There was a recoil, and the mayor himself ventured to observe something about the judgment of God, and ‘never so seen.’
‘And I say,’ thundered Henry, and his blue eyes seemed to flame with vehement indignation, ’I say that the ordeal of battle is shamefully abused, and that it is a taking of God’s name—ay, and man’s life—in vain, to appeal thereto on every coxcomb’s quarrel, risking the life that was given him to serve God’s ends, not his own sullen fancy. I will have an end of such things!—And you, gentlemen, since the heriard is dead, or too old to settle the question, shake hands, and if you must let blood, come to France with me next month, and flesh your knives on French and Scots.’
‘So please you, Sir,’ grumbled Kitson, ’there’s Mistress Agnes of Mineshull; she’s been in doubt between the two of us these five years, and she’d promised to wed whichever of us got the better.’
’I’ll settle her mind for her! Whichever I find foremost among the French, I’ll send home to her a knight, and with better sense to boot than to squabble for nine years as to an old horse.’
He then dismounted, and was conducted into the town-hall, where a banquet was prepared, taking by the hand Sir James Stewart, and followed by his brother John, and by Malcolm, who felt as though his brain were turning, partly with amazement, partly with confusion at his own dulness, as he perceived that not only was the free-spoken Hal, Henry of Monmouth, King of England, but that his wandering benefactor, the captive knight, whose claim of kindred he had almost spurned, was his native sovereign, James the First of Scotland.
Malcolm understood it at last. In the great chamber where he was bidden to wait within ‘Nigel’ till ‘Sir James’ came from a private conference with ‘Harry,’ he had all explained to him, but within a curtness and brevity that must not be imitated in the present narrative.
The squire Nigel was in fact Sir Nigel Baird, Baron of Bairdsbrae, the gentleman to whom poor King Robert II. had committed the charge of his young son James, when at fourteen he had been sent to France, nominally for education, but in reality to secure him from the fate of his brother Rothsay.
Captured by English vessels on the way, the heir of Scotland had been too valuable a prize to be resigned by the politic Henry IV., who had lodged him at Windsor Castle, together with Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, and placed both under the nominal charge of the Prince of Wales, a youth of a few years older. Unjust as was the detention, it had been far from severe; the boys had as much liberty as their age and recreation required, and received the choicest training both in the arts of war and peace. They were bred up in close intercourse with the King’s own four sons, and were united with them by the warmest sympathy.