“It is like enough,” said Andro, coolly, “if his arm were in the way.”
Then came a voice down the stairs from above.
“And the wretches would neither let any come to visit us nor yet permit us to go into the hall that we might speak with our gossips.”
“How should we be responsible with our lives for the lasses if we had let them gad about?” said Andro, preparing to salute and take himself off.
At this moment the little maid and her elder companion came forward meekly and kneeled down before Sholto.
“We are your humble prisoners,” said Maud Lindesay, “and we know that our offences against your highness are most heinous; but why should you starve us to death? Burn us or hang us,—we will bear the extreme penalty of the law gladly,—but torture is not for women. For dear pity’s sake, a bite of bread. We have had nothing to eat all day, except two lace kerchiefs and a neck riband.”
“Lord of Heaven,” cried Sholto, swinging on his heel and darting down towards the kitchen, “what a fool unutterable I am!”
THE BAILIES OF DUMFRIES
The combat of the third day was, by the will of the Earl, to be of a peculiar kind. It was the custom at that time for the melee to be fought between an equal number of knights in open lists, each being at liberty to carry assistance to his friends as soon as he had disposed of his own man. On this occasion, however, the fight was to be between three knights with their several squires on the one side, and an equal number of knights and squires on the other.
As the combat of the previous day had decided, young James Douglas of Avondale was to lead one party, being the successful tilter of the day of single combat, while the Earl himself was to head the other.
The chances of battle must be borne, and whatever happened in the shock of fight was to be endured without complaint. But no blow was to be struck at either knight or squire in any way disabled by wound.
To Sholto’s great and manifest joy the Earl, his master, chose the new captain of his guard to support him in the fray, and told him to make choice of the best battle-axe and sword he could find, as well as to provide himself with the shield which most suited the strength of his left arm.
“By your permission I will ask my father,” said Sholto.
“He also fights on our side as the squire of Alan Fleming,” said the Earl; “if Laurence had not been a monk, he might have made a third MacKim.”
Then was Sholto’s heart high and uplifted within him, to think of the victory he would achieve over his brother less than two days after they had parted, and he hastened off to choose his arms under the direction of his father.
The party of James of Avondale consisted of his brother William and young John Lauder, called Lauder of the Bass. These three had already entered their pavilion to accoutre themselves for the combat when a trumpet announced the arrival from the castle of the ambassador of France, who, being recovered from his sickness, had come in haste to see the fighting of the last and greatest day of the tourney.