Page images

On various stands and side-tables were placed numerous articles of vertu, suggesting at once the propensities of the royal occupant. Chief amongst these were the four mazers, large drinking-cups, or goblets, called after their original possessor, King Robert the Bruce, each deep enough to have made a couple of stout men more than happy if they drank fairly. One of the goblets had a cover finely chased.

The next in degree of curiosity was a great cock made of silver; and besides this, there were many pieces of filagree work from Italy, notably three salfatis or salt cellars, upon which anciently much labour was bestowed, as they played so important a part in indicating the rank of the persons who sat at table, and as the salt itself was a symbol of amity to those who tasted it.

There were many plates of silver exquisitely designed, and which were carefully preserved by his Majesty, who rarely took them from the strong black chest in which he secured them with other treasures, except when he designed to be quite private, admitting only his most trusted favourites to his presence.

Such had been his Majesty's intention this evening, and the four persons who were with him when Cochrane entered were those whose companionship was supposed to have the worst effect upon his character.

They were the four comrades of Cochrane, and one of them at least was almost his rival in the royal favour.

was William Rogers, sometimes called Sir William, an Englishman, and a musician, whose talents had won for him a place in the household of his Majesty, which was only second, if not altogether equal, to that of Cochrane.

Rogers was a man of considerable parts in music, although he has left nothing by which we can judge how far his real qualities were worthy of a king's friendship. He was contemptuously spoken of by the barons as fiddler,” just as Sir Robert was designated “the mason. He was a man of quiet bearing and shapely form, and when out of his Majesty's sight, a somewhat unscrupulous gallant, as was reported.

First of the other three men was Leonard, a tall, powerful fellow, with swart, moody visage, and frizzled black hair

That one

6 the

and beard. He was the King's armourer, and was called “the smith.” The next was Torplichen, a fencing and dancing master, who was short in stature, but who had grown so broad and fat that his terpsichorean efforts had become of the most grotesque kind, while bis florid, goodnatured countenance inspired little fear for his skill at fence. But despite bis obesity he could still handle a rapier with any man about the court, and could keep his ground, too, against the most agile if he had only a wall to support bis back.

The last of the favourites was Hommel, a tailor by profession, who acted as a sort of general chamberlain to his Majesty. Upon him were cast innumerable epithets of scorn by the dissatisfied nobility ; but he was a tall stout fellow, very unlike a tailor, and although he endured from the Lords what he knew it would be useless to resent, he soon taught their servants to respect him by the joint means of his cudgel and his purse.

These were the men on whose account King James III. had sacrificed the society of his peers,

roused their


and enmity; put himself on the unhappiest terms with his brothers, and for whose sake he risked the good will of his people, thereby bazarding even his hold on the throne.

Rogers had been singing a merry roundelay, when Cochrane had been announced. The

had been abruptly stopped; now, when the knight appeared in a costume so little fitted to the private chamber of the King, and so little in keeping with his usual care in these matters, all eyes were turned upon him in puzzled wonder. They were satisfied that he had some weighty reasons for this apparent breach of respect. And they were right.




“ See what burning spears portended,

Couch'd by fire eyed spectres glare,
Circling round you both, suspended
On the trembling threads of air !


“But o'er thy devoted valleys

Blacker spreads the angry sky;
Through the gloom pale lightning sallies,
Distant thunders groan and die.”

Prophecy of Queen Emma. COCHRANE made one pace into the room, then, uncovering, dropped upon his knee, bending his head low, and waiting for permission to speak.

The King was seated on a chair big enough to have accommodated two persons comfortably, and the cushions of which were covered with embroidery, wrought by the delicate fingers of Queen Margaret. He was half reclining on the chair, with his legs crossed, whilst his fingers were playing with the massive gold chain which hung round his neck. He had turned his eyes on Cochrane with an expression of amusement and some curiosity.

