“I pay back old scores,” he said. “There are many to pay. When you crowned yourself with roses and set your foot upon my face, your ladyship thought not of this! When you gave yourself to Dunstanwolde and spat at me, you did not dream that there could come a time when I might goad as you did.”
She struck Devil with her whip, who leaped forward; but Sir John followed hard behind her. He had a swift horse too, and urged him fiercely, so that between these two there was a race as if for life or death. The beasts bounded forward, spurning the earth beneath their feet. My lady’s face was set, her eyes were burning flame, her breath came short and pantingly between her teeth. Oxon’s fair face was white with passion; he panted also, but strained every nerve to keep at her side, and kept there.
“Keep back! I warn thee!” she cried once, almost gasping.
“Keep back!” he answered, blind with rage. “I will follow thee to hell!”
And in this wise they galloped over the white road until the hedges disappeared and they were in the streets, and people turned to look at them, and even stood and stared. Then she drew rein a little and went slower, knowing with shuddering agony that the trap was closing about her.
“What is it that you would say to me?” she asked him breathlessly.
“That which I would say within four walls that you may hear it all,” he answered. “This time ’tis not idle threatening. I have a thing to show you.”
Through the streets they went, and as her horse’s hoofs beat the pavement, and the passers-by, looking towards her, gazed curiously at so fine a lady on so splendid a brute, she lifted her eyes to the houses, the booths, the faces, and the sky, with a strange fancy that she looked about her as a man looks who, doomed to death, is being drawn in his cart to Tyburn tree. For ’twas to death she went, nor to naught else could she compare it, and she was so young and strong, and full of love and life, and there should have been such bliss and peace before her but for one madness of her all-unknowing days. And this beside her—this man with the fair face and looks and beauteous devil’s eyes, was her hangman, and carried his rope with him, and soon would fit it close about her neck.
When they rode through the part of the town where abode the World of Fashion, those who saw them knew them, and marvelled that the two should be together.
“But perhaps his love has made him sue for pardon that he has so borne himself,” some said, “and she has chosen to be gracious to him, since she is gracious in these days to all.”
When they reached her house he dismounted with her, wearing an outward air of courtesy; but his eye mocked her, as she knew. His horse was in a lather of sweat, and he spoke to a servant.
“Take my beast home,” he said. “He is too hot to stand, and I shall not soon be ready.”