“Nay, my Lord Duke,” cried the Lady Sybilla, “more than anything on earth I desire to see you bear arms on the field of honour.”
“Oh, I am no great lance,” replied the Douglas, modestly; “I am yet too young and light. As things go now, the butterfly cannot tilt against the beef barrel when both are trussed into armour. But with the bare sword I will fight all day and be hungry for more. Aye, or rattle a merry rally with the quarter-staff like any common varlet. But at both Sholto there is my master, and doth ofttimes swinge me tightly for my soul’s good.”
The lady went on quickly, as if avoiding any further mention of Sholto’s name.
“Nevertheless, to-morrow I must see you ride in the lists. My uncle says that your father was a mighty lance when he rode at Amboise, on the famous day of the Thirteen Victories.”
“Ah, but my father was twice the man that I am,” said the Earl, who had not taken his eyes from her face since she began to speak.
“Great alike in love and war?” she queried, smiling.
“So, at least, it is reported of him in Touraine,” answered his son, smiling back at her.
“He loved and rode away, like all your race!” cried the girl, with a strange sudden flicker of passion which died as suddenly. “But I think it not of you, Lord William. I know you could be true—that is, where you truly loved.”
And as she spoke she looked at him with a questioning eagerness in her eyes which was almost pitiful.
“I do love and I am loyal,” said the young man, with a grave quiet which became him well, and ought to have served him better with a woman than many protestations.
ANDRO THE PENMAN GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HIS STEWARDSHIP
In the fighting of that day James Douglas, the second son of the fat Earl of Avondale, won the prize, worsting his elder brother William in the final encounter. The victor was a nobly formed youth, of strength and stature greater than those of his brother, but without William of Avondale’s haughty spirit and stern self-discipline.
For James Douglas had the easy popular virtues which would drink with any drawer or pricker at a tavern board, and made him ready to clap his last gold Lion on the platter to pay for the draught—telling, as like as not, the good gossip of the inn to keep the change, and (if well favoured) give him a kiss therefor. The Douglas cortege rode home amid the shoutings of the holiday makers who thronged all the approaches to the ford in order to see the great nobles and their trains ride by, and Sholto and his men had much trouble to keep these spectators as far back as was decent and seemly.