Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XLIII.

THE MEETING IN THE TENT.

"Nor wealth, nor grandeur, power could have

My faithful heart to shake;
For thee it beat, oh much-loved boy,

For thee it now doth break.

Why did thy wrathful rival think

His sword could us disjoin ?
Did he not know that Love had made
My life but one with thiue ?"

The Dowy Den. HAVING seen his vanquished foe securely bound, Gordon snatched up his cloak and quitted the kirk, accompanied by the Abbot Panther. The latter wore the expression of one who is satisfied with a victory for which he has been long struggling ; but Gordon was as gloomy as if he came from defeat rather than conquest. He had been wounded in several places by his antagonist; but the wounds gave him no concern; they had nothing to do with the sorrow which oppressed him.

“You will hasten forward,” he said presently to his friend, “and give her assurance that she is saved from the wretched union which would have been forced upon her but for the fortune of to-day ?

“I will tell her that you have saved her, and she will thank me for the tidings," rejoined Panther; "but she would thank me still more if I could present the champion to her.”

“No--that is impossible. Do not try to persuade me, Panther, for Heaven knows my own desire to touch her hand again, and to look into her eyes,

makes

my

resolution weak enough." “ The reso

tion should never have been taken." “It is her will that we should never meet again," continued Lamington, mournfully, “and I cannot marvel at it. There is no mending the evil fortune that parts us : we can only suffer. Meeting only adds to our misery by the bitterer sense which presence gives of the black golf

[ocr errors]

between us. I wish to spare her and myself so far as may be, and therefore must not meet her. Tell her this, if

you find occasion ; and say, too, that Nicol is safe from me.

“I cannot urge you more than I have done on this matter," snid the Abbot, gravely; “I respect the motives which actuate the lady and yourself; but Churchman as I am, the fate of her brother does not seem to me to merit such penance from you."

“If we could only think so ! But no, I dare not, must not think of it."

Forget it, then, if you can. I will do your errand, and, in faith, it must be done speedily, for there is need that I should hasten to the King to see that he is used with the respect our friends are apt to forget in their wrath." • You will find me in the

camp when

you

need me.” They had by this time come up with a small troop of Borderers, who appeared to have been waiting for them. The Abbot and Gordon mounted the horses which were held in readiness, and the former rode towards the town.

Lamington, having given some brief instructions to his men, slowly followed the Abbot at a distance.

The party sent to conduct the bride to the kirk had been unexpectedly delayed. When Nicol entered the chamber in which his sister waited for him, she informed him that a little while before his arrival a missive had been received by her, intimating that she was not to quit the house on any persuasion until a second message was delivered. The missive had been forwarded by Lamington, but that she did not make known to her brother, whom, under various pretences, she detained in the room with her, fearing that a collision might take place if he should see Gordon, in spite of his reluctant promise to renounce the feud.

Leonard imagined that the instructions to tarry the coming of further intelligence had been sent by Cochrane; and being aware that there was more than probability of sundry unpleasant interruptions to the proposed ceremony, he was content to abide in the town and refresh himself at the hostelry. In this occupation Musgrave and Fenwick readily joined him.

Thus the party remained until the Abbot galloped up

the street. Leonard sallied forth to discover the

purpose of the rider.

“There will be no bridal to-day, my masters,” cried his lordship, dismounting: "wherefore you may hie back to the camp when you please.” “No bridal !” ejaculated Leonard.

ejaculated Leonard. “Why, what in the name of Vulcan does that mean?

“Ride to the kirk and learn for yourself," was the curt response of the Abbot, as he entered the house in search of Katherine.

“ That will I, and right speedily," shouted the smith; "for by your looks, my master, there is an iron hot that may need a sledge-hammer to shape it."

Valiantly mounting his horse, and resolved to give his comrade, Cochrane, what help he might need, Leonard summoned his men to follow, and galloped to the kirk. There he was assailed by the troops left in charge, and despite the desperation with which he defended himself, he was captured, pinioned, and thrown down beside his associate to await execution.

When Panther appeared before Katherine she rose with a startled and somewhat bewildered expression to meet him.

