The Caged Lion

Contents:
Author: Charlotte Mary Yonge

Chapter XVI: The Cage Open

More than a year had passed, and it was March when Malcolm was descending the stone stair that leads so picturesquely beneath the archway of its tower up to the hall of the college of St. Mary Winton, then REALLY New College. He had been residing there with Dr. Bennet, associating with the young members of the foundation educated at Winchester, and studying with all the freshness of a recent institution. It had been a very happy time for him, within the gray stone walls that pleasantly recalled Coldingham, though without Coldingham’s defensive aspect, and with ample food for the mind, which had again returned to its natural state of inquiring reflection and ardour for knowledge.

Daily Malcolm woke early, attended Matins and Mass in the chapel, studied grammar and logic, mastered difficult passages in the Fathers, or copied out portions for himself in the chamber which he as a gentleman commoner, as we should call him, possessed, instead of living in a common dormitory with the other scholars. Or in the open cloister he listened and took notes of the lectures of the fellows and tutors of the college, and seated on a bench or walking up and down received special instructions. Then ensued the meal, spread in the hall; the period of recreation, in the meadows, or in the licensed sports, or on the river; fresh studies, chapel, and a social but quiet evening over the supper in the hall. All this was varied by Latin sermons at St. Mary’s, or disputations and lectures by notable doctors, and public arguments between scholars, by which they absolutely fought out their degrees. There were few colleges as yet, and those resident in them were the elite; beyond, there was a great mob of scholars living in rooms as they could, generally very poor, and often very disorderly; but they did not mar the quiet semimonastic stillness within the foundations, and to Malcolm it seemed as if the truly congenial home was opened.

The curriculum of science began to reveal itself to him with all the stages so inviting to a mind conscious of power and longing for cultivation. The books, the learned atmosphere, the infinite possibilities, were delightful to him, and opened a more delightful future. His metaphysical Scottish mind delighted in the scholastic arguments that were now first set before him, and his readiness, appreciation, and eager power of acquiring surprised his teachers, and made him the pride of New College.

When he looked back at his year of court and camp, he could only marvel at having ever preferred them. In war his want of bodily strength would make real distinction impossible; here he felt himself excelling; here was absolute enjoyment, and of a kind without drawback. Scholarship must be his true element and study: the deep universal study of the sisterhood of science that the University offered was his veritable vocation. Surely it was not without significance that the ring that shone on his finger betrothed him to Esclairmonde, the Light of the World; for though in person the maiden was never to be his own, she was the emblem to him of the pure virgin light of truth and wisdom that he would be for ever wooing, and winning only to see further lights beyond. Human nature felt a pang at the knowledge that he was bound to deliver up the ring and resign his connection with that fair and stately maiden; but the pain that had been sore at first had diminished under the sense that he stood in a post of generous trust, and that his sacrifice was the passport to her grateful esteem. He knew her to be with Lady Montagu, awaiting a vacancy at St. Katharine’s, and this would be the signal for dissolving the contract of marriage, after which his present vision was to bestow Lilias upon Patrick, make over his estates to them, take minor orders, and set forth for Italy, there to pursue those deeper studies in theology and language for which Padua and Bologna were famous. It was many months since he had heard of Lilias; but this did not give him any great uneasiness, for messengers were few, and letter-writing far from being a common practice. He had himself written at every turning-point of his life, and sent his letters when the King communicated with Scotland; but from his sister he had heard nothing.

He had lately won his first degree as Bachelor of Arts, and was descending the stair from the Hall after a Lenten meal on salt fish, when he saw below him the well-known figure of King James’s English servant, who doffing his cap held out to him a small strip of folded paper, fastened by a piece of crimson silk and the royal seal. It only bore the words:-

TO OUR RIGHT TRUSTY AND WELL-BELOVED COUSIN THE LORD MALCOLM STEWART OF GLENUSKIE THIS LETTER BE TAKEN.

’DEAR COUSIN,

’We greet you well, and pray you to come to us without loss of time, having need of you, we being a free man and no captive.

’Yours, ’JAMES R.

’Written at the Castle of Windsor this St. David’s Day, 1424.’

