‘Ha!’ cried James, ’this is well indeed. Thou hast her, then, lad? See, Patrick! Where is he? Nay, but, fair wife, I must present thee the first kinswoman of mine thou hast seen. How didst bring her off, Malcolm?’ And he embraced Malcolm with the ardour of a happy man, as he added, ‘This is all that was wanting.’
Truly James looked as if nothing were wanting to his joy, as there he stood after his years of waiting, a bridegroom, free, and on the borders of his native land. His eyes shone with joy, and there was a bright energy and alacrity in his bearing that, when Malcolm bethought him of those former grave movements, and the quiet demeanour as though only interested by an effort, marked the change from the captive to the free man. And beautiful Joan, lovelier than ever, took on her her queenly dignity with all her wonted grace and graciousness.
She warmly embraced Lilias, hailing her as cousin, and auguring joyously of the future from the sight of this first Stewart maiden whom she had seen; and the next moment Patrick Drummond, hurrying forward, fell on his knee before his lady, grasped, kissed, fondled her hand, and struggled and stammered between his rejoicing over her liberation and despair that he had no part in it.
‘Yea,’ said the King ’it was well-nigh a madman whom you sent home to me, Malcolm. He was neither to have nor to hold; and what he would have had me do, or have let him do, I’ll not say, nor doth he know either. I must hear your story ere I sleep, Malcolm.’
The King did not ask for it then: he would not brook the exposure of the disunion and violence of Scotland to the English, especially the Percies; and it was not till he could see Malcolm alone that he listened to his history.
‘Cousin,’ he said, ’you have done both bravely and discreetly. Methinks you have redeemed my pledge to your good guardian that in the south you should be trained to true manhood; though I am free to own that ’twas not under my charge that you had the best training. How is it to be, Malcolm? Patrick tells me you saw the Lady of Light.’
’Ay, Sir, but neither her purpose nor mine is shaken. My lord, I believe I see how best to serve God and yourself. If you will consent, I will finish my first course at Oxford, and then offer myself for the priesthood.’
‘Not hide thyself in cloister or school—that is well!’ exclaimed the King.
’No, Sir. Methinks I could serve yonder rude people best if I were among them as a priest.’
James considered, then said: ’I pledged myself not to withstand your conscience, Malcolm; and though I grieve that the lady should be lost, she has never wavered, and cannot be balked of her will. Godly and learned priests will indeed be needed; and between you and James Kennedy, when both are come to elder years, we may perchance lift our poor Scottish Church to some clearer sense of what a church should be. Meanwhile—’