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He thrust all fancies aside, and setting himself firmly on bis seat galloped forward, skirting the wood, and, led by instinct or by fate, proceeded directly towards the ford of the Ken where those whom he pursued had crossed.

He had covered something more than half the distance between the Priory and the river, when bis pace was suddenly checked by the sound of a loud and anxious halloo, proceeding from amongst the trees.

He drew rein, for the voice sounded familiarly in his ears, and presently a large black dog bounded out from the wood towards him, followed immediately by Muckle Will. The hound danced sportively round about the horse's feet, and Will, with long swinging strides, ran up to his master.

The big, simple-looking fellow was very red in the face at this moment; his cheeks were swollen, and he was panting for breath as if he had been running some distance. He rested his band upon the horse, the while he looked eagerly in his master's face, making signs towards the river and uttering some sounds which were at first unintelligible.

"Take time, Will, take time," said the master, with difficulty controlling bis impatience so that his follower might not be farther excited; "take a long breath, and let me know what your grimacing means."

"The leddy, man, the leddy,” gasped Will, waving his hand in the direction whence he had come.

Lamington's blood tingled with hope.
“You have seen her,” he said quickly.

“Ay, doon yonder at the ford,” rejoined Will, still panting, but rapidly regaining his breath.

“ Wben-how-with whom ?”

Will stared a minute as if trying to fix the questions in his memory, and then

“Whan?-it was just as lang since as it has taken me to run frae the water to here. I was coming to ye at the Priory as ye direckit une last night, bnt I gaed roun' by the tower to warn the auld folks that ye was coming

“Yes, yes; but the lady?"

“Weel, I'm gaun to tell ye. I was comin' doon by Balmaclellan to join ye, when, just as I got near the ford, I heard a woman skirling like a kelpie, and syne, when I

a

got down to the hough, I saw the leddy—your leddyamong a wheen doomed scoundrels, and no a sowl to help her." “ Did

you make no attempt?' “What could Stark and me do among mair nor dozen ? We'd just have gotten our crouns cracked, and ye wouldna have heard a cheep about the business. Na, na; we havena muckle wit, but we have enough to keep whole bones when there's no chance of winning onything by broken anes. So we just got cannily by, and syne ran on to give ye warning."

“What road have they taken ? "

“The straight road through the Glenkens. They'll pass within bowshot of the tower.”

“Hasten on to the Priory, seek the Abbot, and acquaint him with what you have discovered. Then ask him to give you a horse, and follow me.”

“Ye dinna mean that ye are gaun on yoursel' to tackle a' thae loons with your ain band ?”

“I must pursue them. I have means of obtaining help when it is needed.”

“Ye're daft. They'll murder ye without speiring whether ye

like it or no."

“Do as I have told you, and overtake me if you can. They are sure to halt at some stage of their journey.”

“Let me gang wi' ye enoo,” pleaded the fellow.

“ You must have a horse-you cannot keep pace with me on foot."

“I might lift a brute at the first house we came to."

“How, sirrah? Do you propose that to me? Do as I have told you; it will be the quickest way in the end,

information will be of service to the Abbot.' "Let Stark gang wi'ye onyway; he'll keep ye on the right road after them. They're no riding unco fast, and maybe they'll be taking some by-roads ; but Stark will match them.”

Yes, let him go with me, and you come after us without delay."

“ I'll be with ye before ye hae gotten muckle farther than Black Larg”—then addressing himself to the dog and making excited gestures to help his words, he went on : “Here, Stark, take the road and follow the leddy,

and your

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man. Doon, doon! I'll soon be wi' ye. Be a guid dog and show the maister where the leddy is. Awa' wi' ye.”

The hound, as if understanding every word, gave vent to a loud yelp; and with nose bent to the ground, set off at full speed to the ford.

Lamington galloped after his strange guide, and Muckle Will started at a run for the Priory.

The dog led the way across the ford, and up to the mound on which Cochrane had halted to permit Katherine to recognize the Borderers, and to realize the helplessness of her position. Stark paused a moment there, and then with a short yelp continued the route, taking the road through the Glenkens which Muckle Will had suggested as the one Cochrane and his company had intended to follow.

