Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

So it was that, silent and unmurmuring, she rode forward to the camp; but cold as she appeared outwardly, there was a feverish anxiety at her heart for the completion of the ordeal—like one who has resolved on some desperate act, and who is impatient of all intervention. The overpent heart and brain are relieved when the thundercloud has burst in all its fury.

In this humour she arrived at the camp, and entered the house prepared for her reception. She arrayed herself for the ceremony in the simplest garments of her wardrobe, without making use of one of the gay presents which her bridegroom had forwarded. She looked more like a woman about to perform some melancholy rite than one about to be married. Her maidens remonstrated with her-one boldly, another timidly; but she answered both with a cold smile, in which there was no glimpse of vanity natural to her sex on such an occasion.

“We deck ourselves gaily when our hearts are light, and we go to a merrymaking,” she said, in a subdued, hopeless tone;

'but the garb of sorrow best becomes us when we attend a funeral.”

The maidens were surprised and almost frightened by this gloomy response, wbich seemed to forebode some fatal issue to the day's proceedings. They felt that they would have been merrier had it been their bridal morn, but considerately ceased their futile attempts to persuade the lady to change her humour. Katherine seated herself and waited with apparent calmness for the appearance of Cochrane to claim the redemption of her pledge.

There was the hum of busy life around her; detachments of troopers were constantly passing beneath her window, some chanting snatches of warlike songs, others laughing boisterously at some gay jest--all buoyant and full of life, eagerly expectant of the hour when they might win glory or booty according to their especial whims. None thought of the sanguinary harvest Death was to reap before their hopes could be realized. Every one accounted himself amongst the victors, and all were jubilant in consequence.

The mirthful sounds had no effect upon the lady unless it might be to remind her still more forcibly of the wretched future to which she had resigned herself. These men were going to battle; hope was their beacon, and the turmoil of the contest would drown all consciousness of surrounding horror; at the worst, swift death would relieve them of earthly tronbles. But she had no hope to break the sombre shadow which hung over her like a pall; there was no struggle to distract her thoughts—nothing but a cheerless resignation to a sad fate was before her.

Despair rendered her calm and almost insensible to the actual miseries of her position. She did not repent the sacrifice she had resolved to make; it had saved the two lives that were more precious to her than all other things on earth, and she was so far content to accept her destiny.

It was with very different sentiments that Sir Robert Cochrane, or the Earl of Mar as he naturally preferred to be designated, prepared for the event of the day. His tent was pitched within call of the royal pavilion; and of the two habitations the former was so much the more magnificent in its decorations that it might have been easily mistaken for the quarters of the monarch, instead of those of his prime favourite. As has already appeared, Cochrane was a man of elegant tastes, and this was as remarkable on the present as on any former occasion.

The covering of his tent was of fine silk, and even the cords were of the same material, whilst the furnishing had been effected on a scale of luxury that astounded, as much as it disgusted, the barons and chiefs who had cause enough to detest him, and whose ruder tastes and training induced them to regard his refinements as unworthy of manhood.

But it was still more galling to these discontented spirits to observe his guard of three hundred picked men attired in a splendid livery of white with black facings, which made the garb of some of the gentlemen even look shady and mean.

The men, too, were all brawny fellows, armed with partisans, and ready to defend their master to the last extremity.

Cochrane himself was on this day arrayed in a suit of rich velvet, trimmed in the gayest and most costly fashion that a cultivated taste and ingenious mind could direct. A massive chain of gold hung round his neck, and by his side was suspended a bugle horn, tipped and mounted with the same precious metal, and set with a beryl of unusual size and value.

A suit of finely wrought armour hung on a stand near

[ocr errors]

his couch, and on a velvet cushion lay his helmet, curiously inlaid with gold. It was apparent that, whether in the cabinet or in the field, on holidays or working days, the King's favourite attended to the adornment of his person with as much care as a vain and pretty woman.

On this day he was even more careful than usual, for it was to witness the triumph of a project which had more than once threatened to defy all his power and skill. He was gratified exceedingly by his success; gratified as much because failure in anything was unendurable to him, as because he was to win the lady for whom he certainly entertained a lively esteem now, whatever might have been the original motives of his suit. It was, therefore, in proper temper that he equipped himself to receive his bride.

