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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Order of Knighthood
By Grace Aguilar (1816–1847)
 
From ‘The Days of Bruce’

A RIGHT noble and glorious scene did the great hall of the palace present the morning which followed this eventful night. The king, surrounded by his highest prelates and nobles, mingling indiscriminately with the high-born dames and maidens of his court, all splendidly attired, occupied the upper part of the hall, the rest of which was crowded by both his military followers and many of the good citizens of Scone, who flocked in great numbers to behold the august ceremony of the day. Two immense oaken doors at the south side of the hall were flung open, and through them was discerned the large space forming the palace yard, prepared as a tilting-ground, where the new-made knights were to prove their skill. The storm had given place to a soft, breezy morning, the cool freshness of which appeared peculiarly grateful from the oppressiveness of the night; light downy clouds sailed over the blue expanse of heaven, tempering without clouding the brilliant rays of the sun. Every face was clothed with smiles, and the loud shouts which hailed the youthful candidates for knighthood, as they severally entered, told well the feeling with which the patriots of Scotland were regarded.  1
  Some twenty youths received the envied honor at the hand of their sovereign this day; but our limits forbid a minute scrutiny of the bearing of any, however well deserving, save of the two whose vigils have already detained us so long. A yet longer and louder shout proclaimed the appearance of the youngest scion of the house of Bruce and his companion. The daring patriotism of Isabella of Buchan had enshrined her in every heart, and so disposed all men towards her children that the name of their traitorous father was forgotten.  2
  Led by their godfathers, Nigel by his brother-in-law Sir Christopher Seaton, and Alan by the Earl of Lennox, their swords, which had been blessed by the abbot at the altar, slung round their necks, they advanced up the hall. There was a glow on the cheek of the young Alan, in which pride and modesty were mingled; his step at first was unsteady and his lip was seen to quiver from very bashfulness, as he first glanced round the hall and felt that every eye was turned toward him; but when that glance met his mother’s fixed on him, and breathing that might of love that filled her heart, all boyish tremors fled, the calm, staid resolve of manhood took the place of the varying glow upon his cheek, the quivering lip became compressed and firm, and his step faltered not again.  3
  The cheek of Nigel Bruce was pale, but there was firmness in the glance of his bright eye, and a smile unclouded in its joyance on his lip. The frivolous lightness of the courtier, the mad bravado of knight-errantry, which was not uncommon to the times, indeed, were not there. It was the quiet courage of the resolved warrior, the calm of a spirit at peace with itself, shedding its own high feeling and poetic glory over all around him.  4
  On reaching the foot of King Robert’s throne, both youths knelt and laid their sheathed swords at his feet. Their armor-bearers then approached, and the ceremony of clothing the candidates in steel commenced; the golden spur was fastened on the left foot of each by his respective godfather, while Athol, Hay, and other nobles advanced to do honor to the youths, by aiding in the ceremony. Nor was it warriors alone.  5
  “Is this permitted, lady?” demanded the king, smiling, as the Countess of Buchan approached the martial group, and, aided by Lennox, fastened the polished cuirass on the form of her son. “Is it permitted for a matron to arm a youthful knight? Is there no maiden to do such inspiring office?”  6
  “Yes, when the knight is one like this, my liege,” she answered, in the same tone. “Let a matron arm him, good my liege,” she added, sadly: “let a mother’s hand enwrap his boyish limbs in steel, a mother’s blessing mark him thine and Scotland’s, that those who watch his bearing in the battle-field may know who sent him there, may thrill his heart with memories of her who stands alone of her ancestral line, that though he bears the name of Comyn, the blood of Fife flows reddest in his veins!”  7
  “Arm him and welcome, noble lady,” answered the king, and a buzz of approbation ran through the hall; “and may thy noble spirit and dauntless loyalty inspire him: we shall not need a trusty follower while such as he are around us. Yet, in very deed, my youthful knight must have a lady fair for whom he tilts to-day. Come hither, Isoline, thou lookest verily inclined to envy thy sweet friend her office, and nothing loth to have a loyal knight thyself. Come, come, my pretty one, no blushing now. Lennox, guide those tiny hands aright.”  8
  Laughing and blushing, Isoline, the daughter of Lady Campbell, a sister of the Bruce, a graceful child of some thirteen summers, advanced nothing loth, to obey her royal uncle’s summons; and an arch smile of real enjoyment irresistibly stole over the countenance of Alan, dispersing the emotion his mother’s words produced.  9
  “Nay, tremble not, sweet one,” the king continued, in a lower and yet kinder tone, as he turned from the one youth to the other, and observed that Agnes, overpowered by emotion, had scarcely power to perform her part, despite the whispered words of encouraging affection Nigel murmured in her ear. One by one the cuirass and shoulder-pieces, the greaves and gauntlets, the gorget and brassards, the joints of which were so beautifully burnished that they shone as mirrors, and so flexible that every limb had its free use, enveloped those manly forms. Their swords once again girt to their sides, and once more kneeling, the king descended from his throne, alternately dubbing them knight in the name of God, St. Michael, and St. George.  10
 
 
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