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ing his favourite for an act for which he knew his court and people thought the scaffold too poor a punishment."
7 What followed ?”
“Cochrane, restored to greater favour than ever, represented the popularity of the duke as a monstrous danger which there was only one method of removing. That method was to sweep away the friends of his highness by decrees of outlawry, and by the headsman's axe; and by attainting Albany himself of high treason, which would be the shortest road to the block. Then his head might be preserved in the black kist amongst its other treasures, if such were his Majesty's pleasures.'
“But the King could not consent to such a diabolical measure ?"
“He was wrought up to a pitch of alarm in which all his wit deserted him, and he was ready to yield to any proposition that might be made to him, and that promised him security from the evils and dangers he believed to be pressing around him.”
Have you certain information of this?"
“Yes. "I have it from the page Ramsay, who, being in attendance on the King, had been commanded to retire only to the embrasure of the window. His Grace had little thought then of the turn his audience was to take. He forgot the presence of his
page, who, in consequence, heard most of what was said. Ramsay is a simple lad, owing me some favours, and by assuming some knowledge of the converse,
I elicited everything that it was necessary to know.”
“It seems almost too horrible that almost immediately after the murder of one brother he should assent to the death of the other," exclaimed Lamington, astonished by what he heard.
"Do not blame him too much," proceeded Panther, quietly; "remember, he has been persuaded that it is a question of his crown and life against the head of Albany; and in truth Albany has passion and ambition enough to place himself on the throne at any cost if he saw fair opportunity. But he has happily discretion enough not to attempt such a project without the most potent reasons for doing so—without, indeed, reasons which would be tantamount to an assurance of success. He has a daring heart, but he has a cool head; and for the honour of Scotlanday, for the King's own conscience' sake--he must be rescued from the doom to which Cochrane's villainy would consign him."
“He shall be rescued,” returned Gordon, with fierce resolution.
Panther grasped his hand.
“I believe you will do it,” he said, with a gratified light in his eyes which imparted to his visage somewhat of its ordinary jovial expression. But presently it resumed the calm, reflective cast which characterized it whilst he had been making his important communication.
“I have not done yet,” he continued. “When the council met it was only to be broken up in the abrupt fashion you have heard of; for the King was again utterly under the control of his minion, and obstinate in what he believed to be his own judgment of the affairs we were met to discuss.”
“ Could none of you influence him ? "
“It is not easy to influence an obstinate man who is convinced that all those about him, save his especial friends, are hungering for his life. But what little effect our arguments might have had, we had no chance of trying. The injudicious haste of Angus afforded his Majesty the opportunity he desired of dismissing the council before we were able to make any decisive movement. I hastened to the Queen, begged her to give you what protection she might, and then quitted the palace, having too much reason to dread that since my presence there had become known, I might be provided with a lodging of a kind that disagrees with most liberal spirits.”
Angus and the others have withdrawn to their fortresses?"
“No-I joined them at the hostel, and when I had acquainted them that I had directed a French sloop to put into Leith roadstead, as a precaution on my own account, they agreed that we should use it in securing his highness of Albany's retreat. So all journeyed to Edinburgh, where they await in secret lodgment to give what help they can in effecting the rescue. While you have been sleeping there, I have received further tidings."
" To what purpose ?”
“ So soon.
“A warrant has been granted for the execution of Albany, and to-morrow he will be beheaded if he escape not meanwhile.”
Then there is little time to take a fortress like the castle.”
“Our stratagem must be the more promptly put into action, that is all.”
“You have arranged the scheme, then?”
“Give me your commands; I shall obey them to the letter."
There were two casks, one filled with Gascony wine, the other containing, besides wine, a coil of rope and a letter of instructions to the Duke of Albany, rolled up in a ball of
It was Gordon's task to convey these two casks to the prisoner in the castle, and, in the disguise of a French sailor, he succeeded.