The dark irregular line of Black Larg raised its giant form high above him, and the grim summits of the lesser mountains-grim in their bareness of vegetation, and with their dark brows of rock-seemed to gather around him as he advanced. At one point of the road his own tower of Lamington lay at only a short distance to the east, nearly at the foot of the Larg, which overshadowed and protected it. But he had no time to give a thought to his ancient home, to which, only a little while ago, he had hoped to lead a bride. It was a desolate enough place for a bride's retreat, but he had thought only of the brightness her presence would make there, and of the strength her love would give him to win back the lands and honour of his family.

But these thoughts were far removed now. like a hunter in full chase, and he had no heed for anything save the quarry.

At the base of the Larg, the road made a sudden and sharp ascent, and a spur of the mountain closed the view of the path he had to follow. Passing round this spur,

he suddenly came upon a man in friar's garb, standing in the middle of the way, so motionless that he might have been a figure of stone.

The hound sniffed at him, and with a growl passed on.

Lamington was guiding his horse so that he might pass without injuring the friar, and in acknowledgment of the office of which his hood and gown were the symbols, he

He was

inclined his head. The friar abruptly raised his band, warningly, and seemed desirous of speaking.

The rider halted, for at the movement the idea occurred to him that this man might be able to give him some information about Katherine and her captors.

CHAPTER XV.

THE DRUIDS' CIRCLE.

“ The ragged mountain's scanty cloak

Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak,
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black that waved so high,
It held the copse in rivalry."

SCOTT

BEFORE it could be brought to a stand, the horse had passed the friar and left him several yards bebind. Lamington waited for him to approach, and the man, observing this, advanced slowly, with an appearance of stiffness in bis gait.

The moment he had reached the side of the horse the animal swerved from him, but the rider, with a firm band, checked this eccentricity; at the same time the hound, which had gone on before, came running back and gambolled in front of the borse, barking sharply, and making an occasional run along the road, as if inviting its temporary master to follow.

“Quiet, Stark," said Lamington.

The dog ceased barking and hung its tail, but it began to move round and round the friar, growling' as if dissatisfied, until again reproved, when it sat down with its large clear eyes fixed upon the stranger suspiciously.

“You would speak to me, father ?” said Gordon, respectfully; "and I have a favour to crave from you."

The friar answered in a husky voice, so evidently assumed that nothing save his impatience to push forward, and the concentration of his thoughts on the one subject, could have prevented Lamington from observing it. There was even a gruffness in the friar's manner, as if the civility with which he spoke was feigned much against his will,

"I seek nothing for myself, Sir Knight," was the slowly pronounced answer; "but I have passed a party of men who seemed to be carrying a gentle lady prisoner. What harm she may have done I could not learn, but she looked too young and fair to be very guilty.”

Lamington's pulse bounded with exultation.

“Good father, you give me the tidings I am seeking for,” he cried eagerly.

“In the saints' name, tell me speedily-how long is it since you passed them? Speak, father, I pray you."

Barely half an hour gone. They had halted in a retired part of the glen, the lady having been taken with sickness."

“Quick, direct me to the place."
"If you will help the lady, I will guide you thither."

“Heaven will bless you for the kindly office. I accept your offer with all the gratitude that a despairing man can give to one who saves him from uttermost agony.”

"Follow, then."

Stay, father; you shall mount and I will walk, for I am swifter of foot than you can be.”

“Keep your horse, Sir Knight; you shall have no cause to complain of my pace.”

Subdued as his manner was, he made this response with a degree of dogged resolution which prevented Gordon from pressing his courtesy. He, however, dismounted, and walked by the horse's head, the rein thrown across his arm. He was induced thus to place himself on an equality with his guide, first by his respect for the man's apparent profession, and next by his sense of his own inability to control his anxiety without some more muscular action than he could obtain by sitting on the horse whilst it moved at a pace sufficient to keep him abreast with his guide.

Slight as the exercise was, it helped him to maintain a degree of calmness, and to reflect upon the course of conduct he should adopt when he found himself within reach of his enemies. He was neither so vainglorious nor so deficient in

sense as to imagine that he, unaided, could possibly cope with a dozen determined men with the slightest prospect of success. He knew that stratagem

common

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