His Majesty was a little above the average height, and his form was shapely but slim. So far from there being anything massive or commanding in his appearance, he was rather effeminate in frame and look at this period, when he had scarcely attained his thirtieth year.

He had long, black, and rather curly hair ; large dark eyes, and long curving nose. His brow was smooth, flat, and very slightly receding to the roots of the hair. His mouth and chin were small and delicate as a woman's, which, combined with a sort of weak smile that generally played upon his countenance, were indicative of the indecision of his character. It was rather a handsome face, and a kindly one, but sadly deficient in all those qualities which mark a man fitted to hold authority. Clear decisive thought and inflexibility of will were the faculties most

[ocr errors]

needed in one who was entrusted with the reins of a Government in which there were so many elements of disturbance as that of Scotland, and these were the faculties of which his appearance and manner displayed least.

He was dressed in a pink velvet doublet, puffed and slashed with white satin between the shoulder and the elbow, and tightening to the wrists. The latter were encircled with white rufles which displayed to the best advantage his small woman's hands, with their long tapering fingers. His trunks were of the same colour as his doublet, and descended to his knees, covering the tops of his grey

silk hose. His shoes were of a light-brown colour, with gold buckles of star shape and diamond centre. His waist was girt with a gold-threaded belt, fastened by a gold buckle.

Advance, man, advance," said the King, in an easy tone of familiarity, “and let us know where you have been loitering this week gone, and why you come to us now in as little order as if you had been riding with a witch a broomstick-race to the moon, and had not had time to dust your cloudy cobwebs off.”'

“So please your Majesty," answered Cochrane, approaching slowly, “I have been riding far and fast-_-"

look like it, for your appearance is that of one who has outridden his courtesy.

At this Leonard, the smith, and Torphichen, the fat master of fence, despite the presence, or possibly on account of it, grinned at the jocular rebuke, and with apparent difficulty suppressed their laughter.

Rogers smiled quietly; Hommel, the tailor, opened his mouth wide and suddenly shut it, as if he had been about to give vent to a loud guffaw and had checked himself in time.

The subject of these demonstrations was not at all pleased by them, but he affected not to observe anything nusual.

The King, however, was rather gratified by the success of his wit.

“I have been riding far," continued Cochrane; eyes were ever blessed with the sight of a fairer witch than my companion.”

“Save the mark!” exclaimed his Majesty, starting, and

“By my

faith, you

and no

a sorry lover."

involuntarily making the sign of the cross ; “ do you mean to tell us that you have come here after being in such unholy society ? Stand back, man ; there's a smell of sulphur about you.”

"The witch, sire, of whom I speak is only the lady who has become my wife.” “ That makes it worse and worse, for if you

have wived with a witch you'll be half a warlock by this time.”

“She is no witch in the sense your Majesty means, but a simple lady, and the daughter of Janfarie of Johnstone

Yes, yes; I mind, you left us for the purpose of getting wed. Why did you not say that before ?

“I had forgotten to remiud you, sire,” was the wily answer, “ because my thoughts were bent on graver matters.”

“Graver matters !-certes there are few graver matters than that of taking a wife. Let us know what you think of more gravity; it must be somewhat curious, or you are

“Has not your Majesty received a despatch from me?”
"Despatch ?-no!
Sir Robert looked slightly disturbed.

“Has nothing been brought to your Majesty by the hand of one Nicol Janfarie?

“Nothing that we have seen.”

“I bade him ride post-baste, and some ill must have happened him or he would have been here by cock-crow this morning."

The King cast a helplessly inquiring look at his attendants.

“Your Majesty will remember,” said Rogers, in a low, smooth voice,

“there was a youth arrived at this place this morning, and delivered a packet to you whilst you were walking in the court.”

His Majesty's face brightened.

“Thank you, Rogers; you are right, and the packet was placed in your hands that we might study its contents at leisure. Where is it now ?”

“ In the cabinet, sire.” 'Bring it forth.” Cochrane furtively bit his nether lip, for this indiffer

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »