“Weel—weel—it is nae great matter,” replied James, as if relieved, and with a glance of satisfaction at Nicholas.
“I know where Alizon is, sire,” said the officer.
“Indeed!” exclaimed James. “This fellow is strangely officious,” he muttered to himself. “And where may she be, sir?” he added, aloud.
“I will produce her within a quarter of an hour in yonder pavilion,” replied the officer, “and all that Master Potts has been unable to find.”
“Your Majesty may trust him,” observed Nicholas, who had attentively regarded the officer. “Depend upon it he will make good his words.”
“You think so?” cried the King. “Then we will put him to the test. You will engage to confront Alizon with her mother?” he added, to the officer.
“I will, sire,” replied the other. “But I shall require the assistance of a dozen men.”
“Tak twenty, if you will,” replied the King,—“I am impatient to see what you can do.”
“In a quarter of a minute all shall be ready within the pavilion, sire,” replied the officer. “You have seen one masque to-night;—but you shall now behold a different one—the masque of death.”
And he disappeared.
Nicholas felt sure he would accomplish his task, for he had recognised in him the Cistertian monk.
“Where is Sir Richard Assheton of Middleton?” inquired the King.
“He left the Tower with his daughter Dorothy, immediately after the banquet,” replied Nicholas.
“I am glad of it—right glad,” replied the monarch; “the terrible intelligence can be the better broken to them. If it had come upon them suddenly, it might have been fatal—especially to the puir lassie. Let Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley come to me—and Master Roger Nowell of Read.”
“Your Majesty shall be obeyed,” replied Sir Richard Hoghton.
The King then gave some instructions respecting the prisoners, and bade Master Potts have Jennet in readiness.
And now to see what terrible thing had happened.
Along the eastern terrace a youth and maiden were pacing slowly. They had stolen forth unperceived from the revel, and, passing through a door standing invitingly open, had entered the garden. Though overjoyed in each other’s presence, the solemn beauty of the night, so powerful in its contrast to the riotous scene they had just quitted, profoundly impressed them. Above, were the deep serene heavens, lighted up by the starry host and their radiant queen—below, the immemorial woods, steeped in silvery mists arising from the stream flowing past them. All nature was hushed in holy rest. In opposition to the flood of soft light emanating from the lovely planet overhead, and which turned all it fell on, whether tree, or tower, or stream, to beauty, was the artificial glare caused by the torches near the pavilion; while