About this time an event occurred, which, though comparatively trifling in itself, when the lives of so many were concerned, was fraught in effect with fatal consequences to all the inmates of Kildrummie. The conversation of the next chapter, however, will better explain it, and to it we refer our readers.
In a circular apartment of the lower floor in Kildrummie keep, its stone floor but ill covered with rushes, and the walls hung with the darkest and rudest arras, Sir Christopher Seaton reclined on a rough couch, in earnest converse with his brother-in-law, Nigel. Lady Seaton was also within the chamber, at some little distance from the knights, engaged in preparing lint and healing ointments, with the aid of an attendant, for the wounded, and ready at the first call to rise and attend them, as she had done unremittingly during the continuance of the siege. The countenances of both warriors were slightly changed from the last time we beheld them. The severity of his wounds had shed a cast almost of age on the noble features of Seaton, but care and deep regret had mingled with that pallor; and perhaps on the face of Nigel, which three short weeks before had beamed forth such radiant hope, the change was more painful. He had escaped with but slight flesh wounds, but disappointment and anxiety were now vividly impressed on his features; the smooth brow would unconsciously wrinkle in deep and unexpressed thought; the lip, to which love, joy, and hope alone had once seemed natural, now often compressed, and his eye flashed, till his whole countenance seemed stern, not with the sternness of a tyrannical, changed and chafing mood—no, ’twas the sternness most fearful to behold in youth, of thought, deep, bitter, whelming thought; and sterner even than it had been yet was the expression on his features as he spoke this day with Seaton.
“He must die,” were the words which broke a long and anxious pause, and fell in deep yet emphatic tones from the lips of Seaton; “yes, die! Perchance the example may best arrest the spreading contagion of treachery around us.”
“I know not, I fear not; yet as thou sayest he must die,” replied Nigel, speaking as in deep thought; “would that the noble enemy, who thus scorned to benefit by the offered treason, had done on him the work of death himself. I love not the necessity nor the deed.”
“Yet it must be, Nigel. Is there aught else save death, the death of a traitor, which can sufficiently chastise a crime like this? Well was it the knave craved speech of Hereford himself. I marvel whether the majesty of England had resisted a like temptation.”
“Seaton, he would not,” answered the young man. “I knew him, aye, studied him in his own court, and though I doubt not there was a time when chivalry was strongest in the breast of Edward, it was before ambition’s fatal poison had corroded his heart. Now he would deem all things honorable in the art of war, aye, even the delivery of a castle through the treachery of a knave.”