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stances wbich bad occurred, cunningly interweaving his account of them with the threads of the conspiracy. He traced the source of all that had happened not to the real cause—the thwarted affection of the lovers—but to the desire to injure him as one of his Majesty's most faithful servants. He laid much stress upon the riot in Dumfries, and upon the refusal of the burgesses to lay down their arms or to retire peacefully when commanded to do so in the King's name; and attributed the whole action to the desire to sound the sentiments of the people in such an outbreak as had taken place.
The Abbot, too, was denounced as acting in opposition to the royal authority, and the proposal to submit the decision of the whole question to their Majesties was represented as having been forced upon the malcontents by the narrator's success in prevailing on the lady to accompany him to Linlithgow.
He cleverly threw a gloss of design over the unexpected events which had favoured his stratagem, and affirmed that his chief object had been to compel the Abbot and Lamington to appear at the palace without any suspicion that their share in the treasonable conspiracy of the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar had been detected.
When the narration was concluded James looked pale and weary. He had listened with increasing agitation as Cochrane proceeded; the amusement he had been at first disposed to take in Katherine's flight bad disappeared, and in every word, in every action, treason seemed to be made apparent.
A man of resolute mind might have readily penetrated the false guise in which the favourite arrayed the simplest matters, but James failed to do so. His temperament being naturally nervous and imaginative, he was only too ready to magnify shadows into huge substances, even without the promptings of such a man as Cochrane. But with such men to hum suspicion in his ear, rumours became truths, and the unsupported charges made by hi favourites against all who might threaten to endanger their position, became facts.
“But what are we to do? ” he asked, helplessly, at last.
“Act promptly and firmly, sire, as becomes an offended monarch whose generosity and confidence have been most
abused by those who should have been most faithful to him.”
“Yes, yes, we will arrest this meddling Abbot, and the young fool Gordon, the instant they show themselves. You shall prepare the warrants forth with.”
“Pardon, sire,” said Cochrane, dropping on his knee; “ but you are striking only at the branches and leaving the root of the danger untouched.”
“What would you have ? ” was the somewhat petulant ejaculation.
“I risk my head in speaking what all others fear to speak; but I risk it freely since it is for your Grace's weal.”
“Speak,” said James, watching him with a startled expression.
“ Call your servants and friends together, tell them all that you know, and take my life if they do not answer you that, to insure your own safety from open rebellion or from the secret assassin, Albany and Mar must be arrested before the least sign is made that their guilt is known.”
The King sank back on his couch, covering his face with his hands.
Cochrane felt that not only his fortune but his life depended upon the result of the struggle which was passing in the mind of his master; and he hastened to supplement what he had already said, by a reference which he knew would influence the superstitious nature of the monarch.
“Remember, sire, the warning of the wise man who cast your nativity only a few days gone-remember, sire, that the astrologer warned you that in Scotland a lion would be worried to death by his own whelps.”.
“It was so, it was so—the good man said it,” said James, starting up excitedly; "and forewarned, forearmed. We shall take prompt measures.
Call our friends to. A council of the five favourites was held u, on the instant.
One hour later Cochrane quitted the royal apartments, having received the promise of the King to compel Mistress Katherine's obedience to her lord, and having in his possession two warrants of arrest.
The warrants were for the king's brothers—Albany and Mar.
With these powerful opponents removed, Cochrane felt that he could defy all the efforts of Lamington to obtain justice.
THE SECRET PASSAGE.
Now, nought was heard beneath the skies,
(The sounds of busy life were still)
“ Thus sore and sad the lady grieved
In Cumnor Hall, so lone and drear;
Cumnor Hall. The man Ross provided a repast for Katherine, and introduced a simple-looking girl, whom he called Mysie, to wait
Katherine was glad to have one of her own sex near her. Humble as the girl might be, her presence seemed to the lady a species of protection in the midst of the utter loneliness which oppressed her, notwithstanding the neighbourhood of a crowd of people. The apartments were singularly quiet, and their heavy draperies cast dark shadows on the floor. At intervals she could hear the tramp of a sentinel, and the clang of his arms in the court below, or the soughing of the wind down the wide chimneys; but these were the only sounds she heard. The thickly padded doors prevented her hearing any stir in the corridors, and made the interior of the palace appear grimly silent.
With the assistance of Mysie she arranged ber dress, and having ate a little, she was refreshed.
Mysie was modest and attentive; she had clear, honest eyes ; and Katherine was inspired with the hope that she would learn from her what opportunities there might be of obtaining an audience with the Queen.
The girl wheeled a large chair in front of the fireplace, and the lady seated herself. She had been eyeing the apartment curiously for some time ; and now she turned to Mysie, who was standing patiently bebind her, waiting to render any service that might be needed.
“Come nearer, Mysie—that is your name?"
“Only a few months, your ladyship. My uncle Ross, who brought me to you, procured my admission by the favour of Sir Robert Cochrane.”
Katherine experienced a slight shock at that announcement, which disclosed that she was under the care of those who were bound to her persecutor by the strongest of all ties—that of self-interest. She contrived to hide her feeling of distrust, and went on.
“ Will it be very difficult, do you think, for me to see her Majesty the Queen ? "
“Oh no," answered Mysie, with simple enthusiasm ; “the Queen is a good, kind lady, and is always ready to see even the poorest of her people who may have a suit to plead. Have
you never seen her, my lady?". No; but I desire very much to make an appeal to her Majesty at the earliest moment that I can obtain an audience.”
“You will only have to make known your wish, for Sir Robert Cochrane can do anything.”
“But I am not Cochrane."
“His lady !” exclaimed Katherine, with difficulty retaining ber seat. With forced calmness she asked, “Why do you think that?”
Mysie looked amazed.
“ Because my uncle told me so, and because I supposed that nobody except Lady Cochrane would occupy these chambers when he was in the palace.”
Katherine gazed slowly round the room, and then fixing her eyes upon the astonished maid
“Are these his apartments ? ” she queried, whisperingly.
“Yes, my lady." (More and more amazed by the question.)
Katherine turned her face quickly to the fire, looking earnestly at the blazing and crackling logs. She saw now some of the reasons why he had so readily complied with her request to be conveyed to the palace. Having got her there, he had cunningly contrived to place her in a position which would compromise her for ever-not only in the eyes of their Majesties to whom she was to make her appeal, but also in those of Lamington.
She drew a long breath, and her lips closed tightly as the spirit of resolution rose within her. She was determined to baulk his design at any risk, at any sacrifice to herself.
But she felt that she must not display this determination to the girl beside her. So she spoke quietly.
“Where does the chapel stand, Mysie ?
“And is there no way of reaching it except by the way we came here? I would like to attend matins, but I do not care to pass along the general corridors.”
“There is a private passage, my lady, which will lead you down to the hall of the Queen's confessional; from there you can pass to the chapel without anybody seeing you, because only the private attendants of their Majesties are permitted to go that way. But you would require to get permission."
"Thank you, Mysie. Does the private passage you spoke of communicate with these apartments ? '
“Yes, my lady, by a door behind the tapestry there.'
Katherine observed the direction in which the girl pointed without showing any unusual interest. She remained silent for a little while, busy calculating on the chances of her being able to open the door.
At length she bade the girl retire, telling her that she required no further attendance until the morning. Mysie asked if she might not assist to disrobe her, and the aid being declined, she withdrew.
Katherine started to her feet and hastened to the door which had just closed upon the girl. There was a massive lock on the door, but the key was absent, and as there was no bolt, she had no means of securing herself against intrusion except by raising a barricade of furniture.
There was no time for that, and so she hastened to the