As they rode on, James was entirely occupied with the lady, and Malcolm was a good deal left to himself; for, though the party was numerous, he knew no one except the Duke of Bedford, who was riding with the King and Lord Warwick, in deep consultation, while Sir Nigel Baird, Lord Marmion, and the rest were in the rear. He fell into a mood of depression such as had not come upon him since he passed the border, thinking himself despised by all for being ill-favoured and ill-dressed, and chafing, above all, at the gay contempt he fancied in young Ralf Percy’s eye. He became constantly more discontented with this noisy turmoil, and more resolved to insist on returning to the peaceful cloister where alone he could hide his head and be at rest.
The troop halted for what they called their noon meat at the abode of a hospitable Yorkshire knight; but King Henry, in order that the good gentleman’s means should not be overtasked, had given directions that only the ladies and the princes should enter the house, while the rest of the suite should take their meal at the village inn.
King James, in attending to Joan, had entirely forgotten his cousin; and Malcolm, doubtful and diffident, was looking hesitatingly at the gateway, when Ralf Percy called out, ’Ha! you there, this is our way. That is only for the royal folk; but there’s good sack and better sport down here! I’ll show you the way,’ he added, good-naturedly, softened, as most were, by the startled, wistful, timid look.
Malcolm, ashamed to say he was royal, but surprised at the patronage, was gratefully following, when old Bairdsbrae indignantly laid his hand on the rein. ‘Not so, Sir; this is no place for you!’
‘Let me alone!’ entreated Malcolm, as he saw Percy’s amazed look and whistle of scorn. ‘They don’t want me.’
‘You will never have your place if you do not take it,’ said the old gentleman; and leading the trembling, shrinking boy up to the door, he continued, ‘For the honour of Scotland, Sir!’ and then announcing Malcolm by his rank and title, he almost thrust him in.
Fancying he detected a laugh on Ralf Percy’s face, and a sneer on that of the stout English porter, Malcolm felt doubly wretched as he was ushered into the hall and the buzz of talk and the confusion made by the attendance of the worthy knight and his many sons, one of whom, waiting with better will than skill, had nearly run down the shy limping Scotsman, who looked wildly for refuge at some table. In his height of distress, a kindly gesture of invitation beckoned to him, and he found himself seated and addressed, first in French, and then in careful foreign English, by the same lady whom he had yesterday taken for Joan of Somerset, namely, Esclairmonde de Luxemburg.