Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

more

delay until she found more fitting opportunity, she bowed her head and spoke falteringly

“My words are feeble, good father, and cannot make known to you as I would wish the gratitude I feel.”

“ Gratitude is always deepest, child, when it is voiceless. But why have you sought my protection since, having rejected that of Lamington, it would seem natural for you to have accepted Cochrane's or your brother's guardianship ? ”

She glanced around her in a quick, affrighted manner, and spoke in a whisper.

6. Where is he now ?'

“You mean Lamington ?-he is in the private chamber of the Prior, waiting for me. Why do you look about so strangely? No harm can reach you here."

“Who can tell that ? ” she sighed bitterly. “Last night I thought that within this holy house we were safe, but this morning I have learned that even here treachery and the hand of the assassin can reach us.”

“Your manner and your words are so strange, daughter,' said the Abbot, slowly, and with a passing doubt that her mind had become slightly crazed, " that I am perplexed exceedingly. Life is at best uncertain, but in this house

, it should be safe at least from the dangers you point at."

“ But it is not so. Oh, good father, you saw the anguish I endured whilst refusing the man I had made choice of in despite of all my kindred. You saw the horror with which the touch of Cochrane thrilled me, and you could not understand the contradiction of my words and looks. But you shall know my reason now, if I may speak in assurance that no ears save yours can hear my words.”

The Abbot, wondering, walked to the door, looked along the passage, and saw that it was clear. Then he returned to Katherine.

“Speak, daughter, and have no fear. I pitied your distress when your conduct was a riddle to me; be sure that you will have all the aid it is in my power to give, when I have learned the motives which have prompted your behaviour.

Rapidly she related to him the manner in which Cochrane had threatened her, and compelled her to deny

the impulse of her heart in refusing to accompany Lamington when the matter seemed to be left entirely to her option.

The Abbot, as he listened, was first surprised by the boldness of the trick wbich Cochrane had played them, and next indignant. “I understand you now, daughter, and I may tell

you I divined that you had some hidden motive for your conduct. I was blind not to have seen at once that there was knavery at the back of it, knowing Cochrane as I do. His affected generosity should have betrayed him to me at once, for there is no kindly spark in his whole nature for other than his wretched self. But he shall answer for every pang he has caused to you."

"I implore you, good father, do not let him know yet that I have revealed his treachery; and give Bertrand instant warning, for this man has power and is remorseless.”

Keep a light heart, child, on that score. We have hunted foxes before now, and it shall go hard but our experience will outwit this one.”

“Thanks, thanks, father. Keep Bertrand safe, and you will find me wanting neither in courage nor patience.”

“I will bear your message to him, and will contrive that you shall see him, so that he may learn your truth from your own lips.”

“He will not blame me when he knows all ? ” she said, with timid doubt.

“He shall not-rest you satisfied. Meanwhile, bar your door, and keep all out whose company may not be agreeable to you."

Therewith he pronounced a paternal benediction and withdrew. Katherine immediately followed his directions and barred the door, for she feared, and with some reason, that, disappointed in the decision of the Abbot's court, Cochrane might seek her, either to persuade her to remain silent as to his knavery, or to force her away with him, notwithstanding his apparent submission to his lordship’s authority.

The Abbot Panther, pondering upon what he had just heard, and upon other matters with which it was more or less associated, made his way along various corridors to the private chambers of the Prior.

He entered a species of ante-room, at the farther end of which was a small door covered by heavy hangings. Through this doorway he passed into a square apartment which was furnished with some degree of comfort.

There he saw Lamington, with fushed face and excited manner, pacing the floor; whilst the Prior, who had apparently exhausted all the persuasion at his command, sat gravely silent, watching him.

On the entrance of the Abbot, the Prior rose, and in obedience to a whisper, noiselessly retired to the ante-room, where he remained, evidently for the purpose of insuring the safety of his superior from any interruption or eavesdroppers.

Lamington halted abruptly.

“Well, is she gone ?” he queried, with quivering lips, although he tried to speak lightly.

“Gone !—no, nor does she mean to go except under my care.

Lamington glowered at him, unable to comprehend the

answer.

