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(`rawl out of this rat's hole into which you thrust him and show himself again in his proper chambers ? ”
"The way is clear, so please your Majesty. Thanks to the prompt measures we adopted, your enemies are routed without a struggle."
“My enemies!” echoed the King, drily. “Ay, man, Rob, yonder chiel would have had me believe that they were yours, and not mine at all.”
“Long may they be so, my liege, for so long will you reign in peace and content.”
"Exactly,” said James, slowly, eyeing his favourite with a searching glance, which that personage bore unmoved. “Come, we will quit this den ; it smells too much of the charnel-house to be pleasant, when we have time to note such trifling affairs—that is, trifling by the estimate of our blustering barons, who have no finer sense than to know when a sword is well tempered or a bowshaft straight.”
Saying this in a manner which was a droll mixture of sarcastic contempt and humour, he began to move from the place.
“Your matters will be looked to in the morning, sir,” he said, as he passed Lamington; and at the same time to Katherine,
“ Follow us, madam, that we may see you properly bestowed. We owe you so much for the labour you have undergone on our behalf.”
He disappeared from the chamber, attended by Cochrane and twelve guardsmen.
Katherine, dreading lest Cochrane should be sent back to seek her, hastily bade Gordon farewell, and followed. lle, divining her reason, did not attempt to stay her.
THE QUEEN'S VICTORY.
& Then east and west the word bas gane,
And soon to Branxholm Hall it flew,
The Laird of Lairistan. The triumph which Cochrane had obtained was due to the happy accident of the purpose of the conspirators beivg mistaken for an outbreak against the King in favour of the imprisoned Albany-an event which the wily favourite had caused his master to believe might take place at any moment.
The Queen knew how much reason his Majesty had given the nobles for displeasure in retaining as his prime confidant and adviser one so generally detested as Cochrane. She was conscious at the same time of something of her royal consort's weakness, whilst she could not be blind to the warlike merits of Albany, which had obtained for him the respect of the people, who were incapable of appreciating the finer qualities of their monarch. Aware of all this, she dreaded the approaching crisis ; and, despite the assurances of Panther, at the first murmur of the advent of the angry barons she became alarmed for the King's safety.
A frightened attendant brought to her an exaggerated and distorted account of the appearance of the barons, and of the overpowering of the guard. Thereupon she had despatched Katherine to the King, whilst she herself hastened to the sleeping-chamber of the prince, that she might be prepared to protect him from any danger that might threaten his innocent head.
The apartment adjoined her own, and she entered it softly, in order not to waken the little sleeper. The ladiesin-waiting were careful to observe the same caution as their mistress; and as they only crossed the threshold, closing the door noiselessly behind them, the prince slept on undisturbed.
The Queen advanced to the couch, and, seating herself beside it, watched the calm face of her child-a fair, frank face, on which the passions of life had not yet imprinted any baleful line; but the shadow of the stormy future through which he was to pass to his chivalrous fall at Flodden seemed to be already lowering upon it. The affectionate eyes of the mother rested on the child with the greedy devotion of one gazing upon a treasure that is in peril of being stolen.
The arrival of Angus and his companions was announced by a loud summons at the outer door, and then by the heavy tread of armed men in the apartments which the ladies had just quitted. The summons was presently repeated at the door of the prince's room.
It had been bolted by the ladies-in-waiting, who now looked anxiously to their mistress for instructions.
“Undo the bar and let them enter,” said Margaret, calmly, although she was very pale, and instinctively cast her arm round her son to give him all the protection of which she was capable.
Angus entered first, frowning, and his huge form drawn to its full height in the wrath which swelled his breast. He was followed by Lord Gray, quiet and respectful, and immediately after entered the Abbot, who had remained behind an instant to persuade the others to remain outside. Their entrance wakened the prince, who started ир.
with an exclamation of half wonder and half fear.
But as soon as he recognized the persons who occupied the chamber, he rose to his knees smiling, and resting a hand on his mother's shoulder, he cried
" Is it morning, cousin Angus ? and are we bound a-hawking?"
