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- OF THE CAGED LION - 2/59 -
time served as the agonized voice of hearts hot-burning at the sight of wrong.
'Ah yes,' he ended, 'there is nothing else for it! Uncle, this was wherefore I came. It was to speak to you of my purpose.'
'The old purpose, Malcolm? Nay, that hath been answered before.'
'But listen, listen, dear Uncle. I have not spoken of it for a full year now. So that you cannot say it is the caresses of the good monks. No, nor the rude sayings of the Master of Albany,' he added, colouring at a look of his uncle. 'You bade me say no more till I be of full age; nor would I, save that I were safe lodged in an abbey; then might Patrick and Lily be wedded, and he not have to leave us and seek his fortune far away in France; and in Patie's hands and leading, my vassals might be safe; but what could the doited helpless cripple do?' he added, the colour rising hotly to his cheek with pain and shame. 'Oh, Sir, let me but save my soul, and find peace in Coldingham!'
'My poor bairn,' said his uncle, laying a kind hand upon him, as in his eagerness he knelt on one knee beside the chair, 'it must not be. It is true that the Regent and his sons would willingly see you in a cloister. Nay, that unmanly jeer of Walter Stewart's was, I verily believe, meant to drive you thither. But were you there, then would poor Lilias become a prize worth having, and the only question would be, whether Walter of Albany, or Robert of Athole, or any of the rest of them, should tear her away to be the lady of their fierce ungodly households.'
'You could give her to Patrick, Uncle.'
'No, Malcolm, that were not consistent with mine honour, or oaths to the King and State. You living, and Laird of Glenuskie, Lilias is a mere younger sister, whom you may give in marriage as you will; but were you dead to the world, under a cowl, then the Lady of Glenuskie, a king's grandchild, may not be disposed of, save by her royal kinsman, or by those who, woe worth the day! stand in his place. I were no better than yon Wolf of Badenoch or the Master of Albany, did I steal a march on the Regent, and give the poor lassie to my own son!'
'And so Lilias must pine, and Patrick wander off to the weary French war,' sighed Malcolm; 'and I must be scorned by my cousins whenever the House of Stewart meets together; and must strive with these fierce cruel men, that will ever be too hard for me when Patie is gone.' His eyes filled with tears as he continued, 'Ah! that fair chapel, with the sweet chant of the choir, the green smooth-shaven quadrangle, the calm cloister walk; there, there alone is rest. There, one ceases to be a prey and a laughing-stock; there, one sees no more bloodshed and spulzie; there, one need not be forced to treachery or violence. Oh, Uncle! my very soul is sick for Coldingham. How many years will it be ere I can myself bestow my sister on Patie, and hide my head in peace!'
Before his uncle had done more than answer, 'Nay, nay, Malcolm, these are no words for the oe of Bruce; you are born to dare as well as to suffer,' there was an approach of footsteps, and two young people entered the hall; the first a girl, with a family likeness to Malcolm, but tall, upright, beautiful, and with the rich colouring of perfect health, her plaid still hanging in a loose swelling hood round her brilliant face and dark hair, snooded with a crimson ribbon and diamond clasp; the other, a knightly young man, of stately height and robust limbs, keen bright blue eyes and amber hair and beard, moving with the ease and grace that showed his training in the highest school of chivalry.
'Good Uncle,' cried the maiden in eager excitement, 'there is a guest coming. He has just turned over the brae side, and can be coming nowhere but here.'
'A guest!' cried both Malcolm and the elder knight, 'of what kind, Lily?'
'A knight--a knight in bright steel, and with three attendants,' said Lilias; 'one of Patrick's French comrades, say I, by the grace of his riding.'
'Not a message from the Regent, I trust,' sighed Malcolm. 'Patie, oh do not lower the drawbridge, till we hear whether it be friend or foe.'
'Nay, Malcolm, 'tis well none save friends heard that,' said Patrick. 'When shall we make a brave man of you?'
'Nevertheless, Patie,' said the old gentleman, 'though I had rather the caution had come from the eldest rather than the youngest head among us, parley as much as may serve with honour and courtesy ere opening the gate to the stranger. Hark, there is his bugle.'
A certain look of nervous terror passed over young Malcolm's face, while his sister watched full of animation and curiosity, as one to whom excitement of any kind could hardly come amiss, exclaiming, as she looked from the window, 'Fear not, most prudent Malcolm; Father Ninian is with him: Father Ninian must have invited him.'
'Strange,' muttered Patrick, 'that Father Ninian should be picking up and bringing home stray wandering land-loupers;' and with an anxious glance at Lilias, he went forward unwillingly to perform those duties of hospitality which had become necessary, since the presence of the castle chaplain was a voucher for the guest. The drawbridge had already been lowered, and the new-comer was crossing it upon a powerful black steed, guided by Father Ninian upon his rough mountain pony, on which he had shortly before left the castle, to attend at a Church festival held at Coldingham.
