions that the Infanta Yolande had
hospitably furnished for her guests. The knight awkwardly, but
not uncivilly, offered a share to his captives, but Eleanor
would have moved them off with disdain, and Jean sat with her
head in her hands, and would not look up.
The old lady remonstrated. 'Eat--eat,' she said. 'We shall
need all our spirit and strength, and there's no good in being
weak and spent with fasting.'
Eleanor saw the prudence of this, and accepted the food and
wine offered to her; but Jean seemed unable to swallow anything
but a long draught of wine and water, and scarcely lifted her
head from her sister's shoulder. Eleanor held her rosary, and
though the words she conned over were Latin, all her heart was
one silent prayer for protection and deliverance, and
commendation of that brave youth's soul to bis Maker.
The knight kept out of their way, evidently not wishing to be
interrogated, and he seemed to be the only person who could
speak French after a fashion. By and by they were remounted
and led across some marshy ground, where the course of the
stream was marked by tall ferns and weeds, then into a wood of
beeches, where the sun lighted the delicate young foliage,
while the horses trod easily among the brown fallen leaves.
This gave place to another wood of firs, and though the days
were fairly long, here it was rapidly growing dark under the
heavy branches, so that the winding path could only have been
followed by those well used to it. As it became steeper and
more stony the trees became thinner, and against the eastern
sky could be seen, dark and threatening, the turrets of a
castle above a steep, smooth-looking, grassy slope, one of the
hills, in fact, called from their shape by the French, ballons.
Just then Jean's horse, weary and unused to mountaineering,
stumbled. The man at its head was perhaps not attending to it,
for the sudden pull he gave the rein only precipitated the
fall. The horse was up again in a moment, but Jean lay still.
Her sister and the lady were at her side in a moment; but when
they tried to raise her she cried out, at first inarticulately,
then, 'Oh, my arm!' and on another attempt to lift her she
fainted away. The knight was in the meantime swearing in
German at the man who had been leading her, then asking
anxiously in French how it was with the maiden, as she lay with
her head on her sister's lap, Madame answered,
'But not to the death?'
'Who knows? No thanks to you.' He tendered a flask where only
a few drops of wine remained, growling something or other about
the Schelm; and when Jean's lips had been moistened with it she
opened her eyes, but sobbed with pain, and only entreated to be
let alone. This, of course, was impossible; but with double
consternation Eleanor looked up at what, in the gathering
darkness, seemed a perpendicular height. The knight made them
understand that all that could be done was to put the sufferer
on horseback and support her there in the climb upwards, and he
proceeded without further parley to lift her up, not entirely
without heed to her screams and moans, for he emitted such
sounds as those with which he might have soothed his favourite
horse, as he placed her on the back of a stout, little, strong,
mountain pony. Eleanor held her there, and he walked at its
head. Madame de Ste. Petronelle would fain have kept up on the
other side, but she had lost her mountain legs, and could not
have got up at all without the mule on which she was replaced.
Eleanor's height enabled her to hold her arm round her sister,
and rest her head on her shoulder, though how she kept on in
the dark, dragged along as it were blindly up and up, she never
could afterwards recollect; but at last pine torches came down
to meet them, there was a tumult of voices, a yawning black
archway in front, a light or two flitting about. Jean lay
helplessly against her, only groaning now and then; then, as
the arch seemed to swallow them up, Eleanor was aware of an old
man, lame and rugged, who bawled loud and seemed to be the
highly displeased master; of calls for 'Barbe,' and then of an
elderly, homely-looking woman, who would have assisted in
taking Jean off the pony but that the knight was already in the
act. However, he resigned her to her sister and Madame de Ste.
Petronelle, while Barbe led the way, lamp in hand. It was just
as well poor Jeanie remained unconscious or nearly so while she
was conveyed up the narrow stairs to a round chamber, not worse
in furnishing than that at Dunbar, though very unlike their
tapestried rooms at Nanci.
It was well to be able to lay her down at all, and old Barbe
was not only ready and pitying, but spoke French. She had some
wine ready, and had evidently done her best in the brief
warning to prepare a bed. The tone of her words convinced
Madame de Ste. Petronelle that at any rate she was no enemy.
So she was permitted to assist in the investigation of the
injuries, which proved to be extensive bruises and a dislocated
shoulder. Both had sufficient experience in rough-and-ready
surgery, as well as sufficient strength, for them to be able to
pull in the shoulder, while Eleanor, white and trembling, stood
on one side with the lamp, and a little flaxen-haired girl of
twelve years old held bandages and ran after whatever Barbe
This done, and Jean having been arranged as comfortably as
might be, Barbe obeyed some peremptory summonses from without,
and presently came back.
'The seigneur desires to speak with the ladies,' she said; 'but
I have told him that they cannot leave la pauvrette, and are
too much spent to speak with him to-night. I will bring them
supper and they shall rest.'
'We thank you,' said Madame de Ste. Petronelle, 'Only, de
grace, tell us where we are, and who this seigneur is, and what
he wants with us poor women.'
'This is the Castle of Balchenburg,' was the reply; 'the
seigneur is the Baron thereof. For the next'--she shrugged her
shoulders--'it must be one of Baron Rudiger's ventures. But I
must go and fetch the ladies some supper. Ah! the demoiselle
surely needs it.'
'And some water!' entreated Eleanor.
'Ah yes,' she replied; 'Trudchen shall bring some.'
The little girl presently reappeared with a pitcher as heavy as
she could carry. She could not understand French, but looked
much interested, and very eager and curious as she brought in
several of the bundles and mails of the travellers.
'Thank the saints,' cried the lady, 'they do not mean to strip
us of our clothes!'
'They have stolen us, and that is enough for them,' said
Jean lay apparently too much exhausted to take notice of what
was going on, and they hoped she might sleep, while they moved
about quietly. The room seemed to be a cell in the hollow of
the turret, and there were two loophole windows, to which
Eleanor climbed up, but she could see nothing but the stars.
'Ah! yonder is the Plough, just as when we looked out at it at
Dunbar o'er the sea!' she sighed. 'The only friendly thing I
can see! Ah! but the same God and the saints are with us
still!' and she clasped her rosary's cross as she returned to
her sister, who was sighing out an entreaty for water.
By and by the woman returned, and with her the child. She made
a low reverence as she entered, having evidently been informed
of the rank of her captives. A white napkin was spread over
the great chest that served for a table--a piece of
civilisation such as the Dunbar captivity had not known--three
beechen bowls and spoons, and a porringer containing a not
unsavoury stew of a fowl in broth thickened with meal. They
tried to make their patient swallow a little broth, but without
much success, though Eleanor in the mountain air had become
famished enough to make a hearty meal, and feel more cheered
and hopeful after it. Barbe's evident sympathy and respect
were an element of comfort, and when Jean revived enough to
make some inquiry after poor Skywing, and it was translated
into French, there was an assurance that the hawk was cared
for--hopes even given of its presence. Barbe was not only
compassionate, but ready to answer all the questions in her
power. She was Burgundian, but her home having been harried in
the wars, her husband had taken service as a man-at-arms with
the Baron of Balchenburg, she herself becoming the bower-woman
of the Baroness, now dead. Since the death of the good lady,
whose influence had been some restraint, everything had become
much rougher and wilder, and the lords of the castle, standing
on the frontier as it did, had become closely connected with
the feuds of Germany as well as the wars in France. The old
Baron had been lamed in a raid into Burgundy, since which time
he had never left home; and Barbe's husband had been killed,
her sons either slain or seeking their fortune elsewhere, so
that nothing was left to her but her little daughter Gertrude,
for whose sake she earnestly longed to find her way down to
more civilised and godly life; but she was withheld by the
difficulties in the path, and the extreme improbability of
finding a maintenance anywhere else, as well as by a certain
affection for her two Barons, and doubts what they would do
without her, since the elder was in broken health and the
younger had been her nursling. In fact, she was the highest
female authority in the castle, and kept up whatever semblance
of decency or propriety remained since her mistress's death.
All this came out in the way of grumbling or lamentation, in
the satisfaction of having some woman to confide in, though her
young master had made her aware of the rank of his captives.
Every one, it seemed, had been taken by surprise. He was in
the habit of making expeditions on his own account, and
bringing home sometimes lawless comrades or followers,
sometimes booty; but this time, after taking great pains to
furbish up a suit of armour brought home long ago, he had set
forth to the festivities at Nanci. The lands and castle were
so situated, that the old Baron had done homage for the greater
part to Sigismund as Duke of Elsass, and for another portion to
King Rene as Duke of Lorraine, as whose vassal the young Baron
had appeared. No more had been heard of him till one of his
men hurried up with tidings that Herr Rudiger had taken a bevy
of captives, with plenty of spoil, but that one was a lady much
hurt, for whom Barbe must prepare her best.
Since this, Barbe had learnt from her young master that the
injured lady was the sister of the Dauphiness, and a king's
daughter, and that every care must be taken of her and her
sister, for he was madly in love with her, and meant her to be
Eleanor and Madame de Ste. Petronelle cried out at this with
horror, in a stifled way, as Barbe whispered it.
'Too high, too dangerous game for him, I know,' said the old
woman. 'So said his father, who was not a little dismayed when
he heard who these ladies were.'
'The King, my brother, the Dauphin, the Duke of Brittany--'
'Alas! the poor boy would never have ventured it but for
encouragement,' sighed Barbe. 'Treacherous I say it must be!'
'I knew there was treachery, 'exclaimed Madame de Ste.
Petronelle, 'so soon as I found which way our faces were
'But who could or would betray us?' demanded Eleanor.