“I have never failed," he reflected, smiling as he proceeded with his toilet, assisted by his page. “Fortune has yielded to my skill at every step, and now even the most obstinate of womankind has succumbed to my advances. By my sooth, I am as much elated as if the victory were of a grander kind. The overthrow of Albany and Gloucester would barely give me more content. But that shall follow, for mine is the hand of fortune, and everything prospers that it touches."

He was indeed a prosperous man, and bold as his words were he could hardly be said to speak vauntingly, for it seemed that in truth success yielded to him in everything. From an obscure origin he had been raised step by step to the highest place next to the throne of his native land. His counsel was the first sought, and the most readily followed by the King. Wealth had rolled in upon him from all quarters; position had been awarded to him by the monarch he served. If he had been assailed by many enemies, it was the common lot of great ones to be so attacked; hitherto he had thwarted their malice and kept them at bay; and there was no reason to suppose that in the future he would fail to combat their machinations as successfully as before.

He was a prosperous man, and the July sun shone brightly upon him and his prospects, exhilarating him and giving him promise of a still more brilliant morrow.

He was just completing the elaborate toilet he had made “ but my

when the silken hangings which covered the entrance of the tent were thrust aside, and his squire, Nicol Janfarie, appeared with a somewhat flushed visage.

“What now, Nicol ?” he said, observing the expression of his features, although he did not pause in his occnpation; " is the enemy upon us, or has your foe shown himself in the camp, that

you

look so hot? “Neither, my lord,” responded Nicol, who had been schooled to give the full title to his future brother-in-law;

masters Leonard, Torphichen, and Hommel desire immediate speech with you, having tidings that may appear of more import than either of the events you refer to.

“Tush, man ! they have been bidden to the bridal, and have come in time to attend me, that is all. Let them enter."

Nicol dropped the hangings and disappeared. He returned presently, ushering in the friends he had named. The fat master of fence and terpsichore, Torpbichen, was the first to show himself. He was perspiring a good deal, and the gallant attire which he had donned in honour of his friend's nuptials looked somewhat disarranged.

Leonard the smith, tall, strong, and fiery, came next, looking very much out of humour, and impatient with everything, even with the courtesy with which he was received by the chief favourite of his master.

Lastly entered Hommel, the tailor, whose craft might have provided fitter raiment for the occasion, although that which he wore- - dull brown, and rather threadbarem accorded well enough with the melancholy cast of his countenance.

Cochrane surveyed them for an instant curiously, and then burst into a loud laugh.

“Swords and daggers, my lord !" cried Torphichen, becoming, if possible, redder than before, as he bridled up to the earl, playing with the handle of his rapier significantly; “ do you laugh at us ? "

Cochrane paid as little heed to the wrath of the stout little man as if he had been a bantam pecking at him.

"You will find it no laughing matter before all is done,” growled Leonard, savagely.

“I doubt ye'll find it's a matter, my lord, to employ

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

us

as we

the most serious consideration of as all," whined the tailor, in a melancholy voice, but with more real self-possession than any

of the others. Why, what is the mighty matter, gentlemen,” qneried Cochrane, still mirthfully inclined, "that upsets you, just as we are about to proceed to the kirk ? ”

“ The matter looks bad for us, and, mayhap, for our master too,” said Leonard, “and it is something of your making.”

“Ay, marry, all of your making," blastered Torphichen, “and affronts uncountable have been put on passed through the camp, for no better reason than that you have chosen to brave the lords by flaunting your titles and favours in their teeth.”

Cochrane turned quietly to Hommel.

“Will you expound to me what has so disturbed the humour of our friends ? for by my word you seem the only one who can hold the rein of your passion.”

“It means, my lord,” answered the tailor, humbly, “that there is some villainous complot astir, and that we, the friends and servants of his Majesty, are the objects of its malice."

“That is nothing new, for we have been the object of villainous designs ever since our master showed that he valued our service."

True, and therefore we have the more cause for alarm as to what may be the upshot of the present conspiracy, when we are surrounded by all our enemies and their forces,” proceeded Hommel, deliberately enough, notwithstanding the fear under which he laboured.

“We have thrust our heads into the tiger's jaws, and he means to snap them off, if he can, muttered the smith.

“We should never have been here in the midst of their desperadoes, who will make no more ado of cutting us into mincemeat than they would of emptying a quaich of ale," grumbled Torphichen.

“His Majesty will protect us," said Cochrane.

“I' faith, it will be well if he can protect himself,” muttered Leonard; “ but he can do nothing for us.”

“ Then we can defend ourselves."
“We'll get the worst of that, with a curse apon them,”

66

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »