She was angry with Lambert, bitterly angry because he was kind and gentle and long-suffering, whilst the other was violent, even brutal at times.
“I must repeat, master, that I have no need of your escort,” she said haughtily, “I have no fear of marauders, nor yet of prowling beasts. And for the future I should be grateful to you,” she added, conscious of her own cruelty, determined nevertheless to be remorselessly cruel, “if you were to cease that system which you have adopted of late—that of spying on my movements.”
The word had struck him in the face like a blow. And she, womanlike, with that strange, impulsive temperament of hers, was not at all sorry that she had hurt him. Yet surely he had done her no wrong, save by being so different from the other man, and by seeming to belittle that other in her sight, against her will and his own.
“I am grieved, believe me,” she said coldly, “if I seem unkind ... but you must see for yourself, good master, that we cannot go on as we are doing now.... Whenever I go out, you follow me ... when I return I find you waiting for me.... I have endeavored to think kindly of your actions, but if you value my friendship, as you say you do, you will let me go my way in peace.”
“Nay! I humbly beg your ladyship’s gracious forgiveness,” he said; “if I have transgressed, it is because I am blind to all save your ladyship’s future happiness, and at times the thought of that adventurer is more than I can bear.”
“You do yourself no good, Master Lambert, by talking thus to me of the man I love and honor beyond all things in this world. You are blind and see not things as they are: blind to the merits of one who is as infinitely above you as the stars. But nathless I waste my breath again.... I have no power to convince you of the grievous error which you commit. But if you cared for me, as you say you do ...”
“If I cared!” he murmured, with a pathetic emphasis on that little word “if.”
“As a friend I mean,” she rejoined still cold, still cruel, still womanlike in that strange, inexplicable desire to wound the man who loved her. “If you care for me as a friend, you will not throw yourself any more in the way of my happiness. Now you may escort me home, an you wish. This is the last time that I shall speak to you as a friend, in response to your petty attacks on the man whom I love. Henceforth you must chose ’twixt his friendship and my enmity!”
And without vouchsafing him another word or look, she gathered her cloak more closely about her, and walked rapidly away along the narrow path.
He followed with head bent, meditating, wondering! Wondering!
The triumph was complete. But of a truth the game was waxing dangerous.
Lady Sue Aldmarshe had promised to marry her prince. She would keep her word, of that Sir Marmaduke was firmly convinced. But there would of necessity be two or three days delay and every hour added to the terrors, the certainty of discovery.