'You need not ask that, when your escort was led by Andrew
Hall,' returned the elder lady. 'Poor young George of the Red
Peel had only just told me so, when the caitiffs fell on him,
and he came to his bloody death.'
'Hall! Then I marvel not,' said Eleanor, in a low, awe-struck
voice. 'My brother the Dauphin could not have known.'
The old Scotswoman refrained from uttering her belief that he
knew only too well, but by the time all this had been said
Barbe was obliged to leave them, having arranged for the night
that Eleanor should sleep in the big bed beside her sister, and
their lady across it at their feet--a not uncommon arrangement
in those days.
Sleep, however, in spite of weariness, was only to be had in
snatches, for poor Jean was in much pain, and very feverish,
besides being greatly terrified at their situation, and full of
grief and self-reproach for the poor young Master of Angus,
never dozing off for a moment without fancying she saw him
dying and upbraiding her, and for the most part tossing in a
restless misery that required the attendance of one or both.
She had never known ailment before, and was thus all the more
wretched and impatient, alarming and distressing Eleanor
extremely, though Madame de Ste. Petronelle declared it was
only a matter of course, and that the lassie would soon be
'Ah, Madame, our comforter and helper,' said Elleen.
'Call me no French names, dearies. Call me the Leddy Lindsay
or Dame Elspeth, as I should be at home. We be all Scots here,
in one sore stour. If I could win a word to my son, Ritchie,
he would soon have us out of this place.'
'Would not Barbe help us to a messenger?'
'I doubt it. She would scarce bring trouble on her lords; but
we might be worse off than with her.'
'Why does she not come? I want some more drink,' moaned Jean.
Barbe did come, and, moreover, brought not only water but some
tisane of herbs that was good for fever and had been brewing
all night, and she was wonderfully good-humoured at the
patient's fretful refusal, though between coaxing and authority
'Leddy Lindsay' managed to get it taken at last. After
Margaret's experience of her as a stern duenna, her tenderness
in illness and trouble was a real surprise.
No keys were turned on them, but there was little disposition
to go beyond the door which opened on the stone stair in the
gray wall. The view from the windows revealed that they were
very high up. There was a bit of castle wall to be seen below,
and beyond a sea of forest, the dark masses of pine throwing
out the lighter, more delicate sweeps of beech, and pale purple
distance beyond--not another building within view, giving a
sense of vast solitude to Eleanor's eyes, more dreary than the
sea at Dunbar, and far more changeless. An occasional bird was
all the variety to be hoped for.
By and by Barbe brought a message that her masters requested
the ladies' presence at the meal, a dinner, in fact, served
about an hour before noon. Eleanor greatly demurred, but Barbe
strongly advised consent, 'Or my young lord will be coming up
here,' she said; 'they both wish to have speech of you, and
would have been here before now, if my old lord were not so
lame, and the young one so shy, the poor child!'
'Shy,' exclaimed Eleanor, 'after what he has dared to do to
'All the more for that very reason,' said Barbe.
'True,' returned Madame; 'the savage who is most ferocious in
his acts is most bashful in his breeding.'
'How should my poor boy have had any breeding up here in the
forests?' demanded Barbe. 'Oh, if he had only fixed his mind
on a maiden of his own degree, she might have brought the good
days back; but alas, now he will be only bringing about his own
destruction, which the saints avert.'
It was agreed that Eleanor had better make as royal and
imposing an appearance as possible, so instead of the plain
camlet riding kirtles that she and Lady Lindsay had worn, she
donned a heraldic sort of garment, a tissue of white and gold
thread, with the red lion ramping on back and breast, and the
double tressure edging all the hems, part of the outfit
furnished at her great-uncle's expense in London, but too gaudy
for her taste, and she added to her already considerable height
by the tall, veiled headgear that had been despised as
Jean from her bed cried out that she looked like Pharaoh's
daughter in the tapestry, and consented to be left to the care
of little Trudchen, since Madame de Ste. Petronelle must act
attendant, and Barbe evidently thought her young master's good
behaviour might be the better secured by her presence.
So, at the bottom of the narrow stone stair, Eleanor shook out
her plumes, the attendant lady arranged her veil over her
yellow hair, and drew out her short train and long hanging sleeves, a little behind the fashion, but the more dignified,
as she swept into the ball, and though her heart beat
desperately, holding her head stiff and high, and looking every
inch a princess, the shrewd Scotch lady behind her flattered
herself that the two Barons did look a little daunted by the
bearing of the creature they had caught.
The father, who had somewhat the look of an old fox, limped
forward with a less ungraceful bow than the son, who had more
of the wolf. Some greeting was mumbled, and the old man would
have taken her hand to lead her to the highest place at table,
but she would not give it.
'I am no willing guest of yours, sir,' she said, perhaps
alarmed at her own boldness, but drawing herself up with great
dignity. 'I desire to know by what right my sister and I,
king's daughters, on our way to King Charles's Court, have thus
been seized and detained?'
'We do not stickle as to rights here on the borders, Lady,'
said the elder Baron in bad French; 'it would be wiser to abate
a little of that outre-cuidance of yours, and listen to our
'A captive has no choice save to listen,' returned Eleanor;
'but as to speaking of terms, my brothers-in-law, the Dauphin
and the Duke of Brittany, may have something to say to them.'
'Exactly so,' replied the old Baron, in a tone of some irony,
which she did not like. 'Now, Lady, our terms are these, but
understand first that all this affair is none of my seeking,
but my son here has been backed up in it by some whom'--on a
grunt from Sir Rudiger--'there is no need to name. He--the
more fool he--has taken a fancy to your sister, though, if all
reports be true, she has nought but her royal blood, not so
much as a denier for a dowry nor as ransom for either of you.
However, this I will overlook, dead loss as it is to me and
mine, and so your sister, so soon as she recovers from her
hurt, will become my son's wife, and I will have you and your
lady safely conducted without ransom to the borders of Normandy
or Brittany, as you may list.'
'And think you, sir,' returned Eleanor, quivering with
indignation, 'that the daughter of a hundred kings is like to
lower herself by listening to the suit of a petty robber baron
of the Marches?'
'I do not think! but I know that though I am a fool for giving
in to my son's madness, these are the only terms I propose; and
if you, Lady, so deal with her as to make her accept them, you
are free without ransom to go where you will.'
'You expect me to sell my sister,' said Eleanor disdainfully.
'Look you here,' broke in Rudiger, bursting out of his shyness.
'She is the fairest maiden, gentle or simple, I ever saw; I
love her with all my heart. If she be mine, I swear to make
her a thousand times more cared for than your sister the
Dauphiness; and if all be true your Scottish archers tell me,
you Scottish folk have no great cause to disdain an Elsass
An awkward recollection, of the Black Knight of Lorn came
across Eleanor, but she did not lose her stately dignity.
'It is not the wealth or poverty that we heed,' she said, 'but
the nobility and princeliness.'
'There is nothing to be done then, son,' said the old Baron,
'but to wait a day or two and see whether the maiden herself
will be less proud and more reasonable. Otherwise, these
ladies understand that there will be close imprisonment and
diet according to the custom of the border till a thousand gold
crowns be paid down for each of these sisters of a Scotch king,
and five hundred for Madame here; and when that is like to be
found, the damoiselle herself may know,' and he laughed.
'We have those who will take care of our ransom,' said Eleanor,
though her heart misgave her. 'Moreover, Duke Sigismund will
visit such an offence dearly!' and there was a glow on her
'He knows better than to meddle with a vassal of Lorraine,'
said the old man.
'King Rene--' began Eleanor.
'He is too wary to meddle with a vassal of Elsass,' sneered the
Baron. 'No, no, Lady, ransom or wedding, there lies your
With this there appeared to be a kind of truce, perhaps in
consequence of the appearance of a great pie; and Eleanor did
not refuse to sit down to the table and partake of the food,
though she did not choose to converse; whereas Madame de Ste.
Petronelle thought it wiser to be as agreeable as she could,
and this, in the opinion of the Court of the Dauphiness, was
not going very far.
Long before the Barons and their retainers had finished, little
Trudchen came hurrying down to say that the lady was crying and
calling for her sister, and Eleanor was by no means sorry to
hasten to her side, though only to receive a petulant scolding
for the desertion that had lasted so very long, according to
the sick girl's sensations.
Matters remained in abeyance while the illness continued; Jean
had a night of fever, and when that passed, under the
experienced management of Dame Elspie, as the sisters called
her more and more, she was very weak and sadly depressed.
Sometimes she wept and declared she should die in these dismal
walls, like her mother at Dunbar, and never see Jamie and Mary
again; sometimes she blamed Elleen for having put this mad
scheme into her head; sometimes she fretted for her cousins
Lilias and Annis of Glenuskie, and was sure it was all Elleen's
fault for having let themselves be separated from Sir Patrick;
while at others she declared the Drummonds faithless and
disloyal for having gone after their own affairs and left the
only true and leal heart to die for her; and then came fresh
floods of tears, though sometimes, as she passionately caressed
Skywing, she declared the hawk to be the only faithful creature
Baron Rudiger was evidently very uneasy about her; Barbe
reported how gloomy and miserable he was, and how he relieved
his feelings by beating the unfortunate man who had been
leading the horse, and in a wiser manner by seeking fish in the
torrent and birds on the hills for her refreshment, and even
helping Trudchen to gather the mountain strawberries for her.
