“Still you misunderstand, my lord.”
“Tell me then what you do mean.”
“Our old bargain over this is broken, my lord. We must make another.”
His anger rose. “What? You want more? You’re trying to lead me on with your damned courtezan tricks!”
I heard her voice rise high and shrill, even as I started forward.
“Monsieur,” she cried, “back with you!”
Pakenham, angered as he was, seemed half to hear my footsteps, seemed half to know the swinging of the draperies, even as I stepped back in obedience to her gesture. Her wit was quick as ever.
“My lord,” she said, “pray close yonder window. The draft is bad, and, moreover, we should have secrecy.” He obeyed her, and she led him still further from the thought of investigating his surroundings.
“Now, my lord,” she said, “take back what you have just said!”
“Under penalty?” he sneered.
“Of your life, yes.”
“So!” he grunted admiringly; “well, now, I like fire in a woman, even a deceiving light-o’-love like you!”
“Monsieur!” her voice cried again; and once more it restrained me in my hiding.
“You devil!” he resumed, sneering now in all his ugliness of wine and rage and disappointment. “What were you? Mistress of the prince of France! Toy of a score of nobles! Slave of that infamous rake, your husband! Much you’ve got in your life to make you uppish now with me!”
“My lord,” she said evenly, “retract that. If you do not, you shall not leave this place alive.”
In some way she mastered him, even in his ugly mood.
“Well, well,” he growled, “I admit we don’t get on very well in our little love affair; but I swear you drive me out of my mind. I’ll never find another woman in the world like you. It’s Sir Richard Pakenham asks you to begin a new future with himself.”
“We begin no future, my lord.”
“What do you mean? Have you lied to me? Do you mean to break your word—your promise?”
“It is within the hour that I have learned what the truth is.”
“God damn my soul!” I heard him curse, growling.
“Yes, my lord,” she answered, “God will damn your soul in so far as it is that of a brute and not that of a gentleman or a statesman.”
I heard him drop into a chair. “This from one of your sort!” he half whimpered.
“Stop, now!” she cried. “Not one word more of that! I say within the hour I have learned what is the truth. I am Helena von Ritz, thief on the cross, and at last clean!”
“God A’might, Madam! How pious!” he sneered. “Something’s behind all this. I know your record. What woman of the court of Austria or France comes out with morals? We used you here because you had none. And now, when it comes to the settlement between you and me, you talk like a nun. As though a trifle from virtue such as yours would be missed!”