Page images

verbal acknowledgment to a prediction at which her whole nature revolted as an impossibility.

She tottered toward the door, and he hastened after her.

"Permit me to support you," he said, attempting to draw her arm within his own,

She snatched her hand away from him, and her eyes gleamed with a resentment which for the moment revived her strength.

“No; do not touch me. On the day appointed claim the fulfilment of my promise; you will find me ready, if you have kept faith with me. But till then do not approach me, or attempt to hold speech with me. Leave me that space to try to school my hand to take yours without trembling, and to teach my eyes to look on you without horror. You have triumphed. I consent to the sacrifice; but do not you forget the terms of it.”

He bowed low, as if in complete submission to her will.

“Two days hence you shall have proof of the safety of Nicol and of Lamington."

A slight and haughty inclination of the head was the only recognition of this pledge. She departed with firm and hasty steps, as if fearing that weakness would assail her before she had got beyond his sight.

Cochrane watched her disappear, smiled quietly, and not altogether contentedly. Then he thoughtfully walked from the chapel.

There was immediately afterwards a movement in a dark recess near the doorway. A man stepped cautiously forth, looking about him with a somewhat bewildered manner.

It was the courier who only a few hours earlier had delivered the secret despatches.

His hands were clenched, his lips quivered, and his eyes glistened as with some strong excitement. As if to collect his confused thoughts, he halted on the spot, which a moment before had been occupied by Katherine.

He pressed his hands on his brow, gazing darkly at the door as if he saw some enemy there.

“It was for my sake,” he muttered, as if striving against some impulse—“it was for my sake. Why should I blame her or attempt to thwart her, by delivering myself up to the malice of my foes ? Great Heaven, how she suffered ! And the wretch was pitiless! Am I also to be pitiless ?



She was helpless, and it was her love that made her yield: No, Katherine, no; my lips shall never blame, but only bless you. My hand, that may never again clasp yours, shall be lifted to save you.”

He remained a few minutes to recover his self-possession, fearful lest his agitation should betray his disguise. Then he made his way into the court, where there was a general bustle of soldiers and lackeys, making preparations for the immediate departure of the King for Edinburgh.

Already a number of couriers had been despatched with summonses for the principal nobles and barons to attend the council at the castle. Others were now mounting to set forth on the same errand, and in the midst of the confusion the presence of the strange courier from England was unnoticed.

An hour later the royal cortege began its journey to the capital.



“ The beacon lights are blazing bright,

The slogan's on the blast;
The clansmen master rapidly,

The fiery cross flies fast.
“Chiefs hurry from their towers of strength,

And vassals from their shiels ;
For Albyn's strand's polluted by
Au hundred hostile keels."


The Border bale-fires, or beacons, were kindled, and the warning flames spread their lurid glare over the country. At Hume Castle the first fire was lighted, and the blaze, broad and fierce, shot up from the beacon height like a demon that had just escaped thraldom. The single fire intimated that a raid of some sort was expected. Presently two fires were seen, and that intimated that the raid was certain ; and by-and-by there were four fires alight, which betokened that the enemy was approaching in great force.

The heights of Soutra Edge and of Edgerton responded to the warning, and carried it nearer to the capital. Then Dunbar and Haddington repeated the signal. Dalkeith immediately followed suit, and spread the tidings throughout the Lothians. The fiery summons was renewed at Edinburgh in a fiercer, higher flame than anywhere else, and speedily every eminence of lowlands and highlands were ablaze. Stalwart yeomen and trusty vassals flocked to the strongholds of their chiefs, and straightway marched to the Borough Moor, where the national standard had been raised.

The council assembled at Edinburgh had determined upon war; for however much they might be disaffected with the government of James, the barons were prepared to endure it, rather than accept a monarch from the King of England. So they mustered with a!l their followers at the gathering place, the Earl of Angus, with two thousand followers, being almost the first on the field. The nobles who had most openly declared their discontent during peace were the readiest to advance for the protection of their country in the hour of danger.

The chivalry and strength of the nation had promptly obeyed the summons to arms; every man carried his forty days' provisions in his wallet, and for that space was ready to follow his chief through any peril.

James had the satisfaction of reviewing as brave an irmy as it had ever fallen to the lot of a Scottish King to lead to battle; and his natural timidity was much comforted and strengthened by that fact.

