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There was a pause, during which the combatants, foot to foot, eyed each other narrowly, and appeared to await the first movement to ward or to thrust.
Lamington's gaze was calm, steady, and sorrowful; he had no humour for the contest, and the chances of the issue seemed to be all against him in consequence.
Janfarie's eyes glittered with a sort of ferocious resolution; but he maintained a steadfast bearing. His passion was intense, but it did not render him unwary; his thirst for vengeance was deep, but it did not make him so hasty in seeking its achievement as to give his opponent the advantage--at least, whatever advantage his excessive eagerness might have afforded, was more than counterbalanced by the other's unwillingness to take action.
At length Janfarie slowly, but with a giant's power, pressed down the weapon of his antagonist-pressed it down until it nearly touched the ground, and the breasts of both were left uncovered. He made a rapid feint as if to strike the sword arm of Lamington, and followed it by a vigorous thrust at his heart.
But the feint was understood, and the thrust was parried with perfect calmness, and with a force which for an instant left Janfarie at the mercy of his generous
foe. Uttering a sharp, short exclamation of rage, he renewed the attack with more vigour and with no less skill than before. · But with superior skill Lamington maintained bis defensive tactics ; and once more he broke down the guard of his enemy with such force that he might have run him through; and again he would not avail himself of his fairly won opportunity of deciding the victory.
This generosity had anything rather than a soothing influence upon Janfarie. Instead of serving to open his eyes to the malignance of his own course, and to the kindliness of that of the man who was so unwillingly opposed to him, it quickened bis rage to a degree of frenzy.
He was rapidly losing the self-possession with which be had opened the combat, and which placed hiin on equal terms with Gordon; he was even losing the control of his weapon, and cut and thrust with a blind wrath, which with any other
person opposed to him would have cost him his life before many minutes had elapsed.
"You are playing with me," he shouted, passionately, whilst be continued his fierce assault. “Strike, when you can, for by my father's soul you shall have no mercy from
Take your fair vantage, then, and save yourself-you shall
go scathless for the deed."
“That cannot be,” answered Gordon, calmly;" for when you fall beneath my hand, the same blow which cuts you down severs the bond which links your sister to me."
“Curse her—curse you for the woe you have both wrought our house! Guard well, for I will strike at you whilst I have power to raise my hand.”
His passion seemed to give him new strength, and he broke down the guard of his opponent repeatedly; but despite his strength and fury he was not able to thrust or strike before the guard was resumed. He, however, succeeded in inflicting several slight wounds, one upon the sword arm, and the other upon the left shoulder of Lamington.
The latter now began to move backward, still defending himself dexterously ; but the movement was such an apparent sign of weakness, that Janfarie gave vent to a short
of satisfaction. His satisfaction was excited not only by this sign of yielding on the part of his foe, but also on account of his observation, that he was moving back upon the deep pit, or murder-hole, which was half filled with water, and into which Lamington would certainly stumble if he did not presently observe his peril.
That he had no chance of doing, for he was obliged to devote his whole attention to his defence, and Janfarie redoubled his exertions, in order to render it impossible for even a momentary glance to betray the peril which was to relieve him of one whose skill kept him so completely at bay, in spite of all his efforts.
Defending himself at every step, Lamington continued to move backward, direct toward the pit, which seemed to be yawning to receive him.
His object throughout the combat had been to exhaust his foe; and that object seeming to be near attainment, he now sought to lead him beyond the range of the four Borderers, so that he might disarm him and escape.
He was within three paces of the mouth of the pit,
when Janfarie, too eager to seize the opportunity which was offered to him, made a furious lounge at his opponent, but Lamington swiftly carried down the point of his sword, which struck upon a stone, and being pressed upon by all the weight of Janfarie's body, the weapon snapped and broke near the bilt.
For an instant he stood glaring in dumb fury upon the remnant of the sword which he still grasped in his hand. Then he hurled the useless hilt from him, and it fell into the pit, splashing amongst the water. Before it had sunk he had drawn a large Spanish poniard--a gift from Cochrane—and sprang madly upon Lamington.
The latter had no time to weigh consequences, but with the instinct of self-preservation raised the point of his sword, which penetrated the descending arm of his foe, and diverted the deadly thrust, aimed at his heart. The dagger dropped from Janfarie's hand; and Lamington quickly withdrew his weapon from the wound.
