“My brave Chancellor,” said the Earl William, still in a voice of pleasant irony, “you have well chosen your time to shame yourself. We are your invited guests, and the guests of the King of Scotland. We are here unarmed, sitting at meat with you in your own house. We have come hither unattended, trusting to the honour of these noble knights and gentlemen. Therefore my brother and I have no swords to deliver. But if, being honourable men, you stand, as is natural, upon a nice punctilio, I can satisfy you.”
He turned again to Sholto MacKim.
“Give me your sword,” he said. “’Tis better I should render it than you.”
With great unwillingness the captain of the guard of Thrieve did as he was bidden. The Earl reversed it in his hand and held it by the point.
“And now, my Lord Chancellor, I deliver you a Douglas sword, depending upon the word of an honourable man and the invitation of the King of Scotland.”
But even so the chancellor would not advance from behind the cover of his soldiery, and the Earl looked around for some one to whom to surrender.
“Will you then appoint one of your knights to whom I may deliver this weapon? Is there none who will dare to come near even the hilt of a Douglas sword? Here then, Sholto, break it over your knee and cast it upon the board as a witness against all treachery.”
Sholto did as he was told, breaking his sword and casting the pieces upon the table in the place where the King of Scots had sat.
“And now, my lords, I am ready,” said the Earl, and his brother David stood up beside him, looking as they faced the unbroken ring of their foes the two noblest and gallantest youths in Scotland.
At this the King caught Lord William by the hand, and, lifting up his voice, wept aloud with the sudden breaking lamentation of a child.
“My cousin, my dear cousin Douglas,” he cried, “they shall not harm you, I swear it on my faith as a King.”
At last an officer of the Chancellor’s guard mustered courage to approach the Earl of Douglas, and, saluting, he motioned him to follow. This, with his head erect, and his usual easy grace, he did, David walking abreast of him. And Sholto, with all his heart filled with the deadly chill of hopelessness, followed them through the sullen ranks of the traitors.
And even as he went Earl Douglas looked about him every way that he might see once more her for whose sake he had adventured within the portals of death.
BETRAYED WITH A KISS
The earl and his brother were incarcerated in the lower chamber of the High Keep called David’s Tower, which rose next in order eastward from the banqueting-hall, following the line of the battlements.
Beneath, the rock on which the castle was built fell away towards the Nor’ Loch in a precipice so steep that no descent was to be thought of—and this indeed was the chief defence of the prison, for the window of the chamber was large and opened easily according to the French fashion.