“I cannot offer that excuse for him, sire,” replied Nicholas, who began to flatter himself he was making considerable progress in the monarch’s good graces. “It is simply an affair of the heart.”
“Puir chiel! we pity him,” cried the King. “And sae it is a hopeless suit, young sir?” he added to Richard. “Canna we throw in a good word for ye? Do we ken the lassie, and is she to be here to-day?”
“I am quite at a loss how to answer your Majesty’s questions,” replied Richard, “and my cousin Nicholas has very unfairly betrayed my secret.”
“Hoot, toot! na, lad,” exclaimed James; “it wasna he wha betrayed your secret, but our ain discernment that revealed it to us. We kenned your ailment at a glance. Few things are hidden from the King’s eye, and we could tell ye mair aboot yoursel’, and the lassie you’re deeing for, if we cared to speak it; but just now we have other fish to fry, and must awa’ and break our fast, of the which, if truth maun be spoken, we stand greatly in need; for creature comforts maun be aye looked to as weel as spiritual wants, though the latter should be ever cared for first, as is our ain rule; and in so doing we offer an example to our subjects, which they will do weel to follow. Later in the day, we will talk further to you on the subject; but, meanwhile, gie us the name of your lassie loo.”
“Oh! spare me, your Majesty,” cried Richard.
“Her name is Alizon Nutter,” interposed Nicholas.
“What! a daughter of Alice Nutter of Rough Lee?” exclaimed James.
“The same, sire,” replied Nicholas, much surprised at the extent of information manifested by the King.
“Why, saul o’ my body! man, she’s a witch—a witch! d’ye ken that?” cried the King, with a look of abhorrence; “a mischievous and malignant vermin, with which this pairt of our realm is sair plagued, but which, with God’s help, we will thoroughly extirpate. Sae the lass is a daughter of Alice Nutter, ha! That accounts for your grewsome looks, lad. Odd’s life! I see it all now. I understand what is the matter with you. Look at him, Sir Gilbert—look at him, I say! Does naething strike you as strange about him?”
“Nothing more than that he is naturally embarrassed by your Majesty’s mode of speech,” replied the knight.
“You lack the penetration of the King, Sir Gilbert,” cried James. “I will tell you what ails him. He is bewitchit—forespoken.”
Exclamations were uttered by all the bystanders, and every eye was fixed on Richard, who felt ready to sink to the ground.
“I affirm he is bewitchit,” continued the King; “and wha sae likely to do it as the glamouring hizzie that has ensnared him? She has ill bluid in her veins, and can chant deevil’s cantrips as weel as the mither, or ony gyre-carline o’ them a’.”
“You are mistaken, sire,” cried Richard, earnestly. “Alizon will be here to-day with my father and sister, and, if you deign to receive her, I am sure you will judge her differently.”