“Wait a moment,” said Pierre de l’Hopital, “we must consider. We cannot let the commons see this or they will sack the castle from foundation to roof tree, and slay the innocent with the guilty. We must seize and hold for fair trial all who are found within. And I, Pierre de l’Hopital, will try them!”
“What then do you propose?” said the Duke, getting as near the door as possible.
“Let us bring in hither the officers and what soldiers you can trust—that is not my business,” answered the President. “Then we will go through the castle, and after we have secured the prisoners and made sure of sufficient pieces of justificative evidence, of which we have infinite supply in these sacks, we may e’en permit the people to work their will.”
As it was Sholto who had first entered, so it was Sholto who first left the Tower of Death. He it was also who, at the head of a strong band, surprised the marshal’s sleepy inner guard, and helped to bind them with his own hands. It was Sholto who, at the foot of the stairs of the great keep, stood listening that he might know the right moment to lead the besiegers upward.
But even as he stood thus, down the stairway there came pealing a terrible cry, the shriek of a woman in the final agony, shrill, desperate, unavailing.
And at the sound Sholto flew up the stone steps in the direction of the cry, not knowing what he did, save that he went to kill.
And scarce a foot behind him followed the woodman, Louis Verger, and as they fled upward the red gloom grew brighter till they seemed to be rushing headlong into a furnace mouth.
THE WHITE TOWER OF MACHECOUL
So at the command of the Marshal de Retz they sent to bring forth Margaret of Douglas and Maud Lindesay out of the White Tower, where they had been abiding. Margaret had gone to bed, and, as was her custom, Maud Lindesay sat awhile by her side. For so far as they could they kept to the good and kindly traditions of Castle Thrieve. It seemed somehow to bring them nearer home in that horrible place where they were doomed to abide.
“Give me your hand, Maud, and tell on,” said little Margaret, nestling closer to her friend, and laying her head against her arm as she leaned on the low bedstead beside her.
Margaret was gowned in a white linen night-rail, made long ago for the marshal’s daughter, little Marie de Retz, in the brighter days before the setting up of the iron altar. Catherine, his deserted wife, had been kind to the girls at Pouzages, and had given to both of them such articles of garmenture as they were sorely in need of.
“Tell on—haste you,” commanded little Margaret, with the imperiousness of loving childhood, nestling yet closer as she spoke. “It helps me to forget. I can almost think when you are speaking that we are again at Thrieve, and that if we looked out at the window we should see the Dee running by and Screet and Ben Gairn—and hear Sholto MacKim drilling his men out in the courtyard. Why, Maudie, what is the matter? I did not mean to make you cry. But it is all so sweet to think upon in this place. Oh, Maudie, Maudie, what would you give to hear a whaup whistle?”