As became him, the King himself undertook the command of the forces, urged to that course, probably, by Cochrane, as well as by his own desire to prove himself worthy of his subjects in the manner which they would most readily appreciate. It was a happy resolve. The commons saluted him with loyal enthusiasm; and there was a brief glow of martial spirit in his breast as he rode forward on the expedition with the loud plaudits of his people ringing in his ears.

The army advanced as far as Lauder, and there encamped to await some sure tidings of the movements of the enemy, or to give battle on the ground if the opportunity occurred. Here the forces were augmented by uumerous detachments of the Borderers, who flocked to the Scottish



standard, bringing to it new strength and valuable intelligence.

When all were counted, the King was gratified to learn that the roll of his army numbered fifty thousand men. This, however, did not induce him to adopt any swift course of action for bringing the campaign to an issue. Although well aware of the impossibility of keeping his forces together as soon as the forty days' store of the men became exhausted, his habitnal indecision caused him to linger in the pleasant dale of Lauder, uncertain whether to announce definitely that he would await the approach of the enemy on this vantage ground, or that he would march to the frontier, and check the advance of his brother and Gloucester.

Cochrane determined to take advantage of his halt to complete the arrangements for his marriage with Katherine, which had been interrupted by the pressing occupations of the preparations for the campaign. He had Nicol Janfarie with him as his squire, and kept him almost constantly in his sight. So far he had fulfilled his pledge.

He now summoned the Musgraves and the Fenwicks to attend him as their kinsman and friend; and this summons, supported by the authority of Nicol, and by the proclamation of the forthcoming marriage, obtained a willing and prompt compliance. The Borderers were not loth to acknowledge the kinship of one who had the power to serve them in so many ways.

In this way Cochrane found himself supported by nearly eight hundred Border prickers, in addition to his own especial followers, numbering three hundred. This was no inconsiderable force to have attached to his person, and with it he felt himself strong enough to endure complacently all the frowns and scoffs with which the nobles regarded him whenever he appeared in their presence at council or in the field.

The delay at Lauder he resolved to make use of for the purpose of finally binding the Borderers to his interests. So he caused Katherine to be escorted from Linlithgow to a house provided for her in the town, from which she was to be conducted, immediately after her arrival, to the church, where he proposed to have priest and friends in waiting for the performance of the ceremony.

These arrangements were disclosed only to sure friends.

[ocr errors]

His Majesty thought that the diversion of the bridal would be somewhat of a relief from the monotonous iteration of the details of war and rumours of war.

Fenwick, Musgrave, and the other kinsmen of the house of Janfarie were glad that an affair which had given them some concern should be finally disposed of as speedily as possible. Nicol was silent and disposed to be sullen, for he had been obliged, by various specious arguments, to renounce what he still considered a sacred duty; and he was eager for the actual strife to begin, that he might have the opportunity of proving that his motives for withdrawing from the feud were not unworthy of his father's son. He was indifferent to the forthcoming nuptials, except in so far as he was annoyed by the thought of the sacrifice which they had compelled him to make.

But it was sadly different with his unhappy sister. To her this bridal was no more than the completion of a dismal expiation. She did not falter, however; she was prepared to fulfil her promise to the uttermost.

She obeyed the summons to Lauder without murmur or opposition of any kind. With silent submission sbe made ready for the journey, and accompanied her guides without the faintest breath of discontent.

She had been too bitterly conscious of the approach of this hour to shrink from it when it came. Day after day she had been reminded of its relentless approach by the gifts of her future husband, who lavished his wealth upon her in the form of endless tokens of his regard, hoping, no doubt, to surprise her into some degree of contentment, or satisfaction even, with the marriage.

Gift after gift reached her hands; but so far from effecting the desired change in her mood, every one brought her a new pain, for it was another sign to her of the destiny to which she had committed herself irrevocably. The end of it all became less terrible in her eyes than the agonizing suspense with which she watched the advance of the inevitable doom. Under

any other circumstances she might have claimed the protection of the Queen, and she would have obtained it assuredly; but she had deliberately entered into a compact with the man; he had fulfilled his share of the bargain, and she dared not retract from her part of it.

« PreviousContinue »