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Cochrane. The people are groaning under his oppression, and you yourself have proved at Dumfries with what good will they would rise to expel the tyrant.”
“But how can the treachery which has tortured Katherine and distracted me help forward this purpose
? "In this way: I am to place Mistress Katherine under the Queen's protection. She will tell her Majesty the story of the persecution with which Cochrane has assailed her, and of the villainy by which he attempted to force her to submission.”
“But he will deny it all when he is charged with it."
“ Ay, but trust me, Margaret of Denmark is a lady of as clear vision as of warm sympathy. She will be interested in Mistress Katherine's misfortunes, and she will recognize her truth, no matter what Cochrane may say to the contrary.”
"But the King will not believe so readily.”
“Well, then, it is a question of the Queen's influence upon his Majesty opposed to that of Cochrane; and if she take up the matter in the earnest spirit which I calculate upon, then I will weigh a wife's skill against the cajolery of a hundred favourites."
" And if it fail ?”
At the question the Abbot leaned back on his chair, folding his hands complacently before him and smiling incredulously.
“If it fail,” he answered, in a low, cautious tone, “if the Queen does not depose an unworthy favourite, then I am afraid that the King himself will pay the penalty of his obstinate fidelity to the harpies who surround him."
" And that penalty ? “ Will be his crown. Lamington started and drew back. “How say you ?—this is treason of the boldest flight.”
"It is justice to the people and to the King himself, only you choose to give it an unpleasant name. We have no intent to disturb lawful authority, but we are resolved that the greedy cormorants who surround the throne, sapping its honour, and making it a thing of contempt for the world, shall be driven thence. The cry of wrongdoing swells on every side, and it has grown too loud ever to be hushed until the cause of it is removed. His Majesty's
own safety demands that the parasites who are battening on his weakness shall be removed, and the outcry of the people commands it."
“ But let them be removed without danger to the King."
'So much we hope to do; but even kings must take physic sometimes."
“I will have no hand in aught that threatens the safety of our sovereign," said Gordon, resolutely.
Why, who is there makes such a threat ? Albany and Mar are his brothers, and they seek only to insure his safety, which his own folly has so far imperilled that a breath would rouse the country to arms against him.”
Pledge me your word that there is no other object, and I am with you.”
“Most faithfully I pledge myself ; for, as I understand the matter, we seek to serve the King, not to harm him. Surely, you have little reason to be dainty about the means by which Cochrane and his fellows may be swept from the height which gives them power to ruin honest men.”
That reminder of his own wrongs stirred anew the passion of Lamington, which had been for a moment chilled by the boldness of the conspiracy now revealed to him.
“There is my hand," he responded, impulsively. “You
“Your word is pledged," he said, hastily, his eyes glistening with satisfaction, “and the misery Katherine has endured should hold you to it steadily. For her sake I trust you to be discreet and watchful.”
“Name her when you see me hesitate, and the memory of her suffering will make me remorseless."
“Remember, then, that she is the prize for which you struggle; and remember, too, that justice must be done to your father's name.'
Ay, these are motives to fit a man for desperate deeds."
Enough, then; our course is clear. It was to explain these things to you that I wished you to meet me at this place. Now go see the lady, and make what amends to
her you can for the blame you unjustly cast upon her. Poor dame! your wild charges hurt her more than all the rest.” “I will make atonement, if it be in the power
of man to expiate such wrong, by the faithful service of a life. Heaven knows I, too, suffered something. But I will explain that to her," he continued, with an attempt to shake off the depression which had weighed upon him since that stormy meeting; "and you, most reverend father, when you have donned your canonicals again and forgotten that you are a courtier-ay, and one of the cunningest, too -you will see that the ceremony which was performed at Johnstone is declared null.”
The Abbot gave a quiet but jovial sort of laugh at the reference to his double character.
As has been seen,
when performing any of the duties appertaining to his position as a Church dignitary, he acted with a solemnity that inspired respect; but with his badge of office he laid aside the Churchman, and in his second character he schemed and intrigued with an address which earned for him a high place in the estimation of the courts of England, France, and of his own country. He made little attempt to conceal these contradictory traits of his nature, and he could enjoy a joke at his own expense
with any man.
In this respect, at least, he was no hypocrite, although he was by no means particular as to the stratagem by which he might outwit an opponent.
“Away you to the dame," he said, still laughing, and if it will comfort her, say that the ceremony shall be annulled before three days have passed. But bid her beware lest by any look or sign she should permit Cochrane to know that we have discovered his treachery before we have reached Linlithgow. Till then you must bid her adieu, for you must not speak to her again during the journey. Go; the Prior will show you her chamber.'
Lamington, with a light step and a relieved heart, hastened to seek Katherine; and he had no presentiment of the dire events that were to bar their meeting.
THROUGH THE WOOD.
"'I lo'e Brown Adam, weel,' she said,
'I trow sae does he me;
KATHERINE remained half an hour undisturbed in her apartment after the Abbot had quitted her. She experienced an immeasurable sense of relief now that she had unburthened her mind of the wretched secret by which her actions had been controlled, and by which she had been made to appear so fickle in the eyes of the man whose esteem she valued most.
Every moment she expected to hear Lamington knock and demand admission. Her mind became concentrated upon that expectation, and her sense of hearing was strained to catch the sound of his approaching footsteps.
At length, a light tap on the door.
“Who is there ? ” she asked, with her hand trembling on the bar, ready to withdraw it.
Open, sister; I bear a message to you,” was the answer, in a low voice.
She was disappointed and chagrined; for an instant she even felt a shaft of spleen at the laggardliness of her lover. He should have been as eager as herself, she thought, for the reconciliation which was to atone for the affliction they had both undergone. Reflection, however, soothed her, for doubtless he had sent this message to announce his approach.
“A message from whom?”
“From one, sister, who waits eagerly your presence and forgiveness."
She opened the door.
A friar, with bowed shoulders and cowl drawn closely over his head, concealing his features, which were still further hidden by his eyes being sedulously bent upon the ground, stood on the threshold.
“ Is he coming ?" she questioned eagerly:
“Nay, sister, was the answer, in a still lower tone than before, and with an oddly guttural utterance. “You are to follow me, and join him. I have no knowledge of his reasons for this strange conduct; but he told me that you
would understand when I said that it was needful for your safety and for his that you should pass hence unseen.
“ Said he so ? I will go with you instantly."
And without pausing to speculate upon the motives which could have prompted this sudden flight after the Abbot had promised his protection, she hastily snatched up the plaid her lover had placed round her on the previous night, threw it round her shoulders, drawing it over her head, and followed the friar.
He had turned his back on her the moment he had observed she was prepared to accompany him. When she whispered, “I am ready,” he moved noiselessly along the passage.
At the top of the staircase he half turned his face toward her.
“Step quickly, sister,” he said under his breath, "and lightly, for we must pass the chamber of one whose eyes we are to avoid.”
Holding her breath, she descended the stairs after him with the lightness and rapidity of a fawn. When they entered the second passage from which the one leading to the royal apartments diverged, she trembled lest Cochrane or her brother should break out upon them and bar their progress.
But although she heard footsteps in various directions, no one crossed their path. Uninterrupted they reached a small side door, which her guide opened quickly, and they passed out to the garden square of the Priory. In this square
the monks of the establishment at stated hours took exercise, walked and meditated upon the affairs of the small world to which their devotion limited them, and upon the great future for which they were preparing themselves. Round the walls were niches and seats for the promenaders to rest when they were so disposed. Above the niches were carved images of saints and allegories of good and evil, to help the thoughts of the holy men when