This was, however, so far from a recommendation to Jean, that
after the first Barbe gave it to be understood that all were
They suspected that Barbe nattered and soothed 'her boy,' as
she termed him, with hopes, but they owed much to the species
of authority with which she kept him from forcing himself upon
them. Eleanor sometimes tried to soothe her sister, and while
away the time with her harp. The Scotch songs were a great
delight to Dame Elspie, but they made Jean weep in her
weakness, and Elleen's great resource was King Rene's parting
gift of the tales of Huon de Bourdeaux, with its wonderful
chivalrous adventures, and the appearances of the dwarf Oberon;
and she greatly enjoyed the idea of the pleasure it would give
Jamie--if ever she should see Jamie again; and she wondered,
too, whether the Duke of the Tirol knew the story--which even
at some moments amused Jean.
There was a stair above their chamber, likewise in the
thickness of the wall, which Barbe told them they might safely
explore, and thence Eleanor discovered that the castle was one
of the small but regularly-built fortresses not uncommon on the
summit of hills. It was an octagon--as complete as the ground
would permit--with a huge wall and a tower at each angle. One
face, that on the most accessible side, was occupied by the
keep in which they were, with a watch-tower raising its finger
and banner above them, the little, squat, round towers around
not lifting their heads much above the battlements of the wall.
The descent on most of the sides was almost precipitous, on two
entirely so, while in the rear another steep hill rose so
abruptly that it seemed to frown over them though separated by
Nothing was to be seen all round but the tops of trees--dark
pines, beeches, and chestnuts in the gay, light green of
spring, a hopeless and oppressive waste of verdure, where
occasionally a hawk might be seen to soar, and whence the
howlings of wolves might be heard at night.
Jean was, in a week, so well that there was no cause for
deferring the interview any longer, and, indeed, she was
persuaded that Elleen had not been half resolute or severe
enough, and that she could soon show the two Barons that they
detained her at their peril. Still she looked white and thin,
and needed a scarf for her arm, when she caused herself to be
arrayed as splendidly as her sister had been, and descended to
the hall, where, like Eleanor, she took the initiative by an
appeal against the wrong and injustice that held two free-born
royal ladies captive.
'He who has the power may do as he wills, my pretty damsel,'
replied the old Baron. 'Once for all, as I told your sister,
these threats are of no avail, though they sound well to puff
up your little airs. Your own kingdom is a long way off, and
breeds more men than money; and as to our neighbours, they dare
not embroil themselves by meddling with us borderers. You had
better take what we offer, far better than aught your barbarous
northern lords could give, and then your sister will be free,
without ransom, to depart or to stay here till she finds
another bold baron of the Marches to take her to wife. Ha,
thou Rudiger! why dost stand staring like a wild pig in a pit?
Canst not speak a word for thyself?'
'She shall be my queen,' said Rudiger hoarsely, bumping himself
down on his knees, and trying to master her hand, but she drew
it away from him.
'As if I would be queen of a mere nest of robbers and
freebooters,' she said. 'You forget, Messires, that my sister
is daughter-in-law to the King of France. We must long ago
have been missed, and I expect every hour that my brother, the
Dauphin, will be here with his troops.'
'That's what you expect. So you do not know, my proud
demoiselle, that my son would scarce have been rash enough to
meddle with such lofty gear, for all his folly, if he had not
had a hint that maidens with royal blood but no royal portions
were not wanted at Court, and might be had for the picking up!'
'It is a brutal falsehood, or else a mere invention of the
traitor Hall's, our father's murderer!' said Jean, with
flashing eyes. 'I would have you to know, both of you, my
Lords, that were we betrayed and forsaken by every kinsman we
have, I will not degrade the blood royal of Scotland by mating
it with a rude and petty freebooter. You may keep us captives
as you will, but you will not break our spirit.'
So saying, Jean swept back to the stairs, turning a deaf ear to
the Baron's chuckle of applause and murmur, 'A gallant spirited
dame she will make thee, my junker, and hold out the castle
well against all foes, when once she is broken in.'
Jean and Eleanor alike disbelieved that Louis could have
encouraged this audacious attempt, but they were dismayed to
find that Madame de Ste. Petronelle thought it far from
improbable, for she believed him capable of almost any
underhand treachery. She did, however, believe that though
there might be some delay, a stir would be made, if only by her
own son, which would end in their situation being publicly
known, and final release coming, if Jean could only be patient
But to the poor girl it seemed as if the ground were cut from
under her feet; and as her spirits drooped more and more, there
were times when she said, 'Elleen, I must consent. I have been
the death of the one true heart that was mine! Why should I
hold out any longer, and make thee and Dame Elspie wear out
your days in this dismal forest hold? Never shall I be happy
again, so it matters not what becomes of me.'
'It matters to me,' said Elleen. 'Sister, thinkest thou I
could go away to be happy, leaving thee bound to this rude
savage in his donjon? Fie, Jean, this is not worthy of King
James's daughter; he spent all those years of patience in
captivity, and shall we lose heart in a few days?'
'Is it a few days? It is like years!'
'That is because thou hast been sick. See now, let us dance
and sing, so that the jailers may know we are not daunted. We
have been shut up ere now, God brought us out, and He will
again, and we need not pine.'
'Ah, then we were children, and had seen nothing better; and--
and there was not his blood on me!'
And Jean fell a-weeping.
TENDER AND TRUE
'For I am now the Earlis son,
And not a banished, man.'--The Nut-Brown Maid.
'0 St. Andrew! St. Bride! Our Lady of Succour! St. Denys!--
all the lave of you, that may be nearest in this fremd land,--
come and aid him. It is the Master of Angus, ye ken--the hope
of his house. He'll build you churches, gie ye siller cups and
braw vestments gin ye'll bring him back. St. Andrew! St.
Rule! St. Ninian!--you ken a Scots tongue! Stay his blood,--
open his een,--come to help ane that ever loved you and did you
So wailed Ringan of the Raefoot, holding his master's head on
his knees, and binding up as best he might an ugly thrust in
the side, and a blow which had crushed the steel cap into the
midst of the hair. When be saw his master fall and the ladies
captured, he had, with the better part of valour, rushed aside
and hid himself in the thicket of thorns and hazels, where,
being manifestly only a stray horseboy, no search was made for
him. He rightly concluded that, dead or alive, his master
might thus be better served than by vainly struggling over his
It seemed as though, in answer to his invocation, a tremor
began to pass through Douglas's frame, and as Ringan exclaimed,
'There! there!--he lives! Sir, sir! Blessings on the saints!
I was sure that a French reiver's lance could never be the end
of the Master,' George opened his eyes.
'What is it?' he said faintly. 'Where are the ladies?'
'Heed not the leddies the noo, sir, but let me bind your head.
That cap has crushed like an egg-shell, and has cut you worse
than the sword. Bide still, sir, I say, if ye mean to do any
gude another time!'
'The loons rid aff wi' them, sir--up towards the hills yonder.
Nay! but if ye winna thole to let me bind your wound, how d'ye
think to win to their aid, or ever to see bonnie Scotland
George submitted to this reasoning; but, as his senses
returned, asked if all the troop had gone.
'Na, sir; the ane with that knight who was at the tourney--a
plague light on him--went aff with the leddies--up yonder; but
they, as they called the escort--the Archers of the Guard, as
they behoved to call themselves--they rid aff by the way that
we came by--the traitor loons!'
'Ah! it was black treachery. Follow the track of the ladies,
Ringan;--heed not me.'
'Mickle gude that wad do, sir, if I left you bleeding here!
Na, na; I maun see you safely bestowed first before I meet with
ony other. I'm the Douglas's man, no the Stewart's.'
'Then will I after them!' cried George of Angus, starting up;
but he staggered and had to catch at Ringan.
There was no water near; nothing to refresh or revive him had
been left. Ringan looked about in anxiety and distress on the
desolate scene--bare heath on one side, thicket, gradually
rising into forest and mountain, on the other. Suddenly he
gave a long whistle, and to his great joy there was a crackling
among the bushes and he beheld the shaggy-faced pony on which
he had ridden all the way from Yorkshire, and which had no
doubt eluded the robbers. There was a bundle at the saddle-
bow, and after a little coquetting the pony allowed itself to
be caught, and a leathern bottle was produced from the bag,
containing something exceedingly sour, but with an amount of
strength in it which did something towards reviving the Master.
'I can sit the pony,' he said; 'let us after them.'
'Nae sic fulery,' said Ringan. 'I ken better what sorts a
green wound like yours, sir! Sit the pony ye may, but to be
safely bestowed, ere I stir a foot after the leddies.'
George broke out into fierce language and angry commands, none
of which Ringan heeded in the least.
'Hist:' he cried, 'there's some one on the road. Come into
He was half dragging, half supporting his master to the
concealment of the bushes, when he perceived that the new-
comers were two friars, cowled, black gowned, corded, and
'There will be help in them,' he muttered, placing his master
with his back against a tree; for the late contention had
produced such fresh exhaustion that it was plain the wounds
were more serious than he had thought at first.
The two friars, men with homely, weather-beaten, but simple
good faces, came up, startled at seeing a wounded man on the
way-side, and ready to proffer assistance.
Need like George Douglas's was of all languages, and besides,
Ringan had, among the exigencies of the journey, picked up
something by which he could make himself moderately well
understood. The brethren stooped over the wounded man and
examined his wounds. One of them produced some oil from a
flask in his wallet, and though poor George's own shirt was the
only linen available, they contrived to bandage both hurts far
more effectually than Ringan could.
They asked whether this was the effect of a quarrel or the work
'Routiers,' Ringan said. 'The ladies--we guarded them--they
carried them off--up there.'