“ The hawks are on the wing already, so please your highness, but the quarry is out of sight, and I fear our humour would not make the sport pleasing to you," answered the earl, gruffly.
The boy was astonished by the manner of this reply, and looked with an expression of childish puzzlement from the speaker to the Queen.
“Do they fly hawks in the palace now?” he inquired, simply.
* T'he hawk flies whither its prey leads,” said Angus.
"I trust, my Lord Angus, the prey has not led you here,” said Margaret, with quiet dignity.
“It is even so, madam, for we seek the King."
"Has he frightened you, mother? I felt you start, said the prince; and then, turning to the earl, his fair face flushed with childish indignation. Angus, you are saucy because you are so big; but I will be big too, some day.”.
“Heaven grant it so," replied the earl, with rough sincerity, “and wherefore, as your bighness would bid me beware how I carry myself now, I accept the reminder.”
“I would remind you, too, Angus, that nobody stands covered in my mother's presence except the King."
The boy was standing up on his couch now, and was pronouncing his admonitions with a gravity that would bave been laughable at any other time.
Angus, instead of being annoyed by the singular address of the young prince, was so far pleased that his frown faded under an expression of admiration.
“ That check also I accept from your highness with proper submission," he responded, whilst he removed the plumed hat from his head," and say again, Heaven grant you long lifi', and may your present spirit lose no whit of its bravery as years advance.'
“So say we and all Scotland," added the Abbot, with solemnity.
“Your Majesty will pardon the neglect I have shown without meaning offence,” continued Angus; “the evil humour which the sorry events of this night have roused in me must plead my excuse.
Your Grace knows that I have as little of the courtier's fine ways as of his baseness; but rough as my bearing may be, you have no more devoted servant than Archibald Douglas.'
“We believe it, Angus,” said the Queen, with confidence, “and in that belief your offence is already pardoned. Now tell us the meaning of this untimely visit with armour on, and angry brows. My lords, you look, all of you, more like a band of dangerous rebels than of liege men who seek redress or justice at the hands of their sovereign." “So please your Grace," said the Abbot, these gentle
" men have been much disturbed to-night by a tale which is too horrible for your Majesty's ears, and they seek the King, that prompt retribution may be taken. Not finding
his Grace, and fearing that he has been ill-advised -as has happened more than once before—to shun the audience which we all demand in the great name of justice, we have come hither to pray our gracious Queen to use what in. fluence she can command to obtain for us the immediate audience we desire.”
“What is the tale you deem too horrible for me to hear?" Margaret inquired. "If wrong has been done, it is well that we should know it, since you desire our aid in its requital. Speak, and be assured that our anxiety for the public weal is more than strong enough to overcome ali private weakness."
“ The Earl of Mar is murdered,” said Angus, bluntly.
“Uncle Mar killed !” cried the prince, his eyes starting in astonishment; “and will I never see him again?”
“Not in this world, your highness."
“Oh, who has done that? He is a traitor, and we cut off traitors' heads."
“Robert Cochrane has done it; and we call upon the King to do justice to bimself, to his dead brother, and to the people," responded the earl, warmly.
“Give him to Angus, mother,” exclaimed the prince, excitedly; "give him to Angus, and let him deal with the cruel man.”
The Queen had been startled and distressed by the ominous tidings, for she saw at once how much danger there was of the King being suspected of complicity in the crime, if he were not already suspected, as the words of Angus seemed to imply. She experienced much alarm, too, in the thought that his Majesty would be, more than likely, deceived by the plausible explanation which his favourite would be sure to have ready for him; and thus draw upon himself a still greater share of popular disfavour, and discontent with his government.
As soon as she had recovered from the first shock of dismay and surprise, she bade the prince be silent, and directed two of her ladies-in-waiting to attend him, whilst she led the way into her own audience-chamber.
His highness was not pleased to be deprived of the interesting conversation in which he had taken so active a part; and as Angus was slowly following the Queen he called to him to come back.