Page images


instantly showed the seniority of his brother, for the clearness of his colouring-bright red and white like a lady's—his short well-moulded chin, and the fresh earnestness and animation of his countenance, gave air of perpetual youth, in spite of the scar of an arrow on the cheek which told of at least one battle ; but there were those manifestations of being used to be the first which are the evident tokens of elder sonship, and the lordly manner more and more impressed Malcolm. He was glad that his own Sir James was equal in dignity, as well as superior in height, and he thought the terrible red lightning of those auburn eyes would be impossible to the sparkling azure eyes of the Englishman, steadfast, keen, and brilliant unspeakably though they were; but so soon as Sir James seemed to have made his explanation, the look was most winningly turned on him, a hand held out, and he was thus greeted : Welcome, my young Prince Malcolm; I am happy that your cousin thinks so well of our cheer, that he has brought you to partake it.'

‘His keeper, Somerset,' thought Malcolm, as he bowed stiffly; "he seems to treat me coolly enough. “I come to serve my king,' he said, but he was scarcely heard; for as Hal unbuckled his sword before sitting down on the

grass, he thrust into his bosom a small black volume, with which he seemed to have been beguiling the time; and John exclaimed,

• There goes Godfrey de Bulloin. I tell you, Jamie, 'tis well you are come! Now have I someone to speak with. Ever since Harry borrowed my Lady of Westmoreland's book of the Holy War, he has not had a word to fling at me.'

*Ah!' said Sir James. "I saw a book, indeed, of the Holy Land! It would tempt him too much to hear how near the Border it dwells! What was it named, Malcolm ?'

“The Itinerarium of Adamnanus,' replied Malcolm, blushing at the sudden appeal.

“Ha! I've heard of it,' cried the English knight. “I sent to half the convent libraries to beg the loan when Gilbert de Lannoy set forth for the survey of Palestine. Does the Monk of Iona tell what commodity of landing there may be on the coast ?'

Malcolm had the sea-port towns at his fingers' ends, and having in the hard process of translation, and reading and re-reading one of the few books that came into his hands, nearly mastered the contents, he was able to reply with promptness and precision, although with much amazement, for

• Much he marvelled a knight of pride,

Like a book-bosomed priest should ride;' nor had he ever before found his accoinplishments treated as aught but matters of scorn among the princes and nobles with whom he had occasionally been thrown.

Good! good!' said Sir Harry at last. Well read, and clearly called to mind.—The stripling will do you credit, James.—Where have you studied, fair cousin ?'

[ocr errors]

Cousin! was it English fashion to make a cousin of everybody? But gentle humble Malcolm had no resentment in him, and felt gratified at the friendly tone of so grand and manly-looking a knight. 'At home,' he answered, 'with a travelling scholar who had studied at Padua and Paris.'

“That is where you Scots love to haunt! But know you how they are served there? I have seen the gibbet where the Mayor of Paris hung two clerks' sons for loving his daughters over well!'

“The clerks' twa sons of Owsenford that were foully slain ! cried Malcolm, his face lighting up. 'O Sir, have you seen their gibbet ?'

“What? were they friends of yours ? asked Hal, much amused, and shaking his head merrily at Sir James. "Ill company, I fear

‘Only in a ballad,' said Malcolm, colouring, that tells how at Yuletide the ghosts came to their mother with their hats made of the birk that grew at the gates of Paradise.'

"A rare ballad must that be! exclaimed Hal. 'Canst sing it? Or are you weary?-Marmion, prithee tell some of the fellows to bring my harp from the baggage.'

‘His own harp is with ours,' said Sir James; "he will make a better figure therewith.

At his sign, the attendant, Nigel, the only person besides Lord Marmion of Tanfield who had been present at the meal, besides the two Stewarts and the English brothers, rose and disappeared between the trees, beyond which a hum of voices, an occasional laugh, and the stamping of horses and jingling of bridles, betokened that a good many followers were in waiting. Malcolm's harp was quickly brought, having been slung in its case to the saddle of Halbert's horse; and as he had used it to beguile the last evening's halt, it did not need much tuning. Surprised as his princely notions were at being commanded rather than requested to sing, the sweet encouraging smile and tone of kind authority banished all hesitation in complying, and he gave the ballad of the Clerks' twa Sons of Owsenford with much grace and sweetness, while the weakness of his voice was compensated by the manlier strains with which Sir James occasionally chimed in. Then as Harry gave full meed of appreciative praise and thanks, Sir James said, 'Lend me thine harp, Malcolm; I have learnt thy song now ;--and thou, Harry, must hear and own how far our Scottish minstrelsy exceeds thy boasted Chevy Chase.'

