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IN LOVE AND WAR.

CHAPTER I.

THE HOT TROD.

“He's ta’en her by the milk-white hand,

And by the grass-green sleeve.
He's mounted her high behind himsel',
At her kinsmen spear'd na leave."

Katherine Janfarie. “BRING out the hounds, Nicol," shouted Sir Hugh Janfarie, the Knight of Johnstone Tower, to his second son; and then to one of his men: "You fetch me a burning sod. It shall be a Hot Trod, and by the Sacred Mother a hotter trod than has been known on the Border this while."

He mounted his horse and took his place at the head of his men; a leash of hounds was brought from the kennel, and the party started at a round pace.

Nicol rode in advance, carrying a burning turf on the point of a spear, to denote to all men that they had declared hue and cry against a marauder, and that they were in hot pursuit. The fiery symbol of their purpose, according to the law of the Marches, protected them from interruption so long as they molested none save the enemy they pursued. The same law doomed to death any who might attempt to bar the way of those

who, with proper reason, were following the track of an offender.

Katherine Janfarie, Sir Hugh's only daughter, and Sir Bertrand Gordon, the Laird of Lamington, were the offenders, and the objects of this fierce pursuit.

B

down upon

Sir Hugh had that day forced his daughter into marriage with Sir Robert Cochrane, the chief favourite of the king, James III. ; Katherine had wept, implored, defied-refused even in presence of the priest to accept the man chosen by her parents as her husband—but all without avail. The ceremony proceeded, and she was declared to be duly wedded to Cochrane. Kinsmen and retainers were hospitably entertained; bonfires were prepared, and sports went forward just as if it had been one of the happiest matches ever known on the Border.

A marauding expedition of Sir Hugh and his two sons - Richard, the master of Johnstone, and Nicol—had drawn

them the wrath of the Duke of Albany, then Lord Warden of the Marches. He had seized the greater part of their holdings, threatened to lay waste their home, and to drive them from the land, root and branch. As Albany was then in high favour with the English Court, the Janfaries could not hope for any succour from that quarter. Under ordinary circumstances they might have calculated upon such succour. Their sole hope of rescue centred in King James, and he could only be reached successfully through his favourite, Cochrane. Him Sir Hugh sought, knowing that he had no kindly regard for the king's brother, Albany; and whatever might have been the nature of their interview, the result was that Cochrane pledged himself to restore the lands of Sir Hugh, and to protect him from Albany's vengeance. He fulfilled his pledge to the letter.

That was the service he had rendered the family, and the price was the hand of Katherine Janfarie.

To those who knew Cochrane, the price seemed a poor one for so much service; but none doubted that he had good reasons for making such a bargain, and for insisting upon its fulfilment in despite of the objections the lady raised. He had reasons, and potent ones.

His influence over the king seemed to increase daily ; but, in proportion, the hate with which he was regarded by the noblemen whose places he usurped at Court, and by the people whose rights he trampled upon, also increased. On this account he sought alliance with some family, at whose command a sufficiently considerable force could be brought into the feld to serve in a degree as a protection against his enemies. There were other reasons for his present course, but they were known only to himself; and he kept bis own counsel.

The rejoicings were at their height, when Sir Bertrand Gordon made his way secretly into the tower. The unhappy bride, who, with despairing hope, had looked for his coming, met her lover. They passed unseen to the court; he lifted her up beside him on his horse, Falcon, and before a hand could be raised to stay them, they were through the gateway and beyond reach. Then ensued wild confusion, exclamations of rage,

and threats of vengeance.

The bridegroom and the elder brother Richard were the first mounted and in pursuit. But it was not long before Sir Hugh had raised the symbol of the hot-trod, and, with fifty picked men, his kinsmen, Musgrave and Fenwick, by his side, and sure-scented hounds to guide them, followed in the track of the lovers.

The darkening gloaming favoured the fugitives as they were borne along by the swift-footed horse. Falcon proved himself worthy of his name, and every encouraging sound of his master's voice seemed to inspire him with new strength; he seemed to have almost a human sense of the perilous venture in which he played so prominent a part.

