“Yes, lady,” Archie said, “I am Sir Archibald Forbes, one of the few followers of the King of Scotland.”
The lady gave a sudden start when Archie mentioned his name, and for some little time did not speak again.
“I would,” she said at last in a low voice, “that you had been any other, seeing that Alexander MacDougall has a double cause of enmity against you — firstly, as being a follower of Bruce, who slew his kinsman Comyn, and who has done but lately great harm to himself and his clansmen; secondly, as having dispossessed Allan Kerr, who is also his relative, of his lands and castle. My uncle is a man of violent passions, and” — she hesitated.
“And he may not, you think,” Archie went on, “respect your promise for my life. If that be so, lady — and from what I have heard of Alexander MacDougall it is like enough — I beg you to give me back my surrender, for I would rather die here, sword in hand, than be put to death in cold blood in the castle of Dunstaffnage.”
“No,” the lady said, “that cannot be. Think you I could see you butchered before mine eyes after having once surrendered yourself to me? No, sir. I beseech you act not so rashly — that were certain death; and I trust that my uncle, hostile as he may be against you, will not inflict such dishonour upon me as to break the pledge I have given for your safety.”
Archie thought from what he had heard of the MacDougall that his chance was a very slight one. Still, as the young ever cling to hope, and as he would assuredly be slain by the clansmen, he thought it better to take the chance, small as it was, and so continued his march by the side of his captor’s palfrey.
After two hours’ journey they neared the castle of Alexander of Lorne. Archie could not repress a thrill of apprehension as he looked at the grim fortress and thought of the character of its lord; but his bearing showed no fear, as, conversing with the young lady, he approached the entrance. The gate was thrown open, and Alexander of Lorne himself issued out with a number of retainers.
“Ah! Marjory!” he said, “I am glad to see your bonny face at Dunstaffnage. It is three months since you left us, and the time has gone slowly; the very dogs have been pining for your voice. But who have we here?” he exclaimed, as his eye fell upon Archie.
“It is a wandering knight, uncle,” Marjory said lightly, “whom I captured in the forest on my way hither. He fought valiantly against Murdoch and your followers, but at last he surrendered to me on my giving him my pledge that his life should be safe, and that he should be treated honourably. Such a pledge I am sure, uncle,” she spoke earnestly now, “you will respect.”
Alexander MacDougall’s brow was as black as night, and he spoke in Gaelic with his followers.
“What!” he said angrily to the girl; “he has killed four of my men, and is doubtless one of Bruce’s party who slipped through my fingers the other day and killed so many of my kinsmen and vassals. You have taken too much upon yourself, Marjory. It is not by you that he has been made captive, but by my men, and you had no power to give such promise as you have made. Who is this young springall?”