Page images

owed him restrained her. At the same time she was frightened by the bare thought of doing anything in opposition to the will of her uncle's master and patron.

Katherine had little difficulty in comprehending the girl's sentiments, and although she was ready to give her the utmost confidence, she hesitated to involve her in any way in the troubles which she ought to endure alone.

“But I know what you will do, Mysie,” she said, quietly; "you will warn me when I am in danger of exposing my plans to any of the spies who surround me, and you will keep faith with me whenever I may


you to do so.”

"I would bite my tongue off rather than tell anything that would hurt your ladyship.”

“I was sure of it. Now be content. I will not ask you to do anything that you do not feel yourself able to accomplish without much risk.”

" It's no the risk to mysel' that I heed; it's the risk to

[ocr errors]


"Take no account of that," answered Katherine, sadly. “I am prepared for the worst that can happen to me.” You may escape

from this place."
I have no wish to escape.”
“No wish to escape ? ”

“None; for where could I fly to ? Not to Johnstone, for my mother would only deliver me back into the hands of the man whose fatal power has destroyed every hope that made life precious; not to Lamington, for the dead forms of my father and brother stand between us, parting us eternally.”

“What is it you seek to do, then, my poor mistress, since you are content to remain here?

'Only to bid Gordon avoid Nicol Janfarie—to spare him for

my sake at any cost, at any disgrace to himself.”

Mysie was silent for an instant, and then, with a glow of simple enthusiasm on her honest face, she said

“I will help you, if I should have to be your messenger myself.”

With that promise the generous girl renounced her allegiance to the servile kinsman who had claimed her obedience in an act of cruel treachery.

Katherine embraced Mysie and kissed her affectionately :


it was so much to have found one friend in the midst of so many enemies.

* It is the wit of two women against the knavery of Robert Cochrane and his myrmidons,” she said, with a flush of scorn at the name; “and we will overreach them with Heaven's help ? '

“We'll try,” added Mysie, who trembled slightly at the reference to the potent favonrite of the King.

That day passed without any scheme being devised by which a message might be conveyed to Gordon. The thing looked so simple, and was yet so hard to achieve, that the thought of it became tantalizing in the extreme.

No advance was made by the following morning, and every hour that elapsed rendered the probability of the encounter taking place before the warning could be given more and more appalling. Mysie had failed to discover any one who could be entrusted with the message, and who would not use the advantage which he would obtain as Katherine's courier to betray Gordon into the hands of Cochrane's men. The woman began to fear that Mysie would have to fulfil the extremity of her promise and become the courier herself. But they resolved to wait another day before adopting that last resource.

Katherine was commanded to wait upon her Majesty, who was bound upon a hawking expedition, accompanied by the young prince. She received a gracious welcome from the Qneen, but she had no opportunity of pleading her suit for delay of the marriage ceremony. She, however, did not wish to be precipitate in her appeal, and as the day had not been appointed yet, she deemed it wiser to refrain from all reference to it, until the crisis arose.

The hawking party rode slowly through the great gateway of the palace, and Katherine, with heavy heart, void of every gleam of interest in the sport to which she was proceeding, occupied her place amongst the other ladies in waiting. The morning was fine, and her companions merry; but the contrast of her dolour with their gaiety only made her position the more dismal.

By the roadside, not far from the palace, a big, loutishlooking fellow sat, with a large hound lying at his feet, its bight eyes watching the face of its master with an expression that might have been taken to indicate the greater intelligence of the two creatures.

Katherine had never witnessed a more joyful spectacle than that peasant and his hound, for she recognized in the former Gordon's faithful follower, Muckle Will, and her blood tingled with delight.

Will sat staring with dull clownish curiosity at the cavalcade; but as it advanced he rose slowly to his feet, and although he preserved his simple manner he was busy scanning the faces of the ladies with much more than common interest.

When nearly opposite to him, Katherine's horse performed a rapid caracol which removed her a little way from her companions, and she dropped her glove.

Will jumped forward and picked up the glove before any of the attendants had time to observe what had happened. As he returned it to the owner, Katherine, whilst appearing to thank him, said in a quick whisper

“Can you get into the palace ?
“I might get in, but the job would be to win out

[ocr errors]


“I will arrange that-I must see you.”

She touched the horse with the whip and resumed her place in the cavalcade.

Never was sport so wearisome as that day's hawking to Katherine Janfarie, although everybody else declared it to have been one of the most successful days known for years.

As the train returned to the palace, she saw Will and his hound still at their post.

She told Mysie that every obstacle would be overcome now if she could only obtain a few minutes' speech with Will, and Mysie devised a plan on the instant.

She went out, and in about an hour returned with Muckle Will and his dog following her.

How have you managed this ? ” inquired the mistress, amazed and delighted by the success of her coadjutor.

The inaid blushed, smiled, and looked awkward.

"I just told the sentinel that the chiel was a particular friend of mine, and we wanted to hae a crack about auld acquaintances, and so I got him through the gate."

And, my certes ! I would just like to be the particular friend of sic à braw lass," muttered the giant Gallowegian, grinning with pleasure at the bare prospect.


Mysie blushed again, looked slightly angry, and then, with much meekness, went on

“I waited till I heard my uncle was sent for by my Lord Mar; and as soon as I ken’d that, I brought the lad up by the back stair, and got him in here without anybody seeing us.”

“You are as clever as you are kind, Mysie,” said Katherine, gratefully.

* And bonnie into the bargain," chuckled the simple giant. “Eh, Stark ? "

Stark wagged his tail, expressive of entire concurrence in his master's views.

“But dinna keep him here a minute longer than is needful," proceeded Mysie, quickly. " I'll watch the door.”

Katherine turned to Will, who repeated the clumsy salute he had made on his entrance.

“You know where your master is ?" she queried, anxiously.

Ay, my lady, I ken."
“ He is safe?”
* Aye, safe eneuch, so far."
“ Is he well ? ”

"Just as weel as a man wha has got nae sowl left in him for onything can be."

The lady, with an effort, repressed a sob, and continued
“Did he send you here?

"Ay, he told me to bide about the yetts, or onywhere, so that I might get a glint o' your face, and be able to tell him what like you were looking. I was to try and speak to ye, if possible, and to tell ye that ye will hear queer news before many days have passed.”

“ Does he-seem happy ?” Her voice faltered with the words, and she clasped her hands tightly.

"Happy ? " echoed Will, shaking his shaggy head gloomily; “he's as dour as a broken-legged hound, wi' its nose on the quarry that it canna follow. But he'll be better when he kens that I hae seen ye.”

There was a pause, during which the lady's head was bowed, and she struggled against the wild temptation to fly to him, and try to comfort him in spite of the fell deeds which parted them. When she looked

When she looked up, her glistening

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

eyes, her pallid cheeks and quivering lips, denoted how severe had been the mental strife.

"Take this to him," she said, delivering a letter which she had ready sealed for the purpose;

“ deliver it into no hands save his, as you value his peace and mine.”

“ I'll do your bidding,” was the simple response.

“But if by any ill fortune you should lose that paper, say to your master it was written by me to implore him to avoid Nicol Janfarie, and to beg of him if they should meet to let no words or actions tempt him into strife. All this, say, is for my sake, and that only the assurance of his compliance with this prayer can give me any comfort. Will you remember?

"We'll mind every word-will we no, Stark? That will we."

Katherine thanked him, gave him a piece of silver, which he accepted on Stark's account, and dismissed him under the care of Mysie.

The task which had presented so many obstacles was accomplished now with more ease and certainty than she had expected: and being accomplished, she sat down, sad and hopeless. Her sorrow was unrelieved by any demand for exertion outside herself, and there seemed to be no object in ber own life that was worth striving for. She relapsed into the state of despair from which she had been roused by the desire to prevent the meeting between Gordon and Nicol. Even the thought of the approaching union with Cochrane only made her start shudderingly and droop again into helpless inactivity.

Mysie having seen that the way was clear, conducted Will down to the court by the same stair by which they had ascended to the lady's apartments. They reached the court in safety, Will following the movements of his winsome guide with admiring eyes; and he was about to address her when she was startled by the voice of her uncle calling her name.

“ Bide here, bide here,” she whispered quickly, and sped away in the direction of the voice.

Will and Stark halted obediently, the former very much puzzled by the abrupt flight of the damsel.

But he had presently another matter for dissatisfaction. Some one touched him on the shoulder, and on turning his

« PreviousContinue »