Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/37

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
29
THE BORDER EAGLE

before my lord; my lord gave his rapid, lucid orders, and, as he was lounging out again, put up his eye-glass at Erceldoune.

"Messengership? We've too many messengers already," he said, cutting in two the reply of the Board to his interrogation. "Only ride over one another's way, and lose half the bags among them. Who are you, sir?"

"Fulke Erceldoune," said the Border lord, with no birthright but some barren acres of heather, returning the great Minister's stare as calmly and as haughtily; insolence he would not have brooked from an emperor.

"Erceldoune! God bless my soul, your father and I were like brothers once," said his lordship, breaking off his sharp autocratic cross-examination for the sanz fa├žon good-hearted familiarity of tone, most usual and congenial to him. Not a very holy fraternity either! Monks of Medmenham! Who sent you up for a messengership? Lord Longbourn? Ah! very happy to appoint you. Go in for your examination as soon as you like."

I thank you, my lord, no. You hare said, 'You have too many messengers already.'

The minister stared a minute, and then laughed,

"Pooh, pooh! Never mind what I said! If