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"By the saints, if I thought that," muttered Janfarie, frowning darkly, and then checking himself; “but shame upon me to give ear to such words from a mad wench who has disgraced her family for the sake of a popinjay. Attend me, mistress, to the Abbot's court without more delay.".
"I will attend you presently," she answered, quietly ; "give me a moment to prepare myself for this trial—for such I count the interview to which you command me is to be.”
Janfarie turned on his heel and withdrew, taking his stand outside the door to guard against any attempt of his sister to elude him.
After a moment's pause, during which she looked dazedly at the closed door, she threw herself upon her knees on the priedieu, and bowing her head low she raised her clasped hands in supplication.
She had maintained her composure during the presence of her brother; but now that she was alone all the contend. ing emotions of her breast struggled for utterance, and overwbelmed her. The death of her father, the accusation of Lamington, and the consciousness of her own share in these miserable events, supplied her with bitter thoughts, for which there was no outlet save in prayer.
She seemed calmer when she regained her feet, and able to think of the more immediate necessities of the occasion. She hastily removed the garments which the friendly hostess of the Royal Hunt had supplied for her disguise; and as they had been only thrown over her own dress, she had merely to cast them aside to appear in apparel more becoming her position, although its bravery was still in sad contrast to the circumstances surrounding her.
She adjusted her bodice, and the skirts which had been tucked up. Then with her hands she snioothed her hair as well as she could with such primitive toilet instruments, and without a mirror; for, woman-like, she wished to present herself in as becoming a guise as possible before the Abbot, upon whose word all her future happiness and the very life of her lover seemed at this moment to depend.
Slight as the change was, it was enough with her natural charms to transform a rustic lass into a dignified lady. She liad need of all her courage to meet the emergency calmly. When she joined her brother, it was with a bearing of quiet dignity that was not without its effect even
He conducted her to the basement of the building, and as she passed along the hall, one of the windows permitted her a glimpse of the horses and the Borderers waiting in the square
without. She experienced a thrill of dismay, as this discovery reminded her of the power against which she had to do battle.
Her brother, however, was not permitted to observe anything of the alarm she felt. Her features remained pale and almost rigid.
The chamber in which the Abbot had appointed to hold his impromptu court was the principal one of the Priory; and as it belonged to the suite set apart for the king during his sojourn in the forest, it was furnished with some taste, and even with a degree of luxury. It had six windows of a larger size than any others in the building, and the recesses which they formed displayed the great thickness of the walls. In these recesses, and immediately beneath the casements, were stone seats long enough to accommodate three persons. The walls were hung with tapestry, and a number of couches and chairs covered with velvet
the apartment a rich and comfortable appearance, which was almost enough to have caused one who had been tarrying in the other apartments of the Priory to think that he had suddenly stepped out of the cold regions of poverty into those of wealth.
Between the central windows was placed, on a slightly raised platform, a huge oaken chair, curiously carved and surmounted by a mitre and a crown. The seat and back were covered with ruby silk. As if to subdue the light admitted by the first windows on the right and left of this chair, heavy curtains were drawn across them. By this means the face of the person who might occupy this scat of honour was almost entirely concealed from those who might stand before him, whilst every change in their coun. tenances would be revealed by the light which fell full
Entering this apartment from the dim passages which she had traversed, Katherine's eyes were dazzled by the sun's rays, so that for an instant the place seemed to be
unoccupied. But presently her eyes became accustomed to the light, and she observed a man advancing towards her from the shadow of one of the curtained windows.
She drew back as she recognized Cochrane.
Her movement was one of repugnance, not of fear; and Sir Robert noting and comprehending it, halted with brows knit, and his cunning eyes fixed searchingly upon her.
“You have given us a long ride, madam," he said, politely, but with an air of severity ; “I trust that you may be sufficiently fatigued by this time to be in a humour to listen to the counsels of those whose honour you are debasing, and to whom you are bound by most solemn bonds."
With a shudder of disgust she turned sharply upon her brother.
