« PreviousContinue »
Opening his cloak the knight displayed the silver buckle of his own sword-belt, which was formed like a boar's head.
“It's the Gordon,” muttered Hislop, recognizing the badge of the family; “na, the chiel ye want is no here.”
Lamington gave vent to an exclamation of disappointment, and then, hastily: "Show me your best chamber, and get the horse taken to the stable. There are twenty crowns for
you if you serve me faithfully to-night.” This promise infused sudden alacrity into the movements of the host; and whilst he conducted his guests to his principal chamber upstairs, an ostler took the horse round to the stable.
The vintner, promptly obeying the orders he had received, spread the table with the best repast his larder could supply at the moment; and whilst he was thus occupied, Lamington questioned him as to the possibility of obtaining a couple of good horses.
“ There's no a brute in the stable that could travel five miles the night," was the disappointing answer.
“ Can you not borrow from some of your neighbours ? "
“No-at any rate, I cannot think o' ane that could oblige ye, for the morn's fair-day at Lockerbie, and a' the horse and cattle that's worth a straw are awa' there."
“We must wait, then, for Will's arrival, or we must start again after Falcon has had a rest,' was the disagreeable conclusion which the knight was compelled to accept.
Hislop was retiring, when he was stayed by Lamington touching his arm.
“See you, master vintner, should ill luck bring you other guests to-night, than the man we are looking for, give us timely warning; and take heed that they know nothing of our presence here. Be faithful, and the twenty crowns may be doubled.”
“I ken what's what," nodded the vintner discreetly, "and I gie you my word that nae harm shall come to ye or the bonnie lady in my house."
“Enough, see you to the comfort of my horse; we may have to depend on his speed again.”
The door closed upon Hislop, and Gordon turned to the lady.
"Say, should we scorn joy's transient beams
Glenfinlas. The room was long and narrow, with two windows opening to the high street. It was lit by a cresset hanging from the low roof by an iron chain. The light scattered the darkness from the centre of the chamber, but permitted it to form in dark shadows in the corners, and to give the larger pieces of the massive furniture a gloomy aspect. The feeble light, the big shadows, and the quietude of the night, rendered the appearance of the apartment cold and dismal.
Lamington was surprised to see Katherine with her head bowed on the table and her hands clasped as if she were in pain. Anxiously he raised her head and gazed in her eyes, which were full of tears. · Katherine, do
your courage has forsaken
She answered him low and tremulously.
No, Bertrand; I do not fear our fate, whatever thai may be; but I fear the course which has led us to it.”
“You mean that you are calmer now, and that you regret the sacrifice you have made for
sake ? " “Not that; I regret nothing that is done for your sake, and had you come to me before they had forced me to the altar I would have been happy now, and could have met the dangers that arise at every step with a firm heart.”
Why then be sad ?
“They told me I was his wife—and Heaven itself frowns
the woman who breaks the sacred tie of wedlock. He has the right to claim me, to drag me from you, and the mighty voice of the Church supports his claim. Whilst he lives I can never call you
husband.” “You made no vow," he cried earnestly; "you were forced to the altar; the coward priest, who was unworthy
of his high office, performed the ceremony in terror of his own wretched life; and the Church will refuse to acknowledge such a mockery of its most holy rites."
“ If that be so, a wcary burden is lifted from my heart.”
“It is so, as you shall find before many hours are past. I carry you now to the Abbot Panther, and he shall protect you until the Pope himself shall have annulled every claim that Cochrane might have upon you.
A few weeks will suffice to obtain your release, and until then regard me as your friend-your brother who devotes his life to your happinesg."
* You give me new strength, and henceforth you shall find me as fearless and unfaltering as yourself.”
He pressed her hand respectfully to his lips.
- That is Katherine Janfarie who is speaking now, and not the timid maiden who trembles at the shadows of her own fancy. Remember, there must be no more doubts-no more lingering looks cast backward, or I shall doubt your love."
She clasped his arms spasmodically.
“You must never doubt that,” she cried, " for it would kill me.
I have forsaken all the world for you. I have staked even the good name, which is my highest treasure; and if you doubt me after that, there is nothing more to live for.”