'What ladies?--the Scottish princesses?' asked one of the
friars; for they had been at Nanci, and knew who had been
assembled there; besides that, the Scot was known enough all
over France for the nationality of Ringan and his master to
have been perceived at once.
George understood this, and answered vehemently, 'I must follow
them and save them!'
'In good time, with the saints' blessing,' replied Brother
Benigne soothingly, 'but healing must come first. We must have
you to our poor house yonder, where you will be well tended.'
George was lifted to the pony's back, and supported in the
saddle by Ringan and one of the brethren. He had been too much
dazed by the cut on the head to have any clear or consecutive
notion as to what they were doing with him, or what passed
round him; and Ringan did his best to explain the
circumstances, and thought it expedient to explain that his
master was 'Grand Seigneur' in his own country, and would amply
repay whatever was done for him; the which Brother Gerard gave
him to understand was of no consequence to the sons of St.
Francis. The brothers had no doubt that the outrage was
committed by the Balchenburg Baron, the ally of the ecorcheurs
and routiers, the terrors of the country, in his impregnable
castle. No doubt, they said, he meant to demand a heavy ransom
from the good King and Dauphin. For the honour of Scotland,
Ringan, though convinced that Hall had his share in the
treason, withheld that part of the story. To him, and still
more to his master, the journey seemed endless, though in
reality it was not more than two miles before they arrived at a
little oasis of wheat and orchards growing round a vine-clad
building of reddish stone, with a spire rising in the midst.
Here the porter opened the gate in welcome. The history was
volubly told, the brother-infirmarer was summoned, and the
Master of Angus was deposited in a much softer bed than the
good friars allowed themselves. There the infirmarer tended
him in broken feverish sleep all night, Ringan lying on a
pallet near, and starting up at every moan or murmur. But with
early dawn, when the brethren were about to sing prime, the lad
rose up, and between signs and words made them understand that
he must be released, pointing towards the mountains, and
comporting himself much like a dog who wanted to be let out.
Perceiving that he meant to follow the track of the ladies, the
friars not only opened the doors to him, but gave him a piece
of black barley bread, with which he shot off, like an arrow
from a bow, towards the place where the catastrophe had taken
George Douglas's mind wandered a good deal from the blow on his
head, and it was not till two or three days had elapsed that he
was able clearly to understand what his follower had
discovered. Almost with the instinct of a Red Indian, Ringan
had made his way. At first, indeed, the bushes had been
sufficiently trampled for the track to be easy to find, but
after the beech-trees with no underwood had been reached, he
had often very slight indications to guide him. Where the halt
had taken place, however, by the brook-side, there were signs
of trampling, and even a few remnants of food; and after a long
climb higher, he had come on the marks of the fall of a horse,
and picked up a piece of a torn veil, which he recognised at
once as belonging to the Lady Joanna. He inferred a struggle.
What had they been doing to her?
Faithful Ringan had climbed on, and at length had come below
the castle. He had been far too cautious to show himself while
light lasted, but availing himself of the shelter of trees and
of the projections, he had pretty well reconnoitred the castle
as it stood on its steep slopes of turf, on the rounded summit
of the hill, only scarped away on one side, whence probably the
materials had been taken.
There could be no doubt that this was the prison of the
princesses, and the character of the Barons of Balchenburg was
only too well known to the good Franciscans.
'Soevi et feroces,' said the Prior to George, for Latin had
turned out to be the most available medium of communication.
Spite of Scott's averment in the mouth of George's grandson,
Bell the Cat, that--
'Thanks to St Bothan, son of mine,
Save Gawain, ne'er could pen a line,'
the Douglases were far too clever to go without education, and
young nobles who knew anything knew a little Latin. There was
a consultation over what was to be done, and the Prior
undertook to send one of his brethren into Nanci with Ringan,
to explain the matter to King Rene, or, if he had left Nanci
for Provence, to the governor left in charge. But a frontier
baron like Balchenburg was a very serious difficulty to one so
scrupulous in his relations with his neighbours as was good
'A man of piety, peace, and learning,' said the Prior, 'and
therefore despised by lawless men, like a sheep among wolves,
though happy are we in living under such a prince.'
'Then what's the use of him and all his raree shows,' demanded
the Scot, 'if be can neither hinder two peaceful maids from
being carried off, nor will stir a finger to deliver them?
Much should we heed borders and kings if it had been a Ridley
or a Graeme who had laid hands on them.'
However, he consented to the Prior's proposal, and the
incongruous pair set out together,--the sober-paced friar on
the convent donkey, and Ringan on his shaggy pony,--both
looking to civilised eyes equally rough and unkempt. At the
gates they heard that King Rene had the day before set forth on
his way to Aix, which boded ill for them, since more might be
hoped from the impulsive chivalry of the King than from the
strict scrupulosity of a responsible governor.
But they had not gone far on their way across the Place de La
Carriere, where the tournament had been held, before Ringan
startled his companion with a perfect howl, which had in it,
however, an element of ecstasy, as he dashed towards a tall,
bony figure in a blue cap, buff coat, and shepherd's plaid over
'Archie o' the Brake. Archie! Oh, ye're a sight for sair een!
How cam' ye here?'
'Eh!' was the answer, equally astonished. 'Wha is it that
cries on me here? Eh! eh! 'Tis never Ringan of the Raefoot-sae braw and grand?'
For Ringan was a wonderful step before him in civilisation.
Queries--'How cam' ye here?' and 'Whar' is the Master?'--were
rapidly exchanged, while the friar looked on in amaze at the
two wild-looking men, about whom other tall Scots, more or less
well equipped, began to gather, coming from a hostelry near at
The Earl of Angus, as they told him, had been neither to have
nor to hold when first his embassy to Dunbar came back, and his
son was found to be missing. He had been very near besieging
the young King, until Bishop Kennedy had convinced him that no
one of the Court had suspected the Master's presence, far less
connived at his disappearance. The truth had been suspected
before long, though there was no certainty until the letter
that George Douglas had at last vouchsafed to write had, after
spending a good deal of time on the road, at last reached
Tantallon. Then the Earl had declared that, since his son had
set out on this fool's errand, he should be suitably furnished
for the heir of Angus, and should play his part as became him
in their sports at Nanci, whither his letter said he was bound,
instead of figuring as a mere groom of Drummond of Glenuskie,
and still worse, in the train of a low-born Englishman like De
So he had sent off ten lances, under a stout kinsman who had
campaigned in France before--Sir Robert Douglas of Harside--
with all their followers, and full equipment, such as might
befit the heir of a branch of the great House of the Bleeding
Heart. But their voyage had not been prosperous, and after
riding from Flanders they had found the wedding over, and no
one in the hostel having heard of the young Master of Angus,
nor even having distinguished Sir Patrick Drummoud, though
there was a vague idea that the Scottish king's sisters had
Sir Robert Douglas had gone to have an interview with the
governor left in charge. Thus the separation of the party
became known to him--how the Drummonds had gone to Paris, and
the Scottish ladies had set forth for Chalons; but there was
nothing to show with whom the Master had gone. No sooner,
then, had he come forth than half his men were round him
shouting that here was Ringan of the Raefoot, that the Master
had been foully betrayed, and that he was lying sair wounded at
a Priory not far off.
Ringan, a perfectly happy man among those who not only had
Scots tongues, but the Bleeding Heart on shield and breast, was
brought up to him and told of the attack and capture of the
princesses, and of the Master's wounds.
Sir Robert, after many imprecations, turned back to the
governor, who heard the story in a far more complete form than
if it had been related to him by Ringan and the friar.
But his hands were tied till he could communicate with King
Rene, for border warfare was strictly forbidden, and
unfortunately Duke Sigismund had left Nanci some days before
for Luxembourg to meet the Duke of Burgundy.
However, just as George Douglas had persuaded the infirmarer to
let him put on his clothes, there had been a clanging and
jangling in the outer court, and the Lion and Eagle banner was
visible. Duke Sigismund had drawn up there to water the
horses, and to partake of any hospitality the Prior might offer
The first civilities were passing between them, when a tall
figure, his red hair crossed by a bandage, his ruddy face
paled, his steps faltering, came stumbling forward to the
porch, crying, in his wonderful dialect between Latin and
French, 'Sire, Domine Dux! Justitia! You loved the Lady
Eleanor. Free her! They are prisoners to latroni--un routier-
Sigismund, ponderous and not very rapid, opened wide his big
blue eyes, while the Prior explained in French, 'It is even so,
beau sire. This poor man-at-arms was found bleeding on the
way-side by our brethren, having been left for dead by the
robbers of Balchenburg, who, it seems, descended on the ladies,
dispersed their escort, and carried them off to the castle.'
Sigismund made some tremendously emphatic exclamation in
German, and turned upon Douglas to interrogate him. They had
very little of common language, but Sigismund knew French,
though he hated it, and was not devoid of Latin, so that the
narrative was made tolerably clear to him, and he had no doubts
or scruples as to instantly calling the latrones to account,
and releasing the ladies. He paced up and down the guest-
chamber, his spurs clattering against the stone pavement,
growling imprecations in guttural German, now and then tugging
at his long fair hair as he pictured Eleanor in the miscreants'
power, putting queries to George, more than could be understood
or answered, and halting at door or window to shout orders to
his knights to be ready at once for the attack. George was
absolutely determined that, whatever his own condition, he
would not be left behind, though he could only go upon Ringan's
pony, and was evidently in Sigismund's opinion only a faithful
It was hard to say whether he was relieved or not when there
was evidently a vehement altercation in German between the Duke
and a tough, grizzled old knight, the upshot of which turned
out to be that the Ritter Gebhardt von Fuchstein absolutely
refused to proceed through those pine and beech forests so late
in the day; since it would be only too easy to lose the way,
and there might be ambuscades or the like if Balchenburg and
his crew were on the watch, and there was no doubt that they
were allied with all the rentiers in the country.