“You summoned me hither to meet the lord Abbot,” she said, haughtily, “and your trick has served you so far that it has brought me unprotected into this man's presence; but it can serve you no further. Stand aside, Richard Janfarie, and let me pass.
She spoke with so much dignity and authority that her brother appeared to hesitate.
“Stand aside,” she repeated; "you are no friend of mine. I now understand the lies with which you have alarmed me; and my word upon it, brother, I am as full of sorrow to know you the base instrument of this man as I am full of shame for the extremity to which you have forced me.”
“I have spoken truth in all that I have said, as you will soon discover,” he answered, gloomily.
Before she could make any comment a signal from Cochrane caused her brother to retire, closing the door behind him and locking it, as she knew by the click the bolt made in shooting into the lock.
“Richard-brother, do not leave me—for the Sacred Mother's sake do not leave me with him," she cried, running to the door and vainly attempting to force it open.
Her efforts to escape were futile, and her cries were unanswered.
Cochrane, as if perfectly secure in his position, waited patiently until she had exhausted attempts to open
the door. Then he advanced, and courteously, but with firm bearing, conducted her to a couch and bade her be seated.
She saw that opposition was useless, and she submitted, waiting with considerable trepidation the upshot of this interview into which she had been trepanned, but wearing upon her brow a flush of indignation which concealed her fears and rather added to the beauty of her countenance
“ And he has gained my mother's ear
My father's stern command ;
Lady Jean. COCHRANE paused, as if to give her time to collect herself. His manner was that of extreme courtesy, and the sneering smile to which his lips were so well accustomed had entirely given place to an expression of grave concern.
He remained standing before her, his hands lightly crossed behind him, whilst he scanned her features narrowly.
Now, madam,” he said at length, “now that our game at hide-and-seek is brought to a close, and that we are alone together, we have an opportunity of coming to an understanding."
He spoke in a very low tone, as if afraid of any one overhearing him; but indeed it was his custom at all times to speak in a very mellow, persuasive voice.
"That understanding is soon reached," she rejoined, firmly. “You have forced upon me an honour, Sir Robert Cochrane, which you were well aware was loathsome to me. I have surely proved my scorn for it; and now I seek only an audience of the Abbot to obtain release from whatever bonds my helplessness permitted you to fasten upon me."
She partly rose, but a movement of his hand warned her to remain seated.
“The bonds you speak of, mistress, are not so lightly broken as you would seem to think. That you will test for yourself. His lordship will be here presently, and you shall learn from his lips the truth of what I
“Till then, sir, spare me your presence.”
“I have no wish to intrude it upon you further than the circumstances warrant. But before his lordship comes -- before you compel me to use the last measures to bring you to a sense of duty, I would fain try gentler means to make you feel that your own happiness, and that of those who should be dear to you, is endangered by your wilfulness.”
“I have decided, sir, which way my happiness lies, and no words of yours will move me.”
Her contempt, expressed in every tone and look, did not disturb him; he remained to the last degree resolutely polite, and he even affected a tone of regret which made his conduct appear less cruel than it otherwise would have done.
"It is, madam, because I respect your judgment that I have insisted upon this interview. You must hear me.”
"Since your courtesy leaves me no option, I listen,” she said, sarcastically.
“ That is well for all our sakes. You must first understand my real position in the events which have so stirred your ire against me. Since it is likely to displease you, , I would say nothing of the regard for you with which your —will you permit me to say it ?—beauty inspired me, and more even than that, the deep respect with which I was filled in discovering the high qualities of your mind. Of all this I would say nothing, so anxious am I to spare you any annoyance, were it not that it must be referred to in order to show you the real extent of my blame in what has passed.”
She inclined her head haughtily, but did not speak. He continued
“Your father sought my aid to rescue his possessions from escheatment. I rendered him that service, and he desired to requite me. In that desire your family was united; and I told them that they could make no requital save with your hand. That was readily promised to me, and, indeed, my offer was accepted as in some measure a further advantage to your house, by all save yourself.”
“And I gave you reasons which should have satisfied a man of honour."
“ They would have satisfied me had they not been