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they were tempted to stray from the high purpose of their devotions.
As it wanted yet an hour to the time of the forenoon promenade, the square was anoccupied, else the appearance of a woman in the garb of the world in that place would have attracted attention and excited curious questioning probably from some of the brotherhood.
Evidently afraid lest anything of this kind might happen, and lest his character might be affected by discovery, Katherine's guide said hurriedly—again only partly turning his face toward her
'Hasten, good sister, and keep close to the wall, as you observe me do."
“I will keep pace with you, make what speed you will.”
“Ay, we,” he added quickly, but without looking round at all, for I risk something, sister, in serving you and
“1 understand, father, and I am grateful.”
Keeping close to the wall, which ran on a line with the main wall of the house, so that they could not be seen unless some one thrust his head out of a window, they, at a pace accelerated almost to a run, made for the end of the square. They reached it, still apparently undiscovered.
A small oaken door, studded with massive iron bolts, was opened by the friar with a key which he held ready in his hand.
They passed through the doorway and stood on the outside of the Priory.
Katherine looked round: the black forest was looming before her, its trees waving and sighing in the wind, and down below, the Ken was glistening in the sunlight as it rippled slowly through the dell.
But Lamington was not there, and she turned with some disappointment to her guide.
He was relocking the door, and when he had done so, he threw the key over the wall into the square, as if he had no intention of returning.
That seemed curious; but she was too anxious to learn why Lamington was not waiting there for her, as she had
THROUGH THE WOOD.
89 been led to expect, to give immediate attention to the cir. cumstance.
“Why is he not here?" she queried, wonderingly.
“There was too much danger of being observed for him to tarry here."
“Where is he, then ?
“He is on before us. I will guide you safely to him, do not doubt."
There seemed to be, or her fancy betrayed her, a shade of impatience in the friar's manner, and she almost started at the tone, for it was abrupt, and struck some chord of her memory that roused vague and perplexing suggestions that the voice was not unfamiliar to her, although she could not associate it with any person.
He began to move rapidly across the open space which lay between them and the forest.
Katherine followed, keeping close behind him. Before they had made many paces she spoke again.
“At what place has he appointed to wait for me, father?" she said with some little trepidation, for she feared that her repeated questions annoyed her guide.
“He rides on before, and we are to overtake him," he replied in a more modulated tone than that he had last used.
“Then you go with me?"
“Yes, till I have placed you under his charge. That was my promise. If you doubt me, we will return."
“No, no; I beseech you go on, and pardon my anxiety. But it seems strange that he should desire to depart in this secret fashion when the good Abbot pledged himself to guard us until he had placed me under the care of the Queen.”
"His lordship’s intention was sincere, no doubt; but you should know that, with all his power, he could not insure you the safety which you and your friend need."
“I have had bitter reason to know that too well, but I thought that when aware of Cochrane's treachery he could take means to thwart him for the present."
“Such a man as Cochrane is not easily thwarted. It is the Abbot's wish that you should reach the Queen as speedily as possible, and the course you are taking seemed the surest and swiftest.”
“Did he indeed think so ? Ah, then Cochrane's power must be great indeed when even the good Lord Abbot must stoop to such means as this to overreach him.”
“His power is great; but pause or go forward as it may suit your pleasure. Only decide now, for in a little while return will be impossible without exposure of the whole stratagem.”
“Hasten on; I will not pause again.”
By this time they had entered the forest at a point where three footpaths joined. There the friar hesitated an instant, as if he were not well acquainted with the route, and as if he were not sure which path to take.
At length, with a half-smothered ejaculation of discontent, apparently at his own indecision, he chose the path to the right. That led them along the skirt of the rood in the direction of the Ken.
Katherine's guide evidently did not mean to penetrate the forest. He had rather accepted the shelter of the trees to hide them from observation. This object became clear when, after half an hour's brisk walking, and they had descended into the vale, he suddenly diverged towards an open plain which dipped down to the bank of the river.
Katherine was again wondering how far they would have to go before they overtook Lamington. The recent conversation had satisfied her for the time; but as they progressed without discovering any trace of her lover, she was beginning again to feel surprised that he should have left her to traverse such a distance under the guidance of any one save himself. She did not like to express this feeling, because already the guide had been displeased by her anxiety, which seemed so like doubt of his fidelity.
They were within a few paces of the glade when the friar halted and bowed his head towards the ground, as if listening.
She watched him anxiously, and she too listened. In the distance a faint halloo was heard, and as the sound was repeated it seemed to grow louder and nearer, as if approaching them.
“Your absence is discovered," said the friar, in a quick undertone. “We are pursued. Speed now, if you care for safety. We will find horses a few steps farther on."
Katherine's doubts were dispelled by the excitement
which the peril of capture inspired, and she followed him without any thought beyond that of eluding her pursuers.
As they passed out of the forest she saw a second friar waiting with three horses. She was not permitted time to make any close observation of this new attendant.
Her guide hastily assisted her to mount, and then sprang into the saddle of the second horse with an agility which only one accustomed to the exercise could have displayed. His comrade being already in the saddle, the horses started immediately. As if by pre-arrangement, Katherine's horse was placed between those of the friars, and a leading-rein was held by the one who had brought her from the Priory.
This arrangement she did not at first perceive; and even if she had perceived it she would not have been disturbed at the moment. But when they reached the river, and their pace was necessarily slackened in order to cross the ford, she became aware that she rode more in the character of a prisoner than of a willing companion.
In mid-stream she cast a troubled look backward, and for the first time a serious doubt arose in her mind as to whether the pursuers were friends or foes.
Her guide observed her expression and seemed to divine her thought.
"Your danger is nearly passed, sister,” he said, softly; once we have crossed the river we may defy pursuit.” “But where is Lamington ?"
Safe, safe. Be patient; you will see him soon enough."
Why do you lead my horse ?” she queried again, agitated by the evident irritation of his last response, and that vague memory of its tone returning to her. “It is a wayward brute, and must be led for
sake. But waste no more time in questioning; all your doubts will be resolved presently."
She uttered a cry of alarm, for she had recognized the voice at last.
It was that of Sir Robert Cochrane.
As she uttered the cry, she gave the reins a quick jerk, and attempted to turn the horse's head, to recross the stream. But the leading-rein, which Cochrane held firmly, rendered the attempt futile.
I will, wher," swirl Cochrane, fiercely, at once lineador email all start to dieguise his voice or to conceal
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me x fcd compelled me to me to make you senlll inte fundam, I way, or we must use means
Hailu lut I wanted thin avoid," in the chi yarmudian of the device by which 19 u Hy het huwed the shouts of
wie wil my engrohat be that
und Mary While the pursuers
den bed her