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At the same time the man who had remained so long motionless sprang to the side of Angus.
The door was opened, and Cochrane, surrounded by his followers, was seen without.
“I am given to understand that there is a council holding here,” he said, haughtily ; “and I have come hither to know its purport, and to give my voice to its decisions with what advantage may be for his Majesty's welfare."
“Enter,” said Angus, grimly.
Cochrane boldly crossed the threshold, and the door was immediately closed on his followers.
Angus thereupon snatched the massive gold chain from the courtier's neck.
“A halter will suit you better, my lord,” he said, mockingly.
Sir Robert Douglas snatched the bugle horn from the astonished favourite's side.
“You have been a hunter of mischief over long," exclaimed the assailant, and you
have ridden to your own doom at last.”
“ Is this jest or earnest, my lords ? ” cried Cochrane, starting back and regarding his opponents indignantly.
“It is sad earnest, as you shall find,” retorted Angus : you and your accomplices have too long abused the confidence of the King, corrupted his government, and betrayed his trust. But now, you and your fellows shall have the fitting reward of the service you have done the country.”
“If that be your intent, my lords, you shall not find me yield tamely to your treachery,” answered Cochrane, boldly. "Ho ! Leonard, Janfarie, Musgrave, Fenwick, to the rescue.”
Drawing his sword, he made a violent effort to reach the door in order to open it. But a dozen swords were instantly opposed to him, and he must have been beaten down at once had not help come from an unexpected quarter.
The man who had hastened to the side of Angas when it became known that Cochrane approached, now dropped his cloak, and revealed the
person of Lamington. “I claim your lordship’s pledge,” he cried firmly; " this wolf is my prey."
“Hold your hands, gentlemen,” shouted Angus, in obedience to the demand made on him.
The command was obeyed, and before Cochrane could recover breath from the fierce exertion he had made to defend himself, Lamington grasped his arm. “ Turn to me, Robert Cochrane, and if your arm does not fail you at sight of one yon have so bitterly wronged, endeavour to win an honourable death at my band.”
“You here - curses upon you !” cried the incensed man, who now indeed began to feel that he had been trapped beyond help; “this is your doing. But I thank you for this one chance of satisfying my hate. On guard."
He struck at him so suddenly, and with such fury, that it was only by an exertion of extraordinary agility that Lamington avoided the stroke. His sword was ready to prevent a repetition of the movement.
Cochrane gnashed his teeth with rage; but his eye met that of his opponent with a cold, deadly glitter, that betokened perfect presence of mind.
“ Stand back, gentlemen,” cried Gordon, whilst he kept his eye fixed on his foe, and the weapons crossed ; “ mine is the first score to be settled with this knave. He has traduced me to the King; he has declared me rebel and traitor, and condemned me to the gallows; but more villainous than all beside, he has deprived me of a treasure that was of little worth to him and that was life itself to me.”
As if acknowledging the superior claim of Gordon, to prove his truth upon the body of his maligner, all drew back as far as the walls would permit, leaving a clear space for the combatants.
Cochrane saw in this movement the possibility of reaching the door before he could be again surrounded ; and he therefore hastened the issue of the conflict by the rapidity and fury of his attack.
All the skill he possessed in the use of his weaponand it was considerable—was quickened by the knowledge that everything depended on his present address. With a desperate velocity his sword played round that of his antagonist, and he availed himself of every trick of fence to gain a speedy and decisive victory. He fancied that he had learned the secret of Gordon's play in the encounter at the Dumfries hostelry, and he put that knowledge to the best advantage.
But either he had misapprehended the lesson, or Lamington, also remembering the incident, adopted new tactics ; for every thrust, parry, and feint was warded with singular dexterity, and returned so swiftly that it would have been impossible to say which was the best swordsman.
The spectators looked on in silence and gradually became excited by the contest, which was sustained with equal address and equal animosity by both combatants.
The faces of the combatants were at white heat with passion; and yet there was a certain coolness on both sides which gave no advantage to either. At length Cochrane, imagining that he felt the arm of his opponent weakening, made a desperate lunge at his breast. But the weakness bad been a feint: the lunge was deftly parried, and Gordon pierced the sword-wrist of his foe, so that the weapon dropped instantly froin the powerless hand.
Without a pause, and without uttering a sound or changing expression to indicate the pain he endured, Cochrane with his left hand whipped his poniard from his sheath and sprung at Gordon's neck before the latter could recover his weapon in time to follow
his success. He, however, warded the blow of the poniard with his arm, griped the assailant by the throat, and hurled him violently to the ground.
Cochrane was momentarily stunned by the fall; Gordon's foot planted on his breast rendered it impossible for him to rise, and Gordon's sword-point, resting on his throat, threatened to pierce his neck and pinion him to the floor at the slightest movement he might make to renew the conflict.
A murmur of satisfaction and sundry cries of congratulation greeted the victor. There was not one of those who had so intently watched the progress of the close-balanced combat who did not draw a breath of relief in beholding the triumph of him whose cause they had deemed just, and whose honour they now believed to be vindicated beyond doubt.
“Now, Cochrane, for your soul's sake," cried Gordon, “confess the treachery you have practised upon me-confess the wrong you have done me, and for which there is no remedy. Confess, and win some mercy for your black soul."
“Strike, fool!” answered the fallen man, with bitter scorn—“strike, and be content with your victory, for you get no word from me but that of hate and contempt."
“It is too brave an end for such as you."
“So think we,” interrupted Angus, striking up Lamington's sword. “You have proved your truth on his foul body; now let the gallows bave its due.”
At a sign from the earl, Sir Robert Douglas and another lifted Cochrane from the ground and held him prisoner between them.
He fixed his eyes on Angus, with the haughty glance of one who knows that he is powerless, but will not show any submission.
“This is like your lordship’s bravery,” he said mockingly; "you can revile the defenceless, knowing that you are secure from his vengeance. Had I been wiser you should never have fled from Linlithgow or lived to show me this disgrace."
Faugh! you false loon; your taunts shall not move me to sully my fingers with you,” said the earl, contemptuously.
Are you all of his mind, my lords ? " proceeded Cochrane, turning to the assembly; " remember, I wear an earl's spurs, and I claim from you the death of a gentleman.”
“Oho! you would ride the beggar's high horse, most worshipful Earl of Mar,” cried Angus; "you would play the noble, and hold your head on a level with the best gentlemen of the land ? By St. Andrew, since you have mounted the horse, you shall have the beggar's ride-to the foul fiend, your master. The spars shall be struck from your heels by the common hangman, and your head shall have the honour it merits by being exalted above your comrades on the scaffold.”
The now impotent favourite saw that it was useless to strive further against the determination of his powerful enemies. He quietly took a silk handkerchief from his pocket and began to bind it round his wounded wrist.
A piece of dirty rope that seemed to have been lying in the gutter of some stable was brought to bind his hands. At sight of it he drew back.
"At least your malice, sirs, will permit me the poor favour of a silken cord,” he said bitterly ; "you cannot refuse to spare me the indignity of hanging in filthy hemp when you may accommodate me with one of the silken cords which you will find attached to my pavilion.”
Several laughed outright at this request, and Sir Robert Douglas proceeded with new zest to fasten his hands behind him with the despised hemp.
It was Angus who answered
"You shall have a tether of horsehair to hang in, that we may the better mark our disdain for you and your
Cochrane shrugged his shoulders as he might have done in happier circumstances at the hopeless vulgarity of a boor.
“One last request permit me to make,” he said with mocking courtesy: “A lady is on her way hither in expectation of wedding with me to-day. Will you so far consider her pleasure as to prevent her witnessing my disgrace ?"
• The dame that could wed with you will be the merrier for the sight, if she esteem you rightly," retorted the uncompromising Angus; and then addressing the council : “ Pronounce judgment now, my lords, that we may save time and finish our work speedily.”
“Death to him and his accomplices at the hands of the common hangman!” was the unanimous verdict pronounced, without
further form of trial. It was then arranged that Cochrane should be kept prisoner in the kirk until his associates were secured. In the mean while, his followers were ordered back to their quarters by the Earl of Angus; and the men, knowing nothing of what had transpired, and their master not making any sign to countermand them, retired accordingly.
Sir Robert Douglas was entrusted with the care of the prisoner, and a thousand troopers were speedily placed on guard round the kirk to frustrate any attempt at rescue. When these precautions had been taken, a number of men were despatched to erect scaffolds on the bridge of Lauder, whilst Angus, Lord Gray, and other noblemen proceeded to the King's pavilion for the purpose of arresting the other favourites.