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you might make it your way northward, and lodge a night there. If you can win her consent, it were well to be wedded when we are.'
“Never shall I, my Lord. I should not dare even to speak of it.'
“It is well; but, Malcolm, you merit something from the damsel. You are ten times the man you were when she flouted you. If women were not mostly witless, you would be much to be preferred to any mere Ajax or Fierabras; and if this damsel should have come to the wiser mind that it
were pity to be buried to the world— “Sir, I pray you say no more. I were forsworn to ask such a thing.'
'I bid you not, only I would I were there to see that all be not lost for want of a word in season, and it is high time that something be done. Here be letters from my Lord of Therouenne, demanding the performance of the contract ere our return home.'
'He cannot reach her here,' said Malcolm.
‘No; but his outcry can reach your honour; and it were ill to have such a house as that of Luxemburg crying out upon you for breach of faith to their daughter.'
Malcolm smiled. “That I should heed little, Sir. I would fain bear something for her.'
“Why, this is mere sublimated devoir too fine for our gross understandings,' said James ironically. “Mayhap the sight of the soft roseate cheek may bring it somewhat down to poor human flesh and blood once more.'
Once I was tempted, Sir,' said Malcolm, blushing deeply; but did I not know that her holiness is the guardian of her earthly beauty, I would not see her again.'
'Nay, there I command you,' said the King; “soon I shall have subjects enough, but while I have but half a dozen I cannot be disobeyed by them! I bid you go to Middlebam, and there I leave all to the sight.'
The King spoke gaily, and with such kind good humour, that Malcolm, humiliated by the thought of the past, durst not make fresh asseverations. James, in the supreme moment of the pure and innocent romance, of which was the hero, looked on love like his own as the supreme crown of human life, and distrusted the efforts after the super-human which too often were mere simulation or imitation ; but a certain recollection of Henry's warnings withheld him from pressing the matter, and he returned to his own joys and hopes, looking on the struggles he expected with a strong man's exulting joy, and not even counting the years of his captivity wasted, even though they had taken away his first youth.
What should I have been,' he said, 'bred up in the tumults at home? What could I have known better than Perth ? Nay, had I been sent home when I came to age, as a raw lad, how would one or other by fraud or force have got the upper hand, so as I might never have won it back! No, I would not have foregone one year of study-far less that campaign in France, and the sight of Harry in war and in policy.'
James also took Malcolm to see the child king, his little master. This, the third king of James's captivity, was now a fair creature of two years old. He trotted to meet his visitor, calling him by a baby name for brother, and stretching out to be lifted up and fondled, for as Dame Alice Boteller his gouvernante muttered, he knew the King of Scots better than he did his own mother.
A retinue had been already collected, and equipments prepared, so that there was no delay in sending forth Malcolm and Patrick upon their northward journey. At the nearest town they halted, sending forward a messenger to announce their neighbourhood to the old Countess of Salisbury and her grand-daughter, Lady Montagu, and to request permission to halt for ‘Mothering Sunday' at the Castle.
In return a whole band of squires and retainers came forth, headed by the knightly seneschal, to invite Lord Malcolm Stewart and his companion to the Castle, whereupon Sir Patrick proceeded to don his gayest gown and chaperon, and was greatly scandalized that Malcolm's preparation consisted in putting on his black serge bachelor's gown and hood of rabbit's sur such as he wore at Oxford, looking, as Patrick declared, no better than a begging scholar. But Malcolm had made up his mind that if he appeared before Esclairmonde at all it should be in no other guise ; and thus it was that he rode, like a black spot, in the midst of the cavalcade, bright with the colours of Nevil and of Montagu, and was marshalled up the broad stairs by the silver wand of the seneschal.
