’With Heaven’s aid, no! But how fares it with poor Madge—his wife, I mean?’
’She is away to her estates. She went this morn, and wished to have taken with her the Demoiselle de Beaufort; but I forbade that—I could not be left without one lady of the blood.’
‘Alack, Joan—’ and Henry was turning, but Catherine interrupted him. ’You have not spoken to Madame of Hainault, nor to the Duke of Orleans. Nay, you are in no guise to speak to any one,’ she added, looking with repugnance at the splashes of mud that reached even to his waist.
‘I will don a fresh doublet, sweetheart,’ said Henry, more rebuked than seemed fitting, ‘and be ready to sup anon.’
‘Supper! We supped long ago.’
’That may be; but we have ridden long since we snatched our meal, that I might be with thee the sooner, my Kate.’
’That was not well in you, my Lord, to come in thus dishevelled, steaming with wet—not like a king. You will be sick, my Lord.’
The little word of solicitude recalled his sweet tender smile of gratitude. No fear, ma belle; sickness dares not touch me.’
‘Then,’ said the Queen, ’you will be served in your chamber, and we will finish our game.’
Henry turned submissively away; but Bedford tarried an instant to say, ’Fair sister, he is sore distressed. It would comfort him to have you with him. He has longed for you.’
Catherine opened her beautiful brown eyes in a stare of surprise and reproof at the infraction of the rules of ceremony which she had brought with her. John of Bedford had never seemed to her either beau or courtois, and she looked unutterable things, to which he replied by an elevation of his marked eyebrows.
She sat down to her game, utterly ignoring the other princes in their weather-beaten condition; and they were forced to follow the King, and make their way to their several chambers, for Queen Catherine’s will was law in matters of etiquette.
’The proud peat! She is jealous of every word Harry speaks—even to his cousin,’ muttered James, as he reached his own room. ’You saw her, though,—you saw her!’ he added, smiling, as he laid his hand on Malcolm’s shoulder.
The boy coloured like a poppy, and answered awkwardly enough, ’The Lady Joan, Sir?’
’Who but the Lady Joan, thou silly lad? How say’st thou? Will not Scotland forget in the sight of that fair face all those fule phantasies—the only folly I heard at Glenuskie?’
‘Methinks,’ said Malcolm, looking down in sheer awkwardness, ’it were easier to bow to her than to King Harry’s dame. She hath more of stateliness.’
‘Humph!’ said James, ’dost so serve thy courtly ’prenticeship? Nay, but in a sort I see thy meaning. The royal blood of England shows itself to one who hath an eye for princeliness of nature.’
‘Nay,’ said Malcolm, gratified, ‘those dark eyes and swart locks—’