“Sue! in the name of Heaven! what doth your ladyship here and at this hour?”
The crisis which the young girl had almost challenged, had indeed arrived. Mistress de Chavasse—carrying a lighted and guttering candle, was standing close behind her. At the sound of her voice and Sue’s little cry of astonishment rather than fear, Prince Amede d’Orleans too, had paused, with a muttered curse on his lips, his foot angrily tapping the flagstones.
But it were unworthy a gallant gentleman of the most chivalrous Court in the world to beat a retreat when his mistress was in danger of an unpleasant quarter of an hour.
Sue was more than a little inclined to be defiant.
“Mistress de Chavasse,” she said quietly, “will you be good enough to explain by what right you have spied on me to-night? Hath my guardian perchance set you to dog my footsteps?”
“There was no thought in my mind of spying on your ladyship,” rejoined Mistress de Chavasse coldly. “I was troubled in my sleep and came downstairs because I heard a noise, and feared those midnight marauders of which we have heard so much of late. I myself had locked this door, and was surprised to find it unlatched. I opened it and saw you standing there.”
“Then we’ll all to bed, fair mistress,” rejoined Sue gayly. She was too happy, too sure of herself and of her lover to view this sudden discovery of her secret with either annoyance or alarm. She would be free in three months, and he would be faithful to her. Love proverbially laughs at bars and bolts, and even if her stern guardian, apprised of her evening wanderings, prevented her from seeing her prince for the next three months, pshaw! a hundred days at most, and nothing could keep her from his side.
“Good-night, fair prince,” she repeated tenderly, extending her hand towards her lover once more, while throwing a look of proud defiance to Mistress de Chavasse. He could not help but return to the foot of the steps; any pusillanimity on his part at this juncture, any reluctance to meet Editha face to face or to bear the brunt of her reproaches and of her sneers, might jeopardize the romance of his personality in the eyes of Sue. Therefore he boldly took her hand and kissed it with mute fervor.
She gave a happy little laugh and added pertly:
“Good-night, mistress ... I’ll leave you to make your own adieux to Monseigneur le Prince d’Orleans. I’ll warrant that you and he—despite the lateness of the hour—will have much to say to one another.”
And without waiting to watch the issue of her suggestion, her eyes dancing with mischief, she turned and ran singing and laughing into the house.
PRINCE AMEDE D’ORLEANS
At first it seemed as if the stranger meant to beat a precipitate and none too dignified retreat now that the adoring eyes of Lady Sue were no longer upon him. But Mistress de Chavasse had no intention of allowing him to extricate himself quite so easily from an unpleasant position.