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had less knowledge of James's humours than Cochrane. But he had studied the impulses of his master so carefully, that no matter in what mood they were exhibited he knew how to deal with them so that they might be turned ultimately in the direction of his own purposes.
Therefore, on the present occasion, he made his obeisance, and maintained a discreet silence on the affairs which were uppermost in his thoughts. He was satisfied that the events of the previous day, and the passionate resolutions which they had inspired in the monarch's breast, would recur to him by-and-by when he grew weary of the study of his art treasures with which he was for the time disposed to amuse himself.
The event justified his expectation. The Lord Chancellor had an audience of the King, and immediately thereafter Cochrane was summoned in haste to the royal presence. He was required to produce the documents in proof of the treasonable intents of the late Earl of Mar, the chief of which was calculated to show that the earl had, by the wicked art of witchcraft and magic, conspired to bring about the death of his sovereign Majesty the King, whose effigy he had burned to that end.
In the examination of these papers all the superstitious alarms of the King, and his jealous suspicions of the projects and power of his remaining brother Albany, took possession of his mind again with new force. They blinded him to every sense save that of the necessity of protecting himself against the evil machinations with which his imagination surrounded him, and left him weakly susceptible to any dark suggestion that might be offered to him.
On the following morning a courier arrived from Edinburgh with the tidings of Albany's escape from the castle. The news intensified the monarch's fears, and caused him to draw closer to his favourite by the confirmation these events appeared to give to all that Cochrane had represented. But at first the King refused to credit the news.
He rode to the castle with all speed to investigate the matter himself.
He surveyed the tower, the wine casks, and the dead soldiers; he traced the route of the fugitives to the battlements, where the rope by which the descent had been made still dangled in the wind, and then the King stood for some moments in speechless bewilderment, gazing blankly at the precipice and at the expanse of country beyond, his eyes lingering long on the glistening bosom of the Forth.
The discovery had not been made until the morning light revealed the rope to the watch. That excited the suspicion which had been lalled by the knowledge that the captain and three of the guard were carousing in the duke's lodging. Probably this circumstance had rendered the sentinels of the night less sedulous in the discbarge of their duty, and contributed to the success of the prisoner's bold venture.
Instant search was made; the door of the chamber was forced, and the unpleasant truth was thrust upon the governor of the castle that the captive had slipped through his fingers.
The same truth was forced upon his Majesty as he stood on the battlement vaguely surveying the picturesque plain beneath. When he roused himself from his reverie, he issued his commands for an immediate pursuit with more promptitude and decision than was his custom.
He was haunted by the prediction of the astrologerof which his favourites reminded him often enough to keep it firmly fixed in his memory, even if he had been of a nature to forget such things—and the present circumstances seemed to be tending so directly to the realization of the prophecy—that a lion was to be killed by his own whelps—that the unhappy King obtained a species of firmness from the apparent desperation of his cause.
But it was a firmness which prompted him to the darkest measures for his own protection, and placed him more than ever in the hands of Cochrane and the others, of whose fidelity he deemed himself secure, since their interests were wholly dependent on him. The consequence of this wretched policy was naturally to render his position still more antagonistic towards the nobles upon whose honour and strength he should have relied for support against whatever treasonable purposes his brother might entertain.
The knowledge that some blame might attach to him for the death of Mar, and that Albany obtained additional favour from the populace, on account of that dismal affair, rendered the King all the more suspicious of every one who was not directly under his control, and absolutely bound to him by personal necessities.
The pursuers returned on the night of the succeeding day, having had no better success than the discovery that the duke bad garrisoned Dunbar castle, and sailed for France, leaving Gordon of Lamington behind in charge of the affairs of his highness.
A strong force, under command of Lord Evandale, the Chancellor, was mustered, and marched against Dunbar to lay it under siege, with directions from the King to obtain possession of the fortress at any cost.
Whatever leniency his Majesty might have been disposed to show Lamington before he had been made aware of that gentleman's reported activity on behalf of Albany, he was not likely to give him the benefit of it now. He regarded the knight with a feeling that was almost vindictive, and bade Cochrane deal with him in what manner he deemed best.