’A free man:’ the words kept ringing in Malcolm’s ears while he hastened to obtain license from Warden John Bonke, and to take leave of Dr. Bennet. He had not left Oxford since the beginning of his residence there. Vacations were not general dispersions when ways and means of transit were so scarce and tardy, and Malcolm had been long without seeing his king. Joy on his sovereign’s account, and his country’s, seemed to swallow up all other thoughts; as to himself, when he bade his friends and masters farewell, he declared it was merely for a time, and when they shook their heads and augured otherwise, he replied: ’Nay, think you I could live in the Cimmerian darkness yonder, dear sirs? Our poor country hath nothing better than mere monastery schools, and light of science having once shone on me, I cannot but dwell in her courts for ever! Soon shall I be altogether her son and slave!’

Nevertheless, Malcolm was full of eagerness, and pressed on rapidly through the lanes between Oxford and Windsor, rejoicing to find himself amid the noble trees of the forest, over which arose in all its grandeur the Castle and Round Tower, as beautiful though less unique than now, and bearing on it the royal standard, for the little King was still nursed there.

Under the vaulted gateway James—with Patrick and Bairdsbrae behind him—met Malcolm, and threw his arms round him, crying: ’Ay, kiss me, boy; ’tis a king and no caitiff you kiss now! Another six weeks, and then for the mountain and the moor and the bonnie north countree.’

’And why not for a month?’ was Malcolm’s question, as hand and eye and face responded heartily.

’Why? Why, because moneys must be told down, and treaties signed; ay, and Lent is no time for weddings, nor March for southland roses to travel to our cold winds. Ay, Malcolm, you see a bridegroom that is to be! Did you think I was going home without her?’

’I did not think you would be in such glee even at being free, my lord, if you were.’

’And now, Malcolm, ken ye of ony fair Scottish lassie—a cousin of mine ain, who could be had to countenance my bride at our wedding, and ride with us thereafter to Scotland?’

’I know whom your Grace means,’ said Malcolm, smiling.

’An if you do, maybe, Malcolm, sin she bides not far frae the border, ye’d do me the favour of riding with Sir Patrick here, and bringing her to the bridal,’ said the King, making his accent more home-like and Scottish than Malcolm had ever heard it before.

The happiness of that spring afternoon was surpassing. The King linked his arm into Malcolm’s, and walked up and down with him on the slopes, telling him all that had led to this consummation; how Walter Stewart and his brothers had become so insolent and violent as to pass the endurance of their father the Regent, as well as of all honest Scots; and how, after secret negotiations and vain endeavours to obtain from him a pledge of indemnity for all that had happened, the matter had been at length opened with Gloucester, Beaufort, and the Council. The Scottish nation, with Albany at the head, was really recalling the King. This was the condition on which Henry V. had always declared that he should be liberated; these were the terms on which he had always hoped to return; and his patience was at last rewarded. Bedford had sent his joyful consent, and all was now concluded. James was really free, and waited only for his marriage.

’I would not tell you, Malcolm, while there might yet be a slip between cup and lip,’ said the King; ’it might have hindered the humanities; and yet I needed you as much when I was glad as when all seemed like to fail!’

’You had Patrick,’ said Malcolm.

’Patrick’s a tall and trusty fellow,’ said the King, ’with a shrewd wit, and like to be a right-hand man; but there’s something in you, Malcolm, that makes a man turn to you for fellow-feeling, even as to a wife.’

Nevertheless, the King and Patrick had grown much attached to each other, though the latter, being no lover of books, had wearied sorely of the sojourn at Windsor, which the King himself only found endurable by much study and reflection. Their only variety had been keeping Christmas at Hertford with Queen Catherine; ’sorry pastime,’ as Drummond reported it to him, though gladdened to the King by Joan Beaufort’s presence, in all her charms.

’The Demoiselle of Luxemburg was there too, statelier than ever,’ said James. ’She is now at Middleham Castle, with the Lady Montagu, and 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 Middleham, 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 he was the hero, looked on love like his own as the highest crown of human life, and distrusted the efforts after the superhuman 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, 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 his arms 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 fur 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 of 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 looked 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 father, 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 Esclairmonde’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 were to be the ruin of that fair and prosperous household, and bring the 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 the same time 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 the 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 here?’ 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 a 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 unravelling 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 at 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 opportunity of showing Esclairmonde and Lilias one to the other, as well as one of his own few chances of seeing Esclairmonde.