Janfarie instantly with his left hand clutched at his opponent's throat and endeavoured with one mighty effort to accomplish his purpose by hurling him into the pit.
Lamington dropped his sword and grappled with the frenzied man. The fingers had closed upon his throat, he felt their grasp tightening like a vice, and he kuew that a few minutes ould suffice to stifle him. There was a short, sharp struggle : but the Borderer was exhausted by his passionate exertions, whilst his antagonist was still calm and vigorous. They approached the very edge of the murder-hole, and then Lamington, making a desperate effort to relieve himself, flung his antagonist from him.
The man reeled an instant, made a wild effort to regain his balance, and then pitched head foremost into the pit, the dark, muddy water closing over him.
There was a shout of dismay and wrath from the men who had been mute spectators of this fierce combat, and they hastened from their posts to the spot where their leader had fallen.
But they had not made more than a dozen paces toward him before Lamington had recovered from the surprise with which he had been affected by the unmeditated fatality of the struggle. Calling to the men to hasten, he leaped
into the water, and having noticed the spot where his foe had sunk, he soon grasped the insensible body and dragged it to the surface.
The sides of the pit were straight and slimy, and the depth of the water being probably twelve feet, Lamington could neither obtain a footing nor climb out of the hole with his burden without assistance.
He kept afloat, however, by considerable exertion, and at length the Borderers bent over the edge, looking down on him as much in wonder at his singular attempt to rescue his foe, as in anxiety for the fate of their chief.
“Reach down the shaft of one of your axes and draw us up," cried Lamington.
Two of the men immediately obeyed this command. Kneeling on the edge of the pit, they reached him the stout pole of a long halberd, which the knight grasped tightly, and the men dragged him slowly up with his apparently lifeless companion.
The Borderers, with gloomy countenances, gathered round him as he laid their chief upon the sod; and when they observed a red gash on the brow of the insensible man, and the bloody marks on the sword arm, they muttered angrily amongst themselves. The promise which they had given to let the victor go scathless, threatened to be poorly observed, if observed at all.
Lamington paid no attention to these unpleasant symptoms of a breach of faith. His eyes were fixed upon
the ghastly form at his feet, begrimed with mud, the face and a portion of the clothes discoloured with blood. He was himself dripping wet and besmeared with ooze; but he had no thought for his own discomfort-no thought even of the mission which had been this unbappily interrupted; he saw only the ghastly face of Katherine's brother, and his only thought was that by this act he had placed her for erer beyond his reach.
Evidently, in falling into the pit, Janfarie's head had struck against some stone, which had caused the wound on his brow, and his present insensibility.
“He is badly hurt, but not dead," cried Lamington, dropping on his knees beside him, and seeking anxiously for some indication of life.
He drew a long breath of relief when he discovered that
the heart was still beating, although very faintly. He hastily directed one of the men to run to the nearest streamlet and fill his steel cap with water. Then he thrust his hand into the pouch of his jerkin and drew out a fine silk handkerchief, with which, when the Borderer had returned with the water, he bathed the brow of the wounded chief, and finally bandaged it.
The men looked on in gloomy silence.
Janfarie presently began to show symptoms of reanimation by breathing heavily. As soon as Lamington perceived that, he sprang to his feet.
“You have your horses at hand, I suppose ? ” he said, in a quick undertone, addressing the men.
One of them-he who had gone for the water, and who seemed to be the most good-natured, as well as clearestheaded of the party-answered
“Ay, master, they are close by."
Convey your leader, then, with all gentle care to the tower of Lamington, which stands near the Ken, and to the south of Craigdarroch. Give those in charge this token, and they will attend to your master as faithfully as he would be cared for in his own home.”
He had cut from his belt one of the small silver ornaments, on which was stamped the ensign of his house-a boar's head-and that he handed to the Borderer.
“You think he is likely to come round, then ? " said the man.
“Assuredly, or I should be ill-contented in leaving him. Look, he is moving-he must not see me when he recovers. Here are four gold pieces to help you all to think better of me than as your master's foe. Look well to him, on your lives.”
The presentation of the money was a species of generosity which the rough troopers could thoroughly appreciate ; it immediately altered their view of the transaction they had witnessed, and the upshot of which they had been disposed to resent, notwithstanding their pledge to the contrary. Three of the men bluntly expressed their satisfaction, but the fourth-one of those who had received a drubbing at Dumfries — accepted his gift in surly silence.
But Lamington was indifferent; he was only anxious