“ You did not count on seeing me here, daughter,” he said, taking her hands kindly; " but I bring tidings that should make me welcome.”

“You are so always, father,” she replied, agitatedly, and marvelling what might be the nature of his tidings.

“But more than ever now ; for I have come to tell you that Robert Cochrane will never claim your hand, or any woman's. He is doomed, and you are free.”

"I am free?" she echoed, as if scarcely comprehending the full meaning of the words.

Then I am free too,” muttered Nicol; and he swiftly passed from the chamber unobserved.

The tent of Lamington had been pitched on the outskirts of the camp, as he had been amongst the latest arrivals. The position was, besides, favourable to his purpose of keeping his presence as secret as possible until after he had settled his affairs with Cochrane.

His vengeance was now accomplished: his task was completed. Katherine was free to choose her own course, and he had nothing more that he cared to live for. The future was desolate to him, for every motive of energy seemed suddenly to have been withdrawn.

He felt himself as weak as he was hopeless, and he wearied for the din of war that it might rouse him from his state of enervation, if it were for no better end than to fall speedily in the vanguard of the army. The thought of his ambition to restore the credit of his father's name only produced a melancholy smile at the futility of man's purposes.

In this misanthropical humour, he repaired to his tent as soon as he had seen the Abbot enter the house occupied by Katherine, and threw himself on the pile of heather which served him as a couch, feeling utterly exhausted by the emotions and events of the day. But it was with no thought or hope of sleep that he had lain down; it was with the feeling of one who yields himself up to his despair, believing that to strive against it is useless.

The entrance of some one awakened him from the species of lethargy into which he had fallen.

He looked up and recognized Nicol Janfarie.

The countenance of the youth was flushed with excitement, and he appeared to preserve a calm bearing only by the greatest effort of his will.

Gordon rose slowly, watching Nicol's face with wistful eyes, whilst he waited for him to speak. But Nicol seemed as slow to begin the conversation as he had been eager to seek the interview.

“You know why I am here ? ” he said at length, excitedly, and yet with some respect.

“ Ï cannot know until you have acquainted me,” answered Lamington in a low voice that almost trembled, for he had no difficulty in divining the purpose of the visit from the tone in which the inqniry was made.

Nicol gazed at him, frowning; and then with some agitation

Gordon, I believe you to be an honest man, in spite of all that has been said to your discredit, and in spite of all the ill that you have done us.

Lamington inclined his head.
Nicol went on with growing warmth,

“ Answer me, then, as a true man and I will be guided by your answer. If

you

stood face to face with the man who was the cause of your father's fall, if you stood face to face with the man whose band had stricken your brother to the earth, what would you do ?”

Lamington's head was bowed, his hands were clasped, but he did not answer.

“You will not refuse to satisfy me,” cried Nicol, with increasing excitement; “say, would you permit the tears, the prayers, the agony even, of a silly woman to tether your arm ? Would you permit that man to go scathless from your presence ?"

A pause, and then the response was given, as if wrung from him by some irresistible power

"No."

“ You would claim from him life for life—you would compel him to yield you his heart's blood, or you would give yours in striving for it? Would you not do that?"

“I would,” he replied, in the same forced manner as the first response.

“I thank you, Gordon, for this answer, and I would that I might have taken your hand as a friend's, not a foe's. Now know why I am here.”

Nicol, this cannot be."

“And I tell you, Gordon, that this must be, according to your own showing. But more than that, the pangs of shame which I have endured—the sharp stings of remorse with wbich I have been whipped almost to frenzy since Robert Cochrane drew from me the promise to renounce the feud as the only means by which he could make sure of Katherine's hand, and as the only means by which he could make sure of your destruction-all these have proved to me that this must be.”

"Listen to me, Janfarie," said Lamington, calmly. “I own that something of the blame of your father's fall may be due to me, but nothing of your brother's. He compelled me to defend my life, and in return I tried to save bis.”

“But it was by your hand he fell, nevertheless," was the dogged comment.

My hand, unhappily, but not my will. I cannot hope to alter your view of that matter, however, and will not seek

you

66

« PreviousContinue »