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THE FATE OF THE FAVOURITES.
“Now they hae bound this traitor strang,
Wi' curses and wi' blows;
The arrest of Cochrane had been effected with sufficient secrecy to enable the barons to reach his Majesty's pavilion in advance of any rumour of the event. Angus, Lord Gray, and the Lord Chancellor, Evandale, with several others, obtained an immediate audience of the King; and whilst they occupied him in debating sundry matters of import, their followers made rapid search for their victims.
One of the least offenders, named Preston, and who was one of the only two of the favourites who could lay claim to gentlemanhood by birth, was the first to be seized. He submitted quietly, unable to believe that any serious harm was meditated towards him. The tailor, Hommel, was the next discovered, but he slipped through the fingers of his captors, and rushed forth, screaming at the pitch of his voice, “ Treason !--treason ! The King's in danger!” And it was this cry which was caught up by one voice after another until it had reached the limits of the camp, spreading confusion and alarm everywhere, and calling together all those loyal gentlemen, who, like Lamington, were prepared to serve their monarch at all hazards, whatever might be his faults.
But although he had succeeded in spreading the alarm, Hommel was promptly seized, gagged, bound hand and foot, and placed beside the others under a strong guard.
The King heard that cry, which was the most terrible of all sounds to his ears, and he turned pale as he scanned the faces of the nobles who surrounded him. Rendered desperate by his circumstances, he plucked his rapier from its scabbard, and broke through the midst of the barons, who were unprepared for the movement.
“Ha, my lords,” he said angrily, “if there be treason here, we must know the cause of it.”
He rushed out to the front of the pavilion, and the spectacle he witnessed there was enough to appal him. Instead of the royal guards, the ground was occupied by the men of Angus and his fellow-conspirators.
But most ominous of all, James saw his minions bound and prisoners, appealing to him for the protection which he was unable to give. Alarmed on his own account, he turned quickly to the barons who had followed him. He spoke with dignity, although his lips trembled
“Stand back, sirs; come none of you within reach of my weapon until this treachery is explained, else we will count him the declared foe of our royal person and use him in accordance. Speak you, my Lord Angus, who are the traitors here, and what is their purpose ?
He was obeyed; for this unexpected display of courage and dignity commanded respect. Angus responded grufily, but respectfully
“We are the liege subjects of your Majesty, ready to defend your person to the last extremity of our means and lives; but we are resolved that the false knaves who have so long given an evil bent to your thought and government, shall pay the penalty of their misdemeanours."
“And by whom has this judgment been pronounced ? "
"By the full council, sire, and by the voice of the people who have groaned under the tyranny of your minions."
“The judgment is unlawful, my lord, and we refuse to sanction its execution.”
“So much we expected from your Majesty, and we are prepared to execute it without your sanction.”
“ Traitors, then you forswear your allegiance ?"
No, sire,” broke in Evandale; “but we are resolved to save your Majesty from the ruin to which
infatuation is hurrying you. Look round, my liege; there is not one of those gentlemen who has not suffered at the hands of the knaves who have betrayed your confidence by turning it to their own base uses."
James looked round, and the glance satisfied him that he was powerless to alter the decision which had been declared. The bitterness of the moment was some atone. ment for the weakness, the misdirected kindness, and the obstinacy, which had combined to bring him into this position. Wbilst he remained in silent agony, reflecting how he was to proceed, a horseman galloped up to the place where his Majesty stood, drew rein by his side, and sprang from the saddle.
“ Lamington!” exclaimed several voices, surprised by this sudden appearance and perplexed to divine his purpose.
Mount, sire,” said Gordon in an undertone, “but forego any thought of resisting their lordships; the wholo camp is on their side, for their movement is not against your Majesty, but against those whcm all hate."
The King glanced quickly at the speaker and recognized the sincerity of his words. Accepting his proffered aid, he vaulted into the saddle. There was a movement amongst the barons as if they feared that this was some attempt to frustrate their object. The movement, however, was interrupted by a piercing shriek for mercy.
Immediately afterwards the King's page, John Ramsay, rushed from the pavilion in which he had been hiding. He was pursued hotly by a couple of troopers. The youth, searching wildly for some means of escape, observed the King, and with one desperate bound sprang on to the horse's back behind him, clasping his arms round his royal master's body, and crying piteously for mercy and protection.
