Earl John of Islay and many of his neighbours were now paying homage to both Norway and Scotland. The isle of Gigha, which had been a possession of Alpin of Bute, had been bestowed at that chief's death upon his younger son Roderic. But Roderic, as has been told, had gone over entirely to King Hakon, and had refused to acknowledge his vassalage to his rightful sovereign of Scotland.
"I charge Roderic MacAlpin, king of Gigha," said Alpin, and at that there was a great yell of execration. "Down with the traitor! Death to him!" was the cry as the crowd opened. And Alpin turning round saw Duncan Graham taller by a head than the tallest man there present leading in the criminal, followed by his two companions of Colonsay and Jura. In a moment Alpin sprang forward at his enemy.
"Begone!" was her word, "take your shame out of my sight; leave me with clean folk. I am a daughter of Alpin! Shame of the sons of Alpin, begone!" It was said with so much passion as awoke me from the horror of my own bloodied sword. The two stood facing, she with the red stain on her kerchief, he white as a rag.
'Tis strange, is it not, Master Alpin, what a piece of steel can do?" And then, first looking at its point, he laid the long knife carelessly upon the shelf above the hearth.
"It was your own brother Alpin who is dead, my lord," said David Blair. "What! and you would have me punish one who so defended my own brother?" cried Kenric. "No, David Blair, I cannot do it."
"There is no youth in all Bute whom I would rather take with me," said Kenric, "for I have now no comrade of my own years since my brother Alpin is no longer alive; and methinks that Allan might well become to me the true friend that he ever was to Alpin. If he will come with me even now I will take him across to Castle Ranza, and we may then speak of our approaching journey."
Blane's, for our good Abbot Godfrey bade me be with him ere nightfall. Where is your brother Allan? Say, was he of those who went with my father and Alpin to the punting in Glen More this forenoon?" But Ailsa was again weeping over the fate of her water ouzels and did not answer him. Ailsa was some two years younger than himself. They had been companions from the time of their infancy.
It is not the worthless fine of a few score of cattle that would repay me for the loss of my dear husband. No, no. A life for a life. Earl Roderic has cruelly slain our good and noble lord, and now I demand a speedy vengeance." She flung herself on her knees before her son Alpin.
Look at them both. Alpin is fresh and lithe as a young stag. Ah, Roderic, methinks your hour has surely come!" Alpin dressed the end of his plaid about his left arm and pulled out his sword. He stood at five paces from his foe. Then both swerved about with their heads bent forward. Still keeping apart, eyeing one the other, round and round they traversed.
While the earl and his steward were thus engaged, a tall seneschal with his serving men came into the hall to clear away the remains of the banquet; and as the old minstrel left his place at the fireside to continue his harping in the supping room of the guards, the two lads, Alpin of Bute and Allan Redmain, stepped to the hearth to hold converse with the three guests.