Chapter VII. – Hepburn and Betsy Agree to Betray the Castle to Lord Salisbury.

[Black Agnes Contents]

   When the young couple again appeared before Lord Salisbury, they lost no time in apprising his Lordship that it was to be as he wished, provided means could be found for executing the treacherous project. 

   “I dinna like the job,” said Hepburn, “but what maun be maun be. It’s a queer thing when it comes tae the hangin’, and though I dinna care about turning against auld friends, yet I’ll dae yer bidding, mair for the sae o’ the lassie here than tae save my ain life. I micht hae got ower the dread o’ the gallows, but I canna stomach ava the notion o’ Betsy being anither man’s wife. Sae what’s yer wull? Are Betsy and me tae get oor liberty tae enter the Castle and see what can be done wi’ the garrison? Is that what you mean us tae dae, my Lord.” 

   “Oh, dear, no,” answered Salisbury. “If I allowed you and the wench to get safe within the Castle walls there would be little chance, I trow, of my will being done. No, no; you must devise some better plan than that, else we shall have to rig the rope on the steeple after all. One thing you must clearly understand is, that you shall remain here in sure custody until the time comes to enter the Castle. You shall only be set at liberty when the fortress is mine beyond dispute; till then you must remain a prisoner. However, the wench may go as your substitute, and do your errand to your brother warders. Who and what are they who have the gate and drawbridge in charge?” 

   “I was chief warder myself,” replied Hepburn, “and my assistant was Ronald Maxwell. We took the duty in turn, by day and night alternately. Now that I’m here, I know not who may have taken my place. Let Betsy visit the Castle, and she can see who had charge of the gates. Then she can slip doun tae the watergate some dark nicht, tak’ a boat, and bring us word how matters stand, and what are our chances of corrupting the warder. When her errand is done she can return the way she came, and be safe in the Castle before morning.” 

   “Your plan pleases me well, warder,” assented the nobleman. “It seems to me right, fair, and prudent, and will, I doubt not, succeed. You, wench, tell the warder that he shall have great largess if he works my will. Here is a purse of two hundred gold crowns. Give them to the man in charge as an earnest of what he may expect to receive from our liberality when the Castle is in our power; and remind him, too, that if he fails me or proves false the life of his comrade here shall pay the penalty. Take care Black Agnes does not guess your object, for she is a shrewd dame, and did she suspect your errand would, without fail, hang you over the battlements. Now begone on your mission, and remember that your lover’s life depends on your success. If you fail me, he shall assuredly die.

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