The chaplain was a wise, prudent, and much-respected man; nevertheless, young Sir Patrick Drummond felt little esteem for his prudence in displaying one at least of the treasures of the castle to the knight on the black horse. The stranger was a very tall man, of robust and stalwart make, apparently aged about seven or eight and twenty years, clad in steel armour, enamelled so as to have a burnished blue appearance; but the vizor of the helmet was raised, and the face beneath it was a manly open face, thoroughly Scottish in its forms, but very handsome, and with short dark auburn hair, and eyes of the same peculiar tint, glancing with a light that once seen could never be forgotten; and the bearing was such, that Patrick at once growled to himself, 'One of our haughty loons, brimful of outre cuidance; and yet how coolly he bears it off. If he looks to find us his humble servants, he will find himself mistaken, I trow.'
'Sir Patrick,' said Father Ninian, who was by this time close to him, 'let me present to you Sir James Stewart, a captive knight who is come to collect his ransom. I fell in with him on the road, and as his road lay with mine, I made bold to assure him of a welcome from your honoured father and Lord Malcolm.'
Patrick's face cleared. It was no grace or beauty that he feared in any stranger, but the sheer might and unright that their Regency enabled the House of Albany to exercise over the orphans of the royal family, whose head was absent; and a captive knight could be no mischievous person. Still this might be only a specious pretence to impose on the chaplain, and gain admittance to the castle; and Patrick was resolved to be well on his guard, though he replied courteously to the graceful bow with which the stranger greeted him, saying in a manly mellow voice and southern accent, 'I have been bold enough to presume on the good father's offer of hospitality, Sir.'
'You are welcome, Sir,' returned Patrick, taking the stranger's bridle that he might dismount; 'my father and my cousin will gladly further on his way a prisoner seeking freedom.'
'A captive may well be welcome, for the sake of one prisoner,' said his father, who had in the meantime come forward, and extended his hand to the knight, who took it, and uncovering his bright locks, respectfully said, 'I am in the presence of the noble Tutor of Glenuskie.'
'Even so, Sir,' returned Sir David Drummond, who was, in fact, as his nephew's guardian, usually known by this curious title; 'and you here see my wards, the Lord Malcolm and Lady Lilias. Your knighthood will make allowances for the lad, he is but home-bred.' For while Lilias with stately grace responded to Sir James Stewart's courtly greeting, Malcolm bashfully made an awkward bow, and seemed ready to shrink within himself, as, indeed, the brutal jests of his rude cousins had made him dread and hate the eye of a stranger; and while the knight was led forward to the hall fire, he merely pressed up to the priest, and eagerly demanded under his breath, 'Have you brought me the book?' but Father Ninian had only time to nod, and sign that a volume was in his bosom, before old Sir David called out, 'What now, Malcolm, forgetting that your part is to come and disarm the knight who does you the honour to be your guest?' And Sir Patrick rather roughly pushed him forward, gruffly whispering, 'Leave not Lily to supply your lack of courtesy.'
Malcolm shambled forward, bewildered, as the keen auburn eye fell on him, and the cheery kindly voice said, 'Ha! a new book--a romance? Well may that drive out other thoughts.'
'Had he ears to hear such a whisper?' thought Malcolm, as he mumbled in the hoarse voice of bashful boyhood, 'Not a romance, Sir, but whatever the good fathers at Coldingham would lend me.'
'It is the "Itinerarium" of the blessed Adamnanus,' replied Father Ninian, producing from his bosom a parcel, apparently done up in many wrappers, a seal-skin above all.
'The "Itinerarium"!' exclaimed Sir James, 'methought I had heard of such a book. I have a friend in England who would give many a fair rose noble for a sight of it.'
'A friend in England!'--the words had a sinister sound to the audience, and while Malcolm jealously gathered up the book into his arms, the priest made cold answer, that the book was the property of the Monastery at Coldingham, and had only been lent to Lord Malcolm Stewart by special favour. The guest could not help smiling, and saying he was glad books were thus prized in Scotland; but at that moment, as the sunny look shone on his face, and he stood before the fire in the close suit of chamois leather which he wore under his armour, old Sir David exclaimed, 'Ha! never did I see such a likeness. Patie, you should be old enough to remember; do you not see it?'
'What should I see? Who is he like?' asked Patrick, surprised at his father's manner.
'Who?' whispered Sir David in a lowered voice; 'do you not see it? to the unhappy lad, the Duke of Rothsay.'
Patrick could not help smiling, for he had been scarcely seven years
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