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But she did not credit that; her own lips had declared him as innocent of it in fact as he had been in thought. It could not be either that she had not cared for him, for she had given him too great a proof of her regard.
What, then, could be the meaning of her rejection ?
It remained for Cochrane with his oily, venomous tongue to suggest a cause as base as he knew it to be untrue.
“I beseech your lordship,” he said with an anxiety which was not altogether assumed, “ let me remove the lady. You see how she is afflicted by this interview. She risked much for this man's sake, knowing too little of his circumstances, and now that she knows him to be a bankrupt adventurer, she would spare him and herself the misery which must result from adding another burden to his beggarly estate."
Katherine did not hear his words; her distress deafened her to the calumny which was being spoken.
Lamington heard, and a thrill of pain quivered in his breast and overwhelmed his dismay in scorn for the mind which could at such a moment make such sordid calculations. He had been striving vainly for some explanation of her conduct, and in his blind passion he accepted the first that offered itself.
“Merciful powers !” he exclaimed, gazing upon her, doubt mingled with his despair, can this be so ? Is this why she hides her head from me, and cannot raise her face to mine? Speak, woman ; if your fair looks have not cheated me with the thought that you had as fair a heart - let me know if this knave has spoken truly, so that I may turn from you so full of scorn, that I shall feel no pang for all the hopes and love you have trampled underfoot!"
“It is for his sake that I am silent,” she again murmured to herself, and still she gave him no reply.
With a species of frenzy he stooped down and seized
“ Have you lost all sense of hearing and of touch ? or is this no more than another trick to feign a distress that is a mockery to me? Oh, madam, if these be yonr reasons for your new humour, you might have spared us all much trouble had you declared them sooner.
I am not so poor
but I can thank Heaven for rescuing me from the false smiles of one who balances her affection with the stock of a larder or the stuff of a gown. I deemed you worthy to share with me the honourable struggle to win back the name and fortune of my father's house-I find you now a weak, pitiful creature, unfit to bear a true gentleman's name.”
Katherine snddenly clasped the Abbot's knees, and looking up to him imploringly, with tearful face, but not daring to glance towards her lover, she cried
“ Spare me, my lord, spare me, and take him away." Lamington laughed bitterly as he drew back,
“Oh, be content, madam; I will relieve you of my presence without his lordship’s interference. There is your treasure, Cochrane; take her and be as proud of her as you may. By my faith, I thank you for having rescued me from the shame I sought so eagerly ; for sad shame it would have been indeed to have found her later what I know her to be now."
“Let me take her hence,” said Cochrane again to his lordship; " this madman's raving is unfit for her ears."
“ She has heard the last of it,” cried Lamington, with the cruel laugh of despair that pierced her to the quick, more on account of his suffering than of her own, great as that was.
He went on" She need never heed me, for I will be the first to congratulate her, and wish her all the joy that she deserves.”
“Peace, man,” interrupted the Abbot, who had been watching this strange scene with curious eyes, and who began to suspect that Katherine had some deeper reason for her conduct than appeared on the surface. and retire."
“Since your lordship commands it, I obey; but it was not needed. Trust me, I would have seen you join the hands of this brave couple with as fair a laugh on my lips as you could have wished. Since they would have me gone, I will humour them in this as in all other things. Fare you well, Mistress Katherine-or Lady Cochrane, I ought to say, although the name sticks in my throat. Farewell
, and wben you think of me”-here bis affected tone of raillery broke down, and his passionate agony found expression—"oh, woman, think of me as of one whose life
“ Peace, you have marred-of one who cherished your image above all else on earth-of one whom your falsehood has hurled down the black depths of misery and despair; and yet of one who thanks Heaven that he knows your baseness even while he falls.”
"Spare me—spare him," moaned Katherine to the Abbot.
The latter motioned to the Prior, who rose hastily from his seat, and prevented Lamington saying more by dragging him from the chamber.
