Lennox rode, alone, by an indirect route, to a late night meeting with a friend about matters that deeply worried him and some other Scottish noblemen. He wore a disguise.
He arrived at the castle of his friend and entered by a small gate at the side. Over dinner he spoke cautiously at first.
‘In our former conversations I only hinted at these matters. I still say only that things have been done in a strange way. Macbeth pitied the gracious Duncan and, snap! Duncan was dead! And the brave Banquo was out too late. You can, if you like, say that Fleance killed him. Because Fleance fled, didn’t he?’ Lennox shook his head. ‘The moral is, it’s foolish to be out so late. And who can help thinking how monstrous it was for Malcolm and Donalbain to kill their gracious father? How it grieved Macbeth! Didn’t he immediately kill the two criminals, who were in the grip of drink and sleep? In pious rage? Wasn’t that a good thing? Yes and very wise, too, because it would only have infuriated anyone who had heard them deny it! So, I think, all in all, that he’s behaved most admirably. And I also think that if he had Duncan’s sons under lock and key – which please God he won’t! – they’d soon find out what it means to kill a father. And so would Fleance!’
Lennox’s friend put a hand on his arm. The two men sat in silence for a few moments then Lennox spoke again:
‘Anyway, for being so outspoken and for absenting himself from the tyrant’s feast, I hear Macduff’s in disgrace. Do you know where he is?’
His friend nodded. ‘Duncan’s son, whose birthright the tyrant stole, has gone to the English court. He’s been received most graciously by the pious Edward. Macduff’s gone there. Malcolm’s got the holy king’s support in persuading the Earl of Northumberland, whom they call Old Siward, and his son, the renowned Young Siward, to help us. With the assistance of those two and God we could restore food to our tables and sleep to our nights, instead of this feast of bloody knives we’ve got at present: and so that we can pay homage to our rightful king and receive honest rewards – things we’re longing for now. Well, anyway, this news from England has so enraged the tyrant that he’s preparing for war.’
‘Did Macbeth send to Macduff to command him to attend the feast?’ said Lennox.
‘He did, and when he got a blank refusal – ‘Sir, not I’ – the surly messenger turned his back and muttered darkly, as though to say, ‘You’ll regret this.’’
‘Hmmm,’ said Lennox. ‘And that might well make him cautious. If he’s got any sense he’ll stay as far away as possible. I wish some holy angel would fly to the court of England and bring us a message from him before he returns so that our country, suffering under an accursed hand, can live in hope.’
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