“My blessing—the blessing of one they deem accursed; and to thee, good, noble, stainless as thou art! Nigel, Nigel, do not mock me thus,” answered the king, bitterness struggling with the deepest melancholy, as he laid his hand, which strangely trembled, on the young man’s lowered head. “Alas! bring I not evil and misery and death on all who love me? What, what may my blessing bring to thee?”
“Joy, bright joy in the hour of mirth and comfort; oh, untold-of comfort in the time of sorrow, imprisonment, death! My brother, my brother, oh, refuse it not; thou knowest not, thou canst not know how Nigel loves thee!”
Robert gazed at him till every thought, every feeling was lost in the sudden sensation of dread lest ill should come to him; it had overtaken one as fair in promise, as beloved, and yet younger; and oh, if death selected the best, the loveliest, the dearest, would it next fall on him? The thought was such absolute agony, that the previous suffering of that hour was lost before it.
“Bless thee—oh, may God in heaven bless thee, my brave, my noble Nigel!” he exclaimed, with a burst of emotion, perfectly appalling in one generally so controlled, and raising him, he strained him convulsively to his heart. “Yet why should we part?” he added, after a long pause; “why did I fix on thee for this office—are there not others? Nigel, Nigel, say but the word, and thou shalt rest with me: danger, privation, exile we have borne, and may still share together. Why should I send thee from me, dearest, most beloved of all who call me brother?”
“Why?” answered Nigel, raising his glistening eyes from his brother’s shoulder, “why, dear Robert? because thine eye could read my heart and trust it; because thou knewest I would watch over those who bear thy name, who are dear to thee, even as thy noble self. Oh, do not repent thee of thy choice; ’tis hard to bear alone danger, so long encountered hand in hand, yet as thou hast decided let it be. Thy words have soothed my yearning heart, which craved to list thy voice once more; and now then, my noble liege and brother, farewell. Think on thy Nigel’s words; even when misery is round thee thou shalt, thou shalt be blessed. Think on them, my Robert, and then when joy and liberty and conquest crown thee, oh, forget not Nigel.”
He threw his arms around him, imprinted a fervent kiss on his cheek, and was out of sight ere the king by sign or word could arrest his progress. One hasty bound forward Robert indeed made, but a dimness stole over his sight, and for one brief minute he sunk down on the grass, and when he lifted his head again, there were burning tears upon his cheek.
The hardships and dangers attendant on King Robert’s progress southward, mingled as they were with the very spirit of romance, are so well known to every reader of Scottish history that they must be excluded from our pages, although a tale of chivalry would seem the very place for their insertion.