There, on seats behind the throne, sat the twenty-one jurors, Earl Douglas among them—a new earl, for the grim old Archibald had died in the battle of Verneuil some months before. Angus, March, and Mar, and all the most powerful names in Scotland, were there; and upon his throne, in regal robes of crimson and ermine, the crown upon his brow, the sceptre in his hand, the sword of state held before him, sat King James, the most magnificent-looking king then reigning in Europe, but with the sternest, saddest, most resolute of countenances, as one unalterably fixed upon the terrible duty of not bearing the sword in vain. Something of Henry’s avenging-angel look seemed to have passed into his face, but with far more of melancholy weight.
Walter Stewart was led into the court. He too was a man of lofty stature and princely bearing, and his grand Stewart features were set in an expression of easy nonchalance and scorn; aware as he was that of whatever he might be accused, there were few of his judges that did not share the guilt, and moreover persuaded that this was a mere ceremony, and that the King would never dare to go beyond this futile attempt to overawe him. He stood alone—his father and the others were reserved for another trial; and as, richly arrayed, he stood opposite to the jury, gazing fixedly first at one, then at the other, as though challenging their right to sit in judgment on him, one eye after another fell beneath his gaze.
‘Walter Stewart of Albany, Earl of Fife,’ proclaimed the crier’s voice. ‘You stand here arraigned of murder and of robbery.’
‘At whose suit?’ demanded Walter, undaunted.
’At the suit of Malcolm and Lilias Stewart of Glenuskie; and of Patrick Drummond of the Braes,’ returned the crier, an ecclesiastic, as were all lawyers; and at the same moment three figures came forward, namely, a tall knightly gentleman with gold chain and spurs, a lady whose veil disclosed a blushing dark-eyed face, and a slender youth of deep and earnest countenance. ’At the suit of these here present you stand arraigned, Sir Walter Stewart of Albany, for having feloniously, and of malice aforethought, on the Eve of the Annunciation of our Lady, of the year of grace 1421, set upon the said Malcolm and Lilias Stewart, Sir David Drummond of the Braes, Tutor of Glenuskie, and divers other persons, on the muir of Hetherfield; and having there cruelly and maliciously wounded the said David of the Braes to the death; and of having forcibly stolen and abducted the person of the said Lilias Stewart—’
The crier was not permitted to proceed, for Walter Stewart broke forth, passionately addressing the jurors. ’So this is all that can be found to be laid against me. This is the way that matters of five years back are raked up to vex the princes and nobles of Scotland. I am sorry for you, lords and gentlemen, if this is the way that vexatious are to be stirred up against those who have defended their country so long.’