Sigismund raged, but he was in some degree under the dominion
of his prudent old Marskalk, and had to submit, while George
knew that another night would further restore him, and would
besides bring back his attendant.
The next hour brought more than he had expected. Again there
was a clattering of hoofs, a few words with the porter, and to
the utter amazement of the Prior, as well as of Duke Sigismund,
who had just been served with a meal of Franciscan diet, a
knight in full armour, with the crowned heart on his breast,
dashed into the hall, threw a hasty bow to the Prior, and
throwing his arms round the wounded man-at-arms, cried aloud,
'Geordie--the Master--ye daft callant! See what you have brought yourself to! What would the Yerl your father say?'
'I trow that I have been striving to do my devoir to my liege's
sisters,' answered George. 'How does my father?--and my
mother? Make your obeisance to the Duke of the Tirol, Rab. Ye
can knap the French with him better than I. Now I can go with
him as becomes a yerl's son, for the freedom of the lady!'
Sir Robert, a veteran Scot, who knew the French world well, was
soon explaining matters to Duke Sigismund, who presently
advanced to the heir of Angus, wrung his hand, and gave him to
understand that he accepted him as a comrade in their doughty
enterprise, and honoured his proceeding as a piece of knight-
errantry. He was free from any question whether George was to
be esteemed a rival by hearing it was the Lady Joanna for whose
sake he thus adventured himself, whereas it was not her beauty,
but her sister's intellect that had won the heart of Sigismund.
Perhaps Sir Robert somewhat magnified the grandeur of the house
of Douglas, for Sigismund seemed to view the young man as an
equal, which he was not, as the Hapsburgs of Alsace and the
Tirol were sovereign princes; but, on the other hand, George
could count princesses among his ancestresses, and only Jean's
personal ambition had counted his as a mesalliance.
It was determined to advance upon the Castle of Balchenburg the
next morning, the ten Scottish lances being really forty men,
making the Douglas's troop not much inferior to the Alsatian.
A night's rest greatly restored George, and equipments had been
brought for him, which made him no longer appear only the man-
at-arms, but the gallant young nobleman, though not yet
entitled to the Golden Spurs.
Ringan served as their guide up the long hills, through the
woods, up steep slippery slopes, where it became expedient to
leave behind the big heavy war-horses under a guard, while the
rest pushed forward, the Master of Angus's long legs nearly
touching the ground, as, not to waste his strength, he was
mounted on Ringan's sure-footed pony, which seemed at home
among mountains. Sigismund himself, and the Tirolese among his
followers, were chamois-hunters and used enough to climbing,
and thus at length they found themselves at the foot of the
green rounded slopes of the talchen or ballon, crowned by the
fortress with its eight corner-turrets and the broader keep.
Were Elleen and Jean looking out--when the Alsatian trumpeter
came forward in full array, and blew three sonorous blasts,
echoing among the mountains, and doubtless bringing hope to the
prisoners? The rugged walls of the castle had, however, an
imperturbable look, and there was nothing responsive at the
A pursuivant then stood forth--for Sigismund had gone in full
state to his intended wooing at Nanci--and called upon the
Baron of Balchenburg to open his gates to his liege lord the
Duke of Alsace.
On this a wicket was opened in the gate; but the answer, in a
hoarse shout, was that the Baron of Balchenburg owned
allegiance only, under the Emperor Frederick, to King Rene,
Duke of Lorraine.
What hot words were thereupon spoken between Sigismund,
Gebhardt, and the two Douglases it scarcely needs to tell; but,
looking at the strength of the castle, it was agreed that it
would be wiser to couple with the second summons an assurance
that, though Duke Sigismund was the lawful lord of the
mountain, and entrance was denied at the peril of the Baron,
yet he would remit his first wrath, provided the royal ladies,
foully and unjustly detained there in captivity, were instantly
delivered up in all safety.
To this the answer came back, with a sound of derisive mockery-
-One was the intended wife of Baron Rudiger; the other should
be delivered up to the Duke upon ransom according to her
'The ransom I will pay,' roared Sigismund in German, 'shall be
by the axe and cord!'
The while George Douglas gnashed his teeth with rage when the
reply as to Jean had been translated to him. The Duke hurled
his fierce defiance at the castle. It should be levelled with
the ground, and the robbers should suffer by cord, wheel, and
But what was the use of threats against men within six or eight
feet every way of stone wall, with a steep slippery slope
leading up to it? Heavily armed horsemen were of no avail
against it. Even if there were nothing but old women inside,
there was no means of making an entrance. Sigismund possessed
three rusty cannon, made of bars of iron hooped together; but
they were no nearer than Strasburg, and if they had been at
hand, there was no getting them within distance of those walls.
There was nothing for it but to blockade the castle while
sending after King Rene for assistance and authority. The
worst of it was, that starving the garrison would be starving
the captives; and likewise, so far up on the mountain, a troop
of eighty or ninety men and horses were as liable to lack of
provisions as could be the besieged garrison. Villages were
distant, and transport not easy to find. Money was never
abundant with Duke Sigismund, and had nearly all been spent on
the entertainments at Nanci; nor could he make levies as lord
of the country-folk, since the more accessible were not
Alsatian, but Lorrainers, and to exasperate their masters by
raids would bring fresh danger. Indeed, the two nearest
castles were on Lorraine territory; their masters had not a
much better reputation than the Balchenburgs, and, with the
temptation of war-horses and men in their most holiday
equipment, were only too likely to interpret Sigismund's attack
as an invasion of their dukedom, and to fall in strength upon
All this Gebhardt represented in strong colours, recommending
that this untenable position should not be maintained.
Sigismund swore that nothing should induce him to abandon the
'Nay, my Lord Duke, it is only to retreat till King Rene sends
his forces, and mayhap the French Dauphin.'
'To retreat would be to prolong their misery. Nay, the felons
would think them deserted, and work their will. Out upon such
'The captive ladies may be secured from an injury if your
lordship holds a parley, demands the amount of ransom, and,
without pledging yourself, undertakes to consult the Dauphin
and their other kinsmen on the matter.'
'Detained here in I know not what misery, exposed to insults
endless? Never, Gebhardt! I marvel that you can make such
proposals to any belted knight!'
Gebhardt grumbled out, 'Rather to a demented lover! The Lord
Duke will sing another tune ere long.'
Certainly it looked serious the next day when Sir Robert
Douglas had had the greatest difficulty in hindering a hand-to-
hand fight between the Scots and Alsatians for a strip of
meadow land for pasture for their horses; when a few loaves of
black bread were all that could be obtained from one village,
and in another there had been a fray with the peasants,
resulting in blows by way of payment for a lean cow and calf
and four sheep. The Tirolese laid the blame on the Scots, the
Scots upon the Tirolese; and though disputes between his
Tirolese and Alsatian followers had been the constant trouble
of Sigismund at Nanci, they now joined in making common cause
against the Scots, so that Gebhardt strongly advised that these
should be withdrawn to Nanci for the present, the which advice
George Douglas hotly resented. He had as good a claim to watch
the castle as the Duke. He was not going to desert his King's
sisters, far less the lady he had followed from Scotland. If
any one was to be ordered off, it should be the fat lazy
Alsatians, who were good for nothing but to ride big Flemish
horses, and were useless on a mountain.
Gebhardt and Robert Douglas, both experienced men of the world,
found it one of their difficulties to keep the peace between
their young lords; and each day was likely to render it more
difficult. They began to represent that it could be made a
condition that the leaders should be permitted to see the
ladies and ascertain whether they were treated with courtesy;
and there was a certain inclination on Sigismund's part, when
he was driven hard by his embarrassments, to allow this to be
The very notion of coming to any terms made Geordie furious.
If the craven Dutchman chose to sneak off and go in search of a
ransom, forsooth, he would lie at the foot of the castle till
he had burrowed through the walls or found a way over the
'Ay,' said Douglas of Harside drily, 'or till the Baron sticks
you in the thrapple, or his next neighbour throws you into his
In the meantime the captives themselves were suffering, as may
well be believed, agonies of suspense. Their loophole did not
look out towards the gateway, but they heard the peals of the
trumpet, started up with joy, and thought their deliverance was
come. Eleanor threw herself on her knees; Lady Lindsay began
to collect their properties; Jean made a rush for the stair
leading to the top of the turret, but she found her way barred
by one of the few men-at-arms, who held his pike towards her in
a menacing manner.
She tried to gaze from the window, but it told her nothing,
except that a certain murmur of voices broke upon the silence
of the woods. Nothing more befell them. They eagerly
'Ah yes, lady birds!' she said, 'there is a gay company
without, all in glittering harness, asking for you, but my
Lords know 'tis like a poor frog smelling at a walnut, for any
knight of them all to try to make way into this castle!'
'Who are they? For pity's sake, tell us, dear Barbe,'
'They say it is the Duke himself; but he has never durst meddle
with my Lords before. All but the Hawk's tower is in Lorraine,
and my Lord can bring a storm about his ears if he lifts a
finger against us. A messenger would soon bring Banget and
Steintour upon him. But never you fear, fair ladies, you have
friends, and he will come to terms,' said good old Barbe,
divided between pity for her guests and loyalty to her masters.
'If it is the Duke, he will free you, Elleen,' said Jean
weeping; 'he will not care for me!'