Lord Montagu had gone back to the wars, so the family at home consisted of the grand, stately, and distant old Countess of Salisbury, and her young grand-daughter, the Lady Montagu, with her three months old son. Each had an almost royal suite of well-born dames and damsels in attendance, among whom the Demoiselle de Luxemburg alone was on an equality with the mistresses of the house. Even Queen Catherine's presence-chamber had hardly equalled the grand baronial ceremony of the hall, where sat the three ladies in the midst of their circle of attendants, male and female ranged on opposite sides; and old Lady Salisbury knew the exact number of paces that it befitted her and Lady Montagu to advance to receive the royal infusion of blood that flowed in the veins of my Lord of Glenuskie. And yet it was the cheek, and not the hand, that were offered in salutation, by both ladies as well as by Esclairmonde. Malcolm, however, only durst kneel on one knee and salute her hand, and felt himself burning with crimson as the touch and voice brought back those longings that, as James had said, proved him human still. He was almost glad that etiquette required him to hand the aged Countess to her seat and to devote his chief attention to her.
Punctilio reigned supreme in such a house as this. Nowhere had Malcolm seen such observance or ceremony, save in the court of the Duke of Burgundy, and there it was modified by the presence of rough and ready warriors; but an ancient dame like Lady Salisbury thought it both the due and the safeguard of her son's honour, and exacted it rigorously of all who approached her.
Alice of Montagu had the sweet fragile look of a young mother about her, but her frightened fawn air was gone; she was in her home, had found her place, and held it with a simple dignity of her own, quite ready to ripen into all the matronly authority, without the severe formality of her grand-dame.
She treated Malcolm with a gentle smiling courtesy such as she had never vouchsafed to him before, and all the shyness that had once made her silent was gone, when at the supper table, and afterwards seated around the fire, the tidings of the camp and court were talked over with all the zest of those to whom King Harry's last campaign was becoming old times;' and what with her husband's letters and opinions, little Alice was really the best informed as to the present state of things. Esclairmonde took her part in the conversation, but there was no opportunity of exchanging a private or personal word between her and Malcolm, in a party of five, where one was as vigilant and grave-eyed as my Lady Salisbury.
However, the next was a peculiar day, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, called Mothering Sunday because on that day it was originally the custom for offerings to be carried from all the country round to the cathedral or mother church on that day. This custom had been modified, but it was still the rule that all the persons, who at other times worshipped at the nearest monastery chapel or at a private chapel in their own houses, should on that day repair to their parish church, and there make a special offering at the Mass--that offering which has since become the Easter dues. It was a festival Sunday too— Refreshing Sunday '-then as now marked by the Gospel on the feeding of the multitude; and from this, as well as from the name, the pretty custom had begun of offering the mother of each house her rich simnal cake, with some other gift from each of her children.
Hearing a pattering of feet in the early morning, Malcolm peeped out and beheld a whole troop of small children popping in and out of a low archway. If he could have peeped in he would have known how many simnals Ladies Esclairmonde and Alice were sending down—with something more substantial—to be given to mothers by the children who as yet had nothing to bring of their own.
But when the household assembled in the castle hall, they did see fair young Lady Montagu kneel at the chair of the grave old Countess, and hold up a silver dish, wherein lay the simnal, mixed, kneaded, and moulded by her own hands, and bearing on it a rich ruby clasp, sent by her husband, the Earl, as his special gift to his mother on this Sunday.
And then, when the old lady, with glistening eyes, had spoken her blessing on the fair young head bent down before her, and the grandchild rose up, there was the pretty surprise for her of her little swaddled son, lying in Esclairınonde’s arms, and between the small fingers that as yet
knew not how to grasp, the tiny simnal; and moreover a fair pearl devised in like manner by the absent Sir Richard as a gift for his wife's first “Mothering Sunday.' There was no etiquette here to hinder sweet Alice from passionately clasping her child, and covering him with kisses as many for his father as for himself, as she laughed at the baby smiles and helpless gestures of the future king-maker, whose ambition and turbulence was to be the ruin of that fair and prosperous household, and bring that gentle Alice to a widowed, bereaved, and attainted old age.
Well that none there present saw the future as she proudly claimed the admiration of Malcolm for her babe!
She was equipped for the expedition to the parish church, as likewise were Esclairmonde and almost all the rest; but the aged Countess could not encounter the cold March winds, and had a dispensation, and thus Alice, being the lady of the procession, contrived at once to call Sir Patrick to her side, and bid Lord Malcolm lead the Lady Esclairmonde.
