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liberty? Art thou their trusty confidant in such matters ?— did they express their wishes secretly to thee ?
Without noticing the deep searching glance of Lindsay's eye as he eagerly made the important inquiry, and pursuing the advantage he had gained, the page, half-confusedly, halfblushingly, replied
“I am not the confidant of the Princesses, brave Lindsay, in this or in any other matter; but I can truthfully penetrate their thoughts, and, without any communication with them personally, can prophetically express their wishes. To the King, Lindsay-his Majesty will doubtless most willingly listen to thy plaint, and graciously grant the prayer of thy petition."
“I faithfully promise, De Lyon," warmly replied Sir James, whose lynx eyes failed to detect aught of deceit or treachery, " and I feel that His Majesty's love for the happiness of his children will constrain him to grant the coveted boon.”
The page, overjoyed and proud he had played his first desperate card in the game so well, with ill-suppressed gaiety most obsequiously proffered his respectful thanks for the courtesy extended to him by the now mollified and gracious Lindsay.
They parted—both firmly resolved to push unremittingly their suit with Ladye Jean!
His heart and interest being in the matter, Sir James most faithfully, and with a right good will, kept his promise to Lyon, and embraced the first opportunity to lay his petition before the King; and so well and powerfully did he plead their cause, that His Majesty, to the great joy of his kinsman, most graciously agreed that the Princesses should be at once freed from their bondage, and allowed to roam wherever they listed, taking blame at the sametime to himself for having so long allowed the Queen to keep his daughters in the durance vile of a convent cell.
This was just what Lyon in his inmost heart desired, and as his duties as domestic page brought him oftener into the presence of the royal dames than Lindsay, he had determined within himself that he would take advantage of every opportunity to prosecute his suit with Ladye Jean. In the fond dreamings of youthful passion there is infinitely more conveyed by the glance of the eye or the pressure of the hand than in all the formal declarations of mutual feeling, however impassioned or sincere; or in all the heaven-registered vows of unalterable affection and undying love in which the doubtful and mistrustful so fatally indulge. Lyon therefore knew, before any formal declaration of his love had been made to Ladye Jean, that his passion was reciprocated by the Princess, but he still anxiously waited for a fitting opportunity to receive her willing assent to his suit.
Ladye Jean was alone one evening in her favourite boudoir, to which De Lyon stealthily repaired, and on bended knee made the customary obeisance. He slowly raised his eyes to those of the Princess, and felt that his passionate love was read and returned. One moment more and they were fervently locked in each other's embrace, avowing their mutual love, and declaring unalterable constancy and fidelity in whatever circumstances might intervene before the full fruition of their hopes. Strange as it may seem, however, no
ay seem, however, no sooner was the conquest gained than dark foreboding fears usurped the cruel mastery in De Lyon's mind; for how could he, an obscure page, successfully aspire to the hand of a Princess, and willingly be allowed to wed the favourite child of a proud and royal race ?
True, inter-marriages had frequently taken place between sons and daughters of Scottish Kings and the representatives of ancient and powerful families, but John De Lyon had neither houses nor lands, not even a rood of ground he could
The arrival at this juncture, however, of a polished stranger from the Court of France gave a new and darker current to the thoughts of the sorrowful page. This courtier was none other than the brave Sir Maurice De Charollés, famous as well
for his conquests amongst the fair as for his prodigies of valour in the field of battle. His stately person, courtly mien, and high intellectual attainments made him a general favourite with all, but especially so with the Princesses and ladyes of the Court. At the stirring chase, as well as in the banquet hall, he was equally successful by his refined and captivating manner in winning the good graces of the fair. Then, at evening's witching hour, when the ladyes assembled in their tapestry-adorned boudoirs, would the practised and polished Frenchman sing to the accompaniment of the harp the stirring songs of love and chivalry
While bosoms heaved the stifled sigh,
And ladyes drooped the languid eye. And none seemed so charmed with his presence and courtly demeanour, and to none, apparently, did he devote so much of his fascinating attentions as—Ladye Jean !