Once they must meet, that their promises might be restored the one to the other; but as the betrothal remained the lady’s security, this could not be done till she became pledged at St. Katharine’s. When the opportunity came, she was to send Malcolm a messenger, and he would come to her at once. Until then he promised that he would not leave Great Britain.

On Monday the cousins proceeded, coming after a time to the route by which Malcolm had ridden three years before, and where he was now at home in comparison with Patrick. How redolent it was with recollections of King Harry, in all his gaiety and grace, ere the shock of his brother’s death had fallen on him! At Thirsk, Malcolm told of the prowess and the knighthood of honest Trenton and Kitson, to somewhat incredulous ears. The two squires had been held as clownish fellows, and the sentiment of the country was that Mistress Agnes was well quit of them, and the rough guardianship by which they had kept off all other suitors. As mine host concluded, "Tis a fine thing to go to the wars.’

Hearing that Kitson’s mother lived not a mile out of his way, Malcolm rode to the fine old moated grange, where he found her sitting at her spinning, presiding over a great plentiful household, while her second son, a much shrewder-looking man than Sir Christopher, managed the farm.

The travellers were welcomed with eager hospitality so soon as it was understood that they brought tidings of ’our Kit’; and Malcolm’s story was listened to with tears of joy by the old lady, while the brother could not get over his amazement at hearing that Trenton and Kitson had become a proverb in the camp for oneness in friendship.

’Made it up with Will Trenton! And never fought it out! I’d never know our Kit again after that!’

His steady bravery, his knighthood, and the King’s praise, his having assisted in saving Lord Glenuskie’s life against such odds, did not seem to strike Wilfred Kitson half as much as the friendship with Trenton, and Malcolm did not think the regret was very great at the two knights having given up their intention of returning. ’Our Kit’s’ place seemed to have closed up behind him; Wilfred seemed to be too much master to be ready to give up to the elder brother; and even the mother had learnt to do without him. ’I’ll warrant,’ quoth she, ’that now he is a knight and got used to fine French ways, he’ll think nothing good enow for him. And if he brought Will Trenton with him, I’d not sit at the board with the fellow.—But ye’ll ride over, Wilfred, and take care the minx Agnes knows what she’s lost. Ay, and if you knew of a safe hand, Sir, when the shearing is over I’d send the lad a purse of nobles to keep up his knighthood in the camp, forsooth.’

’Certes,’ said Malcolm, as after a salt-fish dinner he mounted again, ’if honest Kitson knew, he would scarce turn back from the camp, where he is somebody. Shall we find ourselves as little wanted when we get home, Patie?’

Patrick drew himself up with a happy face of secret assurance. Nothing could make Lilias forsake him, he well knew.

At Durham they found their good friend Father Akefield, erst Prior of Coldingham, but who had been violently dispossessed by the House of Albany in favour of their candidate, Drax, about a year before, and was thankful to have been allowed with a few English monks to retire across the Border to the mother Abbey at Durham.

The good father could hardly believe his eyes when he beheld Malcolm, now a comely and personable young gentleman, less handsome and graceful indeed than many, but with all his painful personal peculiarities gone, with none of the scared, imploring look, but with a grave thoughtful earnestness about his face, as though all that once was timid and wandering was now fixed and steadfast.

Father Akefield could tell nothing of Lilias since his own expulsion, but as the Prioress of St. Abbs was herself a Drummond, and no one durst interfere with her, he had no alarms for her safety. But he advised the two gentlemen to go straight to St. Abbs, without showing themselves at Coldingham, lest Prior Drax, being in the Albany interest, should make any demur at giving her up to the care of the brother, who still wanted some months of his twenty-first year.

Accordingly they pushed on, and in due time slept at Berwick, receiving civilities from the English governor that chafed Patrick’s blood, which became inflammable as soon as he neared the Border; and rising early the next morning, they passed the gates, and were on Scottish ground once more, their hearts bounding at the sense that it was their own land, and would soon be no more a land of misrule. With their knowledge of King James and his intentions, well might they have unlimited hopes for the country over which he was about to reign.

