At Forres Palace the Scottish court enjoyed the euphoria of victory, but King Duncan was ensuring justice was to be done.
“Has Cawdor been executed?” King Duncan asked, agitated. “Have the officers in commission returned?”
“Your Majesty,” said his son Malcolm, “we still await their return. But I’ve spoken to someone who saw Cawdor die. He confessed his treasons very frankly, implored Your Majesty’s pardon and repented deeply as he faced the sword. He died as though this was the moment he had long for, to throw away his life as though it were worthless.”
“There is no understanding from a man’s face what is going on in his mind. I trusted him completely,” King Duncan said.
The King paused in a melancholy manner, still stung by the betrayal but he was soon cheered by the arrival of Macbeth with the Lords Banquo, Ross and Angus.
“Oh, worthiest cousin! The sin of ingratitude still weighs upon me. Macbeth, you have achieved so much that my rewards can’t keep up with you! Had you deserved less, then my thanks and payment may already have been ample. I can only say that more is your due than I can ever hope to pay.”
“Your Majesty, the privilege of serving you is the only reward I need. Your Majesty’s duty is to receive our service to your throne and state, your children and servants. We do only what we are bound to do by protecting your love and honour.”
“You are welcome here. I will cultivate your position, Macbeth. I will ensure you prosper! Banquo, you are no less worthy and your worth will be recognised. Come, let me hold you to my heart.”
“If I thrive there, Your Majesty, the harvest will be yours alone ,” said Banquo.
“This has been a day of many joys. Soon there will be tears! Sons, kinsmen, thanes and members of the court hear that I have decreed that Malcolm, my eldest son, will be my successor. From now on he will be the Prince of Cumberland. He will not be the only one I will invest with titles. Signs of nobleness shall shine like stars on the deserving. Now on this great day let us leave for Macbeth’s castle at Inverness to bind our bonds still further.”
“A privilege, You Majesty! But you must leave the labours of preparation to me. I’ll ride on ahead and give my wife the good news of your impending arrival. Humbly, I take my leave,” Macbeth said
“Go, my worthy Cawdor!” the King exclaimed.
As he rode to Inverness Macbeth repeatedly recalled the prophecies of the weird sisters. The excitement of hearing those promises exhilarated and tortured him simultaneously. The Prince of Cumberland, Macbeth said to himself, that’s a step I must leap over or it will fell me, for it lies in my way. Stars, he said, as if calling out to the future, hide your fires. Let no light see my deep black desires. My eyes know what my hands will be doing, but let them blink and see nothing!
Meanwhile the King’s party prepared to leave Forres for Inverness.
“Well, worthy Banquo,” King Duncan said, “your friend Macbeth is so valiant. His merits are like a banquet for my mind. Let’s follow him now to enjoy his hospitality. He is a peerless kinsman.”