All the movements of the gallant cavalier had been closely watched by Lyon, as well as those of his ladye-love, but just as his feelings of jealousy had assumed the determination to seek an interview with Ladye Jean on the subject, the announcement was made in the palace that previous to the departure of the French knight he had desired to paint not only the portraits of all the Princesses, but to take them with him to the French Court. This openly avowed intention of De Charollés confirmed the page's suspicions, and intensified his fears lest, under this device, he might the more securely carry out his covert design to spirit off the Ladye Jean herself to France.
Exasperated by the apparent artful stratagems of the gallant knight, and writhing under the pangs of almost hopeless despair, he sought in haste his ladye-love, and in wild and passionate language poured into her ear his tale of jealous rivalry and gloomy, dark forebodings as to their future destiny.
The Princess—ignorant of any intrigue or deceit on her part—in wild amazement confidingly exclaimed
“ Is there no hope, De Lyon--no hope ?”
Yes, there is hope," the page replied ; "a plan have I matured which, if properly put in execution, will not only avert from us the threatened danger, and happily result in our loving betrothal, but upon you more than on myself, will depend its final and successful issue.”
“On me, more than on yourself, will depend the successful issue ?” rejoined the Princess.
or artful stratagem, I fear. Unfold at once your scheme, De Lyon, that I may judge of its fitness to promote the end in view.”
With deep and bated breath, as on the issue hung his future fate, did Lyon, with the warmest protestations of undying love, effectually pave the way for the expected revelation of his self-lauded plan, and then, lowering his thick and husky voice to its lowest hollow notes, he whispered in the lady's ear some words of ominous import-for, quickly and proudly raising her indignant head, the Princess hastily replied
“No! such foul disgrace shall never stain the unsullied honour of our kingly race. Lyon, I love thee—but we must part-now-for ever. Such impure thoughts would break
— my bursting heart. Farewell ! ”
"But 'tis the semblance, love, of crime—not crime itself," entreatingly replied the page, seizing affectionately at the same time the hand of the Princess to prevent her escape, while he passionately continued—“ Time, assuredly, in the end, will bring our coveted reward, and to the Court and all the world most clearly and effectually prove your innocence.”
“ Never, never !” replied the Princess disdainfully, thrusting away his hand.
“There's not a dame in all the land, however lowly or meanly born, but would scorn such a treacherous, villanous scheme, and indignantly spurn a plan so full of shame and dire disgrace."
“ Thou dost not love me, Ladye Jean,” in a highly assumed, offended tone, the page rejoined. “By treachery and stealth some other knight hath gained thy love, and now, forsooth, thou art glad to rid thee of my presence."
“ 'Tis false, 'tis false! Thy daring scheme in all its most minute details unfold, and though it may require the heart of a lion to crown it with victory, that bitter taunt I'll prove was to me most cruel and undeserved."
Lyon, skilled in all the phases of the human heart, now dexterously pursued the advantage he had gained, and in passionate and eloquent terms strove to reach the point he had hitherto attempted in vain, when, to his great joy, the Princess gradually relented, until at last she gave her willing consent to the mysterious compact.
A bold scheme assuredly it was which Lyon had conceived and now unfolded to the Princess. The dark proposal, so full of risk and danger, he had made to the spotless maiden, was none other than this—that at the fit season she should permit the slanderous rumour that the French knight, by wily, flattering tongue, had gained the mastery over her young and inexperienced heart, and that the intrigue would disgrace the hitherto unimpeachable honour of her stainless
“But art thou sure,” abashed and doubtingly inquired the Princess, “ that when the dark report shall reach the ear of my father the King, he will listen to thy proffered plea, and willingly give my hand to thee?"
“Yes, yes !" impetuously replied the page," although thou dost not fully comprehend, the end will be in reality what we wish. Act thou thy part.-Farewell !"
“ 'Tis well,” rejoined the Princess, sadly, “yet how in my virgin heart of innocence I loathe the despicable plot. Farewell !"
The time fixed upon for the departure of De Charolles had now arrived, when, in courtly terms to the Court, and gallant adieux to the ladyes fair, the cavalier took his leave, and, attended by a splendid retinue, he disappeared in as gay and stately a manner as he had arrived.
The knight had not been long gone when some strange, undefined sickness confined the Ladye Jean to her own