“Sir,” said Lady Catharine at length, “I am sure you must be wearied with the heavy heats of the town. Your brother must still be weak from his hurt. Pray you, be seated.” She placed the rose upon the tabouret as she passed, and presently pulled at the bell cord.
“James,” said she, standing very erect and full of dignity, “go to the library and see if Sir Charles be within.”
When the butler’s solemn cough again gave warning, it was to bring information which may or may not have been news to Lady Catharine. “Your Ladyship,” said he, “Sir Charles is said to have taken carriage an hour ago, and left no word.”
“Send me Cecile, James,” said Lady Catharine, and again the butler vanished.
“Cecile,” said she, as the maid at length appeared, “you may serve us with tea.”
“You mistake, sir! I am no light o’ love, John Law!”
Thus spoke Catharine Knollys. She stood near the door of the great drawing-room of the Knollys mansion, her figure beseeming well its framing of deep hangings and rich tapestries. Her eyes were wide and flashing, her cheeks deeply pink, the sweet bow of her lips half a-quiver in her vehemence. Her surpassing personal beauty, rich, ripe, enticing, gave more than sufficient challenge for the fiery blood of the young man before her.
It was less than two weeks since these two had met. Surely the flood of time had run swiftly in those few days. Not a day had passed that Law had not met Catharine Knollys, nor had yet one meeting been such as the girl in her own conscience dared call better than clandestine, even though they met, as now, under her own roof. Yet, reason as she liked, struggle as she could, Catharine Knollys had not yet been quite able to end this swift voyaging on the flood of fate. It was so strange, so new, so sweet withal, this coming of her suitor, as from the darkness of some unknown star, so bold, so strong, so confident, and yet so humble! All the old song of the ages thrilled within her soul, and each day its compelling melody had accession. That this delirious softening of all her senses meant danger, the Lady Catharine could not deny. Yet could aught of earth be wrong when it spelled such happiness, such sweetness—when the sound of a footfall sent her blood going the faster, when the sight of a tall form, the ring of a vibrant tone, caused her limbs to weaken, her throat to choke?
But ah! whence and why this spell, this sorcery—why this sweetness filling all her being, when, after all, duty and seemliness bade it all to end, as end it must, to-day? Thus had the Lady Catharine reflected but the hour before John Law came; her knight of dreams—tall, yellow-haired, blue-eyed, bold and tender, and surely speaking truth if truth dwelt beneath the stars. Now he would come—now he had come again. Here was his red, red rose once more. Here, burning in her ears, singing in her heart, were his avowing, pleading words. And this must end!