'Jeanie, Jeanie, could you think I would be set free without
'You might not be able to help yourself. 'Tis you that the
'Never shall be have me if he be such a recreant, mansworn
fellow as to leave my sister to the reiver. Never!'
'Ah! if poor Geordie were there, he would have moved heaven and
earth to save me; but there is none to heed me now,' and Jean
fell into a passion of weeping.
When they had to go down to supper, the younger Baron received
them with the news--'So, ladies, the Duke has been shouting his
threats at us, but this castle is too hard a nut for the like
'I have seen others crack their teeth against it,' said his
father; and they both laughed, a hoarse derisive laugh.
The ladies vouchsafed not a word till they were allowed to
retire to their chamber.
They listened in the morning for the sounds of an assault, but
none came; there was absolutely nothing but an occasional hum
of voices and clank of armour. When summoned to the mid-day
meal, it was scanty.
'Ay,' said the elder Baron, we shall have to live hard for a
day or two, but those outside will live harder.'
'Till they fall out and cut one another's throats,' said his
son. 'Fasting will not mend the temper of Hans of Schlingen
and Michel au Bec rouge.'
'Or till Banget descends on him for meddling on Lorraine
ground,' added old Balchenburg. 'Eat, lady,' he added to Jean;
'your meals are not so large that they will make much odds to
our stores. We have corn and beer enough to starve out those
greedy knaves outside!'
Poor Jean was nearly out of her senses with distress and
uncertainty, and being still weak, was less able to endure.
She burst into violent hysterical weeping, and had to be helped
up to her own room, where she sometimes lay on her bed;
sometimes raged up and down the room, heaping violent words on
the head of the tardy cowardly German; sometimes talking of
loosing Skywing to show they were in the castle and cognisant
of what was going on; but it was not certain that Skywing, with
the lion rampant on his hood, would fly down to the besiegers,
so that she would only be lost.
Eleanor, by the very need of soothing her sister, was enabled
to be more tranquil. Besides, there was pleasure in the
knowledge that Sigismund had come after her, and there was
imagination enough in her nature to trust to the true knight
daring any amount of dragons in his lady's cause. And the lady
always had to be patient.
Then long and loud the victor shout
From turret and from tower rang out;
The rugged walls replied.
SCOTT, Lord of the Isles.
'Sir,I have something to show you.'
It was the early twilight of a summer's morning when Ringan
crept up to the shelter of pine branches under which George
Douglas was sleeping, after hotly opposing Gebhardt, who had
nearly persuaded his master that retreat was inevitable, unless
he meant to be deserted by more than half his men.
George sat up. 'Anent the ladies?' he said.
Ringan bowed his head, with an air of mystery and George
doubted no longer, but let him lead the way, keeping among the
brushwood to the foot of the quarry whence the castle had been
built. It had once been absolutely precipitous, no doubt, but
the stone was of a soft quality, on which weather told: ivy and
creepers had grown on it, and Ringan pointed to what to
dwellers on plains might have seemed impracticable, but to
those who had bird's-nested on the crags of Tantallon had quite
a different appearance. True, there was castle wall and turret
above, but on this, the weather side, there had likewise been a
slight crumbling, which had been neglected, perhaps from over
security, perhaps on account of the extreme difficulty of
repairing, where there was the merest ledge for foothold above
the precipitous quarry; indeed, the condition of the place
might never even have been perceived by the inhabitants, as
there were no traces of the place below having been frequented.
'Tis a mere staircase as far as the foot of the walls compared
with the Guillemot's crag,' observed Ringan.
'And a man with a heart and a foot could be up the wall in the
corner where the ivy grows,' added George. 'It is well,
Ringan, thou hast done good service. Here is the way.'
'With four or five of our own tall carles, we may win the
castle, and laugh at the German pock-puddings,' added Ringan.
'Let them gang their gate, and we'll free our leddies.'
George was tempted, but he shook his head. 'That were scarce
knightly towards the Duke,' he said. 'He has been gude friend
to me, and I may not thus steal a march on him. Moreover, we
ken na the strength of the loons within.'
'I misdoot there being mair than ten of them,' said Ringan.
'I have seen the same faces too often for there to be many.
And what there be we shall take napping.'
That was true; nevertheless George Douglas felt bound in honour
not to undertake the enterprise without the cognisance of his
ally, though he much doubted the Germans being alert or courageous enough to take advantage of such a perilous clamber.
Sigismund had a tent under the pine-trees, and a guard before
the entrance, who stood, halbert in hand, like a growling
statue, when the young Scot would have entered, understanding
not one word of his objurgations in mixed Scotch and French,
but only barring the way, till Sigismund's own 'Wer da?'
sounded from within.
'Moi--George of Angus!' shouted that individual in his awkward
French. 'Let me in, Sir Duke; I have tidings!'
Sigismund was on foot in a moment. 'And from King Eene?' he
'Far better, strong heart and steady foot can achieve the
adventure and save the ladies unaided! Come with me, beau
George had fully expected to see the German quail at the
frightful precipice and sheer wall before him, but the Hapsburg
was primarily a Tirolean mountaineer, and he measured the rock
with a glistening triumphant eye.
'Man can,' he said. 'That will we. Brave sire, your hand on
The days were almost at their longest, and it was about five in
the morning, the sun only just making his way over the screen
of the higher hills to the north-east, though it had been
daylight for some time.
Prudence made the two withdraw under the shelter of the woods,
and there they built their plan, both young men being gratified
to do so without their two advisers.
Neither of them doubted his own footing, and George was sure
that three or four of the men who had come with Sir Robert were
equally good cragsmen. Sigismund sighed for some Tirolese whom
he had left at home, but he had at least one man with him ready
to dare any height; and he thought a rope would make all things
sure. Nothing could be attempted till the next night, or
rather morning, and Sigismund decided on sending a messenger
down to the Franciscans to borrow or purchase a rope, while
George and Ringan, more used to shifts, proceeded to twist
together all the horses' halters they could collect, so as to
form a strong cable.
To avert suspicion, Sigismund appeared to have yielded to the
murmurs of his people, and sent more than half his troop down
the hill, in the expectation that he was about to follow. The
others were withdrawn under one clump of wood, the Scotsmen
under another, with orders to advance upon the gateway of the
castle so soon as they should hear a summons from the Duke's
bugle, or the cry, 'A Douglas!' Neither Sir Gebhardt nor Sir
Robert was young enough or light enough to attempt the climb,
each would fain have withheld his master, had it been possible,
but they would have their value in dealing with the troop
So it came to pass that when Eleanor, anxious, sorrowful,
heated, and weary, awoke at daydawn and crept from the side of
her sleeping sister to inhale a breath of morning breeze and
murmur a morning prayer, as she gazed from her loophole over
the woods with a vague, never-quenchable hope of seeing
something, she became aware of something very stealthy below--
the rustling of a fox, or a hare in the fern mayhap, though she
could not see to the bottom of the quarry, but she clung to the
bar, craned forward, and beheld far down a shaking of the ivy
and white-flowered rowan; then a hand, grasping the root of a
little sturdy birch, then a yellow head gradually drawn up,
till a thin, bony, alert figure was for a moment astride on the
birch. Reaching higher, the sunburnt, freckled face was lifted
up, and Eleanor's heart gave a great throb of hope. Was it not
the wild boy, Ringan Raefoot? She could not turn away her
head, she durst not even utter a word to those within, lest it
should be a mere fancy, or a lad from the country bird's-
nesting. Higher, higher he went, lost for a moment among the
leaves and branches, then attaining a crag, in some giddy
manner. But, but--what was that head under a steel cap that
had appeared on the tree? What was that face raised for a
moment? Was it the face of the dead? Eleanor forced back a
cry, and felt afraid of wakening herself from what she began to
think only a blissful dream,--all the more when that length of
limb had reared itself, and attained to the dizzy crag above.
A fairer but more solid face, with a long upper lip, appeared,
mounting in its turn. She durst not believe her eyes, and she
was not conscious of making any sound, unless it was the
vehement beating of her own heart; but perhaps it was the power
of her own excitement that communicated itself to her sleeping
sister, for Jean's voice was heard, 'What is it, Elleen; what
She signed back with her hand to enjoin silence, for her sense
began to tell her that this must be reality, and that castles
had before now been thus surprised by brave Scotsmen. Jean was
out of bed and at the loophole in a moment. There was room for
only one, and Eleanor yielded the place, the less reluctantly
that the fair head had reached the part veiled by the tree, and
Jean's eyes would be an evidence that she herself might trust
her own sight.
Jean's glance first fell on the backs of the ascending figures,
now above the crag. 'Ah! ah!' she cried, under her breath, 'a
surprise--a rescue! Oh! the lad--stretching, spreading! The
man below is holding his foot. Oh! that tuft of grass won't
bear him. His knees are up. Yes--yes! he is even with the top
of the wall now. Elleen! Hope! Brave laddie! Why--'tis--
yes--'tis Ringan. Now the other, the muckle carle--Ah!' and
then a sudden breathless silence came over her.
Eleanor knew she had recognised that figure!
Madame de Ste. Petronelle was awake now, asking what this
'Deliverance!' whispered Eleanor. 'They are scaling the wall.
Oh, Jean, one moment--'
'I canna, I canna,' cried Jean, grasping the iron bar with all
her might: 'I see his face; he is there on the ledge, at fit of
the wall, in life and strength. Ringan--yes, Ringan is going
up the wall like a cat!'
'Where is he? Is he safe--the Duke, I would say?' gasped
Eleanor. 'Oh, let me see, Jeanie.'
