Now, when Alan began in this strain he was apt to wax high-flown, causing Sir Richard to laugh at him at times. So I said—
"This sounds well. But there is nought for you to undertake, that I can see."
After that we sat and looked out to the long line of the blue Quantocks and spoke of foreign wars. But the time for brave deeds was nearer than we thought, for that night came a messenger with stirring news, and after speaking with him Sir Richard sent for us two.
"Alan," he said, "I have strange news for you, and I do not know how you will take what I have to tell you. Nor do I rightly know what to do with you now. The other leaders of our cause will not suffer me to let you go free, as I would willingly, because they do your father the honour of thinking that his hand must be held. As for myself, I have forgotten that you are aught but a guest, and you please me."
Alan smiled, and made a little bow at that, but said nothing.
"Now I must go northwards," said the knight; "and at once. Ralph must see to my arms, and he will go with me, all the better squire for your companionship. There is a campaign on hand, as you may guess."
"Northward," said Alan thoughtfully. "Are the Scots on foot across the Border?"
"Ay; that they are."
"Why, then, let me go with you and help fight them, Sir Richard. That is England's quarrel—whether king or queen has right to the throne."
Sir Richard smiled grimly.
"Mostly that is so. But now Malcolm comes again as ally of his niece, and with his help we mean to set her on the throne. I fear you will not fight on my side."
"I cannot," answered Alan. "I had hoped this was but some new Border raid or public quarrel."