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relinquished his hold of her, and sprang forward with his short sword upraised to strike Gordon on the back.
Katherine screamed as she saw the weapon uplifted, whilst Gordon, engaged with the two men before him, was unaware of his peril.
A huge shadow darkened the doorway, and the uplifted arm fell broken and powerless to the man's side, under the blow of a heavy staff wielded by the muscular hand of Will Craig. Another blow laid the man prone on the floor.
“I heard the whistle, and I thought there was something wrang," muttered Will, without pausing in his onslaught.
Gordon had disengaged himself from his two assailants, and both fell under the sledge-hammer blows of Will's staff. The last man- -the one who had retained hold of Katherine-seeing how matters stood, made a bold rush for the door, and just as he was crossing the threshold received such a blow from Will's cudgel on the buttocks as lifted him a step forward on his way, and sent him out of the house howling.
“Where are the horses ? " cried Gordon.
' but I hae a boat. Come on. They're fechting like deils outside, and winna see us."
Lamington took Katherine by the hand; her strength had been severely ed, but she was able to hasten with him out of the house and run to the river-side, as the Borderers under Sir Hugh Janfarie galloped down from the Grey Friar to the rescue of Sir Robert Cochrane.
“My blessing on your heart, sweet thing,
Wae to your wilful will;
Katherine Janfarie. The clamour of the riot rose upon the night like the roar of an angry sea. The clang of arms, the tramp of horses' hoofs, the wild shriek of the death-smitten, the infuriated
yell of the avenger, the loud shouts of the Borderers, and all the confusion of noises which a tempest of the fiercest of human passions produced, merged into one long thunderous roar.
The tide surged wildly, as now the Borderers were beaten back and again made good their ground with the dogged valour of men whose trade is strife.
The sound of the tumult echoed along the valley of the Nith and startled the monks of Lin-Claden in their midnight vigils, and possibly alarmed a few of the good men who were softening the austerities of their order with some stolen indulgence.
In the town, lights flashed everywhere. Presently the beacon fire on the tower of the castle was kindled, and was soon answered by signals from the surrounding heights and peels. The petty riot, which had been so lightly raised, had now swelled into the proportions of a battle.
Sir Hugh Janfarie, with the main detachment of his followers, rode down upon the combatants. He encountered Musgrave, who explained as clearly as he could the source of the quarrel; and Sir Hugh, sensible of the danger oi the Hot Trod being arrested in consequence of the brawl, and of the probable reprisals the townsfolk would make for what harm befel them, rode into the hottest of the fight, endeavouring to allay its fury.
But his words were unbeard in the prevailing turmoil, and his purpose was misunderstood. The result of his attempted peace-making was to increase the blind rage of the burgesses.
Nicol, with the emblem of the Hot Trod, rode close by his father. But the spear was wrenched from his grasp, and the burning sod was trampled underfoot; at that the townsfolk raised a deafening cheer, renewing the assault more vigorously than before.
They had many old scores to settle with the Borderers, and they were not sorry to find so favourable an oppor. tunity to settle some of them. Besides, blood had been already spilled on both sides, and Janfarie's mediation, which might have been of service a little while ago, came too late when the men were heated with action and thirsting to avenge fallen comrades.
There was nothing for the Borderers to do but keep
close together and beat as dignified a retreat as the circumstances permitted.
Sir Hugh and Nicol cut their way through the crowd to the side of Cochrane and Richard, who were receiving rough usage from a band of stout fellows, and were being dragged towards the Town House.
The rescue was effected by a bold dash and a fierce hacking down of every man who attempted to bar the way of the old knight to his son and friend. One fellow, who wielded a Jeddart axe with strength and address, made a sturdy stand, and several times planted his blows with such force, that, but for the careering of the horse, he would have stricken the knight to the ground. As if determined not to be foiled, he sprang at the horse's head, gripped the bridle, and swinging the axe, brought it down with violence. But Sir Hugh, bending forward, avoided the blade of the axe by receiving the blow of the shaft on his shoulder. The blow had been given with so much force that the shaft snapped in twain, the blade falling harmlessly to the ground.