'The Duke, is it? Ah! Geordie is giving a hand to help him on
the ground. Tak' tent, tak' tent, Geordie. Dinna coup ower.
Ah! they are baith there, and one--two--three muckle fellows
are coming after them.'
'Climbing up there!' exclaimed the Dame, bustling up. 'God
speed them. Those are joes worth having, leddies!'
'There! there--Geordie is climbing now. St. Bride speed him,
and hide them. Well done, Duke! He hoisted him so far. Now
his hand is on that broken stone. Up! up! His foot is in the
cleft now! His hand--oh!--clasps the ivy! God help him! Ah,
he feels about. Yes, he has it. Now--now the top of the
battlement. I see no more. They are letting down a rope.
Your Duke disna climb like my Geordie, Elleen!'
'Oh, for mercy's sake, to your prayers, dinna wrangle about
your joes, bairns,' cried Madame de Ste. Petronelle. 'The
castle's no won yet!'
'But is as good as won,' said Eleanor. 'There are barely
twelve fighting men in it, and sorry loons are the maist. How
many are up yet, Jeanie?'
'There's a fifth since the Duke yet to come up,' answered Jean,
'eight altogether, counting the gallant Ringan. There!'
''Tis the warder's horn. They have been seen!' and the poor
women clasped their hands in fervent prayer, with ears intent;
but Jean suddenly darted towards her clothes, and they hastily
attired themselves, then cautiously peeped out at their door,
since neither sight nor sound came to them from either window.
The guard who had hindered their passage was no longer there,
and Jean led the way down the spiral stairs. At the slit
looking into the court they heard cries and the clash of arms,
but it was too high above their heads for anything to be seen,
and they hastened on.
There also in the narrow court was a fight going on--but nearly
ended. Geordie Douglas knelt over the prostrate form of
Rudiger von Balchenburg, calling on him to yield, but meeting
no answer. One or two other men lay overthrown, three or four
more were pressed up against a wall, howling for mercy.
Sigismund was shouting to them in German--Ringan and the other
assailants standing guard over them; but evidently hardly
withheld from slaughtering them. The maidens stood for a
moment, then Jean's scream of welcome died on her lips, for as
he looked up from his prostrate foe, and though he had not yet
either spoken or risen, Sigismund had stepped to his side, and
laid his sword on his shoulder.
'Victor!' said he, 'in the name of God and St. Mary, I make
thee Chevalier. Rise, Sire George of Douglas!'
'True knight!' cried Jean, leaping to his side. 'Oh, Geordie,
Geordie, thou hast saved us! Thou noblest knight!'
'Ah! Lady, it canna be helpit,' said the new knight. ''Tis no
treason to your brother to be dubbed after a fair fight, though
'tis by a Dutch prince.'
'Thy King's sister shall mend that, and bind your spurs,' said
Jean. 'Is the reiver dead, Geordie?'
'Even so,' was the reply. 'My sword has spared his craig from
Such were the times, and such Jean's breeding, that she looked
at the fallen enemy much as a modern lady may look at a slain
Eleanor had meantime met Sigismund with, 'Ah! well I knew that
you would come to our aid. So true a knight must achieve the
'Safe, safe, I am blessed and thankful,' said the Duke, falling
on one knee to kiss her hand. 'How have these robbers treated
'Well, as well as they know how. That good woman has been very
kind to us,' said Eleanor, as she saw Barbe peeping from the
stair. 'Come hither, Barbe and Trudchen, to the Lord Duke's
They were entering the hall, and, at the same moment, the gates
were thrown open, and the men waiting with Gebhardt and Robert
Douglas began to pour in. It was well for Barbe and her
daughter that they could take shelter behind the ladies, for
the men were ravenous for some prize, or something to wreak
their excitement upon, besides the bare walls of the castle,
and its rude stores of meal and beer. The old Baron was hauled
down from his bed by half-a-dozen men, and placed before the
Duke with bound hands.
'Hola, Siege!' said he in German, all unabashed. 'You have got
me at last--by a trick! I always bade Rudiger look to that
quarry; but young men think they know best.'
'The old traitor!' said George in French. 'Hang him from his
tower for a warning to his like, as we should do in Scotland.'
'What cause have you to show why we should not do as saith the
knight?' said Sigismund.
'I care little how it goes with my old carcase now,' returned
Balchenburg, in the spirit of the Amalekite of old. 'I only
mourn that I shall not be there to see the strife you will
breed with the lute-twanger or his fellows at Nanci.'
Gebhardt here gave his opinion that it would be wise to reserve
the old man for King Rene's justice, so as to obviate all peril
of dissension. The small garrison, to be left in the castle
under the most prudent knight whom Gebhardt could select, were
instructed only to profess to hold it till the Lords of Alsace
and Lorraine should jointly have determined what was to be done
It was not expedient to tarry there long. A hurried meal was
made, and then the victors set out on the descent. George had
found his good steed in the stables, together with the ladies'
palfreys, and there had been great joy in the mutual
recognition; but Jean's horse was found to show traces of its
fall, and her arm was not yet entirely recovered, so that she
was seated on Ringan's sure-footed pony, with the new-made
knight walking by her side to secure its every step, though
Ringan grumbled that Sheltie would be far safer if left to his
Sigismund was proposing to make for Sarrebourg, when the
glittering of lances was seen in the distance, and the troop
was drawn closely together, for the chance that, as had been
already thought probable, some of the Lorrainers had risen as
to war and invasion. However, the banner soon became
distinguishable, with the many quarterings, showing that King
Rene was there in person; and Sigismund rode forward to greet
him and explain.
The chivalrous King was delighted with the adventure, only
wishing he had shared in the rescue of the captive princesses.
'Young blood,' he said. 'Youth has all the guerdons reserved
for it, while age is lagging behind.'
Yet so soon as Sir Patrick Drummond had overtaken him at
Epinal, he had turned back to Nanci, and it was in consequence
of what he there heard that he had set forth to bring the
robbers of Balchenburg to reason. To him there was no
difficulty in accepting thankfully what some would have
regarded as an aggression on the part of the Duke of Alsace,
and though old Balchenburg, when led up before him, seemed bent
upon aggravating him. 'Ha! Sir King, so a young German and a
wild Scot have done what you, with all your kingdoms, have
never had the wit to do.'
'The poor old man is distraught,' said the King, while
Sigismund put in--
'Mayhap because you never ventured on such audacious villainy
and outrecuidance before.'
'Young blood will have its way,' repeated the old man. 'Nay,
I told the lad no good would come of it, but he would have it
that he had his backers, and in sooth that escort played into
his hands. Ha! ha! much will the fair damsels' royal beau-
frere thank you for overthrowing his plan for disposing of
'Hark you, foul-mouthed fellow,' said King Rene; 'did I not
pity you for your bereavement and ruin, I should requite that
slander of a noble prince by hanging you on the nearest tree.'
'Your Grace is kindly welcome,' was the answer.
Rene and Sigismund, however, took counsel together, and agreed
that the old man should, instead of this fate, be relegated to
an abbey, where he might at least have the chance of repenting
of his crimes, and be kept in safe custody.
'That's your mercy,' muttered the old mountain wolf when he
heard their decision.
All this was settled as they rode back along the way where
Madame de Ste. Petronelle had first become alarmed. She had
now quite resumed her authority and position, and promised
protection and employment to Barbe and Trudchen. The former
had tears for 'her boy,' thus cut off in his sins; but it was
what she always foreboded for him, and if her old master was
not thankful for the grace offered him, she was for him.
King Rene, who believed not a word against his nephew, intended
himself to conduct the ladies to the Court of his sister, and
see them in safety there. Jean, however, after the first
excitement, so drooped as she rode, and was so entirely unable
to make answer to all the kindness around her, that it was
plain that she must rest as soon as possible, and thus
hospitality was asked at a little country castle, around which
the suite encamped. A pursuivant was, however, despatched by
Rene to the French Court to announce the deliverance of the
princesses, and Sir Patrick sent his son David with the party,
that his wife and the poor Dauphiness might be fully reassured.
There was a strange stillness over Chateau le Surry when David
rode in triumphantly at the gate. A Scottish archer, who stood
on guard, looked up at him anxiously with the words, 'Is it
weel with the lassies?' and on his reply, 'They are sain and
safe, thanks, under Heaven, to Geordie Douglas of Angus!' the
man exclaimed, 'On, on, sir squire, the saints grant ye may not
be too late for the puir Dolfine! Ah! but she has been sair
'Is my mother here?' asked David.
'Ay, sir, and with the puir lady. Ye may gang in without
question. A' the doors be open, that ilka loon may win in to
see a princess die.'
The pursuivant, hearing that the King and Dauphin were no
longer in the castle, rode on to Chalons, but David dismounted,
and followed a stream of persons, chiefly monks, friars, and
women of the burgher class, up the steps, and on into the
vaulted room, the lower part shut off by a rail, against which
crowded the curious and only half-awed multitude, who whispered
to each other, while above, at a temporary altar, bright with
rows of candles, priests intoned prayers. The atmosphere was
insufferably hot, and David could hardly push forward; but as
he exclaimed in his imperfect French that he came with tidings
of Madame's sisters, way was made, and he heard his mother's
voice. 'Is it? Is it my son? Bring him. Oh, quickly!'
He heard a little, faint, gasping cry, and as a lane was opened
for him, struggled onwards. In poor Margaret's case the
etiquette that banished the nearest kin from Royalty in
articulo mortis was not much to be regretted. David saw her--
white, save for the death-flush called up by the labouring
breath, as she lay upheld in his mother's arms, a priest
holding a crucifix before her, a few ladies kneeling by the
'Good tidings, I see, my son,' said Lady Drummond.
