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The Queen, followed by Katherine and the two ladies in waiting, proceeded by a private corridor to her apartments.

The Abbot betook himself immediately to the chambers of the reverend father whose place he had been filling in the oratory, and having changed his garments, he went in quest of certain nobles with whom he was leagued in the attempt to overthrow the too powerful favourites of the King.

CHAPTER XXII.

THE CONSPIRACY.

“He's called upon his merry men a',

To follow him to the glen:
And he's vowed he'd neither eat nor sleep
Till he got his love again."

Baby Livingstone. It was midnight when Lamington entered Linlithgow. He was accompanied by Muckle Will, who had been enablar to overtake him without difficulty, in consequence of the delay caused by the combat with Richard Janfarie. Trotting along by the side of Will's horse was Stark.

Gordon had procured a change of clothes—a rough, countryman's suit, which effectually disguised his real character. Along the road he had obtained tidings at various places of the party he pursued, and at Lanark he saw the Borderers, who had been left to rest there until the morning.

But he had failed to intercept Cochrane, and now, with borse dead beat, and himself fatigued and dejected, he entered the silent town.

When they reached the ancient well which marked the town cross-an object of much respect on account of its sculptural decorations—he was glad to perceive a few rays of light which gleamed through the chinks of the shutter of one of the upper rooms of the inn. Some of the gentlemen of the Court or their followers were doubtless keeping a late revel, although there were no sounds of mirth or clink of glasses issuing from the place to confirm the surmise.

On the contrary, the house was as quiet as if its inhabitants were locked in the deepest slumber. But whatever might be the meaning of these contradictory signs, the traveller concluded that some one must be stirring within, and bade his servant knock.

That duty Will performed with a heartiness which roused the echoes of the town; and as if wishing to add to the din, Stark bayed loudly.

In an instant the rays of light which had attracted Lamington's attention disappeared, and no answer was given to the summons.

After waiting for some time without any heed being paid to them, Will was directed to knock again. He obeyed with greater demonstration than before, and succeeded this time in bringing the host to the window above the door. He demanded the meaning of the untimely disturbance. · Are

ye

a' dead or fou ?" answered Will, indignant that the taverner should have kept his master waiting so long when it was clear that he had not been to bed.

“Wha are ye?" was the cautious inquiry.
A gentleman and his servant frae Galloway."
“Is there only twa ?

Na, there's three and twa horses."
“ Where is the other?”

Speak up, Stark, and let the dour creature ken where ye are.

Stark leaped up at the door, baying sonorously.

At this point some one drew the innkeeper from the window, and spoke to him in a whisper. The result of whatever was said was the closing of the window and the opening of the door immediately after.

The landlord conducted Lamington into the public room, were he placed a light for him, and offered to provide refreshment as soon as he had shown the gentleman's follower the way to the stable.

Gordon seated himself on a stiff-backed wooden chair beside the remains of a fire which was smouldering on the broad hearth of the wide chimney-place.

He had no pleasant thoughts to occupy him. The dimly lighted tavern-room, with its sanded floor, its bare wooden benches, low roof, and smouldering fire, were to his depressed fancy suggestive of the poverty of hope and fortune to which he had sunk. The last red glow of the fire was fading under the white film which gathered over it; and that seemed like his own hopes. The white clouds of disappointment and defeat were enshrouding them, and they were slowly darkening into despair; just as the white film of the wood ashes was blackening in the coldness of extinction.

It seemed so strange that a few days should have made such a dismal alteration in the prospect of his affairs. He had returned to his native land with buoyant anticipations of a bright future, which Katherine was to have shared with him. He had rendered good service in the army

of the French monarch, at whose court a path had been opened for him that would have led to the highest honours. But he had turned away from it, yearning for the home of his youth—for the lady whose love had been pledged to him, and yearning to perform the noble task of cleansing his father's name from the stain which rested on it, and to regain the lands which had been unjustly confiscated.

The Duke of Albany had pledged his words that he would intercede for him with King James; the Abbot Panther had promised his assistance too, and with these powerful friends to support his cause, he had counted upon a speedy victory, which he desired as much for Katherine's sake as for his own. Perhaps he desired it more for her sake; certainly had there been no consideration for her, or for his father's memory, he would have been well content to have remained in France, where his merits and fidelity had been most honourably recognized.