The horse dashed through the shadows which seemed like giant forms reaching towards him to bar the way, and which were baffled by his speed. Now the black irregular line of the Annan water came in view; and as Falcon approached the ford in the direction of which he had been guided, it became evident that his strength was failing. He had been ridden far and fast that day to reach Johnstone Tower, and now the unusual strain that had been put upon his power began to tell.

This Lamington would fain have concealed from his companion, but she was quick to observe how much more frequently he required to speak, urging the jaded animal forward. When they had forded the Annan, voice and spur prompted Falcon into a gallop, but the effort he made was apparent. His pace was slower, he snorted heavily at every bound, and those grim shadows of surrounding objects seemed to stoop closer and longer over him.

“If he should fail us now,” she said, raising her pale face," they will overtake us and they will kill you.”

“Have no fear. Falcon will hold out until we reach

Dumfries, and there I hope to find a friend waiting with fresh horses to carry us in safety to our journey's end."

Safety,” she echoed, doubtingly. “Ah, Bertrand, where in all Scotland shall we find that now? We have made relentless enemies of my father and my brothers, and there is no resting-place to which they will not follow us.”

“I do not fear that, either; for, give me only a few days, and I will satisfy them that I have rescued

you

from the hands of a villain-one so foul at heart that, knowing him, no man would stir a step in his cause.”

“You will never satisfy them of that.”
“Well, if the worst happen, we can defend ourselves.”

She started suddenly, straining her eyes into the gloom behind. “ Did you

hear?" she cried.
“I heard nothing but the wind.”
“It was like the baying of a hound.”

“That might have been, and yet give us no cause for trouble. But it is your fancy that plays tricks with you. Come, Falcon, lad, complete the work you have begun so well. On, lad, on; there is only a little space to cover now.”

Katherine was silenced, but not satisfied.

The horse responded to the new command with a mighty effort; but his speed soon relaxed again, to be again quickened by voice and spur.

The constant effort to sustain the horse became almost as fatiguing to the rider as the exertion it produced was to the animal. A fair speed, however, was maintained; and at length, as they neared Dumfries, the towers of Grey Friars and St. Michael loomed up darkly against the lowering sky. Then Bertrand permitted Falcon to slacken pace,

and enter the town at a jaded walk. The douce burgesses, who in those days 'observed the simple rule of bedding soon after sunset and rising with the lark, had, for the most part, retired to rest, and were undisturbed by the ring of the horse's slow steps. There were, however, gleams of light in a few windows where a late feast or sickness caused some of the folk to make a breach in the rnle. A pale sickly light illumed several of the windows of the monastery of Grey Friars—in the chapel of which Comyn was slain by Bruce and his followers. The black outline of the ancient castle of the Maxwells rose protectingly above the sleeping town, and the lights gleaming through the portholes of the guard-house indicated that watch and ward were observed.

The better to avoid the curious gaze of any loiterer, Lamington passed down by the warder's dyke towards the Nith. On reaching the margin of the broad waste called the Sands, which were at high tide covered with water, and at the ebb left bare and yellow, he turned in the direction of the bridge of Devorgilla.

Almost opposite to the bridge, and distant from it not more than two hundred yards, was a square, white house, of two storeys in height, and roofed with thick, brown thatch. It had a squat, comfortable look in daylight, and stood in the midst of a cluster of small houses. It had three entrance doors, one giving to the High Street, the second, an equally important one, giving to the bridge ; and the third, at the side, was used only for communication with the stables. This was the principal hostelry of the town, and was called the Royal Hunt, on account of its having been the resting-place of the king's party on the way to the royal forest of Kells. Matthew Hislop was the vintner, and he was soon brought to the door by the loud summons of Lamington, although the house had been closed for the night.

The vintner was a stout fellow of middle age, who before he had settled down to his present occupation had proved the strength of his limbs in many a Border wrestling bout, and in not a few fights of a more questionable character.

He stared in some astonishment at the appearance of the cavalier and the lady with one horse. The worn-out appearance of the latter, its hide covered with foam and bespattered with mud, were suggestive of a ride that had not been altogether one of pleasure. Whatever suspicions might have been aroused in his mind, he was not permitted to express them, even if he had intended to do so.

Bertrand hastily inquired if he had any guest waiting for a friend.

“Was there any sign?” queried the vintner, cautiously,

Yes, the man's belt is buckled with a boar's head such as this."

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