'Are--they--here?' gasped Margaret.
'Alack, not yet, Madame; they will come in a few days' time.'
She gave a piteous sigh, and David could not hear her words.
'Tell her how and where you found them,' said his mother.
David told his story briefly. There was little but a quivering
of the heavy eyelids and a clasping of the hands to show
whether the dying woman marked him, but when he had finished,
she said, so low that only his mother heard, 'Safe! Thank God!
Nunc dimittis. Who was it--young Angus?'
'Even so,' said David, when the question had been repeated to
him by his mother.
'So best!' sighed Margaret. 'Bid the good father give thanks.'
Dame Lilias dismissed her son with a sign. Margaret lay far
more serene. For a few minutes there was a sort of hope that
the good news might inspire fresh life, and yet, after the
revelation of what her condition was in this strange,
frivolous, hard-hearted Court, how could life be desired for
her weary spirit? She did not seem to wish--far less to
struggle to wish--to live to see them again; perhaps there was
an instinctive feeling that, in her weariness, there was no
power of rousing herself, and she would rather sink undisturbed
than hear of the terror and suffering that she knew but too
well her husband had caused.
Only, when it was very near the last, she said, 'Safe! safe in
leal hands. Oh, tell my Jeanie to be content with them--never
seek earthly crowns--ashes--ashes--Elleen--Jeanie--all of them-
-my love-oh! safe, safe. Now, indeed, I can pardon--'
'Pardon!' said the French priest, catching the word. 'Whom,
Madame, the Sieur de Tillay?'
Even on the gasping lips there was a semi-smile. 'Tillay--I
had forgotten! Tillay, yes, and another.'
If no one else understood, Lady Drummond did, that the
forgiveness was for him who had caused the waste and blight of
a life that might have been so noble and so sweet, and who had
treacherously prepared a terrible fate for her young innocent
It was all ended now; there was no more but to hear the priest
commend the parting Christian soul, while, with a few more
faint breaths, the soul of Margaret of Scotland passed beyond
the world of sneers, treachery, and calumny, to the land 'where
the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at
'Done to death by slanderous tongues
Was the Hero that here lies:
Death, avenger of wrongs,
Gives her fame which never dies.'
Much Ado About Nothing.
A day's rest revived Jean enough to make her eager to push on
to Chalons, and enough likewise to revive her coquettish and
Sigismund and Eleanor might ride on together in a species of
paradise, as having not only won each other's love, but acted
out a bit of the romance that did not come to full realisation
much more often in those days than in modern ones. They were
quite content to let King Rene glory in them almost as much as
he had arrived at doing in his own daughter and her Ferry, and
they could be fully secure; Sigismund had no one's consent to
ask, save a formal licence from his cousin, the Emperor
Frederick III., who would pronounce him a fool for wedding a
penniless princess, but had no real power over him; while
Eleanor was certain that all her kindred would feel that she
was fulfilling her destiny, and high sweet thoughts of
thankfulness and longing to be a blessing to him who loved her,
and to those whom he ruled, filled her spirit as she rode through
the shady woods and breezy glades, bright with early summer.
Jean, however, was galled by the thought that every one at home
would smile and say that she might have spared her journey, and
that, in spite of all her beauty, she had just ended by wedding
the Scottish laddie whom she had scorned. True, her heart knew
that she loved him and none other, and that he truly merited
her; but her pride was not willing that he should feel that he
had earned her as a matter of course, and she was quite as
ungracious to Sir George Douglas, the Master of Angus, as ever
she had been to Geordie of the Red Peel, and she showed all the
petulance of a semi-convalescent. She would not let him ride
beside her, his horse made her palfrey restless, she said; and
when King Rene talked about her true knight, she pretended not
'Ah!' he said, 'be consoled, brave sire; we all know it is the
part of the fair lady to be cruel and merciless. Let me sing
you a roman both sad and true!'
Which good-natured speech simply irritated George beyond
bearing. 'The daft old carle,' muttered he to Sir Patrick,
'why cannot he let me gang my ain gate, instead of bringing all
their prying eyes on me? If Jean casts me off the noo, it will
be all his fault.'
These small vexations, however, soon faded out of sight when
the drooping, half-hoisted banner was seen on the turrets of
Chateau le Surry, and the clang of a knell came slow and solemn
on the wind.
No one was at first visible, but probably a warder had
announced their approach, for various figures issued from the
gateway, some coming up to Rene, and David Drummond seeking his
father. The tidings were in one moment made known to the two
poor girls--a most sudden shock, for they had parted with their
sister in full health, as they thought, and Sir Patrick had
only supposed her to have been chilled by the thunderstorm.
Yet Eleanor's first thought was, 'Ah! I knew it! Would that I
had clung closer to her and never been parted.' But the next
moment she was startled by a cry--Jean had slid from her horse,
fainting away in George Douglas's arms.
Madame de Ste. Petronelle was at hand, and the Lady of
Glenuskie quickly on the spot; and they carried her into the
hall, where she revived, and soon was in floods of tears.
These were the days when violent demonstration was unchecked
and admired as the due of the deceased, and all stood round,
weeping with her. King Charles himself leaning forward to
wring her hands, and cry, 'My daughter, my good daughter!'
As soon as the first tempest had subsided, the King supported
Eleanor to the chapel, where, in the midst of rows of huge wax
candles, Margaret lay with placid face, and hands clasped over
a crucifix, as if on a tomb, the pall that covered all except
her face embellished at the sides with the blazonry of France
and Scotland. Her husband, with his thin hands clasped, knelt
by her head, and requiems were being sung around by relays of
priests. There was fresh weeping and wailing as the sisters
cast sprinklings of holy water on her, and then Jean, sinking
down quite exhausted, was supported away to a chamber where the
sisters could hear the story of these last sad days from Lady
The solemnities of Margaret's funeral took their due course--a
lengthy one, and then, or rather throughout, there was the
consideration what was to come next. Too late, all the Court
seemed to have wakened to regret for Margaret. She had been
open-handed and kindly, and the attendants had loved her, while
the ladies who had gossiped about her habits now found
occupation for their tongues in indignation against whosoever
had aspersed her discretion. The King himself, who had always
been lazily fond of the belle fille who could amuse him, was
stirred, perhaps by Rene, into an inquiry into the scandalous
reports, the result of which was that Jamet de Tillay was
ignominiously banished from the Court, and Margaret's fair fame
vindicated, all too late to save her heart from breaking. The
displeasure that Charles expressed to his son in private on the
score of poor Margaret's wrongs, is, in fact, believed to have
been the beginning of the breach which widened continually,
till finally the unhappy father starved himself to death in a
morbid dread of being poisoned by his son.
However, for the present, the two Scottish princesses reaped
the full benefit of all the feeling for their sister. The King
and Queen called them their dearest daughters, and made all
sorts of promises of marrying and endowing them, and Louis
himself went outwardly through all the forms of mourning and
devotion, and treated his two fair sisters with extreme
civility, such as they privately declared they could hardly
bear, when they recollected how he had behaved before Margaret.
Jean in especial flouted him with all the sharpness and
pertness of which she was capable; but do what she would, he
received it all with a smiling indifference and civility which
exasperated her all the more.
The Laird and Lady of Glenuskie were in some difficulty. They
could not well be much longer absent from Scotland, and yet
Lilias had promised the poor Dauphiness not to leave her
sisters except in some security. Eleanor's fate was plain
enough, Sigismund followed her about as her betrothed, and the
only question was whether, during the period of mourning, he
should go back to his dominions to collect a train worthy of
his marriage with a king's daughter; but this he was plainly
reluctant to do. Besides the unwillingness of a lover to lose
sight of his lady, the catastrophe that had befallen the
sisters might well leave a sense that they needed protection.
Perhaps, too, he might expect murmurs at his choice of a
dowerless princess from his vassals of the Tirol.
At any rate, he lingered and accompanied the Court to Tours,
where in the noble old castle the winter was to be spent.
There Sir Patrick and his wife were holding a consultation.
Their means were well-nigh exhausted. What they had collected
for their journey was nearly spent, and so was the sum with
which Cardinal Beaufort had furnished his nieces. It was true
that Eleanor and Jean were reckoned as guests of the French
King, and the knight and lady and attendants as part of their
suite; but the high proud Scottish spirits could not be easy in
this condition, and they longed to depart, while still by
selling the merely ornamental horses and some jewels they could
pay their journey. But then Jean remained a difficulty. To
take her back to Scotland was the most obvious measure, where
she could marry George of Angus as soon as the mourning was
'Even if she will have him,' said Dame Lilias, 'I doubt me
whether her proud spirit will brook to go home unwedded.'
'Dost deem the lassie is busking herself for higher game? That
were an evil requital for his faithful service and gallant
'I cannot tell,' said Lilias. 'The maid has always been kittle
to deal with. I trow she loves Geordie in her inmost heart,
but she canna thole to feel herself bound to him, and it irks
her that when her sisters are wedded to sovereign princes, she
should gang hame to be gudewife to a mere Scots Earl's son.'
'The proud unthankful peat! Leave her to gang her ain gate,
Lily. And yet she is a bonny winsome maid, that I canna cast
'Nor I, Patie, and I have gi'en my word to her sister. Yet gin
some prince cam' in her way, I'd scarce give much for Geordie's
'The auld king spake once to me of his younger son, the Duke of
Berry, as they call him,' said Sir Patrick; 'but the Constable