James Kennedy considered, and then added that he could improve on the plan. He had long intended leaving Doune for his brother’s castle, but only tarried in case he could do anything for Lilias. He would at supper publicly announce to the Regent his departure for the next day, and also say that he had detained his fellow-scholar to go within him. Then arranging for Malcolm’s exit in a secular dress among his escort, as one of the many unobserved loungers, Lilias should go with him in very early morning in the bachelor’s gown, which he would place in a corner of a dark passage, where she could find it. Then if Malcolm and she turned aside from his escort, as the pursuit as soon as her evasion was discovered would be immediately directed on himself, they would have the more time for escape.
It was a complicated plan, but there was this recommendation, that Malcolm need not lose sight of his sister. Clerk as he was, young Kennedy could not ride without an escort, and among his followers he could place Malcolm. Accordingly at supper he announced his desire to leave Doune at dawn next morning, and was, as a matter of course, courteously pressed to remain. Malcolm in the meantime eluded observation as much as possible while watching his sister, who, in spite of all her efforts, was pale and red by turns, never durst glance towards him, and trembled whenever any one went near him.
The ladies at length swept out of the hall, and Robert and Alexander called for more wine for a rere-supper to drink to James’s good journey; but Kennedy tore himself from their hospitable violence, and again he and Malcolm were alone, spending a night of anxiety and consultation.
Morning came; Malcolm arrayed himself in a somewhat worn dress of Kennedy’s, with the belt and dirk he had carried under his scholar’s garb now without, and a steel cap that his cousin had procured for him on his head. With a parcel in his arms of Kennedy’s gear, he might pass for a servant sent from home to meet him; and so soon as this disguise was complete, Kennedy opened the door. On the turret stair stood a hooded black figure, that started as the door opened.
Malcolm’s heart might well seem to leap to his lips, but both brother and sister felt the tension of nerve that caution required too much to give way for a moment.
Kennedy whispered, ‘Your license, fair Cousin,’ and passed on with the free step of lordly birth, while a few paces behind the seeming scholar humbly followed, and Malcolm, putting on his soldier’s tread and the careless free-and-easy bearing he had affected before Meaux, brought up the rear with Master Kennedy’s mails.
As they anticipated, the household was not troubling itself to rise to see the priest off. Not that this made the coast clear, for the floor of the hall was cumbered with snoring sleepers in all sorts of attitudes—nay, at the upper table, the flushed, debauched, though young and handsome, faces of Robert and Alexander Stewart might have been detected among those who lay snoring among the relics of their last night’s revel.