“Shall ever her eyelashes rise and fall again for me, and shall I see the smile waver alternately petulant and tender upon her lips?”
This was his meditation. For, being a young man in love, these things were more to him than matins and evensong, king or chancellor, heaven or hell—as indeed it was right and wholesome that they should be.
Crichton Castle was much more a defenced chateau and less a feudal stronghold than Thrieve. It stood on a rising ground above the little Water of Tyne, which flowed clear and swift beneath from the blind “hopes” and bare valleys of the Moorfoot Hills. But the site was well chosen both for pleasure and defence. The ground fell away on three sides. Birch, alder, ash, girt it round and made pleasant summer bowers everywhere.
The fox-faced Chancellor had spent much money on beautifying it, and the kitchens and larders were reported to be the best equipped in Scotland. On the green braes of Crichton, therefore, in due time the young Douglases arrived with their sparse train of thirty riders. Sir William Crichton had ridden out to meet them across the innumerable little valleys which lie around Temple and Borthwick to the brow of that great heathy tableland which runs back from the Moorfoots clear to the Solway.
With him were only the Marshal de Retz and his niece, the Lady Sybilla.
Not a single squire or man-at-arms accompanied these three, for, as the Chancellor well judged, there was no way more likely effectually to lull the suspicions of a gallant man like the Douglas than to forestall him in generous confidence.
The three sat their horses and looked to the south for their guests at that delightsome hour of the summer gloaming when the last bees are reluctantly disengaging themselves from the dewy heather bells and the circling beetles begin their booming curfew.
“There they come!” cried de Retz, suddenly, pointing to a few specks of light which danced and dimpled between them and the low horizon of the south, against which, like a spacious armada, leaned a drift of primrose sunset clouds.
“There they come—I see them also!” said the Lady Sybilla, and suddenly sighed heavily and without cause.
“Where, and how many?” cried the Chancellor, in a shrill pipe usually associated with the physically deformed, but which from him meant no more than anxious discomposure.
The marshal pointed with the steady hand of the practised commander to the spot at which his keen eye had detected the cavalcade.
“Yonder,” he said, “where the pine tree stands up against the sky.”
“And how many? I cannot see them, my eyesight fails. I bid you tell me how many,” gasped the Chancellor.
The ambassador looked long.
“There are, as I think, no more than twenty or thirty riders.”