THE ROSE-RED PAVILION
As the young Earl paused a moment without to tether Black Darnaway to a fallen trunk of a pine, a chill and melancholy wind seemed to rise suddenly and toss the branches dark against the sky. Then it flew off moaning like a lost spirit, till he could hear the sound of its passage far down the valley. An owl hooted and a swart raven disengaged himself from the coppice about the door of the pavilion, and fluttered away with a croak of disdainful anger. Black Darnaway turned his head and whinnied anxiously after his master.
But William Douglas, though little more than a boy if men’s ages are to be counted by years, was yet a true child of Archibald the Grim, and he passed through the mysterious encampment to the door of the lighted pavilion with a carriage at once firm and assured. He could faintly discern other tents and pavilions set further off, with pennons and bannerets, which the passing gust had blown flapping from the poles, but which now hung slackly about their staves.
“I would give a hundred golden St. Andrews,” he muttered, “if I could make out the scutcheon. It looks most like a black dragon couchant on a red field, which is not a Scottish bearing. The lady is French, doubtless, and passes through from Ireland to visit the Chancellor’s Court at Edinburgh.”
The Black Douglas paused a moment at the tent-flap, which, being of silken fabric lined with heavier material, hung straight and heavy to the ground.
“Come in, my lord,” cried the low and thrilling voice of his companion from within. “With both hands I bid you welcome to my poor abode. A traveller must not be particular, and I have only those condiments with me which my men have brought from shipboard, knowing how poor was the provision of your land. See, do you not already repent your promise to sup with me?”
She pointed to the table on which sparkled cut glass of Venice and rich wreathed ware of goldsmiths’ work. On these were set out oranges and rare fruits of the Orient, such as the young man had never seen in his own bleak and barren land.
But the Douglas did no more than glance at the luxury of the providing. A vision fairer and more beautiful claimed his eyes. For even as he paused in amazement, the lady herself stood before him, transformed and, as it seemed, glorified. In the interval she had taken off the cloak which, while on horseback, she had worn falling from her shoulders. A thin robe of white silk broidered with gold at once clothed and revealed her graceful and gracious figure, even as a glove covers but does not conceal the hand upon which it is drawn. Whether by intent or accident, the collar had been permitted to fall aside at the neck and showed the dazzling whiteness of the skin beneath, but at the bosom it was secured by a button set with black pearls which constituted the lady’s only ornament.