There came a sound which broke the silence, which caused all to start as with swift relief. A sob, short, dry, hard, as from one whose heart is broken, came from beyond the place where Law stood facing the trembling woman. The eyes of all turned upon Will Law, from whom had burst this irrepressible exclamation of agony. Will Law, as one grown swiftly old, haggard, broken-down, stood gazing in wide-eyed horror at this woman, so humiliated in the presence of all in this brilliantly-lighted hall; before the blazing mirrors which should have reflected back naught but beauty and joy; under the twining roses, which should have been the signs manual of undying love; under the smiling cherubs, which should have typified the deities of happy love. Will Law, too, had loved. Perhaps still he loved.
This sharp sound served to break also the spell under which Law himself seemed held. He cast aloft his arms, as in remorse or in despair. Then he extended a hand to the woman who would have sunk before him.
“God forgive me! Madam,” he cried. “I had forgot. Savage indeed you are and have been, but ’tis not for me to treat you brutally.”
“Your Grace,” said he, turning toward the regent, “I crave your pardon. Our explanations shall reach you on the morrow.”
He turned, and taking his brother by the arm, advanced toward the door at which he had recently entered, pausing not to look behind him. Had his eye been more curious as he and his half-fainting brother bowed before passing through the door, it might have seen that which he must long have borne in memory.
Mary Connynge, trembling, pallid, utterly broken, never found her way back to the right hand of the regent. She half stumbled into a chair near the foot of the table. Her bosom fluttered at the base of the throat. Half blindly she reached out her hand toward a glass of wine which stood near by, foaming and sparkling, its gem-like drops of keen pungency swimming continuously up to the surface. Her hand caught at the slender stem of the glass. Leaning upon her left arm, she half rose as though to put it to her lips. Her head moved, as though she would follow the retreating figure of the man who had thus scornfully used her. All at once, slowly, and then with a sudden crash, she sank down upon her seat and fell forward across the table. The fragile glass snapped in her fingers. The amber wine rushed in swift flood across the linen. In the broadening stain there fell and lay blazing the great gem of France.
“Lady Kitty! Lady Kitty! Have you heard the news?”
Thus, breathless, the Countess of Warrington, Lady Catharine’s English neighbor in exile, who burst into the drawing-room early in the morning, not waiting for announcement of her presence.
“Nay, not yet, my dear,” said Lady Catharine, advancing and embracing her. “What is it, pray? Has the poodle swallowed a bone, or the baby perhaps cut another tooth? And, forsooth, how is the little one?”