For as the weather was dry and cold, Lady Montagu had chosen to go on foot, and a grand procession it was that she led, of gentlemen and ladies two and two in their bright dresses and adornments that delighted the eyes of homely yeomen and their wives flocking in from their homesteads, with baskets of offerings often in kind.
Meantime, Malcolm, holding the tips of Esclairmonde's fingers, durst not speak till she began, “This is a devout and pious household—full of peace and good government.' And
your time goes happily there?' asked Malcolm. “Yes, it has been a peaceful harbour wherein to wait,' said Esclairmonde. “And even if Alice were called to her husband in France, my Lady Countess will keep me with her till there be à vacancy for me at St. Katharine's.'
Have you the promise from Queen Joan?'
“Yes,' replied Esclairmonde. “The Countess had been a lady of hers, and wrought with her so that whenever the post of bedeswoman is in her gift I shall be preferred to it.'
You, the heiress, accept the charity!' Malcolm could not help exclaiming
"The better for all remnants of pride,' returned the lady. And you, my Lord, has it fared well with you ?'
Malcolm, happy in her interest, poured forth all that he had to tell, and she listened as Esclairmonde alone could listen. There was something in her very expression of attention that seemed to make the speaker take out the alloy and leave only his purest gold to meet her ears. Malcolm forgot those throbs of foolish wild hope that had shot across him like demon temptations to hermit saints, and only felt that the creature of his love and reverence was listening benignly as he told her of the exceeding delight that he was unraveling in learned lore--how each step showed him further heights, and how he had come to view the
Light of the World as the light of wisdom, to the research of which he meant to devote his entire life, among universities and manuscripts.
"The Light of Wisdom,' repeated Esclairmonde, so it may be, for Christ is Heavenly Wisdom ; but I doubt me if the Light of the World lies solely in books and universities.'
* Nay,' said Malcolm. 'Once I was fool enough to fancy it was the light of glory, calling knights to deeds of fame and chivalry. I have seen mine error now,
and-oh, Lady, what mean you? where should that light be save in the writings of wise and holy men ?'
Methinks,' said Esclairmonde, 'that the light is there, even as the light is also before the eyes of the true knight ; but it is not only there.'
Where is it then ?' said Malcolm. 'In helmet or in cowl, I am the sworn champion of the Light of the World.'
'The Light,' said Esclairmonde, looking upwards, 'the true Light of the World is the Blessed Saviour, the Heavenly Wisdom of God; and His champions find Him and serve Him in camp, cloister, or school, or wherever He has marked their path, so as they seek not their own profit or glory, and lay not up their treasure for themselves on earth.'
‘Then surely,' said Malcolm, “the hoards of deep study within the mind are treasures beyond the earth.'
"Your schoolmen speak of spirit, mind, and body,' said Esclairmonde at least so I, an ignorant woman, have been told. Should not the true Light for eternity lighten the spirit rather than the mind ?'
Malcolm pondered and said, 'I thought I had found the right path at last !'
Nay-never, never did I say otherwise,' cried Esclairmonde. "To seek God's Light in good men's words, and pursue it, must be a blessed task. Every task must be blessed to which He leads. And when you are enlightened with that light, you will hold it up to others. When you have found the treasure, you will scatter it here, and so lay it up above.'
Esclairmonde's words were almost a riddle to Malcolm, but his reverence for her made him lay them up deeply, as he watched her kneeling at the Mass, her upturned face beaming with an angelic expression.
His mind was much calmed by this meeting. It had had an absolutely contrary effect to what King James had expected, by spiritualizing his love, and increasing that reverence which cast out its earthliness. That first throb which had been so keen át meeting, and knowing her not for him, had passed away in the refining of that distant worship he had paid her in those days of innocence.
Lady Montagu was quite satisfied with him now. He was the Malcolm of her first acquaintance, only without his foolish diffidence, and with a weight and earnestness that made him a man and not a boy; and she cordially invited him to bring his sister with him, and rest, on the way southward. He agreed most thankfully, since this would be the only