“Eh, only to think on’t,” cried the dame, clapping her hands together as she did at mass, “that I, Barbara MacKim, that am marriet to a donnert auld carle like Malise there, should hae the privileege o’ a salute frae the bonny mou’ o’ Yerl William—(Thank ye kindly, my lord!)—and be inveeted to the weepen-shawing to sit amang the leddies and view the sport. Malise, my man, caa’ ye no that an honour, a privileege? Is that no owing to me being the sister—on my faither’s side—o’ Ninian Halliburton, merchant and indweller in Dumfries?”
“Nay, nay, good dame,” laughed the Earl, “’tis all for the sake of your own very sufficient charms! I trust that your good man here is not jealous, for beauty, you well do ken, ever sends the wits of a Douglas woolgathering. Nevertheless, let us have a draught of your home-brewed ale, for kissing is but dry work, after all, and little do I think of it save” (he set his cap on his head with a gallant wave of his hand) “in the case of a lady so fair and tempting as Dame Barbara MacKim!”
At this the dame cast up her hands and her eyes again. “Eh, what will Marget Ahanny o’ the Shankfit say noo—this frae the Yerl William. Eh, sirce, this is better than an Abbot’s absolution. I declare ’tis mair sustainin’ than a’ the consolations o’ religion. Malise, do you hear, great dour cuif that ye are, what says my lord? And you to think so little of your married wife as ye do! Think shame, you being what ye are, and me the ain sister to that master o’ merchandise and Bailie o’ Dumfries, Maister Ninian Halliburton o’ the Vennel!”
And with that she vanished into the black oblong of the door opposite the smithy.
MY FAIR LADY
The strong man of Carlinwark made no long job of the horseshoeing. For, as he hammered and filed, he marked the eye of the young Earl restlessly straying this way and that along the green riverside paths, and his fingers nervously tapping the ashen casing of the smithy window-sill. Malise MacKim smiled to himself, for he had not served a Douglas for thirty years without knowing by these signs that there was the swing of a kirtle in the case somewhere.
Presently the last nail was made firm, and Black Darnaway was led, passaging and tossing his bridle reins, out upon the green sward. Malise stood at his head till the Douglas swung himself into the saddle with a motion light as the first upward flight of a bird.
He put his hand into a pocket in the lining of his “soubreveste” and took out a golden “Lion” of the King’s recent mintage. He spun it in the air off his thumb and then looked at it somewhat contemptuously as he caught it.
“I think you and I, Master-Armourer, could send out a better coinage than that with the old Groat press over there at Thrieve!” he said.
Malise smiled his quiet smile.
“If the Earl of Douglas deigns to make me the master of his mint, I promise him plenty of good, sound, broad pieces of a noble design—that is, till Chancellor Crichton hangs me for coining in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh.”