“There was no danger, Nigel, at least there seemed none,” she said. “I felt no fear, for I looked on thee.”
Had the gallant defenders of Kildrummie Castle been conscious that the at first dilatory and then uncertain measures of their foes originated in the fact that the Earls of Hereford and Lancaster were not themselves yet on the field, and that they had with them a vast addition to their forces, they would not perhaps have rested so securely on the hopes which their unexpected success very naturally engendered. Attack on one side they knew they could resist; their only dread had been that, from the numbers of the English, the angle towers, each of which covered a postern, might be attacked at once, and thus discover the real weakness of their forces. The obstinate struggle for the barbacan, the strongest point of the castle, had been welcomed with joy by the Scotch, for there they could overlook every movement of the besiegers. Some wonder it did cause that such renowned knights as the earls were known to be, should not endeavor to throw them off their guard by a division of attack; but this wonder could not take from the triumph of success.
It was from no want of observation the absence of the two earls remained undiscovered by the besieged. Engaged on a secret expedition, whose object will be seen in the sequel, they had commanded the message demanding surrender to be given in their names, their pavilions to be pitched in sight of the castle as if they were already there, their banners to wave above them, esquires and pages to be in attendance, and their war-cries to be shouted, as was the custom when they led on in person. The numerous knights, clothed in bright armor from head to heel ever traversing the field, assisted the illusion, and the Scotch never once suspected the truth.
Imagining a very brief struggle would deliver the castle into their hands, even if its garrison were mad enough to refuse compliance with King Edward’s terms, the earls had not hurried themselves on their expedition, and a fortnight after the siege had begun, were reposing themselves very cavalierly in the stronghold of an Anglo-Scottish baron, some thirty miles southward of the scene of action.
It was the hour of supper, a rude repast of venison, interspersed with horn and silver flagons filled with the strong liquors of the day, and served up in a rude hall, of which the low round arches in the roof, the massive walls without buttresses, and windows running small outside, but spreading as to become much larger within, all denoted the Saxon architecture unsoftened by any of the Norman improvements.