Before the man could regain his balance, or do more than utter a howl of chagrin at the adroitness which had foiled his effort, Sir Hugh pierced him through the neck, and he fell with a groan beneath the horse's feet.
“My father !” shrieked a voice as the man fell. The next instant a youth of about eighteen years sprang with the agility and fury of a wild cat upon Sir Hugh, and with a sharp souter's knife, stabbed him under the sword arm, which was at the moment upraised.
The youth was beaten down by the prickers' spears, and trampled upon by their horses.
At the spectacle of this swift retaliation on both sides, there arose a yell from the townsfolk, wilder and more terrible than any that had yet added its discord to the raging elements of the night. There was a pause, too, like the momentary stillness which precedes the crash of a thunderbolt. Then it came; a body of men drew close together, and at a swinging trot, with arms in rest, advanced upon the Borderers. Steadily they moved with teeth set, and in silence that seemed more terrible than the wildest outcries.
Sir Hugh, on receiving the wound, had fallen forward
on the neck of his horse, and would have fallen had not Richard struggled to his side in time to steady him in the saddle.
“You are hurt, sir,” he said agitatedly.
Richard sprang upon the horse behind him, and taking a firm hold of bis sword belt, contrived to hold him on the seat whilst he snatched the sword from his father's now powerless hand, and with it met the determined onslaught of the townsmen.
“Steady, lads," shouted Cochrane, “and withdraw to the bridge. There you will be able to hold your ground against the whole town of rebellious loons."
The Borderers formed in double line and began to move slowly backward, contesting every inch of ground.
“ It is my father's sword,” muttered Richard Janfarie between his clenched teeth; and this night I will provo myself worthy to bear it.”
Instead of retreating with his company, he touched the horse with his heels, and burst into the midst of the advancing foe, hewing them down right and left with such fury that he cleared a space and threw them into some confusion.
But the crowd formed a circle round him, cutting him off from his friends, who were unaware of his danger.
Observing this, he made the horse wheel round, and again fought his way through the mass, wielding the long sword of his father with all the pith his thirst for vengeance inspired.
The people fell back more astounded by the strange sight of the double burden of the horse-one man apparently dead, and the other animated as if with the rage of a demon-more awed by this even than his prowess.
They fell before him, they shrank from him, and the confusion caused by his single assault materially aided the Borderers in reaching the bridge with unbroken line.
There the conflict was brought to a sudden cessation by the appearance of a band of the Grey Friars, who, headed by their Superior, and each carrying a flaming torch which revealed his holy order, marched boldly between the opposing lines of Borderers and townsmen, at the moment whon, exhausted and wounded, Richard Janfarie rejoined his comrades,
Mad as tho people were with the events which had transpired, they came to a halt before the stern glances of the Friars.
The Superior commanded silence, and the uproar gradually subsided like the diminishing sound of an ebbing tide.
When silence had been obtained, the monk demanded an explanation of the outrage upon the town's repose.
Twenty voices attempted to answer him at once, but the Superior motioned them to silence as Sir Robert Cochrane advanced and made himself known.
He briefly explained the purpose of the Borderers' entrance into the town, and the manner in which the riot had been raised by some foolish demands of the people, made to him as a servant of the king at that inopportune time, and with unmannerly threats.
“ How his Majesty may think of this matter when it is explained to him,” he added in conclusion, “I cannot say. But this much I may tell you, that I believe that the disturbance was raised in the first place by the rascal we are pursuing, in order to cover his own escape.”
“Who is the man ? ” queried the monk.
you arrested him?" “No; but he cannot be far hence, and we must crave your protection whilst we continue our search, and leave our wounded to your care."
The Superior bowed in acquiescence, saying
“As you know the man, you will be able to make him answer for his share in this disturbance."
“By the Sacred Mother of Heaven,” cried Janfarie in a hollow voice, “he shall answer that to me. My father is dead, and to Lamington I look for an account of his fate.”
The young man had lifted the body from the horse, purposing to staunch his wound, when he had discovered that no aid of his could serve him, and he was now kneeling over his dead father as he made his vow of retaliation.
Nicol was by his brother's side. Grief choked him, and he could not speak; but he pressed Richard's hand, in token that be shared in his resolve.
The torches flickering and wavering in the wind shed