Priors were not people to be kept waiting, and as it was reported that the Tutor of Glenuskie was still asleep, Lilias had to depart without taking leave of him. With Malcolm the last words were spoken while crossing the court. ’Fear not, Lily; my heart will only weary till the Church owns me, and Patie has you.’
’Nay, my Malcolm; mayhap, as the Prior tells me, your strength and manhood will come in the south country.’
‘Let them,’ said Malcolm; ‘I will neither cheat the Church nor Patie.’
’It were no cheat. There never was any compact. Patie is winning his fortune by his own sword; he would scorn—’
’Hush, Lily! When the King sees what a weakling Sir James has brought him, he will be but too glad to exchange Patie for me, and leave me safe in these blessed walls.’
But here they were under the archway, and the convoy of armed men, whom the exigencies of the time forced the convent to maintain, were already mounted. Sir James stood ready to assist the lady to her saddle, and with one long earnest embrace the brother and sister were parted, and Lilias rode away with the Prior by her side, letting the tears flow quietly down her cheeks in the darkness, and but half hearing the long arguments by which good Father Akecliff was proving to her that the decision was the best for both Malcolm and herself.
By and by the dawn began to appear, the air of the March night became sharper, and in the distance the murmur and plash of the tide was heard. Then, standing heavy and dark against the clear pale eastern sky, there arose the dark mass of St. Ebba’s monastery, the parent of Coldingham, standing on the very verge of the cliff to which it has left the name of St. Abb’s Head, upon ground which has since been undermined by the waves, and has been devoured by them. The sea, far below, calmly brightened with the brightening sky, and reflected the morning stars in a lucid track of light, strong enough to make the lights glisten red in the convent windows. Lilias was expected, was a frequent guest, and had many friends there, and as the sweet sound of the Lauds came from the chapel, and while she dismounted in the court the concluding ‘Amen’ swelled and died away, she, though no convent bird, felt herself in a safe home and shelter under the wing of kind Abbess Annabel Drummond, and only mourned that Malcolm, so much tenderer and more shrinking than herself, should be driven into the unknown world that he dreaded so much more than she did.
The sun had not long been shining on the dark walls of St. Ebba’s monastery, before the low-browed gate of Coldingham Priory opened to let pass the guests of the previous night. Malcolm had been kissed and blessed by his guardian, and bidden to transfer his dutiful obedience to his new protector; and somewhat comforted by believing Sir David to be mending since last night, he had rent himself away, and was riding in the frosty morning air beside the kinsman who had so strangely taken charge of him, and accompanied by Sir James’s tall old Scottish squire, by the English groom, and by Malcolm’s own servant, Halbert.