“I will never dobut,” he said, in a low, passionate tone, “until you yourself shall say you wish you had not loved me."
“When you prove false, my misery may wring from me such a cry as that, but no other power can move me to it.”
“And when I do prove false you shall have the right to spurn me.”
Their eyes were bright with confidence, undimmed by any speck of dread of the possible terrors the future might have in store.
“ Come,” he said presently, with a happy laugh, “I sce the tears are gone from your eyes, which tell me that all doubt has vanished from your mind. Be ever so-look always thus, and you will find mo always at your feetyour slave. Ay, by my faith, as much your slave when wedded years have passed, with all their petty bickerings,
as now, when we are looking to the future through the bright halo of hopeful love."
"That is a pledge,” she said, affected by his good humour, and the grave trouble of her visage disappeared in a smile.
“A pledge it is, and you shall christen it with me in this wine. Come, we will be merry while we have this moment to rest, and I will describe our course to you.”
He spoke with the ease of one unconscious of danger, and with the gaiety of one who is perfectly happy. This naturally influenced her, and before many minutes had passed she was almost as merry as if there were no peril
“First, I have to place you under the safe keeping of Abbot Panther," he procceded gaily; "he is one who fears
; neither king nor baron. He has the power, and I believe he has the will to serve me. I journeyed with him from France, where he is Abbot of Poitou; and I have a tryst with him at Kells. He is the Pope's Legate, and once under his protection the king himself will hesitate to force your inclination, even in behoof of his favourite, Cochrane."
“But the king will visit his displeasure with him on you.”
“Most like he will; but there is a way by which I hope to overcome it. His brothers, Albany and Mar, hold me in some esteem-I dare swear esteem as high as their dislike for Cochrane is deep.
With their aid I hope to satisfy our royal master that in this matter I have done nothing save that which an honourable gentleman must have done; and that in other matters I have served him best when he condemned me most-in proving the falseness of the knave who is now chief in his counsels."
“ Take heed, Bertrand, take heed; it is a dangerous path you seek to tread.”
“ The more honour in the victory.”
If it were in the field of battle that
you had to prove yourself, I would buckle on your sword, and watch with proud eyes your steps to victory-or death” (trembling a little at that word). “ I have no fear when the foeman stands declared before you in the light of day. Then I would pray the Sacred Mother to watch over you, and could wait the issue
calmly. But in this course you mark out, you have to deal with wolves and foxes in the dark, scarce knowing who is your friend and who your enemy. It is not the sword of a gentleman that can protect you; you must wield the weapons of the knaves you fight against; cunning must be your brand, and artifice
shield.” “Be it so; at least I shall use them honestly, and for a worthy purpose."
Why use them at all ?
“Then why seek such justice? Why not be content in having that man's claim to me annulled, and in taking me to your home? We can be very happy there, making a world of our own, whilst all the storms and miseries of ambition and intrigue pass by us unheeded."
His brow became clouded, and his hands clenched. Then sadly
“My home, Katherine--have you forgotten ?-my home is where my sword or wit may cleave a way for me.
The old tower stands yonder by the eerie Loch of Var, and it will give us shelter from the wind and rain when the need
But it can give us no protection from the spite of men. It is garrisoned by two old servitors who have been faithful to our house in its misfortune as in its triumph, and their son—the fellow who should have met us here. They are strong enough to hold it, for it owns nothing that is worth a.ly man's lifting. The lands around it, which once gave its owners the right to stand abreast with the foremost of the country, are not ours now, but the king's, since my father was falsely charged with aiding Douglas in slaying Maclellan of Bombie. That sentence must be revoked; those lands must he restored to me before I cease to war with whatever weapons my.
demand.” Katherine's reply was interrupted by the baying of a hound, and the clatter of horses' hoofs rising above the whistling of the wind.
Bertrand sprang to the casement, and, slightly parting the hangings, peered forth. He saw two horsemen disappearing in the direction of the stable.
“If I am not happily mistaken," he whispered hurriedly, “it is your brother and Cochrane who have made upon us. We must try Falcon again."