And forth rang in all the mellow beauty of his voice, that most glorious of ballads, the Battle of Otterburn, as much more grand than it had been when he heard it from the glee-man or from Malcolm, as a magnificent voice, patriotic enthusiasm, and cultivation and refinement, could make it. He had lost himself and all around in the passion of the victory, the pathos of the death. But no such bright look of thanks recompensed him. Harry's face grew dark, and he growled, ‘Douglas dead? Ay, he wins more fields so than alive! I wish you would keep my old Shrewsbury friend, Earl Tyneman, as you call him, at home.'

6 'Tis ill keeping the scholars in bounds when the master is away,' returned Sir James.

“Well, by this time Tom has taught them how to transgress. Sent them home with the long scourge from robbing orchards in Anjou. He writes to me almost with his foot in the stirrup, about to give Douglas and Buchan a lesson. I shall make short halts and long stages south. This is too far off for tidings.'

“True,' said Sir John, with a satirical curl of the lip; "above all, when fair ladies brook not to ink their ivory fingers.'

"There spake the envious fiend,' laughed the elder brother. "John bears not the sight of what he will not or cannot get.'

"I'll never be chained to a lady's litter, nor be forced to loiter till her wimple is pinned,' retorted John. •Nor do I like dames with two husbands besides.'

One would have cancelled the other, as grammarians tell us,' said Harry, 'if thy charms, John, had cancelled thine hook nose! I would they had, ere her first marriage. Humfrey will burn his fingers there, and we must hasten back to look after that among other things.—My Lord Marmion,' he added, starting hastily up, and calling to him as he stood at some distance conversing with the Scottish Nigel, so please you, let us have the horses ;' and as the gentleman hastened to give the summons, he said, “We shall make good way now. We shall come on Watling Street. Ha, Jamie, when shall we prove ourselves better men than a pack of Pagan Romans, by having a set of roads fit for man or beast, of our own making instead of theirs half decayed ? Look where I will, in England or France, their roads are the same in build-firm as the world itself, straight as arrows. An army is off one's mind when once one gets on a Roman way. I'll learn the trick, and have them from Edinburgh to Bordeaux ere ten years are out; and then, what with traffic and converse with the world, and ready justice, neither Highland men nor Gascons will have leisure or taste for robbery.'

‘Perhaps Gascons and Scots will have a voice in the matter,' said James, a little stiffly; and the horses being by this time brought, Sir Harry mounted, and keeping his horse near that of young Malcolm, to whom he had evidently taken a fancy, he began to talk to him in so friendly and winning a manner, that he easily drew from the youth the whole history of his acquaintance with Sir James Stewart, of the rescue of his sister, and the promise to conduct him to the captive King of Scots as the only means of saving him from his rapacious kindred.

"Poor lad!' said Harry gravely.
'Do you know King James, Sir ? asked Malcolm timidly.

“Know him ?' said Harry, turning round to scan the boy with his merry blue

eye. 'I know him-yes, that is as far as a poor Welsh knight can know his Grace of Scotland.'

• And, Sir, will he be good lord to me?'

"Eh! that's as you may take him. I would not be one of yonder Scots under his hands!


'Has he learnt to hate his own countrymen ?? asked Malcolm in an awe-stricken voice.

'Hate? I trow he has little to love them for. He is a good fellow enough, my young lord, when left to himself; but best beware. Lions in a cage have strange tempers.'

A courier rode up at the moment, and presented some letters, which Sir Harry at once opened and read, beckoning his brother and Sir James to his side, while Malcolm rode on in their wake, in a state of dismay and bewilderment. Nigel and Lord Marmion were together at so great an interval that he could not fall back on them, nor learn from them who these brothers were. And there was something in the ironical suppressed pity with which Harry had spoken of his prospects with the King of Scots, that terrified him all the more, because he knew that Sir James and Nigel would both hold it unworthy of him to have spoken freely with an Englishman of his own sovereign. Would James be another Walter? and if so, would Sir James Stewart protect him? He had acquired much affection for, and strong reliance on, the knight; but there was something unexplained, and his heart sank.