The door had scarcely closed upon them when the Abbot proceeded
"I presume, madam, from your rejection of Lamington that you accept the proffered protection of Sir Robert Cochrane?"
“Undoubtedly that is her meaning,” said Cochrane, advancing lightly to raise her from her kneeling posture.
But with a cry of dismay and horror she shrank from his touch, and clung desperately to the knees of the Abbot. “No, no, my lord, keep him away-his touch would
I throw myself on your mercy-I implore your protection, and I will accept none other.”
'In good faith, madam," ejaculated his lordship, a little impatiently, "your conduct is somewhat of the strangest. Explain to me; what does it mean?'
“Her brain is crazed,” said Cochrane, hastily ; “she does not know her own mind; she will be cured in time, but the danger is not over yet.”
The latter words were spoken with a significance which Katherine understood too well. Her impulse had been to answer the Abbot by denouncing Cochrane's treacherous trick, but his warning checked her. She felt that until she had an opportunity to make Lamington aware of the position it would be madness to imperil his life anew by declaring the truth after she had sacrificed so much to save him.
erciful, my lord, and give me your protection," was all she dared to say.
“But I demand your lordship’s recognition of her husband's authority by yielding her up to me. Nay, more; here stands her brother, the head of her house, and I
demand that you recognize the authority of her family beside my own.”
“Rise, lady," said the Abbot, slowly, and assisting her to her feet. “ You shall have my protection, since you claim it so earnestly."
She hung, trembling, on his arm, and watching Cochrane's dark visage suspiciously.
“Surely your lordship cannot deny my claims upon her after all that has passed,” he said with some uneasiness.
“I deny nothing, Cochrane; but until the lady bas had time to recover from the excitement of this trial she shall remain under my charge.”
“ Then your lordship compels me to warn you that you exceed the powers of your position. You have no right to hold her back from those who are her guardians by law and nature.”
“It is my privilege, sir, to protect the weak. You have yourself said that her mind is unbalanced : until she find the balance again I will care for her.”
And I deny your right to do so."
“ Your denial is of small account to me; but since your objection is made so strongly, I will place her under the charge of one to whom you cannot object.”
"Then yon will carry her straight to Lady Janfarie.”
“No, I will carry her to the Queen ; and whilst she is under her Majesty's protection, you will have opportunity to move her mind to your favour if that be possible. Meanwhile, you may ride with us and see that I discharge my duty faithfully. Come, madam, I will conduct you to a chamber where you may prepare for our journey.”
Cochrane, gnawing his lip, but bowing with affected submission, drew back as the Abbot led Katherine from the apartment.
" Here maun I lye, here maan I die,
By treachery's false gyles ;
Hardyknute. On the way to the apartment which she had occupied during the night, Katherine felt herself too much depressed and confused to be able to speak. She had warded off the danger which had threatened the life of him to whom her whole heart was devoted; but she had done it at the cost of excruciating torture to herself and to bim, and the exhaustion which ensued naturally left her weak and sick. Besides, there was the bitter consciousness that, notwithstanding all she had suffered and risked, the safety it had secured was only temporary.
She now knew to what cruel extremities Cochrane was prepared to proceed in order to possess her, and to redeem the discredit which her flight had thrown upon him; and she dreaded the power his cunning and position afforded him to carry his determination into effect.
Indeed, she had been so much impressed by the peril that must be encountered in braving such a man as Cochrane, that even when she had reached her room, and the Abbot was about to leave her, she hesitated whether or not it would be well to hazard what might happen on her acquainting him with the trick with which she bad been controlled, and which had rendered her conduct so singular and inconsistent.
“Here you will rest, daughter,” said his lordship, kindly, and dropping into the paternal form of address befitting his character of a Church dignitary ; "and I will see that refreshment is provided for you. You will be free from interruption till I send for you, and by that time you may have recovered the calmness of mind which has been so much disturbed."
Still hesitating whether to reveal her secret now or to