They turned aside from Coldingham, and made for the sea, and at length the promontory of St. Abbs Head rose before them; they passed through the outer buildings intended as shelter for the attendants of ladies coming to the nunnery, and knocked at the gateway.

A wicket in the door was opened, and the portress looked out through a grating.

’Benedicite, good Sister,’ said Malcolm. ’Prithee tell the Mother Abbess that Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie is here from the King, and craves to speak with her and the Lady Lilias.’

’Lord Malcolm! Lady Lilias! St. Ebba’s good mercy!’ shrieked the affrighted portress. They heard her rushing headlong across the court, and looked on one another in consternation.

Patrick betook himself to knocking as if he would beat down the door, and Malcolm leant against it with a foreboding that took away his breath—dreading the moment when it should be opened.

The portress and her keys returned again, and parleyed a moment. ’You are the Lord Malcolm in very deed—in the flesh?’

’Wherefore not?’ demanded Malcolm.

’Nay, but we heard ye were slain, my lord,’ explained the portress— letting him in, however, and leading them across the court, to where the Mother Abbess, Annabel Drummond, awaited them in the parlour.

’Alas, Sirs, what grievous error has this been?’ was her exclamation; while Malcolm, scarcely waiting for salutation, demanded, ’Where is my sister?’

’How? In St. Hilda’s keeping at Whitby, whither the King sent for her,’ said the Abbess.

’The King!’ cried Malcolm, ’we come from the King! Oh, what treachery has been here?’

’And you, Lord Malcolm—and you, my kinsman, Sir Patrick of the Braes, how do I see you here? We had heard you both were dead.’

’You heard a lying tale then, good Mother,’ said Patrick, gruffly, ’no doubt devised for the misery of the—of my—’ He could not finish the sentence, and Malcolm entreated the Abbess to tell the whole.

It appeared that about a year previously the chaplain of the monastery had learnt at Coldingham that Sir John Swinton of Swinton had sent home tidings that Patrick Drummond had been thrown from his horse and left behind in a village which the English had harried, and as he could not move, he was sure to have been either burnt or hung. This conclusion was natural, and argued no malice in the reporter; and while poor Lilias was still in her first agony of grief, Prior Drax sent over intelligence derived from the Duke of Albany himself that Malcolm Stewart of Glenuskie had been stabbed in the forest of Vincennes. This report Malcolm himself accounted for. He had heard a Scots tongue among his foes, though national feeling had made him utterly silent on that head to the Duke of Bedford, and he guessed it to belong to a certain M’Kay, whose clan regarded themselves as at feud with the Stewarts, and of whom he had heard as living a wild routier life. He had probably been hired by Ghisbert for the attack, and had returned home and spread the report of its success.

Some few weeks later, the Abbess Annabel continued, there had arrived two monks from Coldingham, with an escort, declaring themselves to have received orders from King James to transport the Lady Lilias to the nunnery at Whitby, where the Abbess had promised to receive her, till he could determine her fate.

The forlorn and desolate Lilias, believing herself to stand alone in the world, was very loth to quit her shelter and her friends at St. Abbs; but the Abbess, doubting her own ability to protect her from the rapacious grasp of Walter Stewart, now that she had, as she believed, become an heiress, and glad to avert from her house the persecution that such protection would bring upon it, had gratefully heard of this act of consideration on the King’s part, and expedited her departure. The two monks, Simon Bell and Ringan Johnstone, had not returned to the monastery, but had been thought to be in the parent house at Durham; but Malcolm, who knew Brother Simon by sight, was clear that he had not seen him there.

All this had taken place a year ago, and there could be no doubt that some treachery had been exercised. Nothing had since been heard of Lilias; none of Malcolm’s letters had reached St. Abbs, having doubtless been suppressed by the Prior of Coldingham; and all that was certain was that Walter Stewart, to whom their first suspicions directed themselves, had not publicly avouched any marriage with Lilias or claimed the Glenuskie estates, or the King, who had of late been in close correspondence with Scotland, must have heard of it. And it was also hardly possible that the Regent Murdoch and his sons, though they might for a few weeks have been misled by M’Kay’s report, should not have soon become aware of Malcolm’s existence.