The Duke found the rope and the letter warning him that his execution was fixed for the following day. Albany was a stalwart man, brave and prompt in action. That night he bade the captain of the guard sup with him, filled the unfortunate officer with wine, then stabbed him, and so obtained the keys of the apartments. Next, with the aid of the rope which Lamington had conveyed to him, Albany and his chamberlain escaped from the castle. His highness soon reached the waterside, where a boat lay in readiness to convey him on board the Heloise.
Upon finding himself safe on the deck of the sloop, his first thought was one of gratitude to Lamington.
“I cannot well offer you recompense, Gordon,” said the Duke, earnestly; " for such service as you have rendered cannot be requited. But name what acknowledgment my sword or will can make, and I pledge myself to it, be it what it may.”
“Secure me the doom of Robert Cochrane, my lord, and you may hold yourself quit for any help I have been fortunate enough to give you."
“Nay, man, that is a purpose so near to my own concerns that I cannot count it so much to your gain as to mine. Name something else."
Formerly your Grace partly promised your aid in obtaining justice to my father's memory."
“And I will keep my promise to a larger measure than you can have hoped for. Now, my Lord Abbot, bid our captain make for Dunbar, that I may see the place garrisoned; then ho, for France, and if cunning Louis will not aid my cause, then England shall, if I pay all Scotland for her arms.
During this brief colloquy the sails had been set, and a favouring breeze springing up, the sloop stood out to sea.
AFFAIRS OF STATE,
“ Then reid, reid grew his dark brown cheeks,
Sae did his dark brown brow;
Hardyknute. COCHRANE's detached parties of pursuers returned one after another to Linlithgow with the same report of failure. Cochrane himself was the last to give up the chase.
He consoled himself with the thought that at any rate his rival was removed from his path as effectually almost as if death had been the instrument of his removal. He could not believe that it was possible for Gordon to hover around him, knowing that he would pay the penalty of his life if detected on Scottish ground. But to make sure even in a matter which seemed so certain, he despatched spies in all directions, so that if Lamington were mad enough to remain in the country his whereabouts would speedily become known; and as he offered a considerable reward for the traitor's head, he believed that he would soon be gratified by the utter extinction of an enemy who surpassed him in courage, and seemed to be able to rival him in cunning
When he had taken these measures, Cochrane proceeded to the King, and informed his Majesty of the escape
which had been effected, praying him to show his displeasure for the negligence, if not complicity, of Captain Murray by some fitting
punishment, and to mark his royal indignation with the conduct of the Queen's lady, Mistress Katherine, by some decisive command, to bring her under the control of her lawful husband.
The King was surprised by the adventure, and rather amused by the result than indignant at it. He had slept well, and being really of a nature which shrank from extreme measures, save when excited by some outburst of passion, he was glad rather than otherwise that the prisoner had escaped from his favourite's clutches, whose resolution regarding him he suspected, although he did not know it.
“Man Rob,” he said, playfully, “let the chiel go; he deserves free passage since he has been clever enough to get out of your gripe. Let him go, I say, and let Murray be. He has ay been a faithful servant to our person; so we will just hold this delinquency over his head to frighten him from doing the like again.'
“But how can your Majesty be assured that your present clemency will not be the cause of his attempting the like again, when occasion shall arise in which your gracious person may be more intimately concerned even than in the present case ?" said the favourite, suppressing his own annoyance in affected interest for the safety of his royal master.
“ Hoots, Cochrane, what's the use of perpetually worrying us and yourself with possibilities ? Let him be, I say, and never fash your thumb about to-morrow.”
“What of the lady, then, my liege?
Ah, that's the sore place of it all, I doubt,” answered bis Majesty, who was evidently in excellent humour this morning, with which the gloomy mood of his fatigued minion ill accorded ; "she's a clever lass, and a true; and on our faith, man, we like her all the better for what she has done.”
“But your Majesty will not permit her offence to pass unnoted.”
“No; our Majesty will place the errant damsel under strict surveillance until such time as our royal pleasure be further known. But, hark you, sir, she must be used with due respect, for which we will hold you accountable in every particular."
The pleasantry with which the King was disposed to treat everything this morning, and his impatience of any serious discussion, would have dismayed any intriguer who