But during the days occupied in preparations for the expedition against Dunbar, and whilst the siege was in progress, the King was moody, fretful, and suspicious of every one who approached him. He secured his treasures in his black kist with new locks; he spoke little, and that little was of a melancholy and nervous character, which alarmed the Queen for the state of his mind. That his body suffered from the unhealthy nature of his broodings was plain to the most careless eye.
THE KING'S COMMAND.
"Now wae be to you, fause Blackwood,
Ay, and an ill death may you dee !
Marchioness of Douglas. KATHERINE JANFARIE sat by the window of the chamber which had been really her prison for some time now; for although the kindness and favour of Queen Margaret obtained her many indulgences, even her Majesty's intercession failed to obtain for the unhappy lady little more liberty than the most closely confined tenant of a dungeon enjoyed.
She was dressed in deep mourning, which made the deathly pallor of her face the more striking. It was a pitiable face to look on-it was so very fair, and yet so sad. So still, so full of sorrow, utterly without hope, that it might have been limned as the countenance of despair.
The expression was that of one weary of life, and waiting for its close in a state of cold insensibility to all that passed around her.
The expression never changed—there seemed to be no joy potent enough to dispel her gloom, and no further sorrow capable of deepening it.
Her head was slightly bowed, and her eyes seemed to rest on her hands, which, worn almost to transparency, lay crossed on her lap, whilst sbe listened to the passionate utterances of the youth who stood near her.
It was Nicol Janfarie, whose garb bore traces of recent conflict. In several places it was rent and pierced; the breastplate which he wore was dented as if by blows, and his left hand was rudely bandaged, indicating a wound which, for lack of opportunity, had not been properly dressed.
But most of all, his usually frank and generous boyish countenance betokened the strife he had recently passed through. It was now begrimed with dust, and set in an expression of fierceness which made him appear much older than his years warranted. His hair was tossed confusedly, and his eyes were animated with a light in unison with the expression of his features.
“ Are you deaf, sister, or dumb, that you make no answer ? ” he exclaimed hotly, and not without a degree of that petulant irritation which a youth displays when disappointed of the approbation which he feels his deeds have merited.
“I hear you, Nicol,” she said, in a low, abstracted tone.
“ And you are not moved ? ” he cried, amazed by her indifference.
“Moved? The clang of arms fills me with sickness; the thought of the honours they may win reminds me of the hearts they will make desolate in the struggle, until I
could wish every man a coward that he might shrink from the glitter of a sword with my horror.” “Yet you are the daughter of Janfarie, and my
sister! I tell you that the castle of Dunbar has yielded to the King's arms, and his troops are in possession of the stronghold. Every knave who stood against us, save three loons who dishonoured themselves by early flight, is prisoner, or lies cold and stark at his post. We
e won it by a pretty assault,” he went on with glowing enthusiasm ; "and my share of the work was not ill done, since the Lord Chancellor charged me with the despatches for his Majesty, as a token that I had acquitted myself fairly. I tell you this, and you answer by wishing that all men would shrink like cowards from a sword!”
“It was Lord Evandale who sent you hither, then ? she said, musingly, and without heeding the intelligence which was to him of the first importance.
Ay, his lordship; and I have ridden without pause to care for my wound or to make myself presentable to his Majesty But Cochrane also had directed me to ride hitherward the instant after the castle submitted to our
I have not brought the tidings he longed for, though, and that I longed to bring. I would have given all else to have been satisfied in that one matter."
His young face darkened with rage, and his right hand became clenched.
Katherine observed this change from the enthusiastic remembrance of a successful battle, to the moody chagrin of disappointed vengeance. Her own face became a shade paler.
“ You mean?” she queried, with a faint sign of interest in what he said.
“I mean that Lamington was not amongst those who fell, or amongst those who were taken," he returned, scowling on her.
“ Then he was one of the three who escaped,” she said, her breath quickening, and a scarcely perceptible tint of colour overspreading her face. Nicol ground his teeth and stamped his foot angrily,
I have found the means of interesting you at last, sister,” he cried; “ but though the words choke me I will satisfy you, on condition that, after, you will answer me."