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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 286 pages of information about Lady Good-for-Nothing.

“How does it go?” She stood before him, puckering her brows a little as she searched to remember the words—­“’On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded the seven chamberlains—­’”

“Spare me.”

“’—­to bring Vasbti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty, for she was fair to look on.’  Do I quote immodestly, my lord?”

“Not immodestly,” he answered.  “For I think—­I’ll be sworn—­no woman ever had half your beauty without knowing it.  But you quote mal a propos.  Queen Vashti refused to come.”

“‘Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.’”

“I think, again, that you were not the woman to obey any such fear.”

“No.  Queen Vashti refused to come, being a queen.  Whereas I, my lord—­

    “’Being your slave, what should I do but tend
      Upon the hours and times of your desire?’”

“My slave?” he asked.  “Setting aside last night—­when I was disgustingly drunk—­have you a single excuse for using that word?”

“Of your giving, none.  You have been more than considerate.  Of my own choosing, yes.”

He stared.

“At any rate Tatty is not your slave,” she went on, and he smiled with her.  “I am glad you asked Tatty’s pardon.  Did she forgive you easily?”

“Too easily.  She was aware, she said, that gentlemen would be gentlemen.”

“She must have meant precisely the reverse.”

“Was I pretty bad?”

She put a hand across her eyes as if to brush the image from them.  “What matters the degree?  It was another man seated and wearing my lord’s body. That hurt.”

“By God, Ruth, it shall never happen again!”

She winced as he spoke her name, and her colour rose.  “Please make no promise in haste,” she said.

“Excuse me; when a man takes an oath for life, the quicker he’s through with it the better—­at least that’s the way with us Vyells.  It’s trifles—­like getting drunk, for instance—­we do deliberately.  Believe me, child, I have a will of my own.”

“Yes,” she meditated, “I believe you have a strong will.”

“’Tis a swinish business, over-drinking, when all’s said and done.”  He announced it as if he made a discovery; and indeed something of a discovery it was, for that age.  “Weakens a man’s self-control, besides dulling his palate. . . .  They tell me, by the way, that after you left I beat Silk.”

Ruth looked grave.  “You did wrong, then.”

“Silk is a beast.”

“An excellent reason for not making him your guest; none for striking him at your own table.”

“Perhaps not.”  Sir Oliver shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, he can have his revenge, if he wants it.”

“How so?  As a clergyman he cannot offer to fight you, and as a coward he would not if he could.”

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