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passion ; but with what calmness he could master, he said
“There is a lady in the palace whose estimation is of some little importance in my eyes—nay, I will confess to you that I would wish her to be the companion of my flight.”
“You must not even attempt to inform her that you have fled," said the man, with a flash of vehemence for which there was nothing apparent to account.
Gordon smiled with his teeth clenched, and bent his head to hide his grim expression. He had discovered one probable meaning of this peculiar offer of his Majesty.
He appeared to reflect for an instant. Then looking up quickly
“You will not refuse me a slight service, sir ? '
“It will not, you may trust me. See, here is a ringa lady's gift. I would ask you to restore it to the giver, if I am to part from friends and country as you say the King commands. Will you examine it ? ”
The man unguardedly approached.
Lamington, with a quick sweep of his hand, removed his visitor's hat, and drew the cloak down from the face, revealing Sir Robert Cochrane, who started back in some confusion.
Gordon laughed contemptuously at the discomfiture of his rival. The moment he had been told that the condition of his release was that he should take immediate and secret flight, he concluded that the proposal could only come from Cochrane. He next became satisfied that the messenger was the man himself. To make sure of it he feigned to be yielding to the measure; and, as he had rightly calculated, Sir Robert's eagerness betrayed him.
The laugh and the look of scorn with which the prisoner regarded the chief favourite of a monarch, chagrined that personage more than the mere exposure of his subterfuge could have done. His sallow visage darkened, his thin lips quivered, and his hand involuntarily sought the hilt of the poniard, which hung at his girdle.
Nay, never heed your weapon, man,” said Gordon ; "you will not need its help against me at present. I hate you too much to give you the chance of saving yourself, by
my removal or your own fall, from the ignoming that lies before you. My retribution must be made in the broad light of day, that the people may see the destruction your own treachery has brought upon you.”
“ You are confident of results,
“I am confident that justice will not miscarry this time. I will denounce you before the council, and you dare not refuse my challenge to the proof of combat. You have foreseen my course, foreseen your danger, and that is why you are here to attempt by a silly trick to make me bafile my own project.'
"I offered you liberty."
" Ay, but without all that renders liberty worth having -you offered me liberty without honour and without Katherine. But I shall have it with both."
Cochrane bowed his head, and stood for several moments in gloomy reflection. Gordon had correctly surmised his motive in acting the strange part he had done.
"You have quite decided," said Cochrane at length, in a tone of perfect self-possession ; "you refuse the offer I
I have made to you, and you mean to stand the hazard of whatever may
follow ?" “That is my intent," was the response, with a mocking bow.
"I am sorry for that," continued the favourite, coldly; “for you will drive me to extremities that I desired to avoid."
“Do what you will, I can meet your worst spite."
“ And fall as others have done who had the power and friends to support them that you have not."
“I do not reckon my chances by the fate of others. count only that there is a false knave to be punished, and that fate has made my own fortune dependent on his destruction. My hands have been directed to the task, and for its accomplishment I am prepared to sacrifice life, if need be—I am prepared to risk the loss of Katherine, who is more to me than life.'
Cochrane was not moved in the slightest by this outburst; be only paused a second before replying.
“Your defiance is bravely spoken, sir, and I can respect courage even when it is opposed to myself. You will answer me one question : is it only for the sake of winning her that
you seek ту
" I seek your ruin, Cochrane, not only for her sake, but for the King's and my country's."
“Then you would not consent to leave Scotland even if I resigned her to you?"
“ So sure that if Katherine herself came here, and all the doors of the palace were thrown open to me, and she prayed me to fly, I would not budge till I was assured that you were delivered to the hangman."
Cochrane drew a long breath, and there was a venomous glitter in his eyes, although he spoke calmly. Since
your resolve is so fixed, I will make no further effort to move it. But before we part now you shall understand me better than you do at present.”
“I will be amazed if you can make me see your black purposes clearer than I do.”
“I only wish you to know why it is that I concern myself so much in your affairs. By your own determination there is feud between us to the death. I will tell you why I take the trouble to accept the challenge. I sought the band of Katherine Janfarie because her father and his kinsmen could command the service of a goodly troop of Border riders. But bad you shown yourself before the contrast was sealed between us I would have withdrawn my claim rather than have thwarted the lady's humour.”
“Why did you deny her appeal to your forbearance ?"
“Because † thought her like most other women, disturbed only by a silly fancy, which would soon change when she understood the position to which I destined her; and because she made her appeal too late. Perhaps the passion she inspired in me had something to do with it, and perhaps the whim which at times influences me to seize that which seems most difficult of attainment, prevented me yielding to her appeal. No matter now ; she proved her obstinacy, and you proved your power over her when matters had advanced so far that for me to have retreated would have been to show myself the veriest poltroon."
Why repeat all this to me? I am not your confessor.”
“ Bide a little. You and I are not likely to hold another gossip so calınly," he said, with a grim smile. "A
few words more and I am done. It has been
fortune to climb high, and it has been necessary in my course to encounter many obstacles. They only served to give my resolution ardour, and those impediments which I could not stride over I crushed under my foot without hesitation and without remorse.'
“ Of all that I have been long aware.
“You know it from my own lips now. Know also that you of yourself would have been too petty to have ruffled my humour for an hour. But Katherine's love has made you one of those impediments in my path which must be ground to earth without mercy. I would have spared your life, for that seemed the readiest method of removing you. But the conditions do not please you ; so I must accept your defiance and act upon it. I have never failed yet to exterminate the wretched creature who opposed my will ; you have defied it.”
" And will do so to the last."
Cochrane resumed his hat and cloak, and with a courteous obeisance, retired.
The heavy door was locked and barred when he quitted the dungeon, and Gordon was left to meditate upon the possible and probable results of the defiance he had given to the powerful favourite, whose word could open every door of the palace, and whose beck would be obeyed by ready assassins.
“Sternly he spoke~"'Tis sweet to bear
In good greenwood the bugle blowe,
To drink a tyrant's dying groan.
At dawning morn o'er dale and down,
Cadyow Castle. The fatigues he had undergone bad the happy effect of soothing the prisoner to slumber, in spite of the excited state of his mind caused by anticipations of the trial in the morning. The sunlight which penetrated the narrow slit in the wall of the dungeon did not relieve the gloom of the place, but rather served to heighten it by suggesting the brilliance of the day without.
That was Gordon's first fancy when he wakened from his sleep. He could not help contrasting the dismal aspect
. of his lodging with the glory of light and freedom which was denied to him, although the poorest scullion of the palace might enjoy it.
But his repose had refreshed him, and with the buoyancy of health and courage, he resisted the despondent humour which his position was calculated to inspire. He was eager for the hour of trial, confident that the King would acquit him of any treacherous design against his royal person; and confident that in any case he would have the opportunity of publicly denouncing Cochrane and challenging him to the test of combat.
He requested the attendant who brought him food to inform Captain Murray that he desired to speak with him. The man promised obedience.
Occasionally the prisoner could hear the tramp of armed men and the clatter of horses' hoofs in the palace square. At intervals the sharp tone of some officer's command would sound faintly in his cell, or the distant baying of a