John Law extended a hand and stopped her. “There,” said he. “It will suffice. I can not demean you. There is the child.”
“You called her Catharine!” broke out the woman once more in her ungovernable rage. “You would name my child—”
“Madam, get up!” said John Law, sharply and sternly. “Get up on your feet and look me in the face. The child shall be called for her who should have been its mother. Let those forgive who can. That you have ruined my life for me is but perhaps a fair exchange; yet you shall say no word against that woman whose life we have both of us despoiled.”
BY THE HILT OF THE SWORD
Law passed on out at the gate of the stockade and down to the bivouac, where Pembroke and his men had spent the night.
“Now, Sir Arthur,” said he to the latter, when he had found him, “come. I am ready to talk with you. Let us go apart.”
Pembroke joined him, and the two walked slowly away toward the encircling wood which swept back of the stockade. Law turned upon him at length squarely.
“Sir Arthur,” said he, “I think you would tell me something concerned with the Lady Catharine Knollys. Do you bring any message from her?”
The face of Pembroke flamed scarlet with sudden wrath. “Message!” said he. “Message from Lady Catharine Knollys to you? By God! sir, her only message could be her hope that she might never hear your name again.”
“You have still your temper, Sir Arthur, and you speak harsh enough.”
“Harsh or not,” rejoined Pembroke, “I scarce can endure her name upon your lips. You, who scouted her, who left her, who took up with the lewdest woman in all Great Britain, as it now appears—you who would consort with this creature—”
“In this matter,” said John Law, simply, “you are not my prisoner, and I beg you to speak frankly. It shall be man and man between us.”
“How you could have stooped to such baseness is what mortal man can never understand,” resumed Sir Arthur, bitterly. “Good God! to abandon a woman like that so heartlessly—”
“Sir Arthur,” said John Law, his voice trembling, “I do myself the very great pleasure of telling you that you lie!”
For a moment the two stood silent, facing each other, the face of each stony, gone gray with the emotions back of it.
“There is light,” said Pembroke, “and abundant space.”
They turned and paced back farther toward the open forest glade. Yet now and again their steps faltered and half paused, and neither man cared to go forward or to return. Pembroke’s face, stern as it had been, again took on the imprint of a growing hesitation.
“Mr. Law,” said he, “there is something in your attitude which I admit puzzles me. I ask you in all honor, I ask you on the hilt of that sword which I know you will never disgrace, why did you thus flout the Lady Catharine Knollys? Why did you scorn her and take up with this woman yonder in her stead?”