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- Two Penniless Princesses - 4/42 -
a-wearying with their manners and their courtesies and such like daft woman's gear! Why could not his father be content to let him grow up like his fellows, rough and free and ready?
'And knowing nothing better--nothing beyond,' said Eleanor.
'What would you have better than the hill and the brae? To tame a horse and fly a hawk, and couch a lance and bend a bow! That's what a man is made for, without fashing himself with letters and Latin and manners, no better than a monk; but my father would always have it so!'
'Ye'll be thankful to him yet, Davie,' put in his graver brother.
'Thankful! I shall forget all about it as soon as I am knighted, and make you write all my letters--and few enough there will be.'
'And you, Malcolm!' said Eleanor, 'would you be content to hide within four walls, and know nothing by your own eyes?'
'No indeed, cousin,' replied the lad; 'I long for the fair churches and cloisters and the learned men and books that my father tells of. My mother says that her brother, that I am named for, yearned to make this a land of peace and godliness, and to turn these high spirits to God's glory instead of man's strife and feud, and how it might have been done save for the slaying of your noble father--Saints rest him!--which broke mine uncle's heart, so that he died on his way home from pilgrimage. She hopes to pray at his tomb that I may tread in his steps, and be a blessing and not a curse to the land we love.'
Eleanor was silent, seeing for the first time that there might be higher aims than escaping from dulness, strife, and peril; whilst Jean cried--
''Tis the titles and jousts, the knights and ladies that I care for--men that know what fair chivalry means, and make knightly vows to dare all sorts of foes for a lady's sake.'
'As if any lass was worth it,' said David contemptuously.
'Ay, that's what you are! That's what it is to live in this savage realm,' returned Jean.
At this moment, however, Brother Romuald was again seen advancing, and this time with a request for the presence of the ladies Jean and Eleanor.
'Could James be relenting on better advice?' they asked one another as they went.
'More likely,' said Jean, with a sigh, amounting to a groan, 'it is only to hear that we are made over, like a couple of kine, to some ruffianly reivers, who will beat a princess as soon as a scullion.'
They reached the chamber in time. Though the Bishop slept there it also served for a council chamber; and as he carried his chapel and household furniture about with him, it was a good deal more civilised-looking than even the princesses' room. Large folding screens, worked with tapestry, representing the lives of the saints, shut off the part used as an oratory and that which served as a bedchamber, where indeed the good man slept on a rush mat on the floor. There were a table and several chairs and stools, all capable of being folded up for transport. The young King occupied a large chair of state, in which he twisted himself in a very undignified manner; the Bishop-Chancellor sat beside him, with the Great Seal of Scotland and some writing materials, parchments, and letters before him, and Sir Patrick came forward to receive and seat the young ladies, and then remained standing--as few of his rank in Scotland would have done on their account.
'Well, lassies,' began the King, 'here's lads enow for you. There's the Master of Angus, as ye ken--'(Jean tossed her head)--'moreover, auld Crawford wants one of you for his son.'
'The Tyger Earl,' gasped Eleanor.
'And with Stirling for your portion, the modest fellow,' added James. 'Ay, and that's not all. There's the MacAlpin threats me with all his clan if I dinna give you to him; and Mackay is not behindhand, but will come down with pibroch and braidsword and five hundred caterans to pay his court to you, and make short work of all others. My certie, sisters seem but a cause for threats from reivers, though maybe they would not be so uncivil if once they had you.'
'Oh, Jamie! oh! dear holy Father,' cried Eleanor, turning from the King to the Bishop, 'do not, for mercy's sake, give me over to one of those ruffians.'
'They are coming, Eleanor,' said James, with a boy's love of terrifying; 'the MacAlpin and Mackay are both coming down after you, and we shall have a fight like the Clan Chattan and Clan Kay. There's for the demoiselle who craved for knights to break lances for her!'
'Knights indeed! Highland thieves,' said Jean; 'and 'tis for what tocher they may force from you, James, not for her face.'
'You are right there, my puir bairn,' said the Bishop. 'These men--save perhaps the young Master of Angus--only seek your hands as a pretext for demands from your brother, and for spuilzie and robbery among themselves. And I for my part would never counsel his Grace to yield the lambs to the wolves, even to save himself.'
'No, indeed,' broke in the King; we may not have them fighting down here, though it would be rare sport to look on, if you were not to be the prize. So my Lord Bishop here trows, and I am of the same mind, that the only safety is that the birds should be flown, and that you should have your wish and be away the morn, with Patie of Glenuskie here, since he will take the charge of two such silly lasses.'
The sudden granting of their wish took the maidens' breath away. They looked from one to the other without a word; and the Bishop, in more courtly language, explained that amid all these contending parties he could not but judge it wiser to put the King's two marriageable sisters out of reach, either of a violent abduction, or of being the cause of a savage contest, in either case ending in demands that would be either impossible or mischievous for the Crown to grant, and moreover in misery for themselves.
Sir Patrick added something courteous about the honour of the charge.
'So soon!' gasped Jean; 'are we really to go the morn?'
'With morning light, if it be possible, fair ladies,' said Sir Patrick.
'Ay,' said James, 'then will we take Mary and the weans to the nunnery in St. Mary's Wynd, where none will dare to molest them, and I shall go on to St. Andrews or Stirling, as may seem fittest; while we leave old Seneschal Peter to keep the castle gates shut. If the Hielanders come, they'll find the nut too hard for them to crack, and the kernel gone, so you'd best burn no more daylight, maidens, but busk ye, as women will.'
'Oh, Jamie, to speak so lightly of parting!' sighed Eleanor.
'Come--no fule greeting, now you have your will,' hastily said James, who could hardly bear it himself.
'Our gear!' faltered Jeanie, with consternation at their ill- furnished wardrobes.
'For that,' said the Bishop, 'you must leave the supply till you are over the Border, when the Lady Glenuskie will see to your appearing as nigh as may be as befits the daughters of Scotland among your English kin.'
'But we have not a mark between us,' said Jean, 'and all my mother's jewels are pledged to the Lombards.'
'There are moneys falling due to the Crown,' said the Bishop, 'and I can advance enow to Sir Patrick to provide the gear and horses.'
'And my gude wife's royal kin are my guests till they win to their sister,' added Sir Patrick.
And so it was settled. It was an evening of bustle and a night of wakefulness. There were floods of tears poured out by and over sweet little Mary and good old Ankaret, not to speak of those which James scorned to shed. Had a sudden stop been put to the journey, perhaps, Eleanor would have been relieved but Jean sorely disappointed.
It was further decided that Father Romuald should accompany the party, both to assist in negotiations with Henry VI. and Cardinal Beaufort, and to avail himself of the opportunity of returning to his native land, far away from the blasts of the north, and to show cause to the Pope for erecting St. Andrews into an archiepiscopal see, instead of leaving Scotland under the primacy of York.
Hawk and harp were all the properties the princesses-errant took with them; but Jean, as her old nurse sometimes declared, loved Skywing better than all the weans, and Elleen's small travelling-harp was all that she owned of her father's--except the spirit that loved it.
'I bowed my pride, A horse-boy in his train to ride.'--SCOTT.
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