The danger was terrible! He could not imagine Lilias to have the moral grandeur and force of Esclairmonde. Moreover, she supposed her lover dead, and had not the same motive for guarding her troth. Forlorn and despairing, she might have yielded, and Walter Stewart was, Malcolm verily believed, worse to deal with than even Boemond. As the whole danger and uncertainty came over him, his senses seemed to reel; he leant back in his seat, and heard as in the midst of a dream his sister’s sobs and groans, Patrick’s fierce and furious exclamations, and the Abbess’s attempts at consoling him. Dizzy with horror at the scene he realized, Lilias’s cries and shrieks of entreaty were ringing in his ear, when suddenly a sweet full low voice seemed to come through them, ’I am bound ever to pray for you and your sister.’ Mingled with the cry came ever the sweet soft Litany cadences—’For all that are desolate and oppressed: we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.’ Gradually the cries seemed to be swallowed up, both voices blended in Kyrie eleison and then in the Gloria, and at that moment he became aware of Patrick crying, ’I will seek her in every castle in Scotland.’
‘Stay, Patrick,’ he said, rising, though forced to hold by his chair; ‘that must be my part.’
’You—why, the laddie is white as a sheet! He well-nigh swooned at the tidings. You seek her, forsooth!’ and Patrick laughed bitterly.
‘Yes, Patie,’ said Malcolm, ’for this I am strong. It is my duty and not yours, and God will strengthen me for it.’
Patrick burst out at this: ’Neither man nor devil shall tell me it is not mine!’
‘You are the King’s prisoner still,’ said Malcolm, rising to energy; ’you are bound to return to him. The tidings must be taken to him at once.’
‘A groom could do that.’
’Neither so swiftly nor surely as you. Moreover, your word of honour binds you not to wander at your own pleasure.’
’My honour binds me not to trust you—wee Malcolm—to wander into the wolf’s cage alone.’
‘I am not the silly feckless callant I once was, Patie,’ answered Malcolm. ’There are many places where my student’s serge gown will take me safely, where your corslet and lance would never find entrance. No one will know me again as I am now: will they, holy Mother?’
‘Assuredly not,’ said the Abbess.
‘A student is too mean a prey to be meddled with,’ proceeded Malcolm, ’and is sure of hospitality in castle or convent. I can try at Coldingham to find out whither the two monks are gone, and then follow up the track.’
Patrick stormed at the plan, and was most unwilling it should be adopted. He at least must follow, and keep watch over his young cousin, or it would be a mere throwing the helve after the hatchet—a betrayal of his trust.