"And now," said Mannering, "since we have unwarily intruded upon your majesty at a moment of mirthful retirement, be pleased to say when you will indulge a stranger with an audience on those affairs of weight which have brought him to your northern capital."
The monarch opened Mac-Morlan's letter, and, running it hastily over, exclaimed, with his natural voice and. manner, "Lucy Bertram of Ellangowan, poor dear lassie!"
"A forfeit! a forfeit!" exclaimed a dozen voices; his majesty has forgot his kingly character."
"Not a whit! not a whit!" replied the king; "I'll be judged by this courteous knight. May not a monarch love a maid of low degree? Is not King Cophetua and the Beggar-maid, an adjudged case in point?"
"Professional! professional!--another forfeit," exclaimed the tumultuary nobility.
"Had not our royal predecessors," continued the monarch, exalting his sovereign voice to drown these disaffected clamours,--"Had they not their Jean Logies, their Bessie Carmichaels, their Oliphants, their Sandilands, and their Weirs, and shall it be denied to us even to name a maiden whom we delight to honour? Nay, then, sink state and perish sovereignty! for, like a second Charles V., we will abdicate, and seek in the private shades of life those pleasures which are denied to a throne."
So saying, he flung away his crown, and sprung from his exalted station with more agility than could have been expected from his age, ordered lights and a wash-hand basin and towel, with a cup of green tea, into another room, and made a sign to Mannering to accompany him. In less than two minutes he washed his face and hands, settled his wig in the glass, and, to Mannering's great surprise, looked quite a different man from the childish Bacchanal he bad seen a moment before.
"There are folks," he said, "Mr. Mannering, before whom one should take care how they play the fool--because they have either too much malice, or too little wit, as the poet says. The best compliment I can pay Colonel Mannering, is to show I am not ashamed to expose myself before him--and truly I think it is a compliment I have not spared to-night on your good-nature.--But what's that great strong fellow wanting?"