Unless, then, Walter had married her ’on the first brash,’ as Patrick called it, he might not have thought her a prize worth the winning; but the whole aspect of affairs had become most alarming, and Malcolm turned pale as death at the thought that his sister might be suffering retribution for the sin he had contemplated.

The danger was terrible! He could not imagine Lilias to have the moral grandeur and force of Esclairmonde. Moreover, she supposed her lover dead, and had not the same motive for guarding her troth. Forlorn and despairing, she might have yielded, and Walter Stewart was, Malcolm verily believed, worse to deal with than even Boemond. As the whole danger and uncertainty came over him, his senses seemed to reel; he leant back in his seat, and heard as in the midst of a dream his sister’s sobs and groans, Patrick’s fierce and furious exclamations, and the Abbess’s attempts at consoling him. Dizzy with horror at the scene he realized, Lilias’s cries and shrieks of entreaty were ringing in his ear, when suddenly a sweet full low voice seemed to come through them, ’I am bound ever to pray for you and your sister.’ Mingled with the cry came ever the sweet soft Litany cadences—’For all that are desolate and oppressed: we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.’ Gradually the cries seemed to be swallowed up, both voices blended in Kyrie eleison and then in the Gloria, and at that moment he became aware of Patrick crying, ’I will seek her in every castle in Scotland.’

’Stay, Patrick,’ he said, rising, though forced to hold by his chair; ’that must be my part.’

’You—why, the laddie is white as a sheet! He well-nigh swooned at the tidings. You seek her, forsooth!’ and Patrick laughed bitterly.

’Yes, Patie,’ said Malcolm, ’for this I am strong. It is my duty and not yours, and God will strengthen me for it.’

Patrick burst out at this: ’Neither man nor devil shall tell me it is not mine!’

’You are the King’s prisoner still,’ said Malcolm, rising to energy; ’you are bound to return to him. The tidings must be taken to him at once.’

’A groom could do that.’

’Neither so swiftly nor surely as you. Moreover, your word of honour binds you not to wander at your own pleasure.’

’My honour binds me not to trust you—wee Malcolm—to wander into the wolf’s cage alone.’

’I am not the silly feckless callant I once was, Patie,’ answered Malcolm. ’There are many places where my student’s serge gown will take me safely, where your corslet and lance would never find entrance. No one will know me again as I am now: will they, holy Mother?’

’Assuredly not,’ said the Abbess.

’A student is too mean a prey to be meddled with,’ proceeded Malcolm, ’and is sure of hospitality in castle or convent. I can try at Coldingham to find out whither the two monks are gone, and then follow up the track.’

Patrick stormed at the plan, and was most unwilling it should be adopted. He at least must follow, and keep watch over his young cousin, or it would be a mere throwing the helve after the hatchet—a betrayal of his trust.

But a little reflection convinced him that thus to follow would only bring suspicion on Malcolm and defeat his plans; and that it were better to obtain some certain information ere the King should come home, and have to interfere with a high hand; and Malcolm’s arguments about his obligations as a captive, too, had their effect. He perceived his own incapacity to act; and in his despair at nothing being done consented to risk Malcolm in the search, while he himself should proceed to the King, only ascertaining on the way that Lilias was not at Whitby. And so, in grief and anxiety, the cousins parted, and Malcolm alone durst speak a word of hope.

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Chicago: Charlotte Mary Yonge, "Chapter XVI: The Cage Open," The Caged Lion, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 and trans. Dakyns, H.G. in The Caged Lion (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed August 11, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XQCRHGEK6ICU7.

MLA: Yonge, Charlotte Mary. "Chapter XVI: The Cage Open." The Caged Lion, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, and translated by Dakyns, H.G., in The Caged Lion, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 11 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XQCRHGEK6ICU7.

Harvard: Yonge, CM, 'Chapter XVI: The Cage Open' in The Caged Lion, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, The Caged Lion, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 11 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=48XQCRHGEK6ICU7.