But with the promises of Albany and Panther he hastened homeward, and the first tidings he received on touching Scottish land were those of Katherine's bridal.

From that point his hopes seemed doomed to disappointment; he had rescued her and lost her; he had learned that the aid upon which he had calculated could only be rendered him when grave difficulties had been removed; and he had discovered that the royal brothers had been placed in such a position by the machinations of Cochrane, that their power was of no more avail than his own.

He did not yet know to what terrible extremity the chief favourite of the King had carried his power, pricked on by an insatiable ambition, but he knew enough to understand that before the King would do bim justice, the real character of Cochrane must be revealed to him so clearly that there could be no shade of doubt in the proof.

So weary did he feel that he began to speculate whether or not it would be well for him to bid a final adieu to Scotland, and to carry Katherine with him to France, where he might make a home and name for her.

But the cowardice of the thought made his blood tingle with shame : the action of a brave man was to assert his right in the teeth of all danger and all injustice. He would not fail in that respect: let the consequences be what they might, he would be faithful to his father's cause.

Through all these musings there was one fear haunting him: how would Katherine receive him after she had been made aware of the combat in the Druid's Circle ? And how could he ever hope to claim her hand, if Janfarie should die ? He had done all that a man could do to avoid the strife; he had inflicted no wound that could have been spared ; and the only serious hurt her brother had received had been caused by his fall into the pit from which he had rescued him.

To explain all that so as to satisfy her that she committed no sin in uniting herself to the man who was charged with complicity in her father's death, and who had been directly instrumental in her brother's fate, would be almost impossible.

He was roused from these dismal reflections by the touch of a hand on his arm, and looking up hastily he recognized the jovial visage of the Abbot, who was attired in the sober garb of a staid private gentleman. “ You here, too !” exclaimed Lamington ;

" then Cochrane has beaten us all, and Katherine is at his mercy.

“Not quite,” responded his lordship, with one of his genial smiles. “The lady is safe under the charge of the Queen-benisons upon her for a noble lady, and a true woman-and our friend is baffled so far."

He briefly explained what had occurred, and Gordon was relieved.

“But why are you here ?.” he queried, somewhat puzzled that the prelate should have quitted the palace to seek the hospitality of an inn; "and why are you in that disguise ?"

“I wear this habit that I may pass to and fro with as little observation as may be. It is a humour of mine to enjoy the immunities of a private person whenever I can.

am here to meet some friends," the Abbot modulated his voice, and bent close to his interrogator: “Douglas, Earl of Angus, Lord Gray, and others.”

“You have held a council, then ? "
The Abbot nodded.
And your decision ? "

“ Banishment or death to the whole brood of knaves who are undermining the King's safety."

“But Cochrane must be left to me.

“Surely, if you think him worthy of any better punishment than a few yards of hemp may provide."

“And when will you take action ? for I am eager to begin the

ork." “ As soon as Albany and Mar arrive at the palace. Tomorrow a trusty messenger will be despatched to bring them hither. When they appear, those of the guards who may be depended upon will seize all who are known to be favourable to Cochrane and his companions; and, to render treachery impossible, Douglas will have five hundred men within call, and ready to overturn the whole garrison if necessary.

Panther spoke in a quiet tone, in which there was a note of intense satisfaction. Lamington listened with growing excitement as the bold scheme was unfolded to him ; but with his feeling of gratification at the prospect of the decisive blow which was to strike his enemy helpless to the earth, there was mingled a doubt as to how far the safety of his Majesty might be involved in the conspiracy.

“You have already explained to me,” he said, hesitatingly, “that this movement concerns only the false parasites of the throne, and that there is no breath of harm to fall upon the person of the King."

Panther's brows contracted slightly.
“I have. Do you doubt it?” he said coldly.

"To be honest with you, my lord, I have feared that our present action might lead to something more. with you thus far, but no farther. I hate his minions, but I am his Majesty's faithful servant."

“So are we all. Enough, man; you will not doubt

I am

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