The smooth line of Watling Street at length opened into the old town of Thirsk, and here bells were ringing, flags flying from the steeple, music sounded, a mayor and his corporation in their robes rode slowly forth, crowds lined the road-side, caps were flung up, and a tremendous shout arose, ‘God save King Harry !

Malcolm gazed about more utterly discomfited. There was ‘Harry' upright on his horse, listening with a gracious smile, while the mayor rehearsed a speech about welcome and victories, and the hopeful queen, and, what was still more to the purpose, tendered a huge pair of gauntlets, each filled to the brim, one with gold, and the other with silver pieces.

"Eh! Thanks, Master Mayor, but these gloves must be cleared, ere there is room for me to use them in battle!'

And handing the gold glove to his brother, he scattered the contents of the silver one far and wide among the populace, who shouted their blessings louder than ever, and thus he reached the market-place. There all was set forth as for the lists, a horseman in armour on either side.

'Hegh now, Sirs,' said Harry, ‘have we not wars enough toward without these mummings of vanity?'

“This is no show, my Lord King,' returned the mayor, abashed. “This is deadly earnest. These are two honourable gentlemen of Yorkshire, who are come hither to fight out their quarrel before your

Grace.' “Two honourable foolsheads!' muttered Harry; then raising his voice, Come hither, Gentlemen, let us hear your quarrel.'

The two gentlemen were big Yorkshiremen, heavy browed, and their native shrewdness packed far away behind a bumpkin stolidity and surliness that barely allowed them to shew respect to the King.

“So please you, Sir,' growled the first in his throat, “here stands

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Christopher Kitson of Barrowbridge, ready to avouch himself a true man, and prove in yonder fellow's teeth that it was not a broken-kneed beast that I sent up for a heriard to my Lord Archbishop when my father died; but that he of Easingwold is a black slanderer and backbiter.'

• And here,' shouted the other, (stands honest William Trenton of Easingwold, ready to thrust his lies down his throat, and prove on his body that the heriard he sent to my Lord Archbishop was a sorry jade.'

“That were best proved by the beast's body,' interposed the King.

'And,' proceeded the doughty Kitson, as though repeating a lesson, 'having vainly pleaded the matter these nine years, we are come to demand license to fight it out, with lance, sword, and dagger, in your royal presence, to set the matter at rest for ever.'

'Breaking a man's head to prove the soundness of a horse ! ejaculated Harry.

'Your license is given, Sir King ?' demanded Kitson.

My license is given for a combat a l'outrance,' said Henry; but, as they were about to flounder back on their big farm horses, he raised his voice to a thundering sound : 'Solely on this condition, that he who slays his neighbour, be he Trenton or Kitson, shall hang for the murder ere I leave Thirsk.'

There was a recoil, and the mayor himself ventured to observe something about the judgement of God, and never so seen.'

‘And I say,' thundered Henry, and his blue eyes seemed to flame with vehement indignation, 'I say that the ordeal of battle is shamefully abused, and that it is a taking of God's Name-ay, and man's life-in vain, to appeal thereto on every coxcomb's quarrel, risking the life that was given him to serve God's ends, not his own sullen fancy. I will have an end of such things !-And you, Gentlemen, since the heriard is dead or too old to settle the question, shake hands, and if you must let blood, come to France with me next month, and flesh your knives on French and Scots.'

"So please you, Sir,' grumbled Kitson, there's Mistress Agnes of Mineshull; she's been in doubt between the two of us these five years, and she'd promised to wed whichever of us got the better.'

"I'll settle her mind for her! Whichever I find foremost among the French, I'll send home to her a knight, and with better sense to boot than to squabble for nine years as to an old horse.'

He then dismounted, and was conducted into the town hall, where a banquet was prepared, taking by the hand Sir James Stewart, and followed by his brother John, and by Malcolm, who felt as though his brain were turning, partly with amazement, partly with confusion at his own dullness, as he perceived that not only was the free-spoken Hal, Henry of Monmouth, King of England, but that his wandering benefactor, the captive knight, whose claim of kindred he had almost spurned, was his native sovereign, James the First of Scotland.

(To be continued.)

« PreviousContinue »