66 Has

me ?"

“What new whim is this ?” he said bitterly. her fickle brain already repented the wrong she has done

“ She has done you a service, not a wrong. We are blind creatures, all of us, and do not see the good which comes to us often in the form of affliction."

“You count it a service, then, for her to have renounced

me ?"

“ Under the circumstances it was so. Come, sit down and listen to me. You shall learn that Mistress Katherine was most kind when she seemed most cruel.”

Lamington drew back with an exclamation of pain.

“I will not listen to you or any man who comes to tell me that she has not been fooling me. Fair opportunity was given her to decide between the man from whom she had fled and myself. She has made her choice, and so let her abide by it. For me, I will not seek to compel any woman's humour, although I suffered all the tortures the arch-fiend could invent by the loss of her.”

"You are too hot, my son,” said the Abbot, quietly; “the lady had no choice save to appear fickle to you or to sacrifice

your

life.”

“ Am I then so poor a wretch that she feared my capability to defend myself against a knave like Cochrane? That is the sharpest sting of all.”

“Be calm, man, and listen. In a fair and open struggle no one, and she least of all, would doubt your prowess. But the strongest is weak against a secret foe."

“Cochrane makes no secret of his enmity.”
“But he hides the means wherewith he seeks to strike

[ocr errors]

at you."

“Let him do his worst."

" Ay, let him do it; but let us be prepared to meet it. Sit down, I say; and when you have heard her explanation, if

you do not pity her, and take prompt measures on your own, and her behalf, you cannot care so much for the lady as you seem to do."

With an impatient gesture, as if to intimate how little satisfaction he expected from the explanation, Lamington at length seated himself opposite his friend. The Abbot had laid aside his mitre and surplice, and with the removal of these insignia of his office his manner seemed to change insensibly. He spoke now without any of that dignified composure which had characterized his speech whilst he had been holding the court. His words were uttered with a quick and sharp enunciation, and his observations were those of a man experienced in worldly ways, and of one whose mind was occupied with many schemes. In fact, the Churchman had disappeared and the politician had taken his place.

Astounded by the revelation which was made to him, Lamington sat for a moment breathless; then starting to his feet with hands clenched, he moved towards the door.

“By every saint in heaven he shall answer for this treachery before he is many minutes older. Shame upon me to have blamed her as I have done—to have heaped my mad maledictions upon her while she was trying to save me!”

His hand was on the door.

Come back, come back, hot-brained and short-sighted mortal. I expected that this intelligence would move you to pity for her and shame for yourself; but, my faith, I did not expect you to act so blindly."

G

[ocr errors]

66

“How, blindly? Would you persuade me to forego my vengeance or to pause in it?"

Nay, I would not have you forego it; but I would have you pause that it may be the more complete.”

“ Show me how that may be done-show me how I can whip his heartless nature into some part of the agony she has endured, and I will wait for years. But be sure that you give him no chance to escape me, or I will hold you my enemy."

“We shall not have to wait long, I trust, to bring the knave to account, and you shall see that the course you were about to take just now would be the clearest way

to give him the chance of escape which you fear he may obtain."

“ Read the riddle to me. I listen with what patience I have left." Come nearer,

then." Lamington approached slowly, as if he were still doubtful whether or not his best course was to seek Cochrane at once.

The Abbot, with a pawky smile, proceeded

“I have already told you something of the purpose for which I trysted you to meet me here. Now, in all these unexpected events which have transpired, I see a direct means of assisting our project and of satisfying your desire for retribution."

“ You will work a marvel indeed if you can turn these miseries to so good account.”

“You will see. First, you know the power which this knave Cochrane and his fellows have obtained over the King. They have played upon his Majesty's weakness and upon his good nature, to the ruin of all honest men, and the degradation of our country.”

“ All that I know-a set of mountebanks govern tho State and make us bow our heads in helpless wrath.'

They must be removed; and the chief of them must suffer first. His Majesty's brothers, the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar, have determined upon this as much for their brother's sake as for their own. They have the support of every noble who still attends the court, besides the devoted services of the many who have been banished and deprived of titles and lands by the influence of this

« PreviousContinue »