The pursuers only halted within halberd length of his Majesty
James bowed his head on his breast, humiliated by the circumstances which compelled him to become a supplicant where he should have commanded; for, to save the youth, he must supplicate.
“My liege, my liege—my dear master, save me from these men who seek to murder me," cried Ramsay, as, at a signal from Angus, the troopers were about to drag him from the horse.
The King raised his hand, and the men paused.
"My lords," said the monarch, with faltering tone, "you can spare me this one of your victims. Let his youth plead for him, if the voice of your King is too feeble to move you to pity or respect for me. What wrongs, what spite can be gratified by the death of one whose tender years prove him unfit for any counsel or act that may have harmed you ? Grant me this-I ask it as a boon."
His voice became so husky with emotion that his concluding words were barely audible, although their purport was clearly understood.
The nobles displayed some hesitation, for they had determined on the extirpation of the whole nest of satellites; but the sorrowful spectacle of the humiliated King pleading to them for a boon had its influence in rousing the kindlier nature of the sternest; and this, aided by the advice of the Abbot Panther, who was now amongst them, prevailed.
“ The boy may live, since your Majesty desires it,” said Angus; “and now we must pray yon, sire, to ride forward to Edinburgh. Your Grace will be attended by a fitting escort, and we will follow as soon as we have arranged with our Southron foes in the manner which may seein most to the advantage of the State.”
James inclined his head gravely in acknowledgment of their lordships' concession, and then said, slowly
“Are we to regard our position as that of a prisoner ?
No, sire, only as that of one ander restraint until the difficulties of the hour are settled,” replied the earl; "and in proof of our sincerity you may select from us the chiefs of your escort.”
“When the captive must select his gaoler from amongst his captors, he has little interest in the matter," said the King, bitterly. “ Send with me whom you will."
His Majesty was conducted from the place, and shortly afterwards he was on his way to the Castle of Edinburgh, attended by about five hundred men and half a dozen nobles. Lamington was appointed one of the royal escort, and the appointment afforded the unfortunate monarch some little satisfaction, for he had come to recognize the devotion of the man who had on a former occasion shown himself ready to surrender life in his service.
In the mean while the rest of the favourites were hastily secured; but when the roll of the victims was called there was one absent.
The fat little master of fence, Torphichen, could nowhere be found, and the search for him was about to be renounced, when a large drum, which stood near the royal pavilion, was observed to give a sudden lurch in an unaccountable manner. The drum was quickly lifted from the ground, and there the fat little man was discovered, doubled up with his head bent towards his feet. He was ghastly with fright, suffocation, and cramp.
At the first sound of alarm he had ingeniously knocked the side out of the drum and hidden himself under it. There he had remained, listening to the cries of his comrades for mercy and the stern rejection of their appeal. Terror kept him motionless for a long time; at length the pain of his position drove him to make an effort to change it; but his stout person rendered the movement impossible without shifting his covering, and so he had been discovered.
He was sufficiently exhausted by the torture he had undergone to find relief in the fresh air and the freedom of his limbs, although the next moment he was to be led to his doom. The position in which he had been discovered excited a good deal of mirth, but he was indifferent to that, for the effect of his confinement had stupefied him.
Like a drove of cattle to the slaughter, they were all marched to the bridge of Lauder, where scaffolds had been hastily prepared for them. Remonstrances and prayers were unheeded.
They were allowed a few minutes in which to implore the mercy of Heaven, and that was all the clemency which their captors would grant.
Cochrane and Leonard were brought down from the kirk. The smith, whose tall, brawny frame bore many recent scars and wounds, walked with steady step, his swarthy face turned to those around him with an expression of fierce and sullen hate. But he spoke no word.
His companion in misfortune, however, walked with as jaunty a step as if he had been going to the bridal, for which his gay raiment would have been appropriate, instead of proceeding to his execution. On all sides he was mockingly saluted as the Right Noble the Earl of Mar, and hooted at as the assassin of the bonnie prince whose title he had adopted. Again he was execrated as the inventor of the base placks, and as the evil genius of the King.
But all the contumely which was heaped upon him Cochrane acknowledged with a cool smile of irony